The first step in the Spring Splits grand finale has come to a close, as the Mid-Season Invitational play-in stage ended yesterday. The two greatest wildcard teams in the world battled it out to see who would make it to the grand stage, and in the end it was the GIGABYTE Marines, a team that nearly managed to upset Team SoloMid a week before, that won the final ticket to Rio De Janeiro.
With that victory, the five teams that will compete in the Mid-Season invitational have been set. There's been many twists and turns in this tournament so far, but we're still far from off the beaten track. As expected, neither of the two major regions that were forced to partake in the play-in stage were defeated, though North America's Team SoloMid came dangerously close. As such, the elimination stage will consist of the same familiar regions that have taken part in every MSI to date.
Just as a refresher before the main event, let's meet the teams one more time, just so everyone knows who to root for.
SK Telecom T1
The team that needs no introduction. The defending champions of both the World Finals and the Mid-Season Invitational. The team that every other
Last year was a rough event fro SKT T1, despite their eventual victory. They suffered huge upsets at the hands of both the Chinese representatives, Royal Never Give Up, and the North American team, Counter Logic Gaming. In fact, the team that ended up going through the elimination stages undefeated wasn't SKT T1, it was RNG. This year, they'll be looking to not only take the trophy again but to do so without any hiccups. Looking at their amazing play in their home region, it's hard to argue that they won't be able to do just that, especially since both of the teams that were stumbling blocks for them in the past either no longer exist, or didn't make it to this event in the first place.
Despite having to enter the tournament through the play-in stage -- H2k's good fortune in getting Albus NOx Luna in the first elimination stage of the World Championship did a real number to the MSI seeding -- the Flash Wolves enter as quite possibly the biggest team to watch over this tournament. They are the currently reigning IEM World Champions, and while the tournament wasn't exactly stacked, it does make them the most successful team in recent international play. The Flash Wolves have always had a reputation for being able to smash Korean teams, but never those of lesser regions. Their victory at Katowice proves, however, that the Flash Wolves now have
If you're hoping for the raging machine of SKT T1 to get stopped, the Flash Wolves are the team to bet on.
The old kings of China have finally reclaimed their throne and done it in dominating style. Only SKT T1 can claim to have smashed their region with the same aplomb that Team WE did, and they'll be looking to bring that fire to the world stage. Unfortunately, however, their victory means considerably less this season than it would have last season when their last minute victory over both EDG and RNG made them arguably the best team in China...right until they were upset by IMAY in the gauntlet and were kicked out of Worlds contention. This year the greatest teams in the LPL all saw massive changes come to them, except for Team WE, who became the de facto best team in the region seemingly by default.
What Team WE can accomplish on the world stage is, as usual for an LPL team, a complete mystery. China's unorthodox playstyle was momentarily vindicated back at MSI 2016 when RNG had their run of the table, but Team WE don't have nearly the star power that RNG brought to the table.
Of all the teams at MSI, G2 Esports have the absolute lowest bar to hurdle over aside from perhaps the GIGABYTE Marines. Despite being the acknowledged best team in Europe, G2 Esports has one of the worst international
For G2, the only goal is to silence the "G2-8" meme that has been prevalent since their abysmal performance at MSI 2016. I wouldn't place any bets on whether they can do it this year or not quite yet, though, as even this year's Wildcard team seems to be a worthy competitor. We may soon be making memes about G2
The expectations for North America when it comes to international pay is never set high. Team SoloMid failed to even make it out of the group stage of Worlds last year despite an insane amount of hype around them, and that was back when they had Doublelift. Now that they have Wildturtle, who is so obviously the worst ADC remaining at the event that it's physically painful, things are looking even more grim for the all-popular NA side.
After their near-loss to the GIGABYTE Marines, Team SoloMid come into the event proper with one goal: don't take home the shame of getting last place. Unless their play improves dramatically by Friday, a world where Team SoloMid comes in last place doesn't seem at all unlikely. For now, they can only hope to survive this event and rebuild once they get Doublelift back on the roster for Summer.
Of all the teams remaining at MSI, the GIGABYTE Marines are the hardest to pin down. Their near-upset against Team Solomid caught the eyes of fans and analysts around the world, all of whom are now asking one question. How far can this team go?
Well, in likelihood the answer is "not very far". The Marines are very reminiscent of last years Royal Never Give Up squad in terms of their playstyle, but the reality is that this team likely lacks the firepower to get it done against the likes of the Flash Wolves, SKT T1, or even Team WE. Win or lose, though, the Marines have already made their statement for this event, and you can be sure that the weaker major region teams are frantically reviewing the Marines' play, praying that they won't be the team to be eclipsed by the Vietnamese powerhouse.