The third day of the Mid-Season Invitational has come to an end, and I'm still searching for the words to describe this tournament.
Crazy? Unbelievable? Historic?
North America's Counter Logic Gaming is 4-2 and on the verge of tying up a playoff spot for next week. South Korea's champions, and the 2x League of Legends world champions, SK Telecom T1 are 2-4, have lost four games in a row and are battling for their lives against the equally slumping G2 Esports from Europe (1-5) and the underdogs SuperMassive from Turkey (1-5).
Fionn's Team Power Rankings - Day 3
A Tier: RNG, FW
B Tier: CLG
C Tier: SKT, G2
D Tier: SuperMassive
SKT T1's issues are the obvious big story of the day, but I decided that the four straight losses from the world champions was too big for a shared piece. So as I take that story over into its own feature, I've decided today to run down my top 10 current players at the Mid-Season Invitational through the first six games.
Amount of Counter Logic Gaming players on this list: 3
Amount of SKT T1 players on this list: 0
What a time to be alive, readers.
1. Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong (RNG, China)
Will we ever get a major international event where both Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and Mata are at their peak forms? Faker won the 2013 Summoner's Cup and MVP in a tournament where Mata failed to get out of groups. Mata won the 2014 Summoner's Cup and MVP in a tournament Faker didn't even qualify for. The two then met recently at the IEM World Championships, but SKT T1 won the tournament without dropping a map, and Mata didn't even meet Faker in the finals when RNG lost to Fnatic in the semifinals.
This tournament, Mata has been the clear MVP of the event with Faker struggling on a slumping T1 squad. Royal Never Give Up are 6-0 over the first three days, and a lot of that has to do with its genius playmaker in the bottom lane. For a team that hasn't steamrolled the competition and has played pretty close with everyone, RNG have relied heavily on late-game team fights to prevail. And by looking at its 6-0 record, you can see Mata's engagements have been perfect this event.
The four players alongside Mata on RNG all have great individual talent. Mata is the one teaching them how to be a great team.
2. Hu "SwordArt" Shuo-Jie (FW, Taiwan)
As with Mata, SwordArt is the driving force in his team's victories so far in the tournament. Flash Wolves, 4-2, have already beaten SK Telecom T1 twice with superior team coordination and macro play. In those victories, SwordArt starred, putting SKT T1 players on silver platters for his teammates with world-class Alistar plays and directions to his team. There have been flashier players at the event we'll get to later in the rankings, but Mata and SwordArt are the leaders who've gotten their teams to the top in the first three days. With its games against the world champions over, the Wolves can look for the top seed as the schedule gets seemingly softer the last two days.
3. Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao (RNG, China)
His name meaning "Little Tiger" in Chinese, Xiaohu is the teeth of RNG's attack. Mata pulls all the talented pieces together, and Xiaohu is the one becoming the biggest benefactor of having an all-time great on his team. His LeBlanc through the first three days has vastly outperformed Faker's. OMG's Yu "Cool" Jiajun was the last Chinese-born player to be in the discussion for title of best mid laner in the world years ago when he was the MVP of the LPL and seen as a major rival to Faker.
Xiaohu is on the verge of changing that.
4. Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang (FW, Taiwan)
The RNG and FW leaders at the front, and then the two team's aces in the next two spots. Xiaohu is the tiger of RNG, and Maple is, well, the wolf. He's the fangs of the operation, and where Maple goes so does his team in terms of producing offense. As I said before about Xiaohu entering the discussion as best mid in the world, Maple has to be considered as well. Maple has been consistently solid for years, and he's broken through the past year to the upper-echelon of mid players in the worlds.
LMS' separation from the rest of the major regions put his amazing regular season stats into question; however, seeing him play at Mid-Season Invitational has silenced any worries I had about his or Taiwan's play on the international level. Along with Invictus Gaming's Song "RooKie" Eui-jin, the top four candidates for best mid in the world have to be Faker, Rookie, Xiaohu, and Taiwan's Maple.
5. Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black (CLG, NA)
We now get to the North American portion of our rankings. Aphromoo has brought NA's unique support champion selection to MSI, and he's proven it works even against the best teams in the world. Soraka, as it has shown, is annoying be it in North America or in China. The in-game leader of the North American champions, Aphromoo has taken a team many thought would be fighting for a playoff spot in the NA LCS and taken them to a top two spot at MSI more than halfway through the group stages.
The biggest takeaway so far this tournament has been a strong leader equals a strong team. In a tournament where almost every game comes down to a single large-scale team fight, it's the conductors of the team who make or break everything. Aphromoo, through six games, has put himself right next to the very best at his position in the world.
6. Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes (CLG, NA -- Player of the Day)
Stixxay has been, by a good margin, the best AD carry at this tournament.
Yes, this is real life.
Flash Wolves' and RNG have gotten to where they are through the first three days by the tandem of the brain (Mata/SwordArt) and the brawn (Xiaohu/Maple). For CLG, it's the same, except in place of the mid laner it's been the AD carry doing the heavy lifting team. The only time Stixxay was on a champion you'd consider more utility, Sivir, the team struggled to do anything and lost in embarrassing fashion to SuperMassive.
Besides that one game, CLG have either won or almost won every game it has played, and a lot of that has to do with Stixxay. If it wasn't for his love of getting caught out randomly and being a little too forward on Caitlyn against RNG, there would be a real argument for him being the top player at the entire event. When he's been good this tournament, Stixxay has been the best carry at MSI.
Nonetheless, he's still a rookie and there are mistakes in his game he needs to fix. Xiaohu and Maple have been completely consistent. For Stixxay to match them as an ace, he'll need to stop getting his head cut off a minute after securing a Quadra-kill in fantastic fashion.
7. Liu "MLXG" Shi-yu (RNG, China)
The third RNG member on our list, MLXG has been stellar as well in the tournament thus far. He leads all players when comes to KDA. He is also the leader when it comes to first blood participation. MLXG has been the catalyst of RNG's clever early-game ganks this tournament and has allowed his squad to start running around the map early. Along with our next player on the ranking, it's a tough debate between who is the best jungler at the event.
8. Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan (FW, Taiwan)
It's weird calling Karsa a supporting actor, but Maple and SwordArt have somehow overshadowed his amazing performances so far. Karsa has established himself as a world-class jungler, and the three-headed beast of Maple, SwordArt, and Karsa is what could bring Taiwan its first major Riot championship since Taipei Assassins in 2012.
9. Jang "Looper" Hyeong-seok (RNG, China)
The right hand man of Mata, Looper has returned to his former glory back with the Worlds MVP on Royal Never Give Up. I still wouldn't rate Looper as the overall best top laner at the tournament, but his play so far has been superb. RNG is a team that has prided itself on winning the final team fight of games, and Looper has been a major reason why they've gone 6-0. Mata starts the action, Looper is the one who stuns or spaces out a main target, and Xiaohu is the burster. You couldn't ask for more from a utility top laner than what Looper has provided in the first six games.
10. Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya (CLG, NA)
Rounding out the top 10, we have another North American player. Darshan, seen as primarily a split-push threat, has actually been a part of his team's kills more than any top laner at the event so far. He is tied with SKT T1's Duke for most kills at the top lane position, and CLG are at a remarkable 4-2 record with two more group stage days to go. Before this tournament started I didn't think I would have three American-born players in my Top 10 at MSI.
I don't think anyone would have.
Mid-Season Invitational, how crazy (and amazingly entertaining) you are.