By Petar Vukobrat
May 9, 2019
This will be a collision of multiple worlds; of multiple regions that are of unparalleled strength. Each of them unique in their own right, each seemingly invincible and infallible. If you’re a fan of competitive League of Legends, this is Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all combined into one thing. It really doesn’t get any better than this, so let’s do a somewhat quick breakdown of the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational teams in order to see who has the biggest chance of attaining success, and how the many narratives leading up to this point could further develop.
Speaking of narratives, there’s a metric ton of good ones coming into the tournament. China wants to remain at the top; Korea wants to reclaim their throne; Europe wants to prove that their 2018 run wasn’t a fluke; and North America wants to emerge as a solid world-class contender. Finally, there’s a capable Vietnamese contender that’s looking to upset the status quo.
If this doesn’t make your mouth water, nothing else will.
Every region has an agenda and they’re all in conflict with one another. As with any other competitive setting, there can only be one champion, so only five players will be able to realize their ambitions. That is just one of the many reasons why we all love the Mid-Season Invitational. It is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and yet it carries so much significance to the teams competing.
So let’s take a closer look at the six 2019 Mid-Season Invitational teams and what they bring to the table!
As in year’s past, the LCK, LPL, and LEC champions got direct seeding into the Group Stage because of their stellar accomplishments on the international stage. They had the luxury of waiting on the sidelines and watching the LCS and LMS champions fight against Phong Vũ Buffalo and VEGA Squadron.
All three teams are rightfully considered power-houses, and they all pose different and yet similar threats. They’re spectacular in all facets of play, but they opt to win through different means. Last year showed us the best and most optimal way to play the game — fast-paced, early game-oriented play that’s defined by frequent skirmishing across the map. Teams wanted to eke out an advantage and were willing to fight tooth and nail from the very get-go in order to do so.
In such a hectic meta, the LCK didn’t have much to offer. They want to play things out “by the book,” attain leads where they can and team fight only whenever it’s absolutely necessary. They weren’t willing to take any risks, and as a result were unable to go blow-for-blow with China, or even Europe.
LCK, as a region, was simply too stubborn to adapt in time, and it’s hard to blame them. They dictated the meta for so long that they forgot what it was like to be on the receiving end.
This year’s MSI promo
China and Europe, on the other hand, fully embraced the skirmish-heavy playstyle, and basically perfected it throughout the tournament. In such an LCK-less state of affairs, every other region prospered — including North America.
China and Europe haven’t changed much from the World Championship, and that’s primarily because they didn’t have to. The meta didn’t evolve, and it’s still as flexible as it was in 2018. It favors teams that are a bit unhinged and willing to throw caution out the window in favor of heavy bloodshed.
To make matters even more interesting, we’re not just getting three champions of unparalleled strength, but also three teams that perfectly embody and personify the current meta. This has allowed them to leapfrog all opposition in their respective regions, and the fact that all three champions cleanly swept their finals adversaries speaks volumes about their level of skill. G2 Esports outclassed Origen, SKT T1 demolished Griffin, and Invictus Gaming pretty much did the same against JD Gaming.
They weren’t always flawless, and they definitely made mistakes along the way, but once push came to shove, they were always on the mark; always perfect in execution.
Finally, just one quick glance is all we need in order to get blown away by the sheer number of mechanical deities and legendary players that will be gracing the stage in Vietnam. Let’s just look at the top and mid lanes — Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, and Song “Rookie” Eui-jin. The greatest League player of all time, the European prodigy often dubbed as “baby Faker,” and the 2018 champion that outclassed everyone put in front of him.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
And top lane isn’t any worse. Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok, Martin “Wunder” Hansen, and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. The best top laners from each respective region. Mechanically gifted, meta resilient, and highly impactful in all stages of the game.
All three teams have the potential to win through multiple avenues, and they have the luxury to pick and choose where they want to get their leads from.
But let’s take a closer look at all three teams and how they might ultimately attain success:
One simply has to start a Mid-Season Invitational teams breakdown with the greatest League of Legends organization in history. The most storied, renowned, and respected team to ever grace the stage. Feared, even. But the LCK giants aren’t entering the tournament with as much hype as you’d think. Korea, as a region, was heavily outmatched and outclassed throughout 2018, and they’re currently on a path towards redemption. They were unable to adapt in due time and it eventually became their biggest downfall.
We need to see more from them; we need to see that they’ve adapted. All of their immense mechanical skill and game knowledge are useless if they cannot play the game in the most optimal way. If they don’t step up and adjust, they will be unable to go the distance. They’ll come close — they’re SKT T1, after all — but they won’t be able to emerge as the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champions.
On paper, they’re fielding a spectacular roster. They have a veteran LCK champion in the top lane (Kim “Khan” Dong-ha), the greatest League player of all time in the mid lane (Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok), and a legendary shot caller in the support position (Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong).
