Last year Korean eSports team SK Telecom T1 came up just short at the inaugural League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational, falling 3-2 to China’s EDward Gaming at the competition in Florida. This year’s tournament, held May 4-15 in Shanghai, sees SKT looking to add the only trophy missing from their case following dominant showings at tournament after tournament throughout the past year.
Since their defeat last year, SKT have shown no mercy to any teams unfortunate enough to come up against them, waltzing their way through the LoL Worlds and the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) season.
As a result of their dominant year, SKT are the heaviest of favorites heading into the Mid-Season Invitational, priced at 4/11 at Bet365 Sports, with the next closest odds being on Royal Never Give Up at 5/1. If they pull off the victory as expected, SK Telecom T1 would hold the three biggest trophies in the game - the Summoner’s Cup, the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship, and the Mid-Season Invitational crown - all at the same time.
All of which is to say, every other team in the tournament is a major underdog, which speaks more to the greatness of SKT than anything else, as the tournament is made up of tournament winners from five major regions as well as the winner of an international wild card tournament. That means every team is battle-tested and championship caliber before a single minion starts marching across the Rift.
As mentioned above, SK Telecom T1 won the Korean region along with just about every other competition they have entered this year. They are also the only team to return from last year’s inaugural MSI, and count the greatest player in League of Legends history, Lee Sang-hyeouk, known by his handle of Faker.
Major favorites, they are priced as high as 1/50 in a match against Turkish side Supermassive Esports and never have odds worse than 2/9 (against Royal Never Give Up) in any of their matchups. As a result, there isn’t much value to be found betting on SKT, but those that do can feel confident in some kind of return.
Speaking of Royal Never Give Up, it should be no surprise that the tournament’s Chinese representative is the biggest potential hurdle for the Korean giants, as they are playing in their home country and had to defeat the 2015 champs-EDward Gaming-just to reach this point. Bet365 is offering a ‘Betting without SK Telecom T1’ market headlined by RNG at 13/8 for those looking to extract more value from the top half of the tournament.
G2 Esports, out of Europe, has nearly the same chances according to the bookmakers, coming in at around 6/1 before matches have gotten underway. G2 is a relative new team on the European LoL scene, but have proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with having finished first in the regular season as well as defeating last year’s MSI participant from Europe, Fnatic, in the playoffs on their way to this tournament. While they have a short history as a team, they have been very impressive in their short run and could use the MSI as an opportunity to bolster their reputation.
Another Asian team, Flash Wolves out of Taiwan, represent the outer edge of teams the odds makers feel could make a run at the title should something disastrous happen to SK Telecom T1. Flash Wolves have shown out well for themselves in major competition, reaching the quarters of the LoL Worlds last year in a competition that also saw them defeat the eventual Worlds runner-ups twice in group play. An intriguing team from a region that many can’t get a handle on, Flash Wolves are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
North America is represented by Counter Logic Gaming, and to the surprise of no one that pays attention to the North American scene expectations are low. The region as a whole lags behind the rest of the world, and CLG earned their spot in the MSI by defeating more highly regarded teams Liquid and Team SoloMid, teams that many feel would have (slightly) better chances over the next few weeks. As it stands, CLG is only favored in matches against the Turkish wild card side SuperMassive eSports.
When it comes to that wild card team, their odds are about as long as you’ll ever see at a tournament of this size. SuperMassive reached the Mid-Season Invitational by beating out a number of teams from around the world, including finishing first in their national league as well as winning the International Wild Card Event. Despite their success, their odds are nearly three times longer than any other team in the competition.
Round robin play takes place May 4-8 in this prestigious tournament, with four of the six teams advancing to the knockout rounds, with an ultimate champion being crowned May 15. The entire tournament can be watched live on the Riot Games Twitch page, Lolesports.com, and the LoL Champ Series YouTube page.