From May 4 to May 15, Riot Games hosted the Mid Season Invitational, a professional League of Legends tournament that had the top teams from each pro region against each other in a double round robin style group stage before putting the top four into a playoff bracket. Counter Logic Gaming represented North America, Gamers2 represented Europe, reigning world champion SK Telecom T1 represented Korea, Royal Never Give Up represented China, Flash Wolves represented Taiwan and Supermassive eSports represented the wild card region.
Coming into this tournament, Korean teams had won each of the last three world championships and were viewed largely as the best in the world, with their leading team heavy favorites. China, Taiwan and to a lesser extent Europe were viewed as promising contenders whereas North America and the wild card regions were viewed as bottom-tier. That meant that CLG came in with no expectations and could only impress.
After group stage was over, RNG had placed first, CLG shocked the world by coming in second and taking at least one game off of all their opponents. FW took third and the mighty SKT could only get fourth place. Possibly the next biggest surprise was G2 falling to a 2-8 record, beating only the wild card team the entire tournament. For the playoffs that meant SKT would face off against RNG in the battle to see who the best team in the world was.
SKT had been undefeated up until losing to the Chinese team a year prior. However, SKT were playoff beasts. Led by greatest player in the world, a man known by the name Faker, SKT dropped game one but proceeded to turn up the heat and stomp them in the next three games. CLG went on to beat FW 3-1 before losing hard to the Korean team in three straight games.
When the dust settled, there were many things to take away from the tournament. First of all, after all these years, Korea was still the best region in the world and their talent will likely always be superior to the other regions. China proved once again that they are real good at hyping up the fans and then letting them all down. Taiwan looked to be major competitors and quickly rose in the competitive ladder. Europe’s lack of work ethic continues to ravage them in international tournaments. SUP may not have had the best showing but they fought in every single one of their games and showed that they were the strongest wild card team ever. However, the biggest thing to be taken away from the tournament was North America’s incredible surge in talent and competitive ability.
North America was a joke of a region in past tournaments. In the Worlds tournament last fall, people made arguments that NA should be a wild card tournament after their collective 0-10 record in week two of the group stage.
The predictions for invitational were that CLG would place fifth, behind all of the “major” regions. However, each one of CLG’s members showed up at the region more than anybody thought they could. Consistent huge performances by Stixxay from the ADC position and Darshan from top lane were large factors in CLG’s success. However, what did this mean for the rest of NA? Several of the North American teams made big-ticket roster moves during the offseason. TSM picked up all-star ADC doublelift, Team Liquid picked up former World Champion ADC Piglet and C9 made the biggest moves of all. They put together two teams of all-star talent to use at their discretion. Their main team now consists of World Champion top-laner Impact, NA legends Meteos in the jungle and Sneaky at ADC, MVP mid laner in Jensen and up-and-coming support BunnyFuFuu.
On top of the roster changes, NA is looking more and more competitive by the year and they are showing real promise as contenders for the World Champion title this year. The mechanics are smooth enough but if they are to take down titans like SKT, they need to work on their ability to punish teams for each and every mistake. That remains the one biggest difference between North America and Korea, and if they can achieve that I’d argue that NA could win it all, come this fall.