HANOI, Vietnam -- The 2019 Mid-Season Invitational group stage is done, and now the final four teams are jetting off to see which regional champion will have the honor of lifting gold in Taipei, Taiwan.
Before the tournament began, ESPN released a ranking of the top 20 players heading into the tournament, with Invictus Gaming's South Korean solo lane superstars Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok and Song "Rookie" Eui-jin topping the list. Following five days of double round-robin action and 30 more games to digest between some of the best teams in the world, I'm ready to see if the ranking have held up as the tournament enters its final stage.
This ranking is based solely on what happened in the group stages. For example, just because I have someone at No. 1 doesn't necessarily mean I think they're a better overall talent than someone who didn't make the top ten. These are the players who have impressed me the most at the Vietnam National Convention Center over the past week.
Hoàng "Meliodas" Tiến Nhật (Phong Vu Buffalo): Meliodas didn't play in all of PVB's games, but the ones in which he did he made an impact. In his team's only two wins of the tournament, both over G2, Meliodas played like the best jungler in the world, pushing the tempo and helping his team snowball early leads into memorable victories. He, along with teammate Nguyen "Palette" Hải Trung, will be players to watch out for if PVB can qualify for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.
Lu "Betty" Yu-Hung (Flash Wolves): Betty played his heart out in an attempt to get his team back to Taipei and play in front of the home-crowd fans. He was excellent throughout the tournament, and although Flash Wolves had a few miscues around the Baron pit that knocked them out of the tournament, their performance spearheaded by Betty should give the Taiwanese region hope heading into worlds.
Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong (SK Telecom T1): I still can't believe they locked in Taric and Sona versus iG.
Kim "Khan" Dong-ha (SKT): Khan has been good but relatively quiet this tournament thus far. I don't think he'll ever look at Pyke the same way again after the group stages.
Rasmus "Caps" Winther (G2 Esports): It feels weird to have him out of my top 10. Let me make this clear: I still think Caps is one of the most talented players at this tournament. He could easily walk into Taipei, stomp over everyone and board his flight back to Germany with the MSI trophy. Yet, his style of never turning from a fight and supreme confidence in his abilities sometimes leads to games like G2's final group stage ones, where Caps spends more time with a gray screen than making plays on the map. I expect a strong comeback from the worlds finalist against SKT in the semifinals.
10. Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong (Team Liquid)
Impact didn't even make ESPN's top 20 heading into the tournament. All four of his starting teammates were ahead of him, and thus far, the former world champion has been head and shoulders above everyone else on his team. When it comes to laning, he has shown little difficulty keeping up with the best top laners in the world, and he has at times had to sacrifice his own success in lane to try to prop up the other parts of the map. In a world where Liquid could just let Impact sit in-lane and not have to save his teammates -- like in their final game of the group stage versus G2 Esports -- Impact would be much higher than No. 10. He has been the silver lining even on the days when Liquid looked the most lost.
9. Martin "Wunder" Hansen (G2)
"The Artist" himself, Wunder's large champion pool has become the talk of the town in Vietnam, with player after player in their interviews applauding the burly Dane's arsenal of picks. Although not all of them have worked -- his Vayne game against TheShy's Akali will forever be documented in highlight videos at every international tournament -- there are games like the one versus SKT where he brought out a well-practiced Pyke and buried the winningest franchise in history. Heading into Taipei, excitement is already building on what else he could be hiding up his sleeve.
8. Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok (Invictus Gaming)
If you were to just look at his stats alone, you would think TheShy has been sleeping throughout this tournament. And yes, while he did nap on stage during a curiously long break on one of the game days, KDA alone doesn't tell the impact TheShy has had on this tournament. No, he has not been at the level you'd expect from the person I believe is the best player in the world, but I also don't know if we've seen teams game-plan and focus on a single player since Faker was lighting people up on assassins early in his career. In his second match against G2 Esports on Viktor, the European champions repeatedly did everything in their power to take TheShy off the map.
That doesn't excuse TheShy for some of his more arrogant moments and the game in which he died it seemed like 30 times in lane versus Flash Wolves, but his presence alone is one of the major reasons iG secured the best group stage record in MSI history.
