Mid-Season Invitational 2019 team power rankings

Erzberger details expectations for Liquid at MSI 2019 (3:39)

ESPN's Tyler Erzberger says he doesn't expect Team Liquid to get past the semifinals at MSI 2019. (3:39)

1. Invictus Gaming

By their own admission in post-match interviews throughout this League of Legends Pro League split, Invictus Gaming's greatest strength, their mechanical skill, also causes their greatest weakness: They think they can take any fight at any time. This includes where they may not have vision, the correct item advantages, or are haven't cashed in on the gold in their pockets. This means that if you fight iG over and over at disadvantageous points for them, you can maneuver them into digging themselves into a deeper deficit.

With that out of the way, the fact that iG is favored will likely be a contentious pick for European fans of G2 Esports and South Korean fans of SK Telecom T1, but frankly, iG should be favored. Not simply because they are the defending world champions, but because of that aforementioned mechanical skill and strong understanding of how they want to win. As shown by their finals series against JD Gaming, you cannot pick losing lanes against iG. They can also just put AD carry Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-bo on Draven and beat you that way, too.

2. SK Telecom T1

The "dream team" is no longer a dream. South Korea's finest has shed the moniker of a team that only looks good on paper by winning a domestic title in their first season together as a five-man unit. Although it was supposed to be a contest for the starting jungler position with Kang "Haru" Min-seung, Kim "Clid" Tae-min has made the role his own, playing at an elite level in his first season on SKT. All-around, the team has been firing on all cylinders, running through the playoffs with back-to-back blowout sweeps over rivals King-Zone DragonX and Griffin.

Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok is back at a major international event after proclaiming at All-Stars in Las Vegas he would take back all the titles China took from South Korea in 2018, and he comes wielding signature carry champions like Ryze and Azir. This SKT can play it fast. They can play it slow. They can play through any part of the map without missing a step. And if all else fails in the early-game, they have the ultimate insurance card, Park "Teddy" Jin-seong, happy to put a nail in the coffin of any team that challenges SKT to a 50-minute team fight.

3. G2 Esports

While watching the LPL finals between iG and JDG, we had to ask: if JDG wins, does that mean that G2 is the favored team at this tournament? The answer was yes. G2 made it to worlds semifinals last year, and had a similar 3-0 stomp of a final in the League of Legends European Championship finals that iG had in the LPL finals. Both teams appeared to be speedrunning.

This roster has only improved from last year's powerhouse lineup. They have the most flexibility out of the top three teams thanks to the deep champion pools of everyone from mid-laner-turned-AD carry Luka "Perkz" Perković, to top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen, to jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski (who recently played Morgana in the LEC finals). This team can flex in all positions with the best talent in Europe, and this makes them a dangerous opponent.

Unfortunately, there's a bit of an asterisk next to G2's in the form of an injury to support Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle. We don't know how much the starting support will play, if at all. This isn't a slight against substitute support Hampus "promisq" Mikael Abrahamsson, but Mikyx has been a key factor in integrating Perkz into the bot lane role. His absence could affect how well the team performs on the international stage.

4. Team Liquid

Well, well, well, look who's back in fourth. After completing an iconic reverse-sweep that gave them their third North American title in a row, possibly the best team in LCS history is off to Vietnam for a chance at redemption. Last year TL imploded at MSI with starting support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung benching himself at one point in the tournament before the team ultimately fell in a tiebreaker to Europe's Fnatic. TL needs to be better internationally this year, and that's why they went out to get two players that have gone deep into international events with Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen coming over from worlds semifinalist Cloud9 and former world champion Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in joining from Gen.G in South Korea.

Anything less than a top-four finish at MSI would be an embarrassment for a team that full of experience and talent. The oldest team on average in the western region knows what to expect at big tournaments like these, and although some teams under them in the rankings have upset potential, TL can't afford to give away games. While there is a strong troika atop of the MSI hierarchy, Liquid isn't too far off where they can't make a deeper run if the team plays at their absolute best. Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng has never made it out of groups at a major Riot Games international event, and if he doesn't do it now, he might never cross the threshold.

5. Phong Vu Buffalo

PVB is as exciting as teams for the Play-In Stage. They are fast in the early game, rambunctious in the mid game, and have star talent to boot. Phạm "Zeros" Minh Lộc is the highly touted star of the team, being a mechanical monster in the top lane that seemingly pulls solo-kills out of thin air. Nguyễn "Palette" Hải Trung is not to be forgotten as the team's support either, as he makes most of the team's aggressive play possible with timely vision control. As the 5th ranked team, PVB is thoroughly stronger than Flash Wolves and has an outside shot of upsetting Team Liquid in the group stage.

6. Flash Wolves

MSI is seemingly always Flash Wolves' tournament, as the team has never failed to make it past the group stage, but this time is different. There's no Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang or Hu "SwordArT" Shuo-Chieh to bolster the team's talent and shotcalling. This year, Flash Wolves managed to take the LMS title against all expectations with a significantly weaker lineup that largely played around top laner Su "Hanabi" Chia-Hsiang toward the end of the split. Though, when pitting Flash Wolves' current mechanical level and playstyle against teams with star top laners at this tournament, it's hard to imagine that they'll pull off anything more than a single cheeky upset.

7. 1907 Fenerbahçe

When looking at teams from non-major regions that could possibly find their way into the main event, look no further than the champions of Turkey. 1907 Fenerbahçe might be the hottest team coming into Vietnam, not having lost a game in almost three months, winning their last 20 games. 1907 FB might not be the quickest team on the Rift, but their unique play style and clutch playmaking in the late-game makes them a fearsome foe for any of the teams facing them in the play-in rounds. The player with the highest kills per game on Turkey's best is actually their jungler of all players, as former journeyman, Thomas "Kirei" Yuen, has finally found a home in the TCL, his Karthus and Kindred being his staples during the most recent season.