But not all of their members are of veteran status. They have two relatively green players — Kim “Clid” Tae-min in the jungle and Park “Teddy” Jin-seong in the AD carry position, the latter of whom is well-known for his aggressive playback on Jin Air Green Wings. They’re not rookies by any stretch of the imagination, but they haven’t experienced playing on the biggest of stages up until they signed for SKT.
For a good while it looked like they were going to have to play second-fiddle to the prodigious Griffin, but once push came to shove, the LCK veterans showed their worth. They’re entering the tournament with a chip on their shoulder and are predicted to reach the finals if not even win the whole thing.
But an immense giant stands on their path towards greatness.
The Chinese champions are, without a doubt, the most feared and capable contender at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. The sight of them walking all over their opponents with ease is still fresh in everyone’s mind even though six months have passed — they were that dominant.
Invictus Gaming is not fooling around and seeing how they didn’t make any changes during the off-season, they’re entering the tournament with the maximum amount of synergy and team cohesion.
They’re just an incredible team and they’re proficient in every facet of play. While the recent meta shifts might not enable them as much (something that still remains to be seen), they’re entering the tournament as the heavy favorites.
Will they be able to dominate once again? The odds are definitely in their favor, but a lot of time has passed since their last international appearance, and things might have changed.
Either way, watching them play will be an absolute treat, especially if they’re still in top form.
The European champions are entering the Mid-Season Invitational as the biggest question mark. No one’s doubting their innate potential — but everyone is still unsure of just how strong they could be. Such an incredible top-notch line-up could be perfectly capable of taking down both Invictus Gaming and SKT T1, but until we see it happening, we’re slightly reserved.
The potential is there, that’s for sure. In fact, that’s one of the most exciting thoughts coming into the tournament — could they pull it off?
There is, however, one caveat.
Seeing how Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle is still healing from his wrist injury, there’s a good chance we’re going to see Hampus “promisq” Mikael Abrahamsson in the support position. He’s not a bad player per se, but he’s far from Mikyx’s caliber. It all comes down to what they bring to the table — Mikyx is hyper aggressive and an incredible playmaker. G2 needs someone like him, especially when he’s on an engage champions.
And, mind you, this isn’t because anyone has any particular affection or allegiance towards Mikyx, but rather because he’s an integral part of G2’s success. According to the organization’s social media accounts, he should be the one starting once the Group Stage begins, but that could very easily change.
Everyone wants to see the best possible G2 at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Even their opponents. Everyone wants to test their strength against such a potent team. Regardless, the task at hand is daunting, and G2 is going to have to play up to their full potential if they want to leave a mark.
Either way, it’s going to be a thrilling ride regardless of the final outcome.
Finally, we have three contenders that are coming from regions that are deemed as “less powerful,” seeing how they had to work their way through the Play-In Stage in order to get here. That said, even though they had a slightly longer road towards this point, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily any weaker than the teams above them.
That said, it feels like there’s a palpable gap between the three top teams, and the ones we’ll go over below. For one reason or another, these three champions simply aren’t favored against the “big dogs” and they’re going to have to fight tooth and nail in order to prove otherwise.
Liquid is a well-rounded team, there’s no doubt about that, but their relatively one-dimensional playstyle isn’t the best fit for the current meta. Fortunately, they have exceptional players in each and every role (two world champions, as well), so they should be more than capable of going blow-for-blow with the giants of competitive League. They’re well-equipped, and they definitely have the right tools at their disposal in order to fight for a spot in the Knockout Stage. But then again, Liquid has never attained much success on the international stage, and neither has any other North American team not named Cloud9.
Will 2019 be an exception? It very well might be, but don’t hold your breath.
Taiwan’s Flash Wolves are also a capable contender that’s much harder to take down than most people think. Even though they’re entering the Mid-Season Invitational with a fresh roster, they should still be more than capable of trading heavy blows against the League of Legends pantheon.
They’re also known as “LCK killers” for their positive win record against the LCK, and they’re poised to make yet another solid run this year in Vietnam. Never underestimate the Flash Wolves — they’re capable of pulling off incredible upsets and are always willing to throw down regardless of the state of the game.
Finally, we have the Vietnamese champions Phong Vu Buffalo. They’re not exactly as strong or as flexible as the teams ranked above them, but they’re a capable contender nonetheless. They fought valiantly against Team Liquid, and even though they took a devastating 3-0 loss, their solid play made every single game incredibly close. Perhaps even closer than anyone had expected.
They’re not predicted to do much seeing how the level of competition is downright insane, but they could upset — and that’s more than enough. They have a solid read on the meta and they’re willing to fight non-stop for any advantage they can get, which could put them in an advantageous position against an unsuspecting opponent; an opponent that underestimates their strength and potential.
That’s it for our 2019 Mid-Season Invitational teams breakdown! Make sure to tune in once the Group Stage begins on May 10th, because this is going to be one heck of tournament! You can watch all the action on a platform of your choosing — Twitch, YouTube, or LoL Esports official website, and you can click here for a detailed schedule.