By Petar Vukobrat
May 16, 2019
We are just hours away from two exceptional Best of 5 clashes, so let’s do a quick 2019 Mid-Season Invitational Knockout Stage preview in order to see what’s in store! We’re getting two fights of seismic proportions — East vs. West; two legendary Eastern giants against the two best teams the West has to offer.
Creating two stronger Western contenders is going to be hard, especially in Europe’s case. This is basically the best chance the West is going to get at upsetting the status quo, and even though both teams have a solid chance on paper, there are two mighty titans standing in their way.
For our first Best of 5, we have a clash between the LPL champions Invictus Gaming, and the North American powerhouse Team Liquid. This isn’t exactly the most hyped match-up in history, but it’s going to be a great one regardless.
Now, quite frankly, Invictus Gaming is favored in every conceivable fashion, but that doesn’t mean Liquid won’t be able to throw down and exchange heavy blows. Not in the slightest. It all comes down to how well they’ll prepare. Liquid has been picking up steam as the Group Stage progressed, and are currently predicted to be quite a solid contender. They’re nowhere near Invictus’ level of play, of course, but they’re not too shabby either.
This is mostly a question of “how long will Liquid survive before falling prey to Invictus’ immense strength.” They are simply worse off lane-for-lane and that’s perfectly understandable. One could argue that only SKT has the tools to compete with such an immense giant, as evidenced by the very last game of the Group Stage.
Liquid, however, has started playing to their strengths recently, so they do have some potential. The fact of the matter is that Invictus is just stronger in every element of play by an order of magnitude— they can play cleanly, focus on objectives and slowly snowball their leads or they can throw caution out the window and simply skirmish non-stop. Regardless of the option they go for, they’re as good as they come.
It’s impossible to single anyone out because they’re all playing such incredible League of Legends. Even if one member of the team falters (which does happen from time to time), they have absolute confidence in one another and there’s always someone else to step up and hard carry. So far, they have basically been infallible, and even when they did make a couple of mistakes here and there, they were too few and far between to actually be deemed a weakness.
Team Liquid, in particular, presents a rather one-dimensional challenge that won’t push Invictus to their limit. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and his skilled teammates try to come up with a game plan to take the reigning champions down. They’re not predicted to succeed (at all), but they could make things at least somewhat competitive and entertaining.
The second Knockout Stage Best of 5, however, is far more interesting and engaging, and it’s not just because these giants are much closer in strength and potential.
First of all, both of these teams have incredibly exciting narratives coming into this match. SKT T1 wants redemption for their lackluster (or abysmal, rather) performance in 2018, and they have a very complex and highly capable obstacle in the way — a game G2 Esports.
This is a fight between two exceptional teams. They have the deep champion pools, incredible flexibility, the willingness to experiment and throw down regardless of the state of the game, as well as immense mechanical prowess.
They’re frightening, both on paper as well as in reality. They have some of the best players in the world in each and every role, and finding a weak spot in either of these two teams is an impossible endeavor, at least roster-wise.
Then again, when it comes to their playstyles, there are some inherent weaknesses. SKT T1 still haven’t adapted fully to the current meta and that could pose a big problem going forward. They’re perhaps a bit too calculated and passive when compared to most of their (top tier) peers, and when they’re up against a team that is adept at the current customs of war, they don’t have much to offer.
By the same token, G2 Esports are perhaps a bit too unhinged. They’re perhaps too good at the current meta and they can’t contain themselves, nor can they contain their willingness to throw down and taunt their opponents throughout the game. There’s a serious case of prideful hubris whenever G2 Esports step foot on stage, and even though there are moments of absolute brilliance, they also have huge blunders and are prone to making mind-boggling mistakes. There’s no in-between when it comes to G2 Esports, and that — depending on the opponent — can be a real problem.
Because of their volatile nature, they’ve not only lost twice to Vietnam’s Phong Vu Buffalo, but they were also able to take SKT T1 down in rather dominant fashion. That’s an accomplishment only G2 is capable of — to play so incredibly well one day, only to crash and burn a day later against a much weaker opponent. They’re prone to getting in their own way, and sometimes it starts with the pick and ban phase.
That’s the problem with G2 Esports right now. They’re currently on a three-game losing streak, but we’ve seen their incredible highs. We know what they’re capable of and when they come to play and impose their will they become a frightening, towering giant that’s basically unstoppable. Because of that, this Best of 5 could go either way. Both outcomes are perfectly viable — we can imagine an incredible G2 Esports coming out and dominating SKT much like they did a couple of days ago, but we can also envision a G2 that’s too aggressive for its own good.
If anything, we know they’re looking to redeem for their most recent blunders, and an aggressive, focused G2 Esports is definitely a frightening beast. We simply have to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’ve already faced SKT T1 twice over the last week and have emerged victorious on both occasions. They know whom they’re up against and they have more than enough information on how they should be playing come Saturday.
Even though SKT stepped up considerably over the course of the tournament, G2 is simply way too flexible and capable in the current meta, and they have the right players to back up any crazy strategy and team comp they might go for. If they prepare as well as they can and play up to their full potential, they shouldn’t have too big of a problem in taking SKT down. Even though they won against the LCK champions in both of their recent clashes, this should be a much closer fight seeing how both teams excel and prosper in a Best of 5 setting.
Regardless of the way this Best of 5 finally resolves, one thing is for certain: it’s going to be an absolute barnburner that could, in theory, go the five-game distance. Either way, prepare for some of the best, most unhinged League of Legends you’re going to see this year.
That’s it for our 2019 Mid-Season Invitational Knockout Stage preview! If you have the time, make sure to tune in (on Twitch, YouTube, or Riot’s official website), because we should be in for two exceptional Best of 5s!