The Main Event of the 2018 MSI begins on May 11! The group stage includes powerhouse teams like Kingzone DragonX, Royal Never Give Up, Fnatic, and Team Liquid as well as EVOS Esports and Flash Wolves who have qualified through the Play-In Stage. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each team? And which lineups will be most exciting to follow?
It’s clear as day that Kingzone DragonX are the final boss of this League of Legends tournament. Not only has their region been overwhelmingly dominant in the past but they’re also one of the best teams South Korea has to offer. The renowned ROX Tigers trio of Peanut, PraY, and GorillA makes up the core of this lineup, but Bdd and Khan are equally impressive in the solo lanes.
But despite their immense individual talent, it’s the way all the players come together that makes Kingzone so impressive. They’re always looking to put pressure on their opponents with aggressive picks and bold outplays, and somehow, some way, they manage that without exposing any weaknesses of their own. We already wrote about Kingzone at length here, but for now, they seem as close to being the perfect team as humanly possible.
Still, that doesn’t mean they’ll just stomp every single opponent. The group stage unfolds over the course of 10 consecutive Bo1s. That’s a lot of games with a high degree of randomness, so even the strongest lineup in the world will have a tough time preparing for every possible outcome. And while Kingzone will claim the #1 spot, someone in the MSI group stage is bound to make them bleed.
Royal Never Give Up
Another team to look out for is Royal Never Give Up. This lineup is somewhat of a dark horse for most viewers since the LPL isn’t as popular with the Western audience. And yet, the Chinese teams have always run deep at international events, and RNG played a big part in making that happen.
Their biggest advantage is Uzi. The superstar AD carry has been praised by almost every high-level marksman at the tournament—and for good reason. Uzi is a mechanical prodigy that forces the entire game to revolve around him, and having a strong AD carry in the current bot lane-focused meta is a very formidable win condition. He’s not the only one to look out for, though. Xiaohu brings a ton of firepower to the mid lane, and Mlxg can change the course of the entire game with his unpredictable playstyle.
Still, RNG are far from perfect. Their top lane is shaky, their drafts are lacking, and their macro is all over the place. However, they make up for these shortcomings with the constant willingness to pull the trigger and initiate vicious teamfights. And considering the nature of the Mid-Season Invitational group stage, this means RNG are in a great spot to secure second place.
Team Liquid and Fnatic
Then, we have the Western representatives in Team Liquid and Fnatic. The NA LCS champions made a name for themselves with a very AD carry-centric approach. It seems that the entire team rallies around Doublelift, as TL do everything in their power to set him up for the laning success. Of course, his teammates are also formidable. Xmithie, in particular, is one of the smartest junglers at the tournament, and Impact provides a tremendous teamfighting presence.
TL become very deadly in the mid game, as they have a great sense for forcing objectives and picking teamfights. However, there’s a definite lull in their early game which other teams will aim to exploit. And the whole approach of putting all eggs into the Doublelift basket has a tendency to backfire at international events.
Fnatic have a similar playstyle, but a very different way of executing it. Unlike Team Liquid, they put a stronger emphasis on scaling and hitting their power spikes. Their macro is formidable but their real forte is teamfighting since Rekkles absolutely dismantles his opposition on hypercarry picks. Moreover, they have a second reliable ace in Caps. Fnatic’s mid laner is hailed for his immaculate mechanics, and he might very well put seasoned veterans like Pobelter and Xiaohu on the back foot.
It’s tough to say which team will perform better in a Bo1 setting, but in a head-to-head clash, we’d give an edge to the Europeans purely because they have Caps. With that, we predict Fnatic to claim third place while Team Liquid will continue its NA LCS tradition of finishing fourth.
Flash Wolves and EVOS Esports
Flash Wolves and EVOS Esports are the potential kingslayers. It’s hard to imagine them overtaking one of the top-4 teams, but they can pull off an upset or two to shake up the standings. In Flash Wolves’ case, they’re a very by-the-books team. They have a solid jungle/mid duo of Moojin and Maple, and their support—SwordArt—is a very gifted playmaker. However, Hanabi and Betty are a cut below their international counterparts, so we struggle to see how Flash Wolves outperform the best MSI teams by playing standard League of Legends.
Meanwhile, EVOS Esports are much more willing to rock the boat with brash teamfights and skirmishes. Their jungler YiJin had the performance of a lifetime in the Play-In Playoffs. Stark and Warzone also look decent in solo lanes, so EVOS should have plenty of firepower. Of course, it’s tough to say how their players match up to the best pros from all over the world, but their bloodthirsty playstyle makes them very capable in the Bo1 setting. Hence, we’re predicting EVOS Esports to claw their way to fifth while Flash Wolves settle for last place.
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Images courtesy of Riot Games & OGN.