2016 Mid-Season Invitational: Event Preview
Word Championship Implications
Last year’s MSI was all about international bragging rights, which really did not end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things. To make the competition more interesting this year, Riot has added World Championship implications into the mix.
The four teams that advance to the knockout stage of the tournament will earn a top four seed for their respective region at the World Championship later this year. There are numerous other implications dependant on how every team finishes, but this is the most important aspect. For full information on this, head over to Riot’s article detailing every implication.
This year, the format for MSI is slightly altered. Instead of a single round-robin to begin the tournament, all six teams will compete in a double round-robin with best-of-one games from May 4-8, presumably for more accurate results and to allow teams to adapt from game to game. The playoff format is still the same, as the top four placing teams advance to a single-elimination best-of-five bracket, with the No. 1 team facing the No. 4 team and the No. 2 team facing the No. 3 team.
Note that this list of teams attending MSI below is not* a ranking, as it is merely in alphabetical order.
Counter Logic Gaming (LCS - North America)
- Top - Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha
The back-to-back champions of North America, CLG is no stranger to competing on the world stage. Some of their new starters this split, however, are only rookies.
With the departure of all-star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to bitter rivals Team SoloMid and the announcement that Huhi would be taking Eugene “Pobelter” Park’s place on the starting roster, CLG walked into this split with more than a few question marks above their heads. Critics said the two rookies were not strong enough replacements, and that CLG would have to take time to rebuild. Well, critics were wrong.
Defending their title, CLG dominated a majority of the Spring Split, only finishing No. 2 behind the star-studded Immortals in the regular season. In the playoffs, CLG looked a little shaky. In their semi-final match against Team Liquid, what can only be described as a “clown fiesta” in a colloquial term, CLG traded off between getting absolutely destroyed in games one and four, to absolutely destroying in games two and three. Only the fifth game of the series was actually close.
What did it come down to in that game five? The staple of CLG: Darshan. His 8/1/12 performance on Poppy led the team to a closely contested 43-minute win over Liquid to advance to the finals. Going into the playoffs, everyone, and I mean everyone, assumed Immortals would steamroll their way to the finals, but a resurgent TSM decided otherwise. After sweeping the almost-undefeated Immortals, TSM had their eyes on the crown.
So the stage was set: the TSM vs CLG rivalry and Doublelift vs his old team. In a game that featured a 100% win rate on blue side, with TSM dominating in their match wins and CLG just barely squeezing their wins out, game five was destined to be. Obviously, CLG won the match, but it was not a typical CLG win. Stixxay, the rookie ADC going against the all-star he replaced, built a then questionable Guinsoo’s Rageblade on Tristana and carried CLG to victory with a 6/1/4 performance, backed up by 10 assists and no deaths from Huhi. The rookies showed that they can play under pressure.
What does all of this mean for their chances at MSI? Probably not much, as North America is considered one of the weaker main regions and the teams do not typically perform well on the international stage and CLG already had a poor showing earlier this year at IEM Season X World Championship (IEM Katowice). However, who knows? This CLG team is not to be taken lightly.
Flash Wolves (LMS - Taiwan)
- Top - Yu “MMD” Li-Hung
Similarly to CLG, Flash Wolves dominated most teams in the regular season on their way to a No. 2 finish behind an ahq e-Sports Club team that did not lose a series all split. Flash Wolves placed 5th-8th at the 2015 Season World Championship, and the only roster change made was moving MMD into the starting lineup after Chou “Steak” Lu-Hsi retired to become an analyst for the team.
Expectations were high, but ahq seemed to be the best team in the LMS region and took the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs. Flash Wolves’ playstyle fit the new meta extremely well, however, and the team was an unstoppable force in the playoffs. In Round 2, Flash Wolves decimated Machi E-Sports 3-0, cleanly winning each match while taking very few casualties.
Going into the finals against their rivals in ahq, it was clear that this Flash Wolves team had become the favorite to advance to MSI. The only question was how convincing the win would be. In similar fashion to their win over Machi, Flash Wolves showed their dominance as they dismantled ahq on their way to a 3-0 win. In both of these series wins, Flash Wolves had no weak link and no main superstar. The teamwork was obviously there and every player won their laning phase in practically every match.