7. Park "Teddy" Jin-seong (SKT)
Just let Teddy play traditional AD carries. When SKT tried to be cute and put him on Sona, the team got absolutely embarrassed in the quickest international game of all time in 16 minutes, 1 second. Then, they tried to match G2's wealth of champions and put Teddy on Miss Fortune, resulting in another loss. When SKT puts Teddy on his bread-and-butter champions like Ezreal, Kalista and Lucian, he has been absolutely unbeatable. I'd honestly have Teddy higher up if it wasn't for those Sona and Miss Fortune games, which have less to do with Teddy and more with SKT's drafting. Please, never again waste Teddy's talent with Sona.
6. Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning (iG)
It's always difficult to rank Ning, as he's either the best player in the world or torments his team by running into the open arms of five enemies. Luckily for iG, Ning, for the most part, has looked like a world-class jungler, and he has been the key reason in a slew of games why they were able to keep a perfect record in the group stage until the very last match versus SKT. His Camille was the catalyst to the record-breaking win over SKT, and if it wasn't for his Ivern and trusty sidekick Daisy beating up Flash Wolves at a Baron pit in what looked to be a lost game, Team Liquid might not have even made it to the knockout rounds to face iG. Ning's Daisy might have been Team Liquid's second best player in the group stages behind Impact.
5. Song "Rookie" Eui-jin (iG)
Rookie, like Caps, got off to a hot start to begin the tournament with showcase performances on Akali and Zoe versus G2 and TL, respectively, but he has been somewhat quiet heading into the knockout rounds. He was given a chance to shut the door on Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok heading into Taipei and assert himself as the undisputed best mid laner in the world, but SKT got revenge for the earlier quick loss to iG. Invictus Gaming should make it to the final, but if Rookie wants to turn iG from the best team in the world to the second-ever dynasty in League of Legends history, he'll need to be better than No. 5. He asked for Faker in his postmatch news conference after winning worlds, and now he has him.
4. Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi (iG)
Baolan has been ridiculous through the first five days of the tournament. He has his very own Rakan skin for winning worlds in 2018 and has proven that the skin is more than simple cosmetics. Every game in which Baolan has gotten the chance to get his hands on the Rakan, he has produced at least one jaw-dropping play. Invictus Gaming's bottom lane might have been the most overlooked part of the world champion coming into the tournament, but it has been the team's strong point through the first 10 games of the main event.
3. Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (SKT)
Faker doesn't believe his own hype. I asked him after beating iG to stop the world champion's perfect group stage if he felt he was truly back to his old form. He denied it, saying that he still feels the same as he did in the LCK when he thought he was at three-quarters of his strength. The only thing that could change his mind would be an international championship over Invictus Gaming. A matchup between the two teams has the potential to shatter all viewership records with the growing popularity of the game in China and the worldwide appeal of Faker and SKT.
In the final match of the group stage, Faker trusted in the Ryze that has seen him through the most difficult matches of his career and put on a vintage performance, ending with an 8/0/7 scoreline to massive cheers in Hanoi. Fans in Vietnam love Faker. Fans in Taipei love Faker. For the first time since the 2017 world championship, that love is turning into fear for opposing teams.
2. Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo (iG)
Jackeylove has 28 more kills than any other AD carry at this tournament. He picked Draven against SKT in their first matchup and never stopped pushing until the game was over. Beyond that performance, the youngest member of Invictus Gaming has been all but perfect in the bottom lane alongside Baolan. Sure, TheShy and Rookie have been soaking up the pressure from the opposing sides and leaving Jackeylove to have free rein over the bottom lane, but he has been constantly cashing in every small opportunity he has received. It hasn't mattered in the early or late stages of the game, but Jackeylove has been electrifying.
The scariest thing is that he had 65 kills in 10 games but didn't register a single kill in his team's only loss of the group stage against SKT. That means he scored more than every other sharpshooter in the group stage without even needing a kill in the last game to blow them all out. Good luck, Team Liquid.
1. Kim "Clid" Tae-min (SKT)
The breakout star of the tournament was my easiest selection of the entire list. There have been games this tournament in which Clid has single-handedly put opposing teams in the grave. Team Liquid gave him Lee Sin by banning Olaf instead, and Clid made them pay for it, getting two kills in the early-game and never looking back. He picked Vi and sucked the souls from the Flash Wolves. He took Rek'Sai against PVB and made them rethink their existence. In the win over iG to end the group stage, he humbled Ning and won the battle between the two best junglers at the competition.
SKT has never had a jungler like Clid, and at only 19, it's unclear how high his ceiling is. With SKT's coaching, the growing chemistry between him and Faker and a team of aces around him that are all capable of winning the laning phase, we might be looking at the best jungler in the world. Right now, with how he's playing and in this current meta, I don't think there is anybody better.