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Gigabyte Marines’ Levi becomes MSI’s first star, and other Round 2-3 observations

Gigabyte Marines Levi
Gigabyte Marines will join Team WE, G2 and SK Telecom T1 later this week.

The field is set for the group stage of the Mid-Season Invitational, as Flash Wolves, Team SoloMid and Gigabyte Marines will join Team WE, G2 and SK Telecom T1 later this week.

Round 2 of the Mid Season Invitation wrapped up with some expected results, while others weren’t expected as much. But there was still plenty to break down, so let’s get to it.

TSM wins the series, but GAM makes them fight for it

As if it wasn’t enough that GAM make it out of Round 1 with surprising dominance, the Vietnamese team proceeded to make the North American spring split champions channel their inner FlyQuest to create a reverse sweep victory.

It was an entertaining series for all to watch, as TSM was on the brink of an 3-0 defeat. The collectively held breathes of TSM fans everywhere created tension that could be cut with a butter knife. Although all North American fans could breathe in relief afterwards, many comments were made but all of them had one theme in common: disappointment.

That and the Vietnam War jokes. There were a lot of those, too. Something about jungles, Americans, and an unexpected resistance from Vietnam.

Analytically, it can be understood that it was GAM’s mistakes that led to TSM’s eventual victory rather than TSM’s good plays. Although GAM did well in taking the first two games in order to put TSM on the back foot, Games 4 and 5 were rather difficult to watch as GAM failed to close out a game in which it had a clear lead. TSM did well in exploiting poor decisions and inopportune fights, possibly most well exemplified in Game 4, as GAM was literally knocking on TSM’s Nexus, but with frazzled focus from GAM and solid responses from TSM, the game eventually swung hard in TSM’s favor.

The context that should be understood is that GAM comes from a wildcard region that was largely looked over before MSI even took place. Its performance against a giant from a major region like TSM was nothing short of amazing, and even more so when you keep in mind that TSM is a multiple time North American champion that has seen more worlds competition than most major region teams. It would have been shameful for TSM to fall at the hands of GAM, and the result wasn’t some triumphant victory from TSM. The team barely avoided international ridicule and months of criticism.

GAM will only improve as time goes on and will likely be the wildcard  many fans were hope to see at worlds: A previously ignored small club with solid team play and talented enough players to make any major region who looked down on them pay in blood. The Vietnamese team has gotten the attention from many international fans and pundits, and it’ll be intriguing to see if they can continue to buck trends or play spoiler in MSI — and further on, worlds.

Levi, the best Vietnam has to offer

The ace of GAM was undoubtedly jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh, who dominated the jungle enough to make TSM’s Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen look rather ineffective in comparison, especially during Games 1 and 2. As his signature Khazix and impressive mechanical prowess as Lee Sin, Levi impressed many of the fans as a world class jungler.

Looking at the numbers to this point of MSI, Levi is still at the top in terms of average gold difference at 10 minutes, with a 426 gold lead. This is above Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan of the Flash Wolves, who averaged a 320 gold lead, and well above TSM’s Svenskeren, who is second from last among MSI junglers with an average 233 gold deficit.

Levi continued to demonstrate how he can translate his early game lead into a lead for other lanes with successful ganks and jungle pressure. When it came down to someone on GAM to make a game changing play, more often than not Levi was at the center of it. GAM’s play revolving around Levi and his mid laner Trần Văn “Optimus” Cường proved potent indeed,  It would be fair to say that Levi will have a lot more fans going into Rio de Janeiro, and I can bet he will have even more after the tournament is over.

Levi continued to be the center of attention throughout the whole series. He was the hero on which GAM relied, and he nearly delivered TSM a devastating defeat. Even in “The Penta” video for MSI’s play-in stage, Levi had the honor of having the best out-play during the play-in stage with his amazing Lee Sin mechanics.

The Flash Wolves end their series in a flash

Taiwan’s Flash Wolves charged into Round 2 of the play-in stage against SuperMassive, and not even Carl’s Jr could sate the hunger of driven Wolves. They demolished SuperMassive 3-0 with an average game time of 27 minutes, which makes them the fastest out of all the teams in MSI.

The numerical leads that they generated against SUP were nothing short of depressing to those Turkish fans who were hoping for a chance at the group stage. Flash Wolves led SUP with a gold difference of 2,038 at 15 minutes and took first blood every time.

The games were also self-explanatory, with SUP losing out early parts of the game and then the whole game. Not much can be said about the Flash Wolves, other than their performance was almost expected of a team that has long been one of the most respected on the international stage.

GAM joins the big boys

In Round 3, GAM would fight it out against SUP for the last spot for the group stage, and GAM took the series 3-1. Given GAM’s performance coming off of its match against TSM, the result was rather unsurprising. Both teams came off a loss, but a close 3-2 loss compared to a 3-0 stomp must have played a number on SUP, and GAM pretty much rolled over the opponent.

Lulu finally makes it through the drafting four games in a row

After being a permanent ban for quite some time during the entirety of the past couple of patches, fans of Lulu would have been happy to see the Fae Sorceress see some professional play in MSI.

Finally off the ban wagon during the series between SuperMassive and Gigabyte Marines, the viewers were treated to four straight games of Lulu support. She did actually lose once, in Game 2, when SuperMassive gave up the pick, and then Gigabyte Marines returned the favor in Game 3 by choosing to give Lulu to SUP.

She’s still very, very strong, and I don’t see how Round 3 of MSI’s play-in stage will make a difference in the long-term viability of the champion.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot

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