Known for their aggressive play and ability to show absolutely no mercy if the enemy team slips up, Flash Wolves normally do not lose control of a game after they take the lead. It could be a different story at MSI, however, as the teams competing will be much more talented at every position than the LMS teams that Flash Wolves is used to.
This team will be extremely difficult to beat, as they can easily win their lanes individually while also working cohesively as a team. To deal with Flash Wolves, teams will need to be prepared to deal with aggressive play and the superstar quality of Karsa, Maple and SwordArT.
G2 Esports (LCS - Europe)
- Top - Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek
In their debut split, G2 took Europe by storm.
This squad, made up of mostly newcomers to the EU LCS, adapted to the changing meta more efficiently than any of the veteran teams around them and rode that versatility to win the regular season, only dropping three games to top-tier opponents in the process.
Before this split started, G2 had their critics. With so much major European talent in Huni, Reignover, Froggen and Svenskeren leaving for North America, the powerhouse of Origen was expected to take easy control of Europe this split after undergoing only one roster change. That is not exactly what happened.
G2, H2k-Gaming and Team Vitality showed their prowess quickly, leaving Origen and former-juggernauts Fnatic fighting in the middle of the pack. With the meta favoring tank top laners and carry junglers, G2 was put in the perfect position to succeed with Kikis and Trick thriving in their roles.
In the semifinals of the playoffs, it was a battle of the new vs the old. A resurgent Fnatic had their eyes on reclaiming their former glory, but G2 stood in the way. In a relatively close series led mainly by stellar play from Kikis and Emperor, G2 took down the giants 3-1 and secured their spot in the finals of their rookie split.
An EU team going to the finals in their rookie split. If that does not sound familiar, you did not watch the Summer Split of 2015, where Origen did the same thing. So of course who was set to face G2 in the finals of this split? Origen.
In an absolute team performance, G2 defeated Origen 3-1 in an extremely close series. In each game win, different members of G2 stepped up to help lead the team to victory. To close out the series in four games, a terrible laning phase from Perkz with Zed turned into a push from behind around 38 minutes in that was initiated by Perkz killing xPeke and G2 subsequently shoving mid to win the game within the next two minutes.
G2’s playstyle is similar to the playstyle of Flash Wolves in that both teams are extremely aggressive and in perfect harmony with the current meta. Early in the game, G2 likes to dive and catch their opponents off guard, but this leaves them open to first bloods and typically leads to a slow start and gold deficit. If they want to succeed at the international level, on one of the biggest stages in the world, they can not rely on ganking and diving all the time. Top-tier teams will punish them for that, heavily. Coming back against SK Telecom T1 is quite a bit harder than coming back against Origen.
While G2 should perform well at MSI, the team is inexperienced at the international level and the pressure could get to them. Regardless, this will be good practice in the spotlight for Europe’s finest rookies.
Royal Never Give Up (LPL - China)
- Top - Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok
Royal Never Give Up’s road to MSI was through pure dominance the entire split.
RNG only dropped three series all split and they handed the Qiao Gu Reapers their first series loss when QG seemed unbeatable. Although RNG finished within the top four at IEM Katowice, this should not be seen as a victory considering how watered down the competition was. They defeated Origen, which was heavily struggling domestically at the time, and Ever, a Korean Challenger team that was previously strong, but definitely struggling at the tournament, in best-of-one series, before falling 1-2 to a young and confused Fnatic squad that would ultimately forfeit in the final map of the tournament to SKT.
RNG and Qiao Gu’s performances at IEM Katowice put into question China’s place in the world scene. Both teams underperformed, and MSI will have to be China’s redemption with RNG as their champion.
Back to domestic performance, RNG began their postseason with a close 3-2 win over Team WE. In the series, RNG used alternate ADC Zhu "NaMei" Jia-Wen (NaMei and Wuxx technically share the starting role) in the first four games. In the first two games, NaMei shined and played a major role in the team’s victories, especially with his Sivir utilization in the second game. Team WE won next two games as NaMei struggled in lane, so Wuxx was brought in for the fifth game. Wuxx’s ability to carry clearly showed, as he came in and went 7/0/8 on Lucian to secure RNG’s bid for the finals against EDward Gaming.
