How LoL’s MSI 2019 ended in a NA versus EU face-off

MSI 2019 - League of Legends 2019 Mid-Season Invitational

What’s the MSI?

The MSI is the Mid-Season Invitational, which serves as the half-way point in a League of Legends competitive season. Seasons run from January to November each year and is closed off by Worlds. MSI 2019 ended up being one of the most shocking events in competitive League of Legends history.

As massive League of Legends fans from the West, we here at Gimbl can’t help but be a little bit obsessed with how things went down at MSI 2019. For anyone not in the know, here’s a Gimbl Rundown, and remember to subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this.

The MSI is the second most prestigious international event in League of Legends eSports, and this year’s, in particular, threw everything we knew out the window. For the first time ever the finals did not include a Korean or Chinese team, meaning that The Gap might have finally been bridged.

The Gap

“The Gap”, the ominous-sounding spectre that haunts Western League of Legends teams, is the term used to describe the difference in skill level between Korean & Chinese teams and Western teams. For years now, Asia has held total domination over international League of Legends eSports.

At the 2018 MSI, for example, Fnatic were the only non-Chinese-or-Korean team at playoffs stage, and suffered a crushing defeat in the semi-finals. MSI 2019, however, gave us a finals match between a North American and European team, with both Invictus and SK Telecom being knocked out in the semi-finals, guaranteeing a Western win for the MSI cup.

Invictus squander their MSI 2019 chances

During the group stage it looked like Chinese team Invictus Gaming were the ones to beat with a 90% win rate. Four victories (against Flash Wolves, G2, Phong Vũ Buffalo, and Team Liquid) and one draw (against Korean giants SK Telecom) made them the favorites to win. That, plus them being the defending World Champions made what happened next absolutely unthinkable.

Then, in the semi-finals, they faced Team Liquid once again. Whereas in the group stage, they trampled Liquid with a 2-0 victory, Liquid turned the tables on them this time. Invictus were sent packing with their tails between their legs in a 3-1 loss that knocked them out of the competition.

Fans were left stunned by Liquid’s victory. Team Liquid had only barely scraped their way into the playoffs round, finishing the group stage in 4th place with a 40% win rate. Invictus, who hadn’t experienced a loss at all so far, weren’t just beaten, they were decimated.

Across the four matches, of which Invictus won the third and penultimate, the Kill/Death/Assist scores were quite revealing. Overall, Team Liquid got 78 kills, compared to Invictus’ 60, meaning a gap of over 30%. Perhaps more telling would be total assists, with Liquid working together like a well-oiled machine to score a total of 201 assists, compared to Invictus’ 127, a difference of 37%. 

It’s possible that Invictus walked into the match feeling cocky after their phenomenal showing at the group stage; and they likely picked Liquid as opponents for the semi-finals as they saw it as an easy ticket to the finals. What they ended up with, though, was 3-4 place spot at what many predicted would be a clean sweep all the way to the cup.

Liquid start by the bottom & rise to the top

Team Liquid earned their spot at the MSI by winning the LCS Spring Playoffs in a tight finals round (3-2) against Team SoloMid. From there, they went to round two of the MSI play-ins, walking over Phong Vũ Buffalo in a 3-0 victory.

The group stage of the main event, however, went far less smoothly for Liquid. Of the ten matches against five teams they played in this stage, only four of those were victories. Two of which were against the same team (again, the Phong Vũ Buffalos).

They tied with both Flash Wolves and G2 Esports in this stage, meaning each team scored a victory; while Invictus and SK Telekom beat them in both matches. They only beat Flash Wolves out for a spot in the playoffs by a single match victory, and their win rate of 40% meant that they were last-pick for victory predictions.

This was Liquid’s first time moving beyond the group stage, and that was an accomplishment they only just barely managed. No one was expecting the beat down they served to Invictus in the semi-finals, and for the first time ever, Team Liquid headed to the finals of an International event.

There’s a reason Team Liquid members took up so many spots on our Top 10 LCS Players list last week; and they’re currently North America’s number one super team.

