Are The Gigabyte Marines The Best Wild Card Team Ever To Attend An International Event?

The Vietnamese Gigabyte Marines emerged victorious in a best of five series against the Turkish SuperMassive eSports for the final spot in the Group Stage of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. After coming tantalizingly close to advancing (before being reverse swept by North America’s Team SoloMid), the Gigabyte Marines would convincingly show they deserved the final spot with a 3-1 series victory over Supermassive eSports. With their performance up to this point of the tournament in mind, is it fair to wonder already if the Gigabyte Marines are the best Wild Card team we have ever seen?

After dropping only one game in the group stage, the Gigabyte Marines could have been considered an underdog for the final spot at the Group Stage. SuperMassive eSports had already won last year’s International Wild Card Tournament to advance to the 2016 MSI, and were the likely favorites to advance once more. The Marines brought an aggressive early game with good macro understanding to the table and were able to create early advantages they would snowball to victories against the other wild card teams.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Everything changed in their series against the NA LCS champion Team SoloMid. Entering the series as expected to fall, the Gigabyte Marines would announce themselves as a team to be respected when they jumped out to an early 2-0 series lead against TSM. Using the same heavy skirmishing style they had exhibited in the group stage, Gigabyte Marines would come tauntingly close to winning the series in game 4, before they overreached while trying to take the Nexus and TSM would snowball their following team fight win to victory.

Regardless of the reverse sweep by TSM, Gigabyte had made a statement that they are a team that you could not ignore. This follows the recent trend that IWC teams are no longer an afterthought at international events, and that teams from the major regions should overlook them at their own risk. The most famous example of IWC success came in the most recent World Championship, where the CIS region’s Albus NoX Luna was able to advance from a group featuring the Korean and European champions, while taking a stunning victory over #1 ROX tigers along the way.

Likkrit turning investment heads
Source: Riot Games Flickr

Capturing the hearts of many fans along the way with their underdog status and heartfelt interviews, exemplified by support Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev, their aggressive and risky style could be seen in Likkrit’s pocket pick of support Brand. With a sound macro game to capitalize on their early advantage, they would surprise their opponents with multiple non-traditional picks and would claw their way to a top 8 finish at the World Championships.

Although it may be too early to compare Albus NoX Luna to Gigabyte Marines, it is important to understand the differences between MSI and the World Championships. While most major regions will send multiple representatives to Worlds, each region is only able to send their champion to MSI. This arguably makes the competition level even higher at MSI, with a trimmed down field that makes it harder to create an impressive finish. Whilst a fifth place finish at MSI may not sound exciting, a finish by Gigabyte over one of the major region’s champions could be considered equivalent to the top 8 finish by ANX.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

 

 

Albus Nox Luna and Gigabyte Marines are very similar in their styles and stories heading into Gigabyte’s Group Stage appearance at this year’s MSI. Both entered the tournament with very low expectations and through surprising early results (ANX over ROX and GAM’s near sweep of TSM) they clearly established they were teams that could not be ignored just because of their wild card status. With surprising picks, aggressive early plays, and solid macro game understanding, do not be surprised if the Gigabyte Marines are able to make a run at MSI that includes multiple upsets over the major teams.


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