Vietnamese champions Phong Vũ Buffalo announced their intent to break into the main event in front of a home crowd on day one of the Mid-Season Invitational Play-In stage.
Drawn into Group A alongside the TCL’s 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor, the LLA’s Isurus Gaming, and the OPL’s Bombers, the VCS representatives quickly asserted their dominance in the group. In the biggest game of the day, Buffalo claimed a crucial third win over 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports to take sole first after both teams put away Isurus Gaming and the Bombers.
The Buffalo fell to the Bombers in their rematch and so did 1907
Fenerbahçe against Isurus Gaming, however, and the group may be closer than it seems. Here’s everything that happened on the first day of MSI’s Play-In stage.
Game of the Day – 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor vs Phong Vũ Buffalo
The two frontrunners of Group A took to the stage for Day 1’s most crucial game. The winner would go 3-0 and top of the standings.
1907 Fenerbahçe’s ADC Volkan “Hades” Dinçer snagged the opening kill of the game on Lucian, but PVB immediately countered with the kill onto the ganking Thomas “Kirei” Yuen, who had looked good on Kindred all day. Star top laner Phạm ”Zeros” Minh Lộc used Hecarim to great effect, soloing Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min’s Kennen, but PVB support Nguyễn “Palette” Hải Trung overextended in the bottom lane and fell to again even out the kill count.
As the game advanced, both teams fought tooth and nail for an advantage, but the first big gap game when Phong Vũ jungler Hoàng “Meliodas” Tiến Nhật outplayed Kirei around the Rift Herald, taking it down before escaping out of the pit. Kirei attempted guard duty but PVB mid laner Võ “Naul” Thành Luân’s Zoe flashed in and flashed back out to pick up the buff, while Zeros led the charge to win a crucial fight in the top lane and push his team to a 1,000 gold lead. Naul built up an individual gold lead over his counterpart, as Onur “Bolulu” Can Demirol’s Azir was left to watch Naul take down two turrets on his own.
Recognizing Ruin as a threat, PVB ganked him once again and put his KDA to 1/4. A brawl at the Baron pit at the 22-minute mark went overwhelmingly in PVB’s favor as Ruin, Bolulu, and Hades all went to the grey screen and Baron quickly fell to the Buffalo. The powerplay lifted a 3,000 gold lead to a 6,000 lead as towers fell left, right, and center, and the momentum was firmly in the Buffalo’s favor. Finally, 1907 Fenerbahçe crumbled under the pressure. With the Buffalo repeatedly razing their base, an Ace at the 36-minute mark ended 1907 Fenerbahçe’s win streak and the Phong Vũ Buffalo moved to the top of the group.
To claim that first place position, they first had to take on the representatives from the LLA and the OPL, both in the first three games of the day. Here’s what led up to the day’s big game.
Phong Vũ Buffalo vs Bombers
It was a brutal start for Oceania’s representatives, as the quick 3-0 kill lead orchestrated by Meliodas’ Jarvan IV could have easily been 3-2, with both the Vietnamese team’s ADC Đặng “BigKoro” Ngọc Tài on Ezreal and Zeros on Jayce surviving with sub-50 HP in two separate fights. However, Meliodas and Naul’sZoe linked up repeatedly to score kill after kill both on Choi “BalKhan” Hyun-jin and Tommy “ry0ma” Le, with the domestically dominant Bombers duo looking lost at times against PVB’s relentless aggression.
A prolonged teamfight just before the 19-minute mark ripped apart the Bombers lineup as PVB used their Mountain and Cloud Drakes to break down the turrets to catch up to the retreating Oceanic team, acing them to secure a 10, 000 gold lead after only 20 minutes. Meliodas and Naul still had not died and were huge for the Buffalo, setting up fight after fight with the initiation combinations of Zoe’s Sleepy Trouble Bubble, J4’s Cataclysm and Galio’s Hero’s Entrance. The Bombers couldn’t contest the Baron and it was free for the Buffalo to take and slowly siege the enemy base. A three-man Cataclysm from an eager Meliodas set up the rest of Phong Vũ Buffalo to fly in and wipe the Bombers to find their first win of their MSI campaign.
Phong Vũ Buffalo vs Isurus Gaming
The games so far showed no sign of slowing down, as both jungle-mid duos brawled early near the topside pixel bush, with Sebastián “Oddie” Niño and Meliodas picking up kills before the five-minute mark. Midlaner Édgar “Seiya” Bracamontes also scored one onto Meliodas a few minutes later and the Vietnamese jungler fell once more to Oddie at the seven-minute mark. Zeros showed mastery on Sylas, however, to steal Oddie’s Cataclysm and take down both him and Mateo “Buggax” Aroztegui. The gold difference was still slim even after Palette’s Galio locked down
Fabián “Warangelus” Llanos and Eduardo “Slow” Garcés for a free two kills, and an Infernal Drake bait yielded the buff as well as kills onto Seiya and Oddie.