G2 defy logic at MSI 2019

Fresh off of a phenomenal showing at the LEC Spring Playoffs, G2 Esports had left Origen in the dust with a 3-0 victory. They had just made a controversial roster change: they moved Luka “Perkz” Perković, one of the best mid-laners in Europe, to AD Carry in order to make room for Rasmus “Caps” Winther; who has been described as THE best mid-laner in Europe.

They entered the MSI at the Main Event group stage, to very middle-of-the-road results. G2 were a difficult team for analysts and hosts to quantify; because they don’t play League of Legends quite like everyone else does. They’re a team that takes big risks and do so often, so their performance is less than reliable.

In the group stage, for instance, they only achieved a 50% win rate; though beat international heavyweight SK Telecom in this stage not once but twice. They also, however, lost to the Phong Vũ Buffalo twice, despite the Vietnamese team losing every other match that stage.

Heading into the playoffs stage, no one was sure what would happen next for G2. Triumphing over SKT one day and losing against Phong Vũ the next had commentators and analysts stumped; with most claiming that inconsistent results like there would ultimately cost them the trophy.

SK Telecom were matched against G2 yet again in the semi-finals and everyone was on the edge of their seats; especially after Team Liquid had managed the impossible and taken out Invictus just a day earlier. SKT and G2 traded wins and losses back and forth until they were tied at 2-2. G2 pulled out all the stops and managed to knock out SKT with a 3-2 victory. A victory especially sweet, as SKT had knocked G2 out of the MSI 2017 finals just two years earlier.

The combined total Kill/Death/Assist scores of the five rounds were near identical for the two teams, but G2 managed to not only steal a Baron from TSK, but also wipe out their entire team and destroy their base in short order.

The MSI 2019 Final

For the first time, the MSI Finals was North America versus Europe, a guaranteed Western win.

When G2 and Liquid had faced each other in the group stage, they tied at winning a match each. With G2’s inconsistent play and Liquid’s poor showing before the semi-finals, there was no way of knowing who would come out on top.

At 70 minutes and 43 seconds, G2’s total and complete decimation of Team Liquid was the fastest best-of-5 international victory in the history of League of Legends eSports. The 3-0 final score was indisputable, and Team Liquid didn’t come close to winning even one of those three rounds.

Team Liquid scored only 14 kills across all three matches! Compared to G2’s total of 56 kills, there was absolutely no comparison. The third and final round lasted a mere 18 minutes. Many suspect that Team Liquid had just given up at that point; comfortable in their knowledge that they would be runner-ups.

G2 went home that day champions, and Europe got its first MSI cup. Caps, the controversial new mid-laner, was awarded the Finals MVP trophy. This further fueled sentiments that his recent growth might have made him the best player in the world.

Despite this, though, Cap remains reasonable and humble. He was quoted saying the following:

I always want to be not just the best in the world, but the best team in the world. I don’t think we’re there. I don’t think I’m there. There’s a lot of teams that are better than us. There are a lot of players better than us. But I’m going to work hard to become the best.

Rasmus “Caps” Winther

This was the most memorable MSI in years, and it sets up a phenomenal narrative for Worlds later this year. MSI 2019 was a rollercoaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns, and we don’t think anyone could have predicted it.

World’s 2019

This season is going to culminate in the World Championship, held across October and into November. After the soap-opera-esque drama of the MSI, we can expect a few teams will feel like they have something to prove.

Invictus Gaming, for one, are the current reigning World Champions. Not only will they likely be aiming to become consecutive winners for their own glory after their defeat at the hands of Liquid; they’re likely going to want to restore Asia as the top-tier League of Legends eSports region.

SK Telecom probably feel similarly, though their defeat in the semi-finals was a narrow one. They’re likely to be gunning for G2 at Worlds, having lost to them in both the group stage and the semi-finals.

As for G2, well all we can say is that the pressure is on. After their phenomenal performance at MSI 2019, all eyes are on them. They’ve won every tournament they’ve competed in during 2019, and we’re eager to see how they do at the LEC Summer Split (they’re currently at a 90% win rate!), and hopefully Worlds.

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