Gambit Esports 5-1 (LCL)
Group A saw the unexpected rise of the LCL represented by Gambit Esports, who had represented the region at the last world championship. Expectations were not high for this team given their poor performance last year, going 0-4 in the Play-In stage. However, the addition of Stanislav “Lodik” Kornelyuk to the roster has paid dividends, especially considering how he just joined the starting lineup in the final weeks of LCL regular season. Lodik’s greater carry potential over long-time starter Daniel “Blasting” Kudrin has proved to be the tipping point the team needed to qualify for the knockout round of the play-ins by dropping only a single game to the GPL champions, Ascension Gaming.
Rainbow7 3-3 (LLN)
With the return of their star ADC Matias “WhiteLotus” Musso froms suspension, many expected Rainbow7 (formerly Lyon Gaming) to top the group, especially given the team’s excellent performance at the last world championships. Yet, R7 only managed a single win against ASC on day 1. Whilst R7 improved to go 2-1 on day 3 by picking up a win against KLG and ASC, it was not enough to avoid elimination from the tournament. Heading home, the team will look towards preparing for the Summer split, and a possible 12th domestic title.
Kaos Latin Gamers 2-4 (CLS)
Coming into MSI with a new top laner in Damián "Nate" Rea, KLG performed beyond expectations on day 1 by winning 2 games against ASC and R7 in a Latin America grudge match. Stand out performances from Sebastián "Tierwulf" Andrés Mateluna Cibrario onOlaf during the match against R7 in controlling the jungle matchup, was a major factor in the team’s victory, as well as Joaquín "Plugo" José Pérez 5/0/10 performance on Anivia. Despite their strong initial performances, KLG would go on to lose all 3 of their remaining matches to tie with ASC for last place in Group A.
Ascension Gaming 2-4 (GPL)
Following Vietnam’s split from the GPL, Ascension Gaming finally secure their first international appearance, after being edged out by Vietnam’s Young Generation in the 2017 GPL Summer Playoffs for the region’s 2nd seed at the 2017 World Championships. Looking to prove the region’s strength in the post-Vietnam era, their tournament run did not begin well. They dropped all 3 of their opening matches on day 1, including an extremely close and bloody match against R7 that ended with 37 kills between both teams. However, the team bounced back on day 3, picking up matches against KLG and GMB with cleaner macro play to end their MSI run on a high note.
BAU Supermassive 5-1 (TCL)
Turkish champions BAU Supermassive once again showed why they are considered one of the strongest emerging region by dropping only one game against Brazilian champions Kabum e-Sports. Turkey’s dominance in the group was exemplified by their Korean duo of GBM and Snowflower, relying on the former’s carry performances and the latter’s playmaking on champions such as Thresh, going 1/0/17 in a 22-minute victory against Kabum on day 2, the fastest game of the tournament so far.
Kabum e-Sports 3-3 (CBLOL)
Kabum had been through hell and back to return to the international stage after being knocked out in the group stage at the 2014 World Championships and suffering relegation subsequently. Having rebuilt their roster completely, the team looked to uphold Brazil’s reputation for being one of the stronger emerging regions. They had a rough start to the tournament, going 1-2 on day 2 of the play-ins. A mid-stage turnaround, saw the team improve on day 4 to pick up two wins against Dire Wolves and Pentagram. However, it was too little too late, as Supermassive’s victory over Rampage and Dire Wolves secured their spot in the second round, knocking Kabum out of the tournament.
Dire Wolves 2-4 (OPL)
The Dire Wolves came into this tournament hungry for international success. Having represented Oceania at both MSI and Worlds in 2017, the Wolves have a combined international record of 3-8 coming into MSI this year. Day 2 of the Play-Ins showed promising signs for the Wolves where they came back from a game 1 defeat at the hands of Supermassive to defeat Kabum and Pentagram off the back of excellent carry performances from top laner Ryan ‘Chippys’ Short. Coming into day 4, the Dire Wolves were confident in finally being able to show the world why OCE should be in the discussion for one of the strongest emerging regions. However, this was not meant to be, as the team would drop all 3 games on the 4th day of competition, heading home with the same record they had last year.
Pentagram 1-5 (LJL)
The 4-time domestic champions formerly known as Rampage was back at MSI. Although not considered one of the strongest regions, Japan has become adept at causing upsets and throwing groups into chaos at international tournaments. Yuta "YutoriMoyasi" Noguchi (ADC) is the star player of this team and was the bright spot on team even in their losses, building a +18 CS Lead at 15 in a loss against Dire Wolves on Day 2 and maintaining a 12 CSPM against Kabum on the same day. The team looked greatly improved on day 4 by holding even against Supermassive in the early to mid-game, and scoring a win against the Dire Wolves; a (hopeful) sign for the future?
Knockout Match 1: EVOS Esports (VCS) vs. BAU Supermassive (TUR)
Match Score: EVS 3 – SUP 1
Hungry to prove that Turkey deserves a spot at the main event with the major regions, Supermassive were in red hot forming coming into the series. EVOS, on the other hand, are a young team; having just recently qualified for the VCS in the promotion tournament last year. EVOS were able to dominate Supermassive through a fast-tempo playstyle reminiscent of the Gigabyte Marines. EVOS jungler Nguyen "YiJin" Le Hai Dang stood out as Graves in games 3 and 4, dictating the pace of the game as well as outfarming his opposing counterpart Furkan “Stormaged” Güngör. Supermassive were able to score a single victory in game 2 by slowing down the pace of the early game and dictating the game tempo to allow Berkay “Zeitnot” Aşıkuzun to scale up on his Kai’Sa to carry the late game. Despite this, EVOS ran away with the series with their aggression to move on to the main event.
Knockout Match 2: Flash Wolves (LMS) vs. Gambit Esports (RU)
Match Score: FW 3 – GMB 0
Coming into 2018, many had doubts about the Flash Wolves as the team lost star jungler, Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan, who was a key part to the team’s success over the last 2 years. Going into this match, many pundits had predicted Gambit to be competitive against the LMS champions. Not even close. In reality, the Flash Wolves dismantled any attempt by Gambit to gain an advantage. On the back of captain Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Chieh’s incredible play-making ability through early roams on Alistar, the Flash Wolves demonstrated more disciplined gameplay in contrast to the more chaotic style of EVOS. As the team heads towards the main event, the question remains as to whether or not the LMS can still contend with the best in the world, a question that will be answered during the course of the MSI group stage.
The Play-In Stage of MSI 2018 has given us a taste for what the main event will look like, as teams from the emerging regions play on this new patch for the first time. Although for many of these teams their journey ends here, they will look towards the future, especially with the World Championship coming up in less than 5 months.
By Benjamin "RedPyroMage" Letran [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]