It’s taken quite a while, but now, we’re finally here at the 2019 MSI Group Stage.
With the Play-In stage finally done, all six teams playing at the 2019 MSI Group Stage are finally in. There isn’t that much data on how half of the teams — G2 Esports, SK Telecom T1, and Invictus Gaming — are going to play as we have not yet seem them in action on the tournament patch, 9.8, yet. Meanwhile, the other half have had some chance to get some action in after playing through the Play-In stage.
Two teams in Flash Wolves and Team Liquid go through after their first Play-In Knockout best of five, with Phong Vu Buffalo getting in through their second.
With that said, we’ll try to evaluate fairly the teams of the 2019 MSI Group Stage, based on their previous performances, and potential.
After winning the Demacia Cup in December of the past season, Invictus Gaming promised that they would win every championship that they missed in previous years.
So far, Invictus Gaming have kept their promise. They started with the 2018 World Championship and followed it with a domestic LPL title. Now, they’re eyeing another international tournament in the form of the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational.
Of all the teams at the 2019 MSI Group Stage, it’s probably Invictus Gaming whose playstyle and champion pool suits the meta the best. They have the best solo laners in Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok in the top lane Song “Rookie” Eui-jin in the mid lane. Plus, they’re good enough to turn even unfavourable matchups around. Gao “Ning” Zhen-ning has spent most of his time empowering their top laner, but when he is not setting up a camp in the top lane, he is busy tracking and shutting down the opponent jungler. Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-bo and Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi are often reliable in the bottom lane, and are able to hold their own without Ning’s help in the lane.
What sets Invictus Gaming’s trademark aggression from other teams and from the rest of the world is that they are able to mix some macro play with their aggression. Their vision setups when ahead leave the opponent unable to contest anything in the map out of fear that they would get killed.
So long as Invictus Gaming avoids overextending their advantage, a deep run at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational is all but a sure thing.
SK Telecom T1
As far as Mid-Season Invitationals go, SK Telecom T1 kind of have them down pat. Of the three they’ve attended, they’ve won two of them, and the one they didn’t go on to win, they lost it in a five-game Grand Final against Edward Gaming that people still consider as one of the best of all time.
So far, SK Telecom T1 are the only Korean team to have ever won an MSI, and if they can keep up their performance, they’ll be the first to win an MSI thrice.
SK Telecom T1’s playstyle might not be as good of a fit to the meta as that of Invictus Gaming, but they are a lot more versatile. They’ve adjusted their style of play throughout the season. We’ve seen them play more towards jungler Kim “Clid” Tae-min in the beginning, with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha taking the more utility oriented champions. Later on, we saw them pay some attention to Khan and give him champions like Fiora and Riven. Then, they decided to give Faker ever more of a chance to shine, playing more around him and giving him priority in terms of farm and the draft.
But, one thing that has remained consistent throughout the shifts in SK Telecom T1’s playstyle is their bottom lane — Park “Teddy” Jin-seong and Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong have remained reliable through it all.
Mid-game seems to be where SK Telecom T1 shines the most, and if teams want to beat them, they’ll have to try and match if not outmaneuver SK Telecom T1 during that particular time of the game. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves losing in embarrassing fashion.
The Dark Horse — G2 Esports
After dominating the League of Legends European championship, G2 Esports wants to prove that their talent is better than not just their entire continent, or their side of the world— G2 Esports wants to prove that at their best, they are the best in the world.
G2 Esports, as we know them, are an immensely mechanically talented team. Because of this, G2 Esports are capable of pulling out a lot of strategies, whether they may be considered as off-meta or even just straight up unorthodox. We have seen them play mages in the bottom lane, we have seen them play things like Sejuani or Karma in the top lane, and we have seen them bring back the gold funneling compositions. This makes them terrifying, but their standard play is nothing to scoff at either: their capability to flex champions between at least two roles has made their drafting quite difficult to make sense of until the end.
However, despite taking over Europe, there have been some problems. Support Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle is still recovering from an injury and his state is quite difficult to gauge coming into the tournament. Rasmus “Caps” Winther can sometimes be overaggressive, and when he is set behind he often can become a non-factor, completely unable to make it back into the game.
G2 is a little bit behind SKT and IG, but they are not that far. Their issues can be worked on, and them emerging victorious from this tournament is not a distant possibility.
Team With Serious Upset Potential
Team Liquid proved and disproved criticisms by taking a quick 3-0 over Phong Vu Buffalo in the Play-in Knockout Stage. They disproved criticisms of their solo laners when Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong was able to hold his own, absorb pressure, and influence the map. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen was able to do quite the same, but he also had some attention paid to him by Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. They proved some criticisms by having immensely weak early games across the series, being in quite a sizeable deficit in all three games. What saved the squad is their veterancy and experience— that they are always capable of punishing mistakes by the enemy in mid or late game scenarios. If not for that, Team Liquid would have taken longer to make it into the group stages. They might not have made it into the group stages at all.
But, for Team Liquid to make it past the 2019 MSI Group Stage, they’ll need to do a lot more.
Bottom laners Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in have not been in great form so far. They have been falling victim to 2v2 kills and ganks over and over. This is quite reminiscent to their grand final in the League of Legends Championship Series. Only that this time, they’re up against better teams.
The Flash Wolves have lost most of their stars before the start of the 2019 season, and they have endured every hardship to get into the 2019 MSI Group Stage. Several analysts raised their eyebrows at this team going into this tournament as they no longer have the heavily experienced superstars that they used to. People were reluctant to give them the same kind of respect that they did in previous years.
The fact of the matter is that the team’s focus has shifted. The team now plays more towards Su “Hanabi” Chia-hsiang, and relies on Shin “Rather” Hyeong-seop’s capability to be a rock in the middle lane. Liu “ShiauC” Chia-Hao and Lu “Betty” Yu-Hung are often relied upon to be steady and could be a force that they could play towards in the later stages of the game. However, the general inexperience of the squad has been a constant liability, and they may need more time to be consistently excellent.
Needs Improvement — Phong Vu Buffalo
Phong Vu Buffalo showed a lot of grit in the Play-in Group Stages and in the Play-in Knockout Stages. They have shown that by playing through their jungler Hoang “Meliodas” Tien Nhat, they are able to have a robust early game, getting advantages in the form of kills, drakes, and sometimes even turrets. Phong Vu Buffalo is the most aggressive team in the tournament, even more aggressive than LPL representatives Invictus Gaming.
Despite the aggression, they seem to leave a lot to be desired. They overreach after taking a lead, which most times end with them letting go of the said lead. They put themselves into questionable scenarios where chances of getting an advantage are low. Their solo laners get overeager and then get solo killed. They are a young squad from an emerging region, and it is perfectly understandable as to why they desire to prove themselves. However, I would argue that there should be some better decision-making around which fights to take and which ones are not worth taking.
The 2019 MSI Group Stage is where the best League of Legends teams in the world will compete and prove their worth against teams outside of their home region.
Wherever you are from and whoever you are rooting for, it is best to remember that this clash of each region’s best teams will surely result in the highest level of League of Legends that anyone can ever witness.
With that said, let’s try to cheer for everybody.
How would you rank the teams of the 2019 MSI Group Stage? Do you agree that Invictus Gaming and SK Telecom T1 are the favourites? Do you share the same sentiments as us? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.