PVB rinsed and repeated their playbook as Warangelus and Slow were ganked under turret once more. By the 13-minute mark, that slim gold lead had developed into a 3,000 gold deficit for Isurus Gaming, as PVB were now up 12 kills to four.
Zeros continued to dominate, even picking up a Mejai’s Soulstealer to capitalize on his strength before dying in a one-vs-four gank bot lane, but even that didn’t slow him down. Two Infernal Drakes and a Mountain to the Buffalo didn’t help Isurus Gaming in the teamfights, and a brawl around Baron ended the lives of Buggax and Oddie. Zeros, now 9/2/1 at the 25-minute mark, led PVB as they eviscerated Isurus once more win the game 24 kills to 7 and 15,000 gold up.
1907 Fenerbahçe were also eager to get their campaign off to a roaring start, and prior to their showdown with the Buffalo, they also managed to take down Isurus Gaming and then the Bombers.
1907 Fenerbahçe vs Isurus Gaming
Both teams were hungry for blood and it was the TCL champs 1907 Fenerbahçe that drew it first. Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min turned around a gank from Oddie to kill off Isurus’ top laner Buggax with the assistance of jungler Kirei. Fenerbahçe’s bot lane was a little too greedy as a charged up Piercing Arrow from Warangelus popped Hades’ Tristana under the turret to equalize the kill count.
Ruin turned that singular kill into a 30-CS lead by the six-minute mark, however, and followed it up with two more kills onto Buggax’s Hecarim, creating a split-pushing terror that Isurus could hardly hope to match. To their credit, the LLA representatives stayed in the fight, with kills going to their star mid laner Seiya’s Irelia as well as Warangelus’ Varus. Kirei’s Taliyah quickly dominated the jungle, picking up the Rift Herald as well as linking up with Bolulu on the niche mid lane Nautilus to set up kill after kill.
While Isurus challenged repeatedly, the Turkish team’s communication was stellar and led to teamfight victory after teamfight victory, and a four-for-nothing in the top lane on the eve of the 30-minute mark was the straw that broke the camel’s back. What looked like a Baron rush turned into 1907 Fenerbahçe charging down the Nexus to take their first win.
1907 Fenerbahçe vs Bombers
The Bombers were looking to avenge their first loss against PVB by taking down the Turkish champions, but 1907 were looking to set the pace as Kirei’s Kindred and Bolulu’s Azir swung by bot lane to take down both Victor “FBI” Huang and Jake “Rogue” Sharwood. However, they lost their own bot lane in the process as ry0ma’s Taliyah swooped in for a kill, splitting the other with Rogue’s Galio, as well as four turret plates being destroyed on 1907’s top turret as Min “Mimic” Ju-seong’s Fiora and BalKhan’s Camille quickly tore it down. The game stayed quiet until just prior to the 10-minute mark as Fenerbahçe overwhelmed the Bombers next to the drake pit to kill BalKhan and Rogue, only losing Kirei in the process thanks to his ultimate, Lamb’s Respite.
The game stayed close, but the 3,000 gold lead to the TCL representatives made it clear who was in control of the flow of the game. An ace at the 15-minute mark cemented their lead, and their 12-6 kill lead lasted for 6 minutes until the Bombers reversed a fight in the mid lane to ace 1907 Fenerbahçe. However, it only went downhill from there as they’d fail to close out an ace around the Baron pit as first Hades and then Bolulu cleaned up the fight, the latter being the last man standing for Fenerbahçe. A Baron then followed and the game devolved into scrappy brawl after scrappy brawl, before the slowly amassed 10,000 gold lead was too much to overcome for the OPL champs and they fell for the second time as Fenerbahçe moved to 2-0 in Group A.
They aren’t the only contenders as the Bombers also managed two victories on Day 1, first relegating Isurus Gaming to the bottom of the table after an 0-2 start before rallying once more to take down Phong Vũ Buffalo to end the day 2-2.
Bombers vs. Isurus Gaming
With both of these teams 0-2 so far in the tournament, a loss here could have been a death knell for either team’s chances to advance.
Oddie’s Kindred snuck up on FBI’s Kalista and Rogue’s Thresh for an early gank, but FBI drew the First Blood with his Rend before Rogue fell to Warangelus’ Varus. Isurus’ second attempt went much better, only losing Oddie for FBI and BalKhan as Seiya on Karma cruised down to the bottom lane to push the fight in the LLA champions’ favor.
The bloodthirsty nature of the match continued as BalKhan’s Jarvan IV, Mimic’s Hecarim, and ry0ma’s Sylas battled Buggax’s Fiora, Seiya, and Oddie in the top lane. But Isurus again edged it out with a two-for-one trade to create a 1,500 gold lead as turret plating collapsed.
