May 1 marks the beginning of the year’s first international tournament, the Mid-Season Invitational. It starts with the play-in stage: everyone but Europe, Korea, and China needs to prove they belong in the main event. Here’s what we’ll learn from the preliminary matches.
Which developing region will get a team in?
Unlike Worlds, the Mid-Season Invitational has a guaranteed spot for one team outside of Europe, North America, Korea, China, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao. If Play-In results completely mirror the seeding, 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports/Phong Vũ Buffalo will fight MEGA Esports/Vega Squadron for that spot. They were in Pool 1 for the group draw.
However, one shouldn’t sleep on INTZ e-Sports. They had a miracle season in Brazil, and the individual skill that Bruno “Envy” Farias demonstrated in the finals may be just enough to advance.
Will LMS fall flat?
The Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao league has been hitting new lows since last season, as more and more good players abandon it. At the 2018 Worlds, MAD Team and G-Rex finished their group stage run with a record of 0-6.
Normally, G-Rex’ loss wouldn’t be this significant, as LMS was a two-team league for a while before turning into the Flash Wolves show. However, this year it’s FW who are weaker than ever. The triumphant trio of Karsa, SwordArt, and Maple is no more, and they now compete for different teams in China.
Flash Wolves had a shaky spring split. They finished the regular season in second (9-5) and were one game away from losing to ahq e-Sports Club in the semifinals. Even them sweeping MAD Team hardly makes up for the fact that FW failed to dominate the weakest primary region out of the five.
From LMS’ official broadcast, we know that behind-the-scenes talk suggests the league will be closed after this season. While we don’t hear much about the business side of things, it’s pretty clear that the region’s results are way below what a league with three Worlds spots should have. Poor performance at this year’s MSI from Flash Wolves may put that final nail in the coffin.
How big of a mess will the bot lane be?
The 2019 Mid-Season Invitational is set to be played out on Patch 9.8, as 9.9 changes go live the day the tournament starts. That means that the participants can still run two unconventional strategies that break the game, figuratively or literally.
The first strat is running Sona+Taric in the bottom lane. Both get a lot of farm; between their heals, stuns, and invulnerability, it’s impossible to win a late game team fight. So far, only G2 Esports have shown a fundamentally superior counter-strategy: they funneled resources into a carry that started farming in the jungle.
The second strategy involves Draven in ADC and Illaoi in Support. Her W drags a spirit out of an enemy champion, and Draven can get the extra kill gold from his passive by killing the spirit rather than the actual character. The interaction will be fixed in Patch 9.9, but there’s still no information on whether Riot Games will do anything about it for the MSI.
Pros are excited about Draven and Illaoi just as much
Should the devs avoid tweaks to counter these strats in pro play, we will be seeing a lot of creative ways to counter them. We will probably have to wait for the group stage though, as it’s G2 Esports, Invictus Gaming, and SK Telecom T1 that I look to for innovation. On the other hand, if teams from developing regions indeed prefer to ban it out, we’re still going to have an exciting Play-In. The harder you try to remove some of these four champions, the more other power picks make it to the pick stage.
MSI 2019 will be held on May 1–19 in Vietnam and Taiwan. Tune to the official broadcast at 10am GMT on weekdays and 7am GMT on Saturdays and Sundays.