Invictus Gaming put on an absolute clinic for the first days of MSI 2019’s group stage, resulting in an undefeated streak capped off by an MSI record for fastest victory in just 16 minutes (over SKT no less.) While they fell behind in both of their last two games and lost one, they’re still looking like the tournament favorite entering semifinals.
Team Liquid entered MSI 2019 with a lot of hype behind them after yet another strong domestic split with new mid laner Jensen and mvp support CoreJJ. Despite this, Team Liquid crumbled early in the group stage, and only just recovered enough to qualify for the semifinals in their last matches.
Invictus Gaming enjoyed the opportunity to choose their semifinals opponent, picking Team Liquid as the team they believe to be the most beatable, a team they beat twice in group stage. With a spot in the finals on the line, which team moves on to fight the winner of G2 vs SKT?
Let’s break this international clash of champions down lane by lane.
Invictus Gaming's TheShy entered MSI 2019 as one of the most exciting top laners to watch in the tournament, and while he's done okay, he hasn't met the expectations set for him as a defending world champion. The massive amount of success his teammates have had certainly plays a part in making his performances seem weaker, but still, TheShy has perhaps been the definitive low point of IG's MSI despite playing plenty of champions with carry potential. With a 1/8 Akali showing against Flash Wolves and 5 negative kd ratios in IG's 10 games (including 8 wins,) TheShy has looked utterly lost. Still, even an underperforming world champion is quite a threat internationally, and there's always the chance that the best-of-5 semifinals is when TheShy gets back to form.
Across from TheShy is another former world champion, Team Liquid's Impact. Impact had a lot of question marks around him entering MSI 2019. During the Spring Split, Impact continued to work to improve his carry top lane play to fit the meta despite being a renowned tank expert. This work seemed to pay off in the playoffs, though, as Impact played excellently and stood out as one of TL's most dangerous threats. While TL has had a rocky MSI, Impact has remained competitive throughout the tournament. Impact was outfarmed in both of Team Liquid's losses to Invictus Gaming during the group stage, but he never fell out of the game. And now with Xmithie adapting a heavier ganking style in their last match, a big victory over G2, it's perhaps time TL pushes resources into top lane as an avenue to victory.
Verdict: With or without jungle pressure, we edge this matchup ever so slightly to TL Impact.
Invictus Gaming enter the semifinals with the second most dangerous jungler in the tournament, and only by a hair. Ning has been picking apart his jungle competition, including a ridiculous deathless Ivern carry, and plenty of aggressive pathing with staples like Lee Sin and Rek'Sai. He's been lauded as perhaps being the most insane and least inhibited jungler in the tournament, willing to go for the most dangerous plays and jungle routes at the drop of a hat, and it's a reputation he's earned well. While IG build most off the play of their bottom lane, Ning allows for huge pressure in the enemy jungle and all lanes, allowing IG to posture aggressively for early leads in a meta all about the early game.
Team Liquid's Xmithie is one of North America's most veteran players, and while he's adapted his more supportive jungle style to an aggressive jungle meta, he's still out of season against competition that's perfectly built for this fast-paced era. And none embody it more than his semifinal opponent. Xmithie brings to the table a varied champion pool including Hecarim, Sejuani, Jarvan IV, and Rek'Sai. But while he's stuck to these champions almost exclusively during MSI 2019, he still has picks like Skarner and Lee Sin in his back pocket. Whether we'll see Xmithie change things up during this best-of-5 series remains to be seen, but either way, he'll have to vastly outdo himself if he wants to survive the intense pressure from his opponent.
Verdict: IG Ning takes control of the jungle handily, bringing massive pressure wherever he decides to path.
Invictus Gaming bring one of the most hyped positional players in the world to the rift for MSI 2019, mid laner Rookie. Rookie brings to the table a champion pool While Rookie isn't slumping as hard as TheShy, he's not quite at the level many remember. He manages to outplay most of his midlane competition in MSI, except for a glaring skill difference when he has met Faker. Even in IG's record fast 16 minute win over SKT, Rookie ended the game with a 0/4/6 scoreline. And while he hung closer in their loss to SKT in the final game of group stage, Rookie still has a lot to work on if he wants to retain his world champion form. The good news? His opponent in the semifinals isn't Faker. Rookie enters this matchup with a different champion pool than some of his common picks during the LPL Spring 2019. During the split, he picked plenty of Lissandra and Syndra, but during MSI he has stuck mainly to Sylas and Ryze. Whether he switches things up for this best-of-5 series or sticks to the picks he's been playing this tournament, we expect Rookie to step it up in the longer format, with or without the help of Ning.
