A look at the MSI Group Stage.
My predictions were somewhat off for MSI. By the end of the Group Stage, only two teams looked impressive in terms of consistency, while 4 of the teams were tied going into the last day, resulting in a tiebreaker game for the 4th seed of the Knockout Stage. The top 4 teams received a pool 1 seed heading into Worlds later this year, which means that the team that wins their respective region during Summer, will be heading into the biggest tournament of the year, knowing that they will not have to play the other top teams in the first round. Without going into a discussion on the final day’s results and team performance analysis, here are the final standings.
SKT T1 (8-2)
Team WE (7-3)
G2 Esports (4-6)
Flash Wolves (5-6)*
*The final win came from their tiebreaker game against TSM, G2 owned the head-to-head record at 2-0
There were multiple big surprises during the Group Stage, with the main two being the poor performance of the LMS’ Flash Wolves and the success of LPL’s Team WE. FW was seen as the 2nd best team coming into the tournament and their quick win in the Play-Ins made them look very strong and stable. However, as the Group Stage began, it was clear that G2, TSM, FW, and GAM, were all around the same level, and they all had their big ups and downs over the course of the five days. GAM may have been on the bottom of everyone’s rankings, but they still managed to push 3 different teams to their limit, when heading into the final day of the Group Stage, they had become tied for 3rd with 3 other teams. Flash Wolves floundered to find their previous strength during the early games of the tournament, losing their first sets of games against most of the teams, which resulted in the tiebreaker series after the regularly scheduled games. This was in stark contrast to the expected standing of Team WE. Coming into the tournament as a huge question mark in most peoples books and with the LPL itself having had a tumultuous off-season, they performed really well against the other teams, even beating SKT in their last game. This huge upswing caused people to turn heads, and even I have to admit, their level of play impressed me during the week.
SKT came in as the favorites to be the first seed, and they were undefeated until the last few games. All of the players have had outstanding performances, albeit some of them had a few misplays due to feeling secure in their lead. Their two losses were against the usual Korean kryptonite, Flash Wolves, and the surging Team WE. While their two losses were handed to them in a convincing fashion, they are still the favorites to win the tournament in my eyes. “Huni“, “Peanut“, “Faker“, “Bang“, and “Wolf” are all performing too consistently for them to lose best of fives. There isn’t much else to say about them, their statistics are the best at the tournament, their coach “Kkoma“‘s drafts have been the best at the tournament as well, by far. Their first set of games in the Knockout Stage is against the Flash Wolves, who are still the team who are the most likely to be able to beat them, but with the FW’s tournament performance being what it is, that might not be the case. SKT T1 and “kkoma” have a wealth of experience when it comes to international play, so the team should be able to adapt to most situations during longer game series.
Like previously mentioned, Team WE’s performance at the tournament was nothing short of amazing. Coming in from a region that lost many of its star players, and being a team that fought their way into the finals to face Royal Never Give Up, the team wasn’t rated as highly as the other teams from the major regions. The players on the team all had good performances, ranging from “957“‘s Kled play in the top lane to “Condi“‘s Graves and Lee Sin, “Xiye“‘s Faker-killing Lucian, “Mystic“‘s Ashe and “Ben“‘s Malzahar. All of the players proved themselves capable and have also shown that while most of the regions high profile Korean imports are gone, the Chinese players can still put up a fight on the international stage. Now, while they have proven themselves in best of ones, it remains to be seen how well they can adapt to international competition in longer series, especially if they reach the finals in order to play against SKT T1. Team, WE’s first series in the Knockout Stage is against G2 Esports.
While their performance at this years MSI is their best international performance to date, G2 still crossed the finish line limping. They got 3rd seed on the back of another team’s losses and could have easily have had to play tiebreakers against Gigabyte Marines and TSM had things been even slightly different. Many criticized the team’s poor individual performances, with their jungler “Trick” taking a brunt of the blame, not all of which was baseless. G2 wasn’t without upsides, however, and “Trick” did have very good performances and plays as well, namely is one Graves game, along with his Nunu in their last game against TSM. However, the teams two biggest assets during the tournament were “Perkz” and “Zven“. Both of them were able to match their lane opponents during most games, with “Zven” ending up with the highest statistics for ADC’s during the Group Stage in terms of damage, gold, and creep score. “Perkz” on the other hand has massively improved his play, frequently getting himself out of trouble when most would expect death. Heading into the Knockout to face against Team WE, G2 will need to improve and bring “Trick” and “Expect” up to a consistent level if they want to be able to make it to the finals.
I honestly thought that Flash Wolves had the potential to take the 1st seed this year. Their stats from the Play-In stage, combined with their regional dominance made them feel like they could actually take home the gold. But after day 1, it became obvious that something had fallen out of synch when playing against the higher caliber teams. “MMD” had poor performances on anything other than tanks for the first few days, and “Betty” wasn’t able to perform on the tournament popular hyper carries, leaving them to be banned out during most of their games. The team did bounce back and managed to secure the 4th seed after defeating TSM in a convincing fashion. If their upswing continues into the match against SKT in the Knockout Stage, they might be able to force them into a game 5, but I don’t see SKT losing the series against Flash Wolves in their current state.
TSM had an upsetting end to their MSI 2017. They beat the Flash Wolves, forcing a tie between the two teams, but they also lost to G2, creating a three-way tie. Based on the tournament rule set on three-way ties, if there is a team that holds the head-to-head advantage over one of the tied teams, they are immediately awarded the highest available seed; which in this case was the 3rd seed for G2, clearing the floor for the 4th seed match to take place with the FW and TSM, who had the same score against one another. During the extended period at the end of the final day, TSM set out to try and beat the Flash Wolves in order to make it into the Knockout stage, only to slowly start losing on all lanes and hemorrhage gold to the enemy team as they started to get routed across the map. There was some heavy criticism laid on TSM during the tournament, such as “Svenskeren“‘s poor performance and “WildTurtle“‘s tendency to flash into the enemy team. With the team missing the Knockout stage, NA has no pool 1 seed heading into Worlds later this year.
The wildcard teams keep impressing everyone with their performances at international tournaments and GAM was no exception. They almost made it out of the Group Stage, only missing out on tiebreakers having lost against the Flash Wolves. The two standout performers on the team were their jungler “Levi” and their midlaner “Optimus“. The only aspect holding the team down was simply their lack of experience and their pick&ban phase wasn’t the most refined. They did earn their region a spot at Worlds later this year, which means this most likely hasn’t been the last time we have seen the Marines on the international stage.
To conclude this article, here are my predictions for the Knockout Stage:
Team WE/Flash Wolves
Since there is no 3rd place match and with the bracket having turned out the way it has, I think G2 have a better chance of defeating Team WE in a five-game series and I think it would be foolish to bet against SKT T1 having seen their recent performances and historical success when it comes to best-of-fives.