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.
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.
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.
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.
The Defining Moments From The 2016 Mid-Season Invitational
The Mid-Season Invitational 2016: Shanghai
The electric venue, in the heart of one of China's most iconic cities, provided a stunning backdrop for what would prove to be one of the most dramatic League of Legends events in history...
Shanghai Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony for the Mid-Season Invitational in Shanghai once again raised the benchmark for eSports production quality.
Day 1: Scumbag G2 Kikis
The tournament got off to a disastrous start for European Spring Split champions G2 eSports. With a number of almost comedic errors from top laner Kikis, G2 found themselves down 0-2 after the opening day of play.
Day1: RNG Delight The Chinese Crowd
China's representative Royal Never Give Up delighted fans with two convincing displays on Day 1, defeating both Counter Logic Gaming and the wildcard entree, SuperMassive eSports.
Day 2: CLG Defeat G2
The NA vs EU rivalry provided the first fixture of MSI's second day of play. Rookie AD Carry Stixxay provided a masterclass performance to claim the bragging rights for Counter Logic Gaming and North America.
Day 2: RNG Defeat SKT
The atmosphere within the Shanghai stadium was to grow even louder as Royal Never Give Up stamped their mark on the tournament with victory over reigning world champions SK Telecom T1.
Day 2: SUP Claim Their First Win Over CLG
After looking so strong against G2 eSports, CLG inexplicably handed SuperMassive eSports their first (and only) win of the tournament. Truly 'counter logic'.
Day 2: Flash Wolves Defeat SKT
SKT's kryptonite Flash Wolves claimed victory over the Koreans once more to complete a shocking 0-2 for the tournament favourites.
Day 3: CLG Shock SKT
Lose to the wildcard, crush the reigning LCK and World Champions, all within the space of 24 hours. CLG stunned the Shanghai arena with victory over SKT, a fabled moment for the NA representative.
Day 3: Flash Wolves Complete the Double Over SKT
Lightening struck twice as Flash Wolves added further insult to injury, defeating SKT for the second time in the group stage.
Day 3: SKT Slump To A 4th Straight Defeat
Defeat to Flash Wolves marked SKT's 4th consecutive defeat at the tournament. Few could believe their eyes, the tournament favourites were at serious risk of not qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Day 4: CLG End RNG’s Unbeaten Run
Unbeaten in the tournament, RNG entered their 2nd meeting with CLG as heavy favourites to win the entire tournament. In what was yet another masterclass from Stixxay, CLG somehow survived intense pressure to steal the most unlikely victory.
Day 4: SKT Find Their Feet
SKT steadied the ship with victory over SUP and CLG. Faker expressed his disappointment at the team's performance at the tournament so far and vowed not to lose another match.
Day 5: G2-8
G2 eSports made a hurried exit after a woeful performance from the European champions. Claiming just two victories over wildcard SuperMassive eSports, the G2 roster had brought shame upon the EU region.
Day 5: SKT Bounce Back Against RNG
SKT provided a signal of intent in their final matches of the group stages. Defeating RNG in the last game, the dominance of the Chinese hosts had not lasted long.
Semi-Final 1: CLG Defeat Flash Wolves
Qualifying as the second seed with a 7-3 record, Counter Logic Gaming proved too strong for Flash Wolves once more, earning the NA squad a spot in the MSI final.
Semi-Final 2: SKT Overpower RNG
The omens of the final group stage match came back to haunt RNG. Despite appearing so dominant with an 8-2 record in groups, RNG were outclassed by SKT in the second semi-final.
Semi-Final 2: SK Telecom T1 Were Back
After slumping to four consecutive loses just days earlier, SKT were once again considered favourites after silencing the Chinese crowd.
The Mid-Season Inviational Final
After what had been an exhilarating and unpredictable tournament, Counter Logic Gaming and SK Telecom T1 met for the final.
Final: SKT vs CLG
After SKT eliminated the Chinese favourites RNG, the majority of the crowd support was behind the underdogs CLG.
Final: SKT Sweep CLG Aside
After a heroic tournament run, CLG were convincingly swept aside by SKT in the final. The NA seed returned home with their heads held high.
Final: SKT Claim The MSI Crown
Despite faltering in the group stages, SKT claimed their first MSI title.