Coming into the last day of the round-robin stages, most of the standings have already been solidified. Some matches may be formalities when it concerns the top and bottom teams, but the middle-tier teams still need to strut their stuff under the watchful eyes of the top seeds.
Flash Wolves have belied their second-tier status to become serious contenders for the Mid Season Invitational title. Standing in their way are Kingzone DragonX, champions of LCK. EVOS Esports have impressed despite their indifferent results in the Main Stage, while the folks at Team Liquid have done nothing to improve North America’s reputation on the big stage.
This is how we see the seeds panning out for the semi-finals:
1. Flash Wolves (LMS)
2. Kingzone DragonX (LCK)
3. Fnatic (EU)
4. Royal Never Give Up (LPL)
Fnatic vs. Kingzone DragonX
2am PST / 5am EST / 11am CEST
Fnatic have grown over the span of the tournament, but have they come far enough to pose a serious challenge to Kingzone? KZ have multiple avenues to exploit FNC including Khan’s split push, Peanut’s early pressure and a botlane collapse. On the flip side, FNC must rely on the much-improved Caps during the early game and transition power to Rekkles in the late game. Such a strategy is very narrow for execution and is best imagined as walking a tightrope, with KZ firing on all cylinders during the performance.
Prediction: Kingzone DragonX
EVOS Esports vs. Royal Never Give Up
3am PST / 6am EST / 12pm CEST
RNG entered the Main Stage as one of the strongest teams, but now they look to have multiple weaknesses. Their fundamental strength has provided them victories up to this point, but it remains unclear whether they have sorted out their communication issues regarding tempo and rotations. Uzi may be doing his best to prevent the hemorrhaging for RNG, but through drafts, laning phase and general execution, RNG have much to be desired. EVOS have looked great in the early game, but have never converted leads or spiraled advantages of control. Every single EVOS has delivered relentless pressure early on, but they fall short of the rest when it comes to teamfighting and objective strategy.
Prediction: Royal Never Give Up
Flash Wolves vs. Team Liquid
4am PST / 7am EST / 1pm CEST
Considering their preliminary placement in this tournament, one would not have expected Flash Wolves to be the dominant favorites in this clash. The Taiwanese bolters only have to play their game, as they have demonstrated that their basic play is already calibers above what Team Liquid usually bring to the table. TL have to find some kind of synchronization between their plays, as their playstyle is more reminiscent of solo queue than anything else. They seem to barely understand that tardiness to call out an MIA in time or being late to a rotation will spiral out of control, especially in an international setting. It is unfortunate that this realization comes as late as it does in this tournament.
Prediction: Flash Wolves
Fnatic vs. EVOS Esports
5am PST / 8am EST / 2pm CEST
Although EVOS may be out of contention for top four, Fnatic still have to show their mettle and not get complacent. If the underdogs turn the early game into a fiesta of kills, it may only speed up their demise as FNC can utilize Caps’ early game even quicker. What EVOS need is methodical and organized chaos, a term that was synonymous with the Gigabyte Marines. Fnatic overall have more strength in most lanes, so they should have no problem securing a semi-final spot as long as they can get Caps to start exerting mapwide pressure from the midlane.
Flash Wolves vs. Kingzone DragonX
6am PST / 9am EST / 3pm CEST
What was once thought to be a one-sided stomp has evolved into a possible finals matchup, with Wolves holding the head-to-head advantage. The strategy of playing through botlane while using Maple to annihilate his laner is not uncommon among teams at the MSI, but they have executed the strategy to a higher degree than most teams. If Maple gets a strong laner that can push and roam easily with Moojin obtaining a jungle that can go even against Peanut, FW may be able to call the game at first tower blood. KZ will find it difficult to play through top and midlane due to the base strength of their opponents. Their best bet is PraY and GorillA, but should they see an opportunity to put Maple down, they could wipe out a third of FW’s win conditions.
Prediction: Kingzone DragonX
Team Liquid vs. Royal Never Give Up
7am PST / 10am EST / 4pm CEST
RNG gave Team Liquid their first victory of the MSI Main Stage when these two last met. The Americans succeeded on that occasion for three reasons: Olleh’s pressure on Morgana, Mlxd showing up instead of Mlxg, and RNG’s narrow win condition. Drafting phase already eliminates the first possibility, but the second factor is RNG’s identity and cannot be so easily changed. They need to pool their resources into Uzi while Mxlg finds his rhythm and intensity. TL did an excellent job in mitigating Uzi last time by constantly creating a party botlane, causing death after death. They broke the code before and, despite their shaky overall MSI performance, are favored to do it again.
Prediction: Team Liquid