In a series of close games, RNG came out victorious over EDG 3-1 behind their strong team-fighting. Series MVP Wuxx only looked relatively bad in RNG’s one game loss, but he otherwise carried the team and earned the MVP award.
RNG will likely look to play the early laning phase safe, so they will need to be at a high level of defense against aggressive teams like Flash Wolves and G2.
Home-field advantage, redemption on the international stage with World Championship implications on the line; it is as if the script writes itself. RNG will be under a fair amount of pressure.
SK Telecom T1 (LCK - Korea)
- Top - Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong
If you know anything about competitive League of Legends, this team needs no introduction.
The only two-time World Champions in League history, and the current defending champions, SKT is on a mission. SKT currently holds every major League of Legends title that they competed in (World Championship, IEM Katowice and the LCK playoffs) aside from MSI. Winning MSI would make SKT the first team to ever hold all major international titles at the same time. Bottom line is, these guys know how to win.
But this split has not been easy on the champions. Before the split began, world-renowned top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan left the organization and Duke was brought in as his replacement. Previously, Duke was the all-star of an extremely unsuccessful Najin e-mFire. Despite his team’s poor performance, Duke’s individual talent was enough to make SKT bring him into their starting lineup. Jungler Bae “bengi” Seong-woong struggled to adapt to the new meta this split, so Blank replaced him in the starting lineup at IEM Katowice and beyond.
This tumultuous start landed SKT in the No. 3 spot in the LCK going into playoffs, but the team was on a tear after a destroying the competition at IEM Katowice and winning seven of their final nine league matches.
With the team looking strong again, they dominated Jin Air 3-1 in the second round of the LCK playoffs and then defeated KT Rolster 3-0 in the third round, proving that SKT was back. The wins were total team performances, with all five starting members doing exactly what they needed to do. In the finals, SKT took a decisive 3-1 victory over ROX Tigers that spearheaded by decisive wins in the bottom lane, but the victory was once again a total team performance.
As a team, SKT just knows how to win. Individual skill, decision-making ability, objective control, appropriate vision in the jungle and gank timing; these guys seemingly do everything right. They are the absolute clear favorite to win this event. SKT is no stranger to the international stage, and every team at MSI will be circling their game against this squad as the ultimate test of skill.
SuperMassive eSports (IWCI - Turkey)
- Top - Berke “Thaldrin” Demir
Last year’s IWCI representative, Be?ikta? e-Sports Club, had their Turkish Champions League spot acquired by SuperMassive. Thaldrin and Dumbledoge were a part of the Be?ikta? team from last season, but the other members of the team were new.
In the Spring Split for the TCL, SuperMassive finished No. 3, losing six series all split and defeating Be?ikta?.Oyun Hizmetleri and HWA Gaming in a tiebreaker scenario. In the playoffs, SuperMassive defeated Be?ikta?.Oyun Hizmetleri once again in the finals 3-1 to advance to the IWCI.
At the IWCI, play was hectic. The top teams seemed evenly matched for the most part and everyone was beating everyone, but SuperMassive came out on top in part due to strong play from Thaldrin in their 3-1 finals win over Hard Random.
Obviously, not much is known of this team and no one has high expectations for them, but they can use that to their advantage and use strategies that teams from the major regions have never seen before. Always keep an eye on the underdog. Anything can happen. Maybe Dumbledoge will kill Faker again this year and earn himself 10 more points from Rivington "RivingtonThe3rd" Bisland III.
Only the four teams that advance to the knockout stages will receive a portion of the prize money.
- 1st Place: $250,000
Daily Starting Times
- May 4 - Royal Never Give Up vs Counter Logic Gaming - 2:00 a.m. EDT
All playoff matches will begin at 1:30 a.m. EDT May 13-15.
Tentative times for all matches can be found here, but match times and start times may vary once the tournament begins.
The tournament will be streamed on Twitch.tv/RiotGames.
Will you be attending, watching the live stream or watching rebroadcasts later on? Let us know in the comments below or on our Twitter @eSportsNation and be sure to follow us to stay updated on all of your eSports needs.