Can anyone stop Invictus Gaming at MSI?

The LPL team are still on top of the world.

Photo via Riot Games

Before Worlds 2018, Riot Games released a stupendous music video detailing the long and arduous climb teams made to reach the pinnacle of League of Legends. Titled “Rise,” it ended with a shot of the other teams looking up at the summit, waiting for their turn to reach the top.

The team that reached the peak last year was Invictus Gaming. And through the first day of action at MSI 2019, one thing is clear: They’re still there.

They didn’t just win—that’s expected of the team many call the favorites at this event. How they did it, playing a thoroughly LPL style and just streamrolling opponents, is the story. G2 Esports, perhaps the team best able to match IG’s tempo, were absolutely crushed.

Since IG’s triumph at Worlds, teams from across the globe have had six long months to figure out how to beat them. Now, it’s back to the drawing board again.

A distant second

Photo via Riot Games

There were other stories on day one of the main event, of course. The first match of the day was a barn burner as G2 smoked SKT in front of a stunned Hanoi crowd.

We wrote before the event that G2’s unpredictable drafts and early aggression could be trouble for teams, particularly ones like SKT who like to play for late game. That certainly played out in match between the two. It was a curiously low-kill affair as both teams seemed to realize that SKT simply didn’t have the lane or map priority to contend with their LEC foes.

G2 could only celebrate the win for so long before facing IG. And afterwards, it appeared the only thing that could stop the Chinese side was the lengthy pause that afflicted the game client before the match started.

Still, there are positives for the LEC squad. Their loss to IG looked bad because IG make everyone look bad. But they still started off super strong—jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski surged out to a three-kill lead and the way they attacked IG was correct. And importantly, they didn’t look thrown by the loss.

There are a lot of games left, and right now, it looks like G2 and SKT are fighting for that second spot behind IG. SKT stabilized with a win over bottom-tier Flash Wolves, who are really struggling, but we haven’t yet seen a trademark performance from the LCK side.

Liquid in fourth

Photo via Riot Games

The hierarchy of the first day is quite clearly Invictus-G2-SKT in the first three spots, with Flash Wolves bringing up the rear. The interesting thing, though, is that Team Liquid are technically tied with IG with 2-0 match records.

After years of both unlucky results at international events, Liquid ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng finally drew a great hand at MSI. He got a warmup in the play-in stage vs. Phong Vũ Buffalo, a series where he wasn’t really required to do that much.

Then he came out and dominated Flash Wolves on Lucian, a champion he’s played to mixed results. Next was a rematch against PVB in which the Vietnamese side looked totally unprepared for Liquid to bust out Sona-Taric.

The real test comes tomorrow when Liquid start the day off against G2. Make no mistake, Liquid absolutely have the ability to win. But G2 are just so much more trustworthy at these events. They’ll bounce back against Liquid in a big way.

But they just didn’t have enough talent to finish the job against IG. And that’s the story of the first day—understanding how IG want to play is easy. But executing on your gameplan correctly while maintaining tempo faster than them has proven nigh impossible.