Every year, between the Spring and Summer championships in the various regional League of Legends pro leagues, Riot holds the Mid-Season invitational. It's an international event featuring the spring champions of the North American, European, Chinese, Korean and Taiwain-Hong Kong-Macao leagues along with a wildcard team from one of the smaller LOL regions.
The finals and semifinals took place in the past weekend, and there were few surprises about who ended up winning. Korean team SK Telecom T1, who are the reigning world champions in LOL, took down their opponent 3-0 in the final best-of-5 series.
But that's not the biggest story. What's most notable about this year's MSI is who their opponent was: current North American champions Counter Logic Gaming.
Why, you ask? While the NA league has massive viewerships and successful teams have plenty of money and resources to throw around, the region is generally regarded as the weakest of the major five. Korea and Europe are usually the big power regions on the LOL scene, with the Chinese teams close at their heels. But before this year's MSI, many predicted that Counter Logic Gaming would make an early exit. They had even been dubbed the second-worst team at the event, only topped by the Turkish wildcard team SuperMassive.
CLG put all those voices to shame. They beat the other overall favourites, Chinese team Royal Never Give Up, in the semis and took games off of everyone, including SKT and Flash Wolves during the group stages. It's one of the best showings a North American team has had at an international event in ages.
Meanwhile, the European champs from G2 Esports bottomed out entirely. Apparently the team had foregone actually practicing in the build-up to the event, instead taking some vacation time after their win in the European LCS. That proved to be a fatal mistake for the team, who ended up in the second-to-last position in the group stage with an embarrassing 2-8 record.
It's a result that's even worse than it might appear at first, because this year's MSI actually had tangible stakes: results here will be used to determine the relative power levels of the different regions when the World Championship rolls around in fall, and will influence how seeding will happen. In other words, G2 Esports' failure will make the groups stages at this year's Worlds much tougher for European teams, regardless of who qualifies.
The Summer splits of the European and North American LCS leagues begin in early June.