What is the Mid-Season Invitational?
The Mid-Season Invitational is one of the annual League of Legends prestigious tournaments held by the game publisher, Riot Games, and it’s the second most important League of Legends event of the year, as well as one of the biggest esports betting events in the industry. It’s held between the spring and summer split, where the champions from the spring split of each domestic league have a chance to compete for the title, and the winner is considered the best team in the world until the World Champion is decided at the end of the year.
The World Championship is still a much bigger event with a lot more teams participating and a bigger prize pool, but the MSI still has a lot of value for each participant, after all, teams don’t have many chances to compete against other regions during the competitive season. There is a lot of history that originated from the MSI, there have been historic upsets and a lot of legacies have been cemented at this stage, and we’ll go over the most iconic ones.
The Team that Suppressed the Best Player of All Time
We all know the best player of all time is the multiple LCK, MSI, and World champion, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, who throughout the history of competitive League of Legends has been the one to always pop up in the conversations regarding who is the best player in the world, and he always manages to perform when it matters the most. It doesn’t matter if he falls down, we can be sure of one thing, he will always get back up and come stronger than ever. But what happens when being the best player in the entire world is not enough? What happens when the best player gets nullified by the opposition? Well, there is one team that demonstrated that you can turn a team’s strongest point into their weakest one and turn the lol odds on their head.
This happened in the 2015 MSI, where SK Telecom T1 came as the strongest team in the competition with no room for discussion at all, even if they didn’t manage to win the world championship in the prior year, the way they were performing in their domestic league was enough of a reason to consider them the best. SKT T1’s level of dominance was reflected in the group stage where they beat every single team with such ease that everybody was expecting just a clean sweep throughout the whole tournament. After the group stage, playoffs arrived and SKT T1 had to face Fnatic, and it was not an easy task at all for SKT, but after going all the way to 5 games, SKT managed to win the series.
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the bracket, where China’s Edward Gaming and Taiwan’s AHQ Esports Club were battling it out. EDG managed to easily take down the opposition in a 3-0 series and they were ready for their next opponent, SKT T1. EDG’s mid laner was Pawn, who has always been considered one of the best mid laners of all time, and winning the 2014 world championship was a way to prove to everyone that he was ready to take over the title of best mid laner in the world. But he was facing Faker, the toughest challenge for every player out there, and Faker wasn’t alone, the rest of his team was composed of players considered the best at their roles by league of legends betting experts around the world.
The day finally arrived and it was showtime, SKT T1 decided to use Easyhoon, their mid lane substitute, and this felt like they were trying to send a message, one that said “We don’t need Faker to beat you“, but SKT was wrong and after the third game, they were 2 games down and that was signal that SKT needed to bring out Faker, and even if it was a success for game 4, Edward Gaming had it all planned out. It’s game 5 and Faker picks his legendary LeBlanc, which at that time had a record of 12 victories and 0 defeats, it was crazy to think that EDG would let that pick go through the bans. But EDG picked the perfect composition to neutralize LeBlanc, with picks like Maokai, Morgana, and Sivir, it was clear that EDG tailored a specific strategy to defeat Faker and the whole SKT T1 squad. The game was back-and-forth during the early game, but as time passed, it was becoming more and more obvious that EDG had the key to victory, they had deciphered SKT’s formula and they showed everyone that you can use your own team’s strength and a well-developed strategy to take down the best player of the world.
The Underdog that Took Down the World Champions
As we all know, North America has never had high expectations from the fans when it comes to performing on the international stage, after all, they’ve been competing for many years in every international event and most of the time, they don’t make it past the first stage of the competition. There have been a few exceptions, for example, Cloud 9 which almost always manages to perform and even take down top tier teams in the tournaments, but other than that, they always come short and don’t go far into the competition. But let’s look at the 2019 MSI, where the North American squad, Team Liquid, managed to destroy the world champions at that time, Invictus Gaming when they met each other in the semi-finals.
Team Liquid’s run started all the way back at the Play-In stage, where they had to face Vietnam’s Phong Vũ Buffalo, and the outcome was as expected, because PVB came from a wild-card region it was clear that Team Liquid was going to have an easy series and they did, after 3 games Team Liquid took the victory home and advanced to the main stage of the event. The 2019 MSI’s group stage went almost exactly the way everybody expected, with Invictus Gaming finishing at the top of the standings, SKT T1 in second followed by G2 in third place, and Team Liquid as the last team to barely qualify for the playoffs with one game of advantage against the Flash Wolves who didn’t manage to get into playoffs despite being one of the most popular esports picks at the time.
Now going into the playoffs, Team Liquid had to face Invictus Gaming in the first round of playoffs and if we are being completely honest, no one was expecting anything from this series. Just by looking at the results from the group stage, you can have a pretty good idea of how the playoffs were going to unfold, it was clear that Invictus Gaming was the favorite team to win not only the semi-finals but the entire tournament. Let’s remember that IG won the world championship in the prior year, and unlike a lot of teams that win Worlds, they didn’t make a single roster change, they had TheShy, the strongest mechanical player in the world at that time, they also had Rookie and JackeyLove, two of the strongest carries we’ve ever seen in the history of League of Legends, there is no way that this team was going to lose in semi-finals, let alone against a team coming from North America, right?
Well, Team Liquid didn’t feel intimidated at all, and why would they be? They had the strongest North American team that has ever represented the region, or that was the general consensus at that time. The series was a complete blood bath right off the gates, and after an intense 41-minute game, Team Liquid managed to secure the first victory of the series. But chaos still was surrounding the summoner’s rift, and game 2 was just as nail-biting as game 1, Team Liquid achieved a comeback from an early-game deficit and that was enough for them to close out game 2. The crowd was going wild and North American hope was more alive than ever, and the Team Liquid train was looking like it had no brakes, then game 3 happened where Invictus Gaming won in a very convincing manner. But fans were still believing, the hope was still lingering and that gave Team Liquid enough motivation to go into game 4 and not only win but to completely obliterate the Chinese world champions. This series will go down the history of competitive League of Legends as the perfect example of why you can’t dismiss a region just by its record, and that no matter the odds, there will always be a team ready to prove everyone wrong. Stay tuned for our second part of historic MSI moments and ready yourselves for one of the biggest esports gambling events of the year.