With the conclusion of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational, the most surprising result of the tournament was undoubtedly the second place finish of the EU LCS Champions G2 eSports. Surpassing the efforts of both the Chinese and Taiwanese representatives, G2 emulated the heroics witnessed a year earlier from North America’s Counter Logic Gaming. Whilst the achievements of both sides are remarkable, the NA vs EU rivalry begs the questions: when comparing the two MSI achievements, which run was more impressive?
Counter Logic Gaming was not supposed to be the NA representative for the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational. In their first split since replacing star AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng with rookie Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, little was expected of the squad’s new ADC. CLG were always considered to be decent outfit, yet when the Spring Split playoffs arrived, the team really kicked into gear, able to overcome Team Liquid and a surging Team SoloMid to capture the 2016 Spring Split Championship.
Expectations for Counter Logic Gaming at MSI could not have been much lower. In an article published on lolesports, every Riot Games analyst predicted the NA representative would fall to a fifth place finish, just ahead of the wild card. NA was considered to be a weak region, with CLG failing to provide much evidence that they could break that stereotype.
The team would not be deterred by the low expectations heading into MSI, and would go on a shocking run in the group stages that saw them finish 7-3 and in second place for the knockout phase. Underdogs again in the knockout stage to the LMS’s Flash Wolves, CLG would convincingly defeat them 3-1 before being knocked out in the Finals against SKT. The dramatic match-winning moments from the group stages’ fixture against undefeated team Royal Never Give Up have since been immortalised in competitive League of Legends history.
For G2 eSports, MSI 2017 was very much about erasing the embarrassing memories of the previous tournament iteration and the 2016 World Championship. Predicted by most to finish second at the 2016 MSI, G2 would implode en route to a 2-8 record. The sting was worsened by the loss of a preferential seed at Worlds, and the perception that G2 had not respected the seriousness of the event by taking a “vacation” beforehand.
Immediately following MSI they would upgrade their bottom lane significantly by bringing in support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. With their upgraded roster, G2 would continue their dominance domestically and cruise to the first seed for Europe at Worlds, where expectations were high. Once again, G2 failed to deliver and did not advance out of the Group Stage.
Haunted by memories of past failures, the expectations for G2 were mixed at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Undoubtedly Europe’s best team, many grouped the strength of the European representatives with Team SoloMid, Team WE and Flash Wolves, yet few predicted they would be the team to emerge on the top of the pile to reach the MSI 2017 Final.
After a 4-6 record saw the team advance to the knockout stages, G2 demonstrated their best-of-five strength by demolishing Team WE in a one-sided semi-final. Although they would fall to SK Telecom T1 in the tournament finale, the Kings of Europe showed a dramatic improvement in performance from the beginning of the tournament and could go home satisfied with a second place finish and regional redemption.
For G2 eSports, the second place finish at the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational is certainly more meaningful to the team and their European fanbase than Counter Logic Gaming’s respective heroics. G2 quelled any doubts of their inability to perform on the international stage and regained respect for both their organization and the European region.
Where G2 eSports’ achievement wins out in terms of importance however, Counter Logic Gaming’s second place finish in 2016 is likely the more surprising and impressive of the two, validated by CLG’s superior record in the Group Stage (7-3 for CLG compared to 4-6 for G2) and the differences in expectations for the two teams entering the tournament: nobody expected CLG to convincingly roll their way to a second place finish at MSI, whereas many grouped G2 in with a few teams as possibly the second best behind SKT.
Regardless of regional loyalty, in their respective seasons of success, both regions provided memorable displays at the Mid-Season Invitational, perfectly exemplifying the excitement and unpredictability of League of Legends’ international events.
The Defining Moments From The 2016 Mid-Season Invitational