Four Underdog Teams to Watch at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational

League of Legends’ mid-season tilt between some of the best teams from each respective split has always been a chance to prove the strength of a team and its region, and the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational is no exception.

The MSI serves as a test for which team and which region has the correct meta read so far in the season, and serves as a way to set expectations for the culmination of the season: the World Championship. As always, we’re already expecting a lot from the big boys. Namely, the teams from the LCK, LPL, LEC, as well as the LCS. But, the MSI isn’t just about the more prominent leagues. It also represents a chance for the other “lesser” regions to shine. As a result, we could see some teams pull off the unlikely upset or two.

Below, we take a look at four League of Legends teams who possess the capability to deliver upsets at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational and how they can make that happen.

Detonation FocusMe (LJL)

2019 Mid-Season Invitational

Detonation FocusMe made it to the Play-In Knockout Stage at Worlds last year. Will they be able to go farther this time? (Image Soure: Riot Games)

Detonation FocusMe is a team that simply stomped their way through the League of Legends Japanese League in order to get to the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. Detonation FocusMe has only dropped one game across the entirety of the spring split. The team has a gold differential of +1748 at fifteen minutes, a +16.4 CS Differential at fifteen minutes, and an average game duration of 31:39, which means that they get advantages early on in their games, and they usually end their games within range of their first or second Baron Nashor capture.

So, basically, the team plays well early on and end games rather early. Both things strengthen their case for a good showing at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational.

But, perhaps the biggest advantage that Detonation FocusMe have is their rather curious champion pool. Off-meta and versatile, Detonation FocusMe prefers to run champions that most teams aren’t used to playing against. More importantly, they play each champion in their repertoire so well that they can also stick to the current meta and perform just as well as if they would go off-meta.

We’ll know soon enough if whether Detonation FocusMe’s dominance is a case of them being more of a biggest fish in the small pond kind of thing, or if they really are a world-class team.

1907 Fenerbahce Esports (TCL) 

1907 Fenerbahce Esports has done quite well in the past. even making it to the group stages of Worlds in 2017. Can they advance to the group stages in MSI 2019 as well? (Image Source: Riot Games Turkey)

1907 Fenerbahce Esports returns to an international tournament after dropping only two games in the Turkish League across twenty four games. Their early games are also quite strong: they have a +2402 gold differential at fifteen minutes, a +33.8 CS differential at fifteen minutes, and an average game time of 31:15 in all of their matches in the spring.

The team appears to play carries in their top side with Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min: he has played thirteen different carries so far in the spring, and whether it is a scaling team fighter like Vladimir or Kayle, or a lane dominant carry like Jayce, Fiora, or Illaoi, Ruin will be able to deliver. To play around their top laner, they usually secure a strong mid and jungle 2v2 as well: their mid laner Onur “Bolulu” Can Demirol is often on a champion that has great engage potential, and jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen is often on a skirmishing jungler that can dish out a lot of damage like Kindred, Karthus, or Taliyah.

While their bottom lane is usually not where the team tries to play through, Volkan “Hades” Dincer is one that is quite versatile: he has played 11 champions so far, and he has played scaling and lane dominant marksmen, but he has also played non-marksmen such as Yasuo and Cassiopeia.

1907 Fenerbahce Esports could possibly deliver an upset through its top laner and jungler: if they dictate the pace of the game, they will surely be able to bridge towards a victory.

Phong Vu Buffalo (VCS)

Can Phong Vu Buffalo’s aggressive style benefit them more consistently in the Mid-Season Invitational? (Image Source: Riot Games)

The Vietnam Championship Series showed some promise in the 2018 season— and not with the off-meta strategies that the Gigabyte Marines have formerly been known for. In the Mid-Season Invitational, it was Evos Esports that represented the newly created competitive League of Legends region, and they were able to upset both North America’s Team Liquid and Europe’s Fnatic last year. At the World Championship, we saw Phong Vu Buffalo take wins against G2 Esports which eventually went into the semifinals, and against the Flash Wolves.

Phong Vu Buffalo averages a +2793 gold differential at 15 minutes and a +43.4 CS differential at 15 minutes, with an average of 32:07 game time. PVB usually plays around its top laner Pham “Zeros” Minh Loc. Zeros has a 28.6% damage share while receiving 23.3% of the gold available, and he has played twelve different champions over the course of spring. The Vietnamese teams are often known for their aggression, and for Phong Vu Buffalo’s case, this is facilitated by their jungler Hoang “Meliodas” Tien Nhat. They usually favor aggressive playmakers for the jungle such as Gragas, Jarvan IV, and Lee Sin. Their mid laner Vo “Naul” Thanh Luan is often on utility duty, but can also play assassins if the need arises.

In the past year, Phong Vu Buffalo was able to deliver upsets through stellar play from their jungler and solo laners: with aggressive jungle picks and good playmaking junglers, they were capable of setting the pace in their games and are able to choke opponents out.

At the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, look to Phong Vu Buffalo to do the same, albeit in a more efficient manner.

Flash Wolves (LMS)

After a roster upheaval, Flash Wolves seeks to establish that they are still a team to look out for. (Image source: Flash Wolves Twitter)

The League of Legends Master Series has always been known to have one strong team in international tournaments: and that is the Flash Wolves. The Flash Wolves is a team known to deliver consistent results in a best of one setting— in last year’s Mid-Season Invitational, they were the team to set the tournament meta. Despite a stellar performance in the group stages, however, they were not able to perform well in the semifinal against King-Zone DragonX. In the World Championship, despite the team appearing to be perfectly capable of getting out of their group, the Flash Wolves faltered by losing all of their matches in the second day of matches for their group, and they eventually lost the tiebreaker against G2 Esports.

Compared to previous iterations, the current Flash Wolves lineup play a lost slower. Their average game time (33:25) doesn’t really stand out in any way. The same goes for their gold differential at 15 minutes (+339) and CS differential at 15 minutes (+0.8). Often, Flash Wolves play for the late game, which might not work so well against more-prepared teams.

Of course, that’s assuming they can aactually prepare for Flash Wolves.

Shin “Rather” Hyeong-seop alone played 18 different champions across the spring. That’s a lot, when you think about it how many players struggle to play just even half of the said number.

Between Rather and the other talent on their roster, we should expect Flash Wolves to make a lot of noise at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational.

Final Thoughts

International events are, as I have said, a way to gauge a region’s strength against others’— this is also a time full of surprises for everyone. Even non-favorites have a chance to shape the tournament, and they can help shape the outcomes. With this in mind, it’s worth watching every squad in the tournament, and see what kind of strategies they have prepared against the world’s best.

Which team do you think will end up winning the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational? Will it be one of the big-name teams? Or will an underdog stake their claim to the title this time around? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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