The League of Legends Mid Season Invitational brought the top team from each of the regions to Shanghai, China to fight for glory as well as seeding advantages for their region come worlds later this year. Coming into the tournament, top analysts from around the world predicted the Korean representative and last year’s World Champion SK Telecom T1 as well as the new European powerhouse G2 Esports to perform well, but the group stage threw more than a few curveballs.
1st (8-2) – Royal Never Give Up (China)
Even though they were playing on home turf, and took out the more popular EDward Gaming to get to MSI, RNG wasn’t really looked at as a real contender for the title. Sure they had the support from the local fans, but analysts weren’t so sure, with predictions placing the team anywhere from 2nd all the way to 5th.
Despite the scepticism though, RNG came into the group stage with all guns blazing, running through the majority of it undefeated with bigs wins over SK Telecom T1 and the Flash Wolves. Their strength did to wane towards the end of the group stage, as they drops games to SKT and Counter Logic Gaming, but taking first place gave a lot of confidence to those wanting to see something other than SKT sweeping through the tournament.
2nd (7-3) – Counter Logic Gaming (North America)
We had all been through this many times before, a team does well in NA, but once they get onto the international stage, they struggle to perform and leave the tournament early. That’s the story that many expected for CLG in Shanghai, to end the group stage in 5th place, maybe even scrape through in 4th if they managed to string some good games together.
After the first two days of play, there was much more skepticism about the team as they unexpectedly lost their first match against the Turkish team SuperMassive Esports. The 2-2 score didn’t bring much confidence, but after a win against SK Telecom T1 and also securing 2-0 scorelines against G2 Esports and Flash Wolves, faith in the team was being restored.
3rd (6-4) – Flash Wolves (Taiwan)
The Taiwanese region for years now has flown under the radar for many people, but despite that their teams consistently turn up to international events and give the other teams a hard time. That’s what was expected of the Flash Wolves, and it is what they ended up delivering.
Against the weaker performing teams, the Flash Wolves looked clean and dominant, but going 0-2 against both Counter Logic Gaming and Royal Never Give Up did not bode well for them heading into the playoff stage of the tournament. Most notably the Flash Wolves were the only team during the group stage to pick up both wins against SK Telecom T1, and with them also securing a top seed for their region coming into Worlds, they can look at this tournament as a successful one.
4th (6-4) – SK Telecom T1 (South Korea)
Last year’s world champions came into the tournament as the overwhelming favourite, with only the most daring of analysts predicting them to lose any games let alone sets. Not only were they looking like the strongest team coming in, their play style looked to match up very well against that of the Chinese and Taiwanese teams.
First day went as planned, but after that the tournament started to get weird. A loss to RNG was a surprise yet understandable, but for SKT to then lose the next three games, one to Counter Logic Gaming and two to Flash Wolves, it was an unprecedented collapse for the team. They managed to recover towards the end of the group stage, and did enough to make it to fourth, but their performance left a lot to be desired.
5th (2-8) – G2 Esports (Europe)
Europe as a region has been one to challenge the best performing teams, as we saw at last years worlds with Origen and Fnatic making it to the semi finals. Even though G2 Esports is still a young team, they were expected to perform quite well on the international stage, with many predicting a second or third place finish out of the groups.
If SK Telecom T1’s collapse was the biggest surprise of the tournament, G2’s underperformance was the biggest disappointment. Both as a team and individually they looked well below their best, and only managed wins against SuperMassive Esports. Their underperformance and early exit from the tournament meant that the higher seeding for Europe going into worlds was lost, much to the pain of the European fans.
6th (1-9) – SuperMassive Esports (Turkey)
Coming in from the Wildcard Tournament, SuperMassive weren’t given the best of odds, with pretty much everyone expecting them to come sixth over the course of the group stage. They were however looking like the best wildcard team to ever be put into international competition so it didn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility for SuperMassive to pick up a few wins.
That’s not how it ended for the Turkish team unfortunately, as their results seemed to reflect expectation. They did look like quite a strong team, even managing a win against Counter Logic Gaming, so it should be interesting to see if SuperMassive will use this experience to push for a worlds spot at the end of the year.
Semi Final #1 – Royal Never Give Up (China) vs SK Telecom T1 (South Korea)
Before the tournament started, this was the matchup that was expected come the grand final, but with SK Telecom T1 underperforming throughout the group stage, it ended up being played earlier than expected. Of the two semi final matchups, this was the hardest to predict, as both teams showed considerable strengths and weaknesses on individual and team play.
As the series got under way, it looked as though RNG had the Korean team figured out, as they dominated game one and was looking to do the same in game two. It was in this game however that the momentum for the entire series shifted, as SKT were able to adapt to their opponents play style and take the win. They then went on to dominate the next two game, even managing to perform a ‘perfect game’ (0 kills, 0 towers, 0 dragons) to shut out the series 3-1.
Semi Final #2 – Counter Logic Gaming (North America) vs Flash Wolves (Taiwan)
Of the other possible matchups for the semi finals, CLG vs FW seemed to be one weighted quite heavily in favour of the North American team. CLG won the matchup 2-0 in the group stage, but after seeing how SK Telecom T1 performed in their semi final, it was hard to put too much faith in group stage play.
It was looking like one of the more hotly contested series seen in some time, as the two teams traded blows evenly over the first two games. Game three was very much in the same vain, with Flash Wolves seemingly having the advantage, but Counter Logic Gaming found an answer and wrestled control of the entire series. As game three fell out of their hands, Flash Wolves looked out of sorts, and it showed in game four as their coordination seemed to be failing. CLG took advantage of this with a dominant finish to book their spot in the grand final against SK Telecom T1.
Counter Logic Gaming (North America) vs SK Telecom T1 (South Korea)
The final series of the tournament featured two teams that for most part, defied expectation. SK Telecom T1 was expected to take the top spot, but their path to the final was far from convincing. While on the other side, no one expected the North American team to make it too far in an international tournament, many even thought that Counter Logic Gaming would struggle to make it out of the group stage.
Despite what happened in the group stage, it was a matchup that many felt SKT had the edge in, and with their group stage problems behind them, they were looking back to their dominating best. There was not much CLG could do in the finals, as every play they tried to make to get any kind of advantage, the Koreans were there to counter.
With an overwhelmingly dominant finish to the tournament, SK Telecom T1 from South Korea ended it 3-0 over Counter Logic Gaming from North America to secure yet another title. The final result was expected, but the rollercoaster ride that was the Mid Season Invitational brought hope and dismay for fans from all regions. Now with the mid season over, it’s back to regional play, and now it’s a push to get as good as possible for worlds at the end of the year. With SK Telecom T1 looking back to their best towards the end of the tournament, it’s going to be interesting to see how other Korean teams try to combat them.
Regular season play kicks off later this month with the LCK and LPL starting on the 25th/26th and the following weekend the two LCS regions getting back into it.