The team's mid Onur "Bolulu" Can Demirol plays stabilizer in the mid lane with a slew of Lissandra games under his belt, with the top side of the map with Kirei and South Korean import slot player Kim "Ruin" Hyeong-min playing the role of hard carries. In the bottom lane, you don't know what AD carry Volkan "Hades" Dinçer will pull out, having played Cassiopeia, Yasuo and Sona recently. We wouldn't expect 1907 Fenerbahçe to run teams off Summoner's Rift, but this team knows how to gets it scaling champions enough items to come online, and a battle with the early-game focused Phong Vũ Buffalo should be the highlight fight of the play-in group stage.

8. Detonation FocusMe

DFM isn't exactly a heavy hitter coming from the historically weak LoL Japan League, but it is an exciting team with the talent to contend in short bursts. Back home, DFM is largely unmatched because of star top laner Shunsuke "Evi" Murase and Korean jungler Moon "Steal" Geon-yeong. Combined with AD carry Yuta "Yutapon" Sugiura, the talent is present to make another strong run in Group B this year. Mechanically, DFM certainly has what it takes, and if last year's Worlds performance is any indication -- they might even contend with Flash Wolves.The team's weakest point will be its generally slow playstyle, but given the slow nature of its competition, that might just work out.

9. INTZ e-Sports

This is the second CBLoL final where Flamengo Esports were supposed to take home the trophy and represent Brazil at an international event. KaBuM! e-Sports bested them last year, and this year, INTZ e-Sports beat Flamengo in a 3-2 upset. INTZ are known as a hard-working team, especially top laner Rodrigo "Tay" Panisa, who has played four different roles across his CBLoL career, top lane being the latest after jungle, bot and mid. The star of their finals victory was mid laner Bruno "Envy" Farias, who at times singlehandedly would not allow INTZ to lose, and showcased significant mechanical prowess.

It's difficult to see INTZ making it to the mainstage, but they are the best chance that Brazil has had in a while, not only due to their talent but because of their group. If INTZ can beat DetonatioN FocusMe and Vega Squadron to come out of their group as the first seed, they stand a slight chance of making it out depending on what other team makes it to the bracket stage. That being said, it's difficult to see this team beating Team Liquid, Flash Wolves, or likely Group A winner Phong Vũ Buffalo in a best of five. INTZ can take games, but isn't likely to upset in series.

10. Isurus Gaming

Latin America South and North fused this year to the dismay of many local pundits and players, but the competitive result beared incredible results. While most regions are "top heavy" and lack competition, LLA's contenders were neck and neck until the very end. Isurus Gaming struggled during the regular season, but its upset semifinal win over All Knights and decisive Finals win against Rainbow7 proved that they're the best team Latin America has to offer. Internationally, Edgar "Seiya" Ali Bracamontes is certainly the team's star, but the team's fate will likely be decided by Fabián "Warangelus" Llanos' consistency at AD carry. ISG is stuck in the group of death, but Latin America traditionally shows up well among minor regions, so don't count the sharks out.

11. Vega Squadron

The champion of the Commonwealth of Independent States might be the toughest team to place in our rankings. Their home league of the LCL only plays 14 games in the regular season, and Vega Squadron came in third before making a run in the playoffs to take the representative spot at MSI. While CIS champions have usually brought at least one or two common names to the international stage, this will be a new-look CIS on display, with a hungry young team hoping to make their names in a winnable Group B with no clear favorite. Vladislav "BOSS" Fomin, as his name suggests, is a bully in the top lane, and Kirill "AHaHaCiK" Skvortsov has an interesting pool of jungle champions, even picking Vi in the final versus Elements Pro Gaming.

12. MEGA

At last year's world championship, Southeast Asia, and more specifically Thailand, were represented by Ascension Gaming, who had essentially paid their own way, out of pocket, to represent their region at the world championship in South Korea. Following All-Stars, the team disbanded. Top laner Atit "Rockky" Phaomuang, mid laner Nuttapong "G4" Menkasikan, and bot laner Juckkirsts "Lloyd" Kongubon went to MEGA, and were later joined by former Mineski jungler Kwon "Jjun" Jun-seok, and Ha "PoP" Min-wook, who South Korean LoL fans may remember from his excellent KeSPA Cup performances.

There's no beating around the bush here: MEGA are unfortunately one of the worst teams at this tournament. Like INTZ, MEGA are probably happy with their group, as it separates them from two of the strongest play-in groups teams (Phong Vũ Buffalo and 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports) but it's difficult to see them making it out of groups at all.

13. Bombers

Ouch. This was supposed to be Oceania's year. Their new champion, Bombers, were nearly undefeated in the spring regular season and smashed their way to a championship. After years and years of disappointing international appearances, MSI 2019 was going to be the tournament that changed everything around. Then they got drawn into a group with maybe the three strongest teams in the play-ins and their chances now are almost drawing dead.

The Bombers aren't a bad team, per se -- no teams that make MSI can be classified as "bad" -- but it's difficult to put faith into a region that has been statistically the worst internationally since its inception. Oceania has never had a champion team go far at an international event, and unless their South Korean import spot players or star mid laner Tommy "ry0ma" Le can shine, it'll be another short event for Oceania's best. If the groups were a bit different, maybe the Bombers could have taken a game or two, but as it stands now, they might take the long trip back to Australia with nothing to show for it.