The League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is kind of a big question mark right now. The event is a brand new one for the constantly evolving Riot Games, and the location — Tallahassee, Florida — seems baffling at first blush. So much so that nearly every session at the informal Q&A last night involved some form of “Why Tallahassee?” But the reasons behind the decision to create the event and host it in Florida seem, well, reasonable.
MSI splits the competitive element from the All-Star Invitational, making it a fan-oriented event during the offseason rather than yet another event for which professional players must prepare. As for Tallahassee, events like this require a certain level of technical infrastructure that must also be available for a significant length of time. The Donald L. Tucker Civic Center just so happens to fit both requirements, and it sits in a region without any other major League of Legends event. So, here we are. In Florida.
The format of the event might be a bit much to handle for those not familiar with other League of Legends events, so best to just let Riot Games describe it themselves:
“The tournament progresses from a Best of 1, Round Robin Group Stage to a Best of 5, Single Elimination Bracket Stage. After the 15 games of the Group Stage, and any resulting tiebreakers, the top four teams advance to the Bracket Stage.
In the Bracket Stage, the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds will play in one Semifinal while the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds will play in the other. The winner of the Bracket Stage is the champion of the event.”
In short: the top teams from each region (and a single wild card event winner) battle it out for fame and glory — and a prize pool of $200,000 total. The teams participating are Ahq e-Sports Club from LMS Taiwan, EDward Gaming from LPL China, Fnatic from EU LCS, Team SoloMid from NA LCS, SK Telecom T1 from LCK Korea, and Be?ikta? e-Sports Club from the wild card event. These folks are currently top of the pack after the Spring Split, and there’s bound to be some exciting action to look forward to.
Though there’s arguably no true grudge match between the competing teams, it should prove interesting to see how things shake out between Team SoloMid, SK Telecom T1, and Fnatic. Of the three, Fnatic will likely be the most exciting to watch; beyond Support player Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, the squad is entirely new as of the Spring Split, with two Korean imports in Heo “Huni” Seung-Hoon in Top and Yeu Jin “Reignover” Kim in the Jungle, the two new EU players Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten in Mid and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi as AD Carry. They’ve performed admirably so far in the EU LCS, but MSI should be a good test of their skill — especially that of Febiven and Steelback — when it comes to the international stage. It’ll also give all those involved an idea of what to expect when the team inevitably crushes their way to Worlds.
For Team SoloMid and SK Telecom T1, it’ll come down to individual players with TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg facing off against the legendary Sanghyuk “Faker” Lee in Mid and 2015 Spring Split NA LCS rookie MVP award winner Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen trying to hold the Jungle for TSM against Im “T0M” Jae-hyeon, who is also relatively new. With TSM’s star on the rise and SKT T1 coming off a rough year, these two are definitely the teams to watch. Adding to the hype for the match, the two face each other as the final match today at 11:30PM ET.
That doesn’t mean the rest of the teams, which are all exceptionally gifted, should be counted out. This is doubly true for Be?ikta?, the Turkish wild card. Wild cards have a history of not being taken seriously, but that all changed when the Brazilian wild card, KaBum! e-Sports, defeated Alliance at the 2014 World Championship in what is considered by some to be the best professional League of Legends game in 2014.
Be?ikta? has done incredibly well at home, and this may well translate to further success while at MSI. Their competition is fierce, and the team has nowhere near the combined experience of the others, but that lack sometimes means they aren’t as entrenched in traditional strategies, which could allow them to pave the way to victory with unusual tactics. Also a factor — Be?ikta? is up against SK Telecom T1 in their very first match at 5:30PM ET today, and odds are they’ll be stomped by the Korean team. What will matter most is that they don’t become discouraged and learn from the expected loss.
Since MSI seems to be an event Riot is committed to for years to come, it’s interesting that it’s currently perceived as a “mini-Worlds” event. The format is essentially the same, but with fewer teams. The one big change that might eventually find its way to other international events is the ability to substitute players in the middle of a series — meaning that those teams with larger rosters and practiced subs will gain an advantage during Best of 5s. This particularly favors SKT T1, as they’re known for subbing in players to add another layer of strategy and keep opposing teams on their toes.
MSI serves to add a competitive event between the regular Spring and Summer Splits, meaning that the All-Star Invitational is more of a “for fun” event. MSI also makes the Spring Split that much more meaningful to win, given that winners go on to MSI. Additionally, it sets the stage for Worlds by giving a preview of what the best teams for every region look like when duking it out. In short, sounds like a good romp, and one that’s been a long time coming.
For those just wondering which games to watch in the live stream, I recommend Fnatic vs. TSM today at 4:30PM ET, EDward Gaming vs. AHQ today at 6:30PM ET, and SKT T1 vs. TSM today at 11:30PM ET. If these don’t fit into your schedule, there’s always the archived streams after the fact.
Rollin Bishop is a writer and tinkerer who tweets too much about anime and terrible jokes @rollinbishop. He is also bad at briefly describing himself.