The 2018 Mid-Season Invitational is getting close, with the first group stage draw having been done for the Play-In teams.
The Play-In stage is where the smaller regions will compete for the chance to participate in the main MSI tournament. The group winners will be randomly paired against either Flash Wolves (LMS) or EVOS Esports (VCS), who received group stage byes due to their regions’ previous performances in international competitions.
Though wildcard teams are hard to gauge, all teams stand out in their own right, for good and bad reasons.
The power ranking is as follows:
1. SuperMassive eSports (TCL)
Though the addition of Korean imports to every team has raised the level of competition throughout the TCL, SuperMassive has emerged as the clear powerhouse in Turkey, going 26-2 in the regular season. Bolstered by the performances of mid laner GBM and support SnowFlower who seem to be a step above their fellow Korean imports, SuperMassive should be looked upon as favourites to enter the main event.
2. Flash Wolves (LMS)
Player movement in and out of the LMS has made Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau harder to evaluate than before. The Wolves’ primary competition in the LMS have all appeared to regress, with ahq e-Sports Club and Hong Kong Attitude both missing the playoffs. Though jungler Karsa departed for China, mid laner Maple, AD carry Betty and support SwordArt returned to the team after 2017 Worlds. Whilst not as competitive as before, the LMS is still a premier region in comparison to other wildcards and should be contending to compete in the main event.
3. Rainbow7 (LLN)
Despite a tumultuous preseason, with a legal battle surrounding the team’s branding and star AD carry WhiteLotus being suspended for the entire split due to toxicity in SoloQ, the team formerly known as Lyon Gaming won their tenth championship in a row. The organisation has confirmed that WhiteLotus will return for MSI, but this change opens up questions of roster synergy and competitive readiness, questions that cannot be answered until matchday. However, WhiteLotus may simply return to the form he had during 2017 Worlds and help Latin America North to get into the main event for the first time in the region’s history.
4. KaBuM! e-Sports (CBLOL)
The original giant slayers, Europe’s nightmare and North America’s hero, return to international competition for the first time since their famous performance at 2014 Worlds. None of the current roster has international experience (goodnight LEP sweet 0/16/2 prince), though what they lack in quality, they make up for in sheer tenacity, particularly their star AD carry TitaN. Close games up to and including their championship suggest that KaBuM! may not be able to replicate the same magic they once were able to conjure. However, Brazil is a more competitive region than ever before and KaBuM! were able to create their own luck against considerably more-experienced opposition throughout the 2018 CBLOL Summer Season. Though lightning may not strike the same place twice, it seems to strike wherever KaBuM! goes! Perhaps it will create a path to the main event and the chance to make history once again.
5. EVOS Esports (VCS)
EVOS Esports represent the VCS in Vietnam’s first ever international event as a separate region after being grouped with the rest of Southeast Asia in the GPL in previous years. Though the region may now have the prestige of a group stage bye, showings by teams other than the Gigabyte Marines in previous international events such as Young Generation at 2017 Worlds suggest that the region as a whole is still weak. The team is experienced, with former Gigabyte Marine Stark holding the top lane, but look unlikely to make it into the main event.
6. Gambit Esports (LCL)
The fusion of Gambit Gaming and Albus NoX Luna returns to the international scene once more after disappointing at 2017 Worlds. The team has substituted 2017 Worlds weak-link Blasting with the younger AD carry in Lodik alongside legends such as jungler Diamondprox and support Edward. Though the nostalgia of Moscow Five, Gambit Gaming and Albus NoX Luna seems to fuel hope that this team can bring the CIS back to the forefront of competitive League, the reality of a weak region and dismal recent international performances should check the expectations for this team, though that should not stop fans from being eager to support behind this team (cyka blyat).
7. Dire Wolves (OPL)
The second quintet of Wolves during the Play-In stage, Sydney’s very own Dire Wolves seek to finally pass the test of an international event. Chippys (pls stop), Shernfire and k1ng return from the 2017 Worlds roster with Triple replacing Phantiks in the mid lane and Cupcake replacing Destiny as support. Whilst Triple is certainly an upgrade over Phantiks, Cupcake seems to be on the same level as Destiny. Though the team dominated the regular season, going 20-4, they needed five games to take down Chiefs Esports Club for the championship. Unfortunately, as some of our international students may know through comparison back on their home servers, Oceania is a rather weak region, even compared to other minor servers. Prepare for a repeat of 2017 Worlds; disappointment despite having no expectations.
8. PENTAGRAM (LJL)
The team formerly known as Rampage sports a much different roster than 2017 Worlds. Though AD carry YutoriMoyasi and mid laner Ramune remain, visa issues with previous Korean imports Dara and Tussle saw them bring in new imports in the form of jungler Once and support Gaeng. These new imports lack competitive experience, with the former being a sub for Hong Kong Assassins and the latter having not played at the competitive level since 2016. The aforementioned visa issues saw the team penalised for the first five weeks of the split by being down one game every series, having to sweep their way to victory. Do not take this as a positive indicator of their competitiveness, Japan is still very much a developing region and PENTAGRAM will struggle on the big stage.
9. Kaos Latin Gamers (CLS)
Though four out of five members are back from their 2017 Worlds squad, Kaos Latin Gamers did not show much promise then and not much should change at MSI. Much more than synergy is required to place first, especially in a group as tough as the one Latin America South’s very own find themselves in. The region has historically struggled against fellow wildcards, dating back to Season 4 where none other than KaBuM! e-Sports swept PEX Team to qualify for 2014 Worlds.
10. Ascension Gaming (GPL)
The GPL, having just lost Vietnam, are even weaker than before, with Thailand’s Ascension Gaming finally making an international event after having fallen countless times to Vietnam in the GPL tournament. Some familiar faces are present on this team, with mid laner G4 and AD carry Lloyd’s last international showing being at 2015 Worlds on Bangkok Titans (Lloyd you kicked over the grill). However, most of the roster have recently undergone role swaps, hampering their synergy. If Ascension Gaming can pick up a single win, they will leave Berlin happy.
- By Iain "Arkk003" Lew [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]