With the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage finally set to kick off, we’re about to see the absolute best of the best duke it out for supremacy and international bragging rights for the next five-six months or so.
Earlier this week, teams such as Team Liquid, Flash Wolves, and Phong Vũ Buffalo joined G2 Esports, SK Telecom T1, and Invictus Gaming in the Main Event Group Stage. After slogging it through one hard-fought series after another in Hanoi, the six spring champions of their respective regions are now down to just four, with Invictus Gaming, SK Telecom T1, G2 Esports, and Team Liquid all moving on to play at the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage in Taipei.
The event will kick off with the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage Semifinals, with the first-place and second-place teams seeded on the opposite sides of the bracket.
Owing to their performance during the Group Stage, Invictus Gaming got to pick between Team Liquid and G2 Esports. They went with the former, leaving SK Telecom T1 with G2 Esports.
With that said, let’s get right on to business and talk about the format, schedule, and our predictions for the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage.
2019 MSI Knockout Stage Schedule
Semifinals Day 1, May 17, 2019, Friday, Heping Basketball Gym, Taipei
19:00 KST — Invictus Gaming vs Team Liquid
Semifinals Day 2, May 18, 2019, Saturday, Heping Basketball Gym, Taipei
16:00 KST — SK Telecom T1 vs G2 Esports
Grand Final, May 19, 2019, Sunday, Heping Basketball Gym, Taipei
16:00 KST — TBD vs TBD
Can Invictus Gaming Establish A Dynasty?
There’s no going around it— Invictus Gaming dominated the entirety of the Mid-Season Invitational Main Event Group Stage. While there have been some rather closer games than any fan would have wanted, Invictus Gaming stayed true to their unrelentingly aggressive style of play. They ended their group stage with a record of 9 wins and 1 loss, and that loss only happened in their very last match.
Invictus Gaming play to crush their opponents as soon as the game starts — they will take any fight with the mindset that they will outplay them. Their capacity to take plays that almost no one else will is something to behold, and they possess the mechanics to usually ensure their victory in those scenarios.
During the group stages, each of their members showed a capacity to carry the game at any point. However, Invictus Gaming was challenged several times as well, especially with SK Telecom T1, who looked like they studied all the times the other teams came close to beating Invictus Gaming and came at the reigning 2018 Worlds Champions with their best shot.
At this point, there’s no doubt that Invictus Gaming are the best League of Legends team in the world. However, to establish a dynasty, they’ll have to do more. They’ll have to win domestically and internationally all-year round, a feat that only SK Telecom T1 has accomplished.
SK Telecom T1 and the LCK’s Redemption
SK Telecom T1 had a rather rough start to the tournament, getting beaten by G2 Esports and then being defeated by Invictus Gaming in a record-setting match in terms of game time. They proceeded to then defeat the rest of the teams in the first round robin. In the second round robin, they found themselves losing to G2 Esports yet again. However, that was the only game they dropped, and they also got the last laugh as they became the only team to take a game off of Invictus Gaming.
SK Telecom T1’s path towards the top of the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage also serves as the LCK’s path towards redemption. Last year served as the first time in a long time that LCK didn’t win an international competition. To make matters worse, none of the LCK teams made it to the Grand Finals while playing in front of the hometown crowd. This year, LCK, or specifically, SK Telecom T1, will want to remedy that.
So far, SK Telecom T1 are showing encouraging signs. Kim “Clid” Tae-min has not disappointed in his first international appearance. Without him, SK Telecom T1 would be lost early in the game. This is especially true after he has proven himself one of the few players capable of piloting Lee Sin effectively in the current state of the game.
If Clid can continue playing as well as he has so far, SK Telecom T1 might just take home the crown.
G2 Esports and the Struggle for Consistency
G2 Esports early on was dubbed as a team akin to the Invictus Gaming roster, and while the differences are little, they are too sharp to ignore.
G2 Esports seems to play more like Team Vitality used to in the 2018 season, using strong solo lane performances to gain advantages in the side lanes. They’re also similarly aggressive, willing to take any fight at any time and unafraid to make some rather creative plays to try and catch up.
“Creative” is one word you can use to describe G2 Esports. “Reckless” and “brash” are two others.
The combination of these three make G2 Esports who they are, for better or for worse. They’re brave and they bow down to no one, which means that they’re not a team that will easily cave against better opponents.
The only question now is, can they be consistent? G2 Esports’ biggest problem has always been their lack of consistency, and while they were able to get away with it during the regular season, the likes of Invictus Gaming and SK Telecom T1 will be looking to capitalize on every one of their mistakes.
Team Liquid and the Challenge to Overturn Expectations
Team Liquid decisively took control of their own destiny by taking a win over G2 Esports in the last day of the group stage. Admittedly, no one expected them to go beyond the semifinal of this tournament, but for a brief moment in the group stage, it seemed like they would not even make it there.
Team Liquid has surely had a rough tournament so far. Their expected strength in the bottom lane has not lived up to expectations. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in have been underperforming so far, giving up kills and making uncharacteristic misplays. Meanwhile, both Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero have been rather hit or miss as a jungle duo so far, sometimes playing perfectly while others playing like they’re on the opposite pages of the proverbial book. In fact, the only good news is that of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, who has been performing quite well against international competition.
To say that the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage will prove to be quite the challenge for Team Liquid is one way of putting it.
Up against Invictus Gaming, the LCS Spring Split champions are facing tall odds. In fact, many will consider taking a single game off of the reigning world champions a huge win for Team Liquid. This means that winning the series is already out of the question. However, that doesn’t mean that they have zero chances of doing it. After all, if Team Liquid can somehow pull things together, they have as good of a shot at pulling off an upset as the other two teams in the tournament.
Four teams remain, and we are now in the part where they play best of fives. Getting this far should mean a better read of the meta and a better read of their opponents. In this year, time for preparation has become rather short, and a lot of the matches will seem to depend on momentum and more creative approaches towards the current state of the game.
Whoever emerges victorious creates history.
What do you think is going to happen at the 2019 MSI Knockout Stage? Do you think we’re going to see an upset? Or will Invictus Gaming and SK Telecom T1 simply crush their opponents as expected? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.