By Petar Vukobrat
May 16, 2019
Let’s do a somewhat quick 2019 Mid-Season Invitational Group Stage recap to take a look at all that’s transpired over the last couple of days, and what it means for all six teams going forward. The point of this recap isn’t to give you an in-depth play-by-play of each game, but rather to summarize what happened and how it could impact each team and their chances of winning the whole tournament.
At number one, we have none other than Invictus Gaming. Seeing them so high in the rankings shouldn’t come as a surprise — they’re the defending world champions, after all. If anything, Invictus showed us several different faces during this event, which was a treat.
They exuded nothing but confidence. How could they not, after all that they’ve done? Even in those short moments when a team managed to fight back and perhaps even land a solid blow, Invictus would simply up the tempo and reply tenfold.
There was no version of Invictus Gaming that was incapable of getting the job done, and that was the only thing that mattered. There were moments when they slacked off, but also moments of absolute, resounding brilliance. They knew just how lenient they could be before putting the pedal to the medal — and it worked every single time. Well, aside from their one loss against SKT T1.
That was perhaps their only fumble, and it was a confusing one as well. They were entering the very last game of the Group Stage with as much hype as humanly possible, and yet they completely dropped the ball. The fact that they lost isn’t that concerning, but the fashion in which it happened raised a lot of questions.
We saw a dominant, carnivorous SKT T1 that was able to strangle Invictus from the get-go, and there’s no way to describe it but strange in every way, shape, and form. A team out team-fighting and out-rotating the best team in the world — a champion that basically perfected the playstyle.
Regardless, they’re entering the Knockout Stage as the absolute favorites and their most recent fumble (their only one, as well) shouldn’t hurt their stock too much. They’re still the favorites to win the whole thing, but just seeing Invictus Gaming vulnerable heavily impacted everyone’s perception.
The LCK champions started the Group Stage off so badly that most people expected them to barely scrape by. The fact that they were losing games wasn’t exactly the most alarming part either — it was the manner in which these losses occurred which left many fans around the world wondering: perhaps we gave them too much credit; perhaps they didn’t deserve our benefit of the doubt.
But as the tournament progressed, so did their level of play — something that SKT is well-known for. They went from “rather underwhelming” to “downright spectacular” in a matter of days, and it is a testament to their skill and mental resilience. It’s important to highlight that they were handed the most devastating loss early on in the tournament — Invictus Gaming needed less than 16 minutes in order to outclass the LCK champions across the map.
To come back and not only secure second place but also hand Invictus their first loss (almost as definitively as their last match) is a sign of a true champion, and a team that is only getting started.
Looking ahead, it’s basically impossible to fairly judge their power level. They only picked up steam near the very end of the stage, and the fact that they lost both games to G2 Esports doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose in a Best of 5 setting as well.
Either way, they’re perfectly capable of winning the tournament, and it all boils down to how well they’ve adapted to the current meta, and whether or not their recent resurgence was a one-off thing or a sign of things to come.
The LEC champions are in a confusing position right now. They started the tournament off in the best possible way — only to get outclassed and demolished as the Group Stage developed. Their level of play quickly deteriorated, and there was no concrete reason why. The meta didn’t change and all they had to do was continue building on the solid foundation they were able to establish early on.
But as the tournament developed, their number of mistakes increased tenfold. They were far more chaotic and out of sync. They started making egregious unforced errors both in-game as well as in the pick and ban phase. They wound up looking far more meek and incapable than one would expect.
There’s is no doubt that they’re a beast of a team, but their volatility could become a serious problem further down the road. That is perhaps the price they have to pay — they’ll either play out of their minds and reach incredible heights, or they’ll fly too close to the sun and get burned. That’s why we love watching them, and that’s why they’re so highly respected. They’d rather risk it all on a whim and go for those insane plays rather than play things “by the book.”
If we judge them solely by their last couple of games, then the outlook isn’t particularly positive. They ended with a rather underwhelming 5W-5L record, and they’re the only team that managed to lose (twice) against the Vietnam champions Phong Vu Buffalo. Overall, there’s a lot of potential but whether or not they’ll be able to realize it in time for their Best of 5 against SKT T1 is a completely different matter.
Either way, they deserve our benefit of the doubt. They’re known for their inconsistency and with the amount of talent they have within their starting five-man line-up, they should be more than capable of stepping up and clutching things out.
Liquid’s fourth-place finish is not only in tune with their most-known meme, but it’s also worthy of the highest praise and commendation. While it’s not exactly a seismic achievement, this is actually the first time the organization was able to get out of groups in all of their international outings. North American teams should focus on small, incremental improvements and upgrades, and a Top 4 finish this time around is a solid start.
Perhaps the most important thing about the LCS champions is the fact that they’ve improved as the tournament progressed. Perhaps that’s even an understatement. Because of their last-minute resurgence, they were able to lock down a Knockout Stage spot with a somewhat respectable 4W-6L record. Their trajectory was the opposite of G2 Esports’ — they started off in the worst possible way and improved with each passing day.
Now, we could spend a lot of time analyzing all of their failures and mis-plays (of which there were many), but the fact of the matter is that they’ve stepped up when it mattered the most and are entering the Knockout Stage as a team that’s willing to throw down and get the job done.
Unfortunately for Liquid, they’re up against the tournament favorites Invictus Gaming, and in a Best of 5 format to boot. Such a multi-game format will allow the LPL champions to flex their immense muscles and completely outclass Liquid — it’s hard to imagine any other outcome. Saying that Liquid has a chance would clearly veer into the realm of fiction.
Either way, they know they’re the underdogs and should be able to at least put up a brief challenge against Invictus Gaming before ultimately succumbing to the overwhelming strength of the Chinese champions.
The LMS champions were unable to emerge victorious on more than three occasions, and even at the best of times, they didn’t look particularly threatening. Perhaps the biggest problem that arose with the Flash Wolves this year is the fact that they were running with a revitalized roster. In other words, they were lacking their former star power and this clearly showed in their play. They were still solid overall, but nowhere near how they played in the past.
In the end, the LMS champions were simply overwhelmed and outclassed on an individual level. They tried playing standard meta, which was a confusing decision from the very get-go. When they decided to remove the element of surprise and play on a level playing field, they were quickly demolished regardless of opponent.
Despite this, they’re still gelling as a team and they’re improving with each game they play. They should, in theory, be able to become a solid contender once the World Championship comes around.
The Vietnam champions were sadly unable to make much of a splash, and other than two incredible upsets over G2 Esports, they weren’t particularly threatening. They did, however, show a lot of promise and if they continue building and improving over the coming months, they should be able to put up a much bigger fight at the World Championship, given that they’re able to continue dominating on home soil.
That’s it for our 2019 Mid-Season Invitational Group Stage recap! We are just hours away from two exceptional Knockout Stage Best of 5s, so make sure to tune in because we should be in for one heck of a ride!