Six teams from across the world have reached the latter stages of the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational in Rio de Janeiro.
Initially 13 teams from 13 different regions were invited to Brazil, with the opening Play-In stages of the competition taking place in Sao Paulo before the final six continued on to Rio for the Group Stage and Knockouts.
Besides a share of a $1,650,000 prize pool, the top four regions for the 2017 League of Legends World Championships were determined at the end of the Group Stage. This meant the stakes were incredibly high.
Three teams had earned the right to be auto-seeded into the Group Stage by coming first in their regions over the past two years at Worlds and MSI. This saw SK Telecom T1 (South Korea), Team WE (China) and G2 Esports (Europe) avoiding the Play-In Round.
North America and TW/HK/MO representatives, Team SoloMid and Flash Wolves respectively, entered at the second round of the Play-In, leaving the eight remaining teams to battle it out in the first round of the Play-In for the right to play them.
GIGABYTE Marines (Vietnam) and BAU SuperMassive (Turkey) made it out of the first round only to fall to Team SoloMid and Flash Wolves respectively, with GIGABYTE then winning the final Group Stage invite with a win over BAU.
This meant the six qualifiers for the Group Stage were SK Telecom T1 (auto-seeded), Team WE (auto-seeded), G2 (auto-seeded), Team SoloMid (after Play-In Round 2), Flash Wolves (after Play-In Round 2) and GIGABYTE (after Play-In Round 3).
SKT T1 once again the class on the international stage
SK Telecom T1 finished the five day Group Stage with an 8-2 record, with progression assured after winning their first six games. Consequently, the defending League of Legends World Champions will be the number 1 seed for the Knockout Stage. The boys from South Korea have continually impressed over the past three years and this tournament has been no exception thus far.
A shining light for SK Telecom T1 besides star Mid Laner Faker has been recent signee Peanut, formerly of ROX Tigers. Peanut showed why he is undefeated on Lee Sin during the 2017 season, with the 19-year-old dominating the GIGABYTE Marines in particular on Day 3. The aggressive Jungler broke the MSI record for kills in the first 15 minutes, which previously was set at eight, as he racked up 14 kills in just 12 minutes. He eventually finished the game with a score of 15-2-5.
Xiye shines on unusual Mid Laner
Team WE of China, formerly Team World Elite, are the hottest team heading out of the Group Stage though. The surprise of the Spring Season continue to impress in Brazil, with Team WE winning their final five games heading into the Knockout Stage. With a 7-3 record and the number 2 seed, Team WE will now avoid SK Telecom T1 in the semifinals.
Team WE continue to get a strong showing from now veteran Mid Laner Xiye, with the four-year member of the Team WE organization breaking out a unique Mid Lane pick in Attack Damage Carry Lucian.
There had been rumours and vods of solo queue that Lucian as a Mid Lane pick was gaining steam as an extremely strong choice. Lucian follows the same lines as other ADC’s that have been taken to play in the Mid Lane in the past, with the strong burst damage dealer permitted a free laning phase in the much shorter Mid Lane. This allows for an almost guaranteed mid game spike in damage and map objectives.
Xiye took this pick out in his team’s final Group Stage match against SK Telecom T1, with both teams locked into first and second place before the match began.
Team WE took Lucian into Faker’s Orianna, the champion that the consensus top player in the world has used the most throughout his career. Lucian is seen by most top level professionals as a soft counter for Orianna, with the ADC safe laning phase being even easier versus the non-aggressive champion.
Xiye, alongside Jungler Condi on Elise, focused on Faker in the Mid Lane. Within the first three minutes Xiye had picked up a double kill against Faker and Peanut, who was on Graves, with help from Condi. The veteran Chinese Mid Laner took it from there, solo killing Faker once Lucian had hit a power spike at level six. Xiye finished the game with a score of 8-1-7 in the victory over SK Telecom T1.
Team SoloMid knocked out in tiebreaker
The one true losing team for the whole tournament has got to be Team SoloMid, with the North American powerhouse finishing fifth overall and losing a number one group seed for North America for the 2017 World Championships as a result.
Team SoloMid ended the event with a 4-6 record, falling to Flash Wolves in the tiebreaker match at the end of Day 5. North America will still have three participants at the World Championships later this year, but will now have their highest seed at number 2. This means they will be in a group with a number 1 seed from one of the top four regions. Regaining a top line seed was Europe, with G2 Esports finishing third with a similar record of 4-6.
This is probably the final time we will see this version of Team SoloMid, with former star ADC Doublelift returning to the outfit for the Summer Split. WildTurtle is expected to stay on the roster and compete for the starting position as a substitute player. Meanwhile, Danish Mid Laner Bjergsen continues to be one of the few bright spots for Team SoloMid, with the now veteran single-handedly keeping the North American side out of sixth place.
Knockout Stage up next with some interesting match-ups
The Knockout Stage for MSI is set, with SK Telecom T1 taking on Flash Wolves and Team WE facing off against G2 Esports. This will be the first time SK Telecom T1 and Flash Wolves have played in a best-of-five. Flash Wolves are the only organization in the world with a winning record against SK Telecom T1, with an all-time 4-3 mark, although SK Telecom T1 are a different kind of opponent when they are allowed to adapt during a series.
Team WE beat G2 Esports two times in the Group Stage, with both victories coming with relative ease. A key will be to watch the jungle play of Condi against Trick for G2 Esports. Both Junglers are known for their ability to either win or lose the game for their sides.
The semifinals will take place on 19 and 20 May, with the final to follow the day after. The Mid Season Invitational has so far lived up to the hype and a rematch of SKT and WE would be an excellent Grand Final.