As playoffs all over the world come to a close, we now know the six teams that are going to be competing at the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational.
The first weekend of Grand Finals on April 16-17 saw Counter Logic Gaming from North America, G2 Esports from Europe and the Flash Wolves from Taiwan take the title in their regions and book themselves a spot at the event to be played in China.
Counter Logic Gaming
As the season got under way, Counter Logic Gaming’s title defence looked to be out of reach. A roster change caused many to question their strength, and the incredibly dominant Immortals had most projecting a third/fourth place finish for CLG.
This wasn’t to be the case though, as they were able to take second place in the regular season, and after Immortals stumbled during playoffs, set up their fated match up against Team Solo Mid. The biggest talking point surrounding the matchup was about the AD Carries, with Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng leaving CLG after many seasons with the team and Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes stepping into the role. After an intense back and forth five game series, CLG was able to defend their title and confirm to themselves and also to the rest of the world that they made the right choice.
Despite their impressive showing though, North American teams have notoriously underperformed on the international stage. Counter Logic gaming has a lot of work ahead of them if they’re to turn around that trend.
Across the pond, G2 Esports entered the league in a position similar to Origin last year, fans were excited about the talented lineup but not too sure how they would fare on the bigger stage.
G2’s playstyle was interesting and exciting to watch, but there were concerns about their consistency, and whether or not they would still be able to get results once teams figured them out. But that never happened, as G2 Esports took first place in the regular season and then went on to beat Fnatic and then Origen to secure the European spot at MSI.
Of the western regions, Europe tends to fare rather well against the Korean teams, but as G2 Esports are still a relatively young team, it’s a bit hard to judge how they will perform at MSI. Also, as a massive CJ Entus fan, I am just really happy to see Emperor finally find success and stability after being bounced around the world over the past few years.
The Flash Wolves are not a new face in the scene. We saw them at worlds last year where they put up some respectable performances against teams such as the ROX Tigers and Counter Logic Gaming.
For the majority of the season though, a lot of the attention was towards ahq e-Sports Club who finished the regular season without a match loss, and were looking to represent Taiwan at MSI. The Flash Wolves turned up when it counted the most though, sweeping ahq 3-0 in the grand final in incredibly dominant fashion to steal away the chance to go to MSI.
Even though the Taiwanese scene doesn’t receive as much attention or resources as some of the other bigger regions, it is never wise to count them out when it comes to international competition.
SK Telecom T1
The very next weekend the rest of the participants were made known as SK Telecom T1 from Korea and Royal Never Give Up from China showed regional dominance while the Turkish team SuperMassive Esports beat out the other minor regions at the International Wildcard Invitational to earn themselves the last spot.
At the start of the 2016 season, many were curious about how SK Telecom T1 would perform. After they had won the World Championship in 2014, SKT T1 had failed to perform in the following season, and there were worries that that fall off in performance would happen again.
The start of the season was a bit shaky for the defending World Champions, but they started to look back to their dominating best after a clean sweep through the IEM World Championship. The top spot ended up going to the ROX Tigers, who were dominant for the majority of the split. Mirroring their results from last year though, they started to fall off in time for the playoffs, and in the Grand Final match up between SK Telecom T1 and the ROX Tigers, SKT T1 repeated history by taking out the Tigers and giving them another shot at MSI glory.
For the first few weeks of the season, the idea of SKT T1 not qualifying for MSI was a real possibility, based on their results and how uncomfortable they look with a change in roster. Things have changed, and they’re looking back to their dominating best, so it’s easy to say that SK Telecom T1 are more than likely going to be the team to beat.
Royal Never Give Up
After China’s terrible performance at last year’s world championship, there was a lot of skepticism surrounding the Chinese teams, and whether or not they would be able to perform on an international stage.
Royal Never Give Up was a team of young Chinese talent led by the legendary Samsung White support Cho “Mata” Sehyeong, but confidence in the team did not come easy. It wasn’t until wins started to flow together that the players, analysts, and fans started to feel like Mata had been able to turn a handful of talented players into a title winning team. This started with the securing of first place during the regular season, and although their semi final victory over Team WE wasn’t entirely convincing, they looked much stronger against the powerhouse EDward Gaming.
After what happened last year, I think it safe to say that there is some skepticism about RNG’s potential at MSI. If there is going to be anything that could stop a potential sweep from SKT T1 though, it would have to be a highly talented team piloted by Mata.
The Turkish team SuperMassive Esports is a new name with some familiar faces. The support Mustafa “Dumbledoge” Kemal Gokseloglu and the top laner Berke “Thaldrin” Demir were a part of the Besiktas J.K lineup that participated at the 2015 Mid Season Invitational, so their is some international experience that they can draw from.
This experience was useful as they were able to find some form heading into the Turkish playoffs, where they were able to beat out the new Besiktas J.K team and qualify for the International Wildcard Invitational. The IWCI was a bit of an odd tournament, with many teams trading wins unexpectedly and tiebreakers being needed as they headed into the playoff stage. Once that was all settled, SuperMassive Esports looked to be in their comfort zone as they dispatched the Russian team Hard Random and took the final spot at the Mid Season Invitational.
It is going to be incredibly hard for SuperMassive Esports to take the title, with such overwhelming teams in the mix, it just might be out of reach for them. If North America or China decides to show now characteristically poor performances though, there may be a chance for the Turkish side to cause a few upsets.
The first games get under way on May 4th, and with little international competition throughout the year, this event is going to be massive. Check out the official MSI 2016 League of Legends page here.