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Mid-Season Invitational 2022 Group A Preview

06.05.2022, 15:54

International League of Legends is back!

2022Korea, Busan, Exhibition & Convention Center
$250,000Prize Pool
Royal Never Give Up
2nd Place
G2 Esports
3rd Place

T1’s Dominance Continues

Group A is a fascinating one, but for reasons not typical of international competition. T1 will top this group easily, but what becomes of the remaining three teams is fascinating. We’ve got DFM coming off their best Worlds showing ever, Saigon Buffalo making their return to post-lockdown international play, and LLA’s Team Aze looking to make a mark on the global scene. Yes, T1 will walk first place, but that second spot is truly up for grabs.

1Win streak
83%30 d. winrate

Let’s get T1 out of the way first, shall we? It should be quick and easy, like most of their games in this group.

Their run through the LCK has been well documented. An undefeated record speaks for itself, but even in a league that plays best-of-three, T1 only dropped seven individual games out of 43. When we add play-offs to the mix, that record shoots up to 49-8. Or, in series, a satisfyingly clean 20-0 record. Whichever angle you look at it from, T1 is terrifying. They are comfortable favourites for the whole tournament, and should make it out of Group A undefeated.

So here’s where things get tricky. Detonation FocusMe have been at international tournaments regularly ever since the LJL began. After many years of “also-ran” status, they finally made it to the main tournament last year, even upsetting Cloud 9 en route. Once they got there, they went 0-6, of course, but you’ve got to walk before you can run.

The Race for Second Place

Will MSI be the tournament that sees DFM starting to pick up pace? It’s not an unreasonable prospect. Group A has a lot in common with Worlds play-ins, with one top region team all but guaranteed to make it through and everyone else fighting for scraps. DFM has shown that they can compete with the best of the rest and with the core of the team staying mostly the same as last year, they have a real chance of making stage two.

The oft-renamed Saigon Buffalo is another team that has shown its international credentials in the past. Well, kind of. We all remember them claiming back-to-back upsets over G2 at MSI 2018, and another one at Worlds that year, but that was arguably their peak. VCS teams in general seem to have one or two upsets in them per tournament, but often peter out when teams adapt to their unusual play style.

Still, after a year without any international appearances at all, Vietnamese players and fans will be hungry for more of those upsets. VCS always seems like a league that has something to prove and often gets very close to doing just that. The Buffalo will fancy its chances in a group like this, with three wildcard region teams. Better yet, for us fans, they maintain the off-meta champion pool that we’ve come to expect from VCS teams. They’ve played Vayne top five times, and I dread to think what it would be like to open the page  of their support, Taki, on a phone. I hope you like scrolling.

However, it’s important to note that Saigon Buffalo shouldn’t even be at MSI. Gigabyte Marines had a T1-like 15-0 spring split, but will be attending SEA Games next week instead. This is not the best team the VCS has to offer, and the squad is unrecognisable compared to the Phong Vu Buffalo team of yesteryear. That leaves the VCS team as entertaining underdogs, then. If GAM had attended, I would have put them as favourites to take that vital second spot in the group. Phong Vu is just too much of an unknown entity to give the same credit to. They might be second best in a fairly decent region, but they were second by a wide margin.

Last and possibly least, we have the LLA representative, Team Aze. The question we have to ask about Aze, first and foremost, is how much stock can we put in the longest undefeated streak of all time if it was earned in a league that has only existed for three years?

It’s a difficult question to answer, and with Aze themselves being relatively new to the scene, things don’t get any easier. The league, and this team in particular, might not be old, but the region does have a fairly long history in the game. Still, long and impressive are not always synonymous. A variety of teams have gone to international events but few of them have made a splash, either before or after the region’s leagues merged.

A lot depends on the team’s Korean duo. Granted, a couple of ex-challenger players aren’t going to be pulling Aze to the finals or anything but they have impressed domestically. In a group full of wild cards, Aze might be the wildest of the bunch. They could finish dead last with barely a win to their name, or they could be the team that finishes second and manages to give T1 a real game.

Ranking the teams in this group, I still have to put Aze last, though. They’re just such a difficult team to gauge, internationally, and the region has always struggled. DFM we know are able to compete against the best, even if they usually lose. Phong Vu, similarly, is a team from a region that has had its fair share of upsets and nearly-moments. Aze might have all that and more, but until they show it, I have to put them in fourth place.

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