Team Liquid made a couple roster moves entering 2019 to solidify its international play despite consistent domestic dominance. One of those roster moves was to pick up mid laner Jensen, a Worlds semifinalist. TL has looked rocky in this tournament, but Jensen's bright moments are a driving engine for his team. Jensen is looking to erase a history of falling short during the biggest moments one competition at a time, after already erasing some of his NA LCS playoff failures with a near perfect final 8/2/6 game to win TL the Spring Split. Jensen will be quite reliant on getting Leblanc, a champion IG is likely to take away from him in picks and bans. From his spring, Jensen's replacement picks would be the likes of Oriana, Zoe, or Syndra, but with the recent meta he's been consistently picking champions like Akali and Sylas, who he seems noticeably less comfortable on. Should push come to shove on Jensen's champion select, it could go a lot of different directions. Regardless, after being outfarmed in his last 8 games, things will have to change if Jensen wants to hang again internationally.
Verdict: IG Rookie outguns the middle lane.
Invictus Gaming have one of if not the most deadly bottom lane combo in League of Legends today, with the playmaking defensive presence of Baolan backing up the most dangerous marksman at MSI 2019, JackeyLove. This duo form the most important lane for IG and are often the main reason behind their victories. JackeyLove has a phenomenal 6.32 kda in MSI 2019 so far, doing so across Xayah, Kai'Sa, Draven, Varus, and Vayne. He is perhaps the most dangerous player in the tournament, and he simply can't be banned out. Meanwhile Baolan offers an equally diverse champion pool, able to bring home victories on nearly any defensive melee champion that acts as a wall for JackeyLove to dish out the damage, including Rakan, Braum, and Nautilus with Thresh and Tahm Kench in his back pocket. While this duo has looked virtually untouchable the entire tournament, IG's last two games proved that they could be beaten. Scraping by Flash Wolves and losing badly to SKT, IG took their only two losses as a 1-2 combo right at the finish line of the group stage. Across these two games, JackeyLove managed just a 3/7 score. While we don't expect this bad form to drag across a best-of-5 series, we didn't expect for IG's explosive bottom lane duo to drop the ball in these games either.
Much like their opponents, Team Liquid are traditionally strongest in their bottom lane duo, NA legend Doublelift and the recently acquired Spring Split MVP CoreJJ. With a very similar style to IG's bottom lane, Doublelift often plays fairly immobile high damage dealers while CoreJJ acts as a wall playing tanky defensive champions to allow Doublelift to make the big plays he's known for. This was on full display in the first meeting between Team Liquid and Invictus Gaming this tournament, where both ad carries popped off to a fireworks show of a match, Doublelift ending 6/3/5 and JackeyLove ending 8/3/8. But it isn't just the ad carry making the plays in this duo. Perhaps more than IG's own Baolan, CoreJJ is known for being a strategic mastermind, capable of pulling off hugely impactful roams when least expected. This may be one of the most important ways for TL to pull off the upset. While these two duos have similar styles, only one can reign supreme.
Verdict: The firepower of IG JackeyLove backed by his protector IG Baolan is simply too much for TL's own impressive bot lane.
While IG take a strong lead in the lane-by-lane breakdown, League of Legends is obviously much more than just the strength of individuals.
Invictus Gaming have shown that they can destroy any of their competition in this tournament, but their slip up at the finish line might be exploitable. Their solo lanes also leave much to be desired in comparison to the rest of this dangerous lineup.
Team Liquid may have had a rocky road so far in MSI 2019, but the potential to be great is still there. With all the motivation to be more than just another domestic giant in North America, and with the outplay potential of CoreJJ's roams along with very solid individual talents up and down this lineup, TL can duke it out with the best of them on their good days.
Prediction: Despite showing they can fail at the end of group stage, we predict Invictus Gaming to escape this series with a fairly straightforward 3-1 victory.
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