1. Kingzone DragonX
The 2018 Mid-Season Invitational marks the first time in the event's history that South Korea is not represented by the LCK's SK Telecom T1. Fortunately, the region's reputation for dominance is in excellent hands with Kingzone DragonX. Of 44 total games, including the team's finals series against the Afreeca Freecs, Kingzone only lost eight total -- resulting in an impressive 82 percent winrate. Kingzone can attack opponents from any position including the jungle, where recent meta changes have allowed Han "Peanut" Wang-ho to run rampant over his opponents. Top laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha has been quiet compared to last year and earlier this spring, but still draws enormous amounts of pressure and is impossible for opponents to ignore once he becomes a fixture in a sidelane. Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong is steady in the mid lane and difficult to dislodge.
Yet the true center of Kingzone is its bottom lane duo of AD Carry Kim "PraY" Jong-in and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon. "Prayrilla," as they've jokingly called themselves, is a partnership between legacy South Korean AD carry PraY, and one of the best supports in the region of all time in GorillA. The two knew each other from their NaJin days on the organization's sister teams and first partnered together on the GE Tigers. PraY and GorillA are a fearsome duo that can play a variety of different styles depending on the meta. It's PraY and GorillA's stability -- they've called themselves the "legs" of the team to hold it up -- that allows the rest of Kingzone to split pressure as they please, be it through a Peanut invade or a 4-1 with Khan.
The blueprint for beating Kingzone is similar to the blueprint used by Samsung Galaxy at the World Championship last year to beat Longzhu Gaming: destabilize the bottom lane. However, in an AD carry-focused meta and with a significant upgrade in the jungle from Moon "Cuzz" Woo-chan to Peanut, this task is far more difficult than it was last year. Kingzone make few mistakes, easily punish the mistakes of its opponents, and always have the opportunity to come back in a game due to the individual talent on the lineup. It's no surprise that Kingzone is a significant favorite to take the tournament.
2. Royal Never Give Up
When you think of Royal Never Give Up, your mind automatically goes to the legendary Chinese AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao. Uzi has been the Chinese AD carry since the retirement of World Elite's Gao "WeiXiao" Xue-Cheng, and has been an international fan favorite since his first League of Legends World Championship Finals appearance in 2013. His domestic results have often been at odds with international perception of his individual prowess, but this year, Uzi finally won his first LoL Pro League title in China after nearly four and a half years of trying. Now he goes to MSI to face a curated AD pool of the best from each major region.
Although Uzi is the headliner for obvious reasons, RNG's playoff run -- especially the team's upset victory over Invictus Gaming in the semifinals and the 3-1 finals win over Ming "Clearlove" Kai's EDward Gaming -- was a team effort. Although he was used only once in the finals with an experimental composition that included Morgana mid, jungler Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan's synergy with the rest of the team has improved significantly since his initial arrival, especially with mid laner Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao.
Since RNG have flexed well around both positions, the ability to take only one substitute hampers their game plan slightly. Jungler Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu has still been more coordinated with the team, despite Karsa's improvement, and took iG by surprise with his early ganks in lieu of clearing camps. Meanwhile, they've been able to adapt how they spread pressure by flexing between Zz1tai and Letme. According to the lolesports website, Letme is going alongside both Karsa and Mlxg, so look for RNG to tweak their gameplan depending on which jungler starts.
3. Team Liquid
Region: NA LCS
This MSI tournament is all about AD carries. PraY, Uzi, Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, and Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng have all been playing League of Legends since at least 2012. In the case of Doublelift, he was one of the first AD carries to become known internationally and like his 2018 MSI brethren, has continued to stay near or at the top of his position within his home region and internationally.
Yet, much like Uzi and Royal Never Give Up, Doublelift is the go-to name on Team Liquid, but the team's improvements throughout the split and finals victory over 100 Thieves were coordinated team efforts. TL still like facilitating pushing lanes, and it prefers early advantages, but the team has evolved beyond the loose collection of strong laners that they were in the beginning of the 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series Spring split. The finals featured strong performances from jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero and mid laner Eugene "Pobelter" Park, the latter of whom earned the finals MVP award. Liquid's challenge at MSI will be to continue to improve on macro mistakes that they often make if it cannot garner early advantages in lane.
If possible, Team Liquid would be in a tier tied with Fnatic. Fnatic seem to have a stronger understanding of the map, but unfortunately will be missing starting top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer due to a hand injury. Few top laners draw and absorb pressure like sOAZ, which is why TL slid into the third-place spot on this ranking.
Region: EU LCS
Fnatic walks into the Mid-Season Invitational as a risen king, back on its throne in Europe, but salivating for conquest on a grander scale. Martin "Rekkles" Larsson is the knight that led Fnatic to great promise and will be the team's player to watch come MSI. Among legendary AD carries, PraY, Uzi, and Doublelift, there is no better time to prove himself yet again. Europe was too easy. It gets real now.
Fnatic enjoyed relative dominance back home in Europe, having a fantastic heel in sOAZ up top, and a prestigious AD carry in Rekkles. Getting Rekkles to late game was an easy win condition when sOAZ could go into any matchup and soak up attention from the opposing team. Of course, Fnatic transitioned really well into winning with Gabriel "Bwipo" Rau up in the top lane, but he isn't quite the same top laner at his current level. Fnatic loses out to TL in the power rankings partially due to its less competitive region, but also because there is more uncertainty without a player like sOAZ at an international event. Fnatic isn't far behind though, it certainly has the stuff to usurp its Western counterpart and potentially even more.
5. Flash Wolves
The champion of Taiwan is at fifth place, the last of the major regions, thanks to its poor performances abroad and extreme lack of competition back home. Gone are the days of the team that could challenge the best teams on its best day. Flash Wolves' overall level isn't far off from teams like Supermassive and Rainbow7, but it still has just a bit of macro know-how in favor of these teams. Still, Flash Wolves has to watch its back.
Flash Wolves sports a new look at this Mid-Season Invitational, having brought on two new players in Kim "Moojin" Moo-Jin and Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang, in its fifth straight LMS title run. Moojin is no Karsa, but provides the basic muscle that Flash Wolves need to be relatively competitive internationally, while Hanabi profiles as a slight upgrade over Yu "MMD" Li-Hong. Two new additions, or not, Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung remains the team's primary carry despite his disastrous performances at last year's World Championship. His dominance of LMS bot lanes with star support, Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Jie, doesn't necessarily translate to the international level, but he has a spark to his play that was absent last year. He isn't scared anymore and Flash Wolves are going to need a strong Betty to make it past the Play-In Stage, much less the Group Stage.