2017 Mid-Season Invitational and Regional Preferences
All around the world, the dust has settled. The champions of their respective regions have been crowned, and now the world waits in anticipation. The best League of Legends teams in the world will convene in Brazil to make their regions proud at the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational.
Unlike 2016’s Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship, the competitive field will be widened to not just include a single champion from the International Wild Card regions. Instead, one team from each International Wild Card region will compete in an official Play-In round. This simply means one thing for all League of Legends fans—more games!
While it’s very easy to write off the addition of more, often less competitive, teams, this change is crucial to the future League of Legends ecosystem. Let’s not forget the hidden gem from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, Albus NoX Luna. Their performance at the 2016 World Championship not only shocked the tournament and fans, but helped mold future champion selects with niche picks, like Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeev’s support Brand. Equally as impactful was the 2014 World Championship upset of 1st Seed European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS) favorites Alliance against Brazilian Wild Card team KaBuM! e-Sports. KaBuM! secured the first-ever win in a World Championship for a Wild Card region, and helped pave the way for Wild Card teams to garner more recognition and respect worldwide.
Though there can be a skill differential from region to region or team to team, it’s not the only factor at work; there is a wide range of play styles that make international tournaments so exciting to watch. The MSI Patch for the duration of the tournament will be patch 7.8, with Xayah and Rakan disabled. No team in the world has played a competitive match on patch 7.8. This unpredictability is the X-Factor that will reverberate throughout this year’s Mid-Season Invitational.
The Meta As We Know It
Currently, on patches 7.6 and 7.7 [dependent on region], there are two strong overarching styles that teams have focused most of their champion selects around. The first is a continued early priority pick of a utility Attack Damage Carry (ADC), similar to the days of the Lethality meta. These AD carries, such as Ashe or Varus, build the buffed Blade of the Ruined King that has been live in patch 7.5, giving them a healthy one-item powerspike. This opens the composition for aggressive jungle picks such as Graves, Kha’zix and Elise accompanied by a carry mid, and sometimes also a carry top. Expect to see this trend continue on the MSI Patch.
However, the Blade of the Ruined King buff has also pushed the second popular team composition: protect-the-carry. Using a combination of picks like Karma, Lulu, Ivern and Nami for their immense sustain and shielding to create unstoppable hyper carry ADCs: typically Lucian, Twitch or Kog’maw. While the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) and the EU LCS often flex the Lulu pick for either middle lane or support, no other region has really focused putting the Fae Sorceress mid lane. Other regions running this team composition will often prioritize Karma mid lane, while combining her shielding with Nami or Ivern.
The NA LCS heavily favors Lucian as the ADC in these drafts for his mid-game skirmishing power. Sticking also towards bringing a potent split pushing top lane carry that can either demand attention else where, leading to small fights where Lucian shines with his arsenal of supports, or allowing for lopsided roams and surprises engages after pushing side lanes. Renekton, Camille, and Fiora are typically picked for this job.
These regional preferences, though appearing minor, can allow for dynamic drafts that grant both teams what they want. Yet, the MSI Patch contains subtle changes which will lead to the biggest question: who can adapt?
MSI Patch 7.8’s Effect
Looking at the jungle, Amumu’s minor changes won’t be enough to dry his tears in time for the MSI Patch. Whether it be through clear speed, early ganking or being invaded, Amumu suffers too much at the hands of early game junglers. When looking for an engage-oriented tank, Gragas will still be king, but keep a look out for the yeti! Nunu was the original support/utility jungler for protect-the-carry compositions, harkening back to season 2 and 3. The early game-focused buffs to his passive could be enough to have teams pick him on the MSI Patch as an alternative to Ivern.
For top lane tanks, Shen’s nerfs to his ultimate ability will hurt his priority in some drafts, even with his taunt receiving a buff. However, he still should see a healthy amount of play. Nautilus losing mana regen while having Riptide’s mana cost increased should be a non-issue against other tanks due to his triple Doran’s Ring early build. When staring down matchups that will want to push Nautilus under his turret, he should see some impact to his long-term clearing, mostly affecting his windows for teleporting and backing.
The last direct change to current drafts come on the shoulders of Camille. Her priority has already dropped in regions that were on patch 7.7 where she lost her healing from Tactical Sweep when used on minions. In patch 7.8, the same looks to be continuing, bumping Renekton and Fiora up on top lane tiers when looking for a carry. Look for Camille to be less prevalent on the MSI Patch.
In the mid lane, both Ryze and Lissandra have been buffed. Ryze could be picked as another Taliyah on the MSI patch, a champion who has seen a growing amount of play in the LCK and NA LCS due to her very powerful rotations. This allows for some flexibility when looking for a roam-focused mid laner in picks and bans. Lissandra also overlaps in play style to another high picked mid laner, Ahri, waiting for a 1-item power spike before making powerful roams to the bottom side of the map. Lissandra also has been seen as a favorable pick into the popular Ahri in previous metas, which should defrost her absence from champion select on the MSI Patch.
Jarvan IV has seen some time on the rift from various regions and various players, but hasn’t seen the amount of play given to Camille, Renekton and Fiora. Just like previous mentions, he fulfills a similar job most teams already look for when wanting to draft a carry bruiser in the top lane. Solid buffs to his Golden Aegis, coupled with Camille’s loss of sustain on the MSI Patch should result in teams picking up the Exemplar of Demacia in higher frequency.
The X Factor
Finally, with Rakan and Xayah disabled, we have the largest variable on the MSI Patch: Galio. While the reworked Galio will be playable on the MSI Patch, he unfortunately will most likely go on the back burner. Galio is undoubtedly a better version of his former self, but he still requires more teamfight oriented drafts that allow him to utilize his kit to its maximum potential. He will shine around forcing group objectives, like Dragon or Baron, but overall will fall second on the MSI Patch to Rumble in terms of AoE teamfighters. Furthermore, Galio’s potential roaming with his new ultimate, Hero’s Entrance, is simply not as strong as the on-demand, global Stand United from Shen.
The MSI Patch is not a patch filled with overhauls and huge shifts. Riot’s intention to not employ dynamic changes in Patch 7.8 in the face of the ever so rare international competition should represent the true skill of the teams. When the draft timer starts to tick down during this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, each team and their coach will have the option to stick as close to the prevailing meta as possible or to search for something new.
Comfort on the international stage cannot be overstated. Look for teams to prioritize familiarity on the MSI patch, but teams who have mastered even the most minor of changes will be the ones to prevail.
Stay tuned to howla.com for continuing coverage of MSI.
Read the last installment of State of the Meta: Patch 7.2
Looking forward to the next patch? Check out League Stuff Explained: Patch 7.9 Tank Update