The 2019 Mid-Season Invitational sees top international competition clash in South-East Asia as thirteen teams challenge for a chance at the trophy second only to the World Championship in prestige.
It is a tumultuous time in League of Legends as the would-be kings of 2018 fall away to see a new batch of contenders arise. With defending champion Royal Never Give Up failing to qualify for this year's MSI, the trophy is up for grabs to any with the grit and determination to overcome their opponents and seize it as their own.
Here are the five teams with everything to prove as they begin the arduous climb to international glory.
5. Flash Wolves with Big Shoes to Fill
The Flash Wolves have long been a wild card powerhouse team that contested against the top dogs from the major regions of North America, Europe, South Korea and China, but beneath the nameplate, it's a very different team than the one that raised the LMS above the rest.
Without long-time stars Yi-Tang "Maple" Huang and Shuo-Chieh "SwordArt" Hu, it's an uphill battle for the Flash Wolves to reach the Group Stage with plenty new challengers hungry to put their region on the map. After a shaky split, this MSI will test if this line-up is the real thing or if this roster is little more than a sheep in wolf's clothing.
4. Team Liquid Seek Redemption
Of the major regions, the North American LCS is the only one to see its 2018 MSI representative return. Team Liquid had a disappointing 2018 internationally, failing to exit the Group Stage of either MSI or Worlds.
Now Team Liquid are back and better than ever. With significant upgrades in the addition of Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Yong-in "CoreJJ" Kim, Team Liquid should breeze easily into the Group Stage where the real challenge awaits. For this squad, anything short of a semifinals appearance is unacceptable.
3. G2 Esports Return After 2018 Hiatus
G2 Esports now exceeds perennial European rival Fnatic in MSI appearances with three to Fnatic's two. G2 summarily demolished the 2018 MSI representative in their rampage to the title of first-ever LEC champion.
The pride of Europe will now be tested against a far more threatening field as they arrive as the only team of the top four to not boast a world champion on their roster. With the form of Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle in question due to wrist injury, G2 will be hard-pressed to match or somehow exceed the silver medal they earned in their last MSI outing.
2. Invictus Gaming Look to Win It All
Invictus Gaming are the current kings of League of Legends. The 2018 World Champions went on to claim their first-ever domestic title with a 3-0 thrashing over JD Gaming in the LPL spring split finals, earning IG their first-ever trip to the Mid-Season Invitational.
The LPL currently match the LCK in MSI titles, having defeated the Korean representatives in 2015 and 2018. In the event of an Invictus victory, not only does the LPL gain another foothold in establishing China as the front-runner region, but it also sees Invictus Gaming attain glory as the second team to ever complete the hat-trick of domestic, MSI and Worlds trophies.
1. SK Telecom T1: By the Old Gods and the New
This MSI is a turning point in League of Legends history. This is the tournament which determines if this is the LPL's era, if the gap has finally closed and all regions can fight to win, or it is the moment when the LCK returns with a vengeance to reclaim all that was lost in 2018.
History is being written and the pen lies in the hands of SK Telecom T1, the most accomplished team in all of League of Legends. The three-time world champion and two-time MSI victors stand as the last hope of South Korea after all other teams failed to fill the void during their 2018 slump. With a mix of legendary veterans and newer stars debuting in international competition, SKT has fielded the best of the best for their Korean superteam in its most important tournament.
Regardless of the eventual MSI winner, the League landscape will be dictated by the rise or fall of this storied organization.
The Mid-Season Invitational runs from May 1-19, and will be played in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Taipei with a new format.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games