Kills were traded back and forth, but by the 20-minute mark Isurus were 5,000 gold up after slowly breaking down the turrets of the Bombers, even though the kill count was only 10-8 and the teams had a Cloud Drake each.
A fantastic initiation from the Bombers near their second top lane turret helped to stem the bleeding, but it was FBI unleashing on Isurus near the Baron pit not two minutes later that handed over a Baron to the Bombers. The subsequent power play equalized the gold totals, but momentum was still in the favor of the OPL champions.
As the Baron expired, the Bombers reset the map and started to position around the next Baron. Buggax was a constant pest as he tried to break down the base, but was left all alone as the Bombers, led by FBI, obliterated Isurus around the Baron once more. A minion wave pushing in the top lane was all the incentive the Bombers needed to shove it into Isurus Gaming’s base and run over Buggax to claim their first international win and keep their slim hopes of advancing alive. Isurus, however, are almost assuredly out of contention with their three losses and it will require a miracle to advance to the next stage.
Bombers vs Phong Vũ Buffalo
The game didn’t start well for the Bombers, with Rogue’s Tahm Kench evaporating under a barrage of CC and damage even before minions had spawned, with BigKoro’s Xayah happily taking a 400 gold bonus.
However, BalKhan on Jarvam IV switched on and dropped Meliodas and then fed ry0ma a kill onto Naul’s Ryze to take an early lead for the Bombers. Zeros’ Sylas was next on the list as his attempt at proxying the wave was thoroughly punished by BalKhan and Mimic’s Kennen. That early lead snowballed into four more kills and a 1,500 gold lead, as well as two Ocean Drakes for the Bombers.
Looking tested for the first time in the tournament so far, the Buffalo constantly tried to make plays but were rebuffed again and again through some clever usage of Rogue’s Abyssal Voyage.
At the 19-minute mark both teams collapsed onto each other at the bot lane mouth of the river, and despite the gold deficit, the Buffalo won the fight three kills to two to keep themselves in the game. Vision around Baron became the next objectives as the Bombers and the Buffalo grappled for control, but the Buffalo offered an opportunity too good to resist to the Bombers and they pounced, claiming three kills and only losing FBI in the exchange.
Unable to take down the big purple worm, the Bombers retreated, killing Naul on the back end, and satisfied themselves with a Mountain Drake. A few brawls followed, but a catch onto BalKhan gave the Buffalo enough hope to try and take the Baron, but FBI and ry0ma lit up the teamfight to win it 4v5 and aced the undefeated Buffalo. The Baron followed, and a slow siege was ended by the Bombers in order to reset, but they wasted no time in returning to the scene of the crime as FBI placed the Buffalo under arrest and ended the day 2-2 to blow the group wide open.
Isurus Gaming also managed to take a win at the end of Day 1, taking down 1907 Fenerbahçe to move to 1-3 and cement Phong Vũ Buffalo in first place at the end of the day.
Isurus Gaming vs 1907 Fenerbahçe
Needing a win to stay in contention for a finals spot, Isurus Gaming got the start they wanted with Seiya’s Irelia getting a kill onto Japone as 1907 Fenerbahçe hunted for an invade but overextended. Bolulu’s Renekton and Kirei’s Elise synchronized their crowd control perfectly to pick off Seiya between his own turrets. Oddie’s Hecarim swung by the bot lane to kill Japone again but Slow lost his life during the dive. Seiya and Kirei both died in an echo of the earlier dive, and 1907 Fenerbahçe had a small gold lead at the 7-minute mark.
Kills bounced back and forwards, and as the game crested 10 minutes, Seiya was popped once more to go 3/4 in the game. The first major breakthrough in the game, however, was at the 15-minute mark as Isurus Gaming sacrificed Seiya for Kirei, Bolulu, and Japone to establish a 2,000 gold lead of their own. Seiya assumed the role of split pusher and slowly broke down the turrets in the side lanes, and was there in time for a massive fight in the jungle where Isurus ripped apart 1907 Fenerbahçe with Buggax’s Akali picking up a Triple Kill. The Akali didn’t stop, and improved to 6/0/0 with a further kill onto Ruin’s Ryze.
Keen to press their advantage, Isurus initiated onto an overextended 1907 Fenerbahçe and calmly swarmed the hapless TCL champions to leave only Ruin alive and the Fenerbahçe base in ruins. As 1907 Fenerbahçe tried to gain some position, all of Isurus charged out of a bush and blew up Hades’ Ezreal before falling back to grab the Baron for themselves. Now 11,000 gold ahead, the game was all but over, and all it took was a final teamfight at the 28-minute mark to take the game and keep a chance alive of advancing.
Eight epic games have set the stage for an even greater final day for Group A, as it is now anyone’s spot to take. Tomorrow will round out Group A and begin Group B, so tune in to get your final look at three teams and your first look at four more.