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The 2019 Mid-Season Invitational has reached its second stage. Four teams enter the Play-in knockouts and by Tuesday, May 7, one will be gone. The other three will advance to the Main Event, where G2 Esports, SK Telecom, and Invictus Gaming await.

Here’s how the Play-in knockout brackets looks like and how we expect it to develop.

Image by: Liquipedia

Team Liquid vs. Phong Vu Buffalo

Phong Vu Buffalo’s performance during the group stage was admirable: there’s no arguing against it. The home-turf heroes had to survive a tiebreaker to win their group but their individual performances have been on a towering level so far. Hoàng “Meliodas” Tiến Nhật stands as jungler we’ve seen in MSI thus far and PVB also boast solid top and mid lane talents in Phạm “Zeros” Minh Lộc and Võ “Naul” Thành Luân, respectively. In spite of a somewhat quiet bot lane, the VCS champions have proven they’re MSI-ready…

…just not ready enough to beat Team Liquid. The defending, three-peat LCS champions have the edge on every single lane. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in are likely to wipe the floor down bot, which will enable Jake “Xmithie” Puchero to focus on snowballing mid and top where most of PVB’s power lies. While he stood his ground well against FB’s Ruin, Zeros might find Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong a tougher bite to swallow.

Team Liquid also come into the series with much more (and more valuable) best-of-5 experience. TL had to come back from a 0-2 deficit against Team SoloMid to defend their title, showing they know how to navigate and win a long series when pushed against the ropes.

In a hypothetical best-of-1, PVB’s underdog magic could be enough to cause an upset, but in a marathon series, the likeliness of that happening approaches zero. Even with NA’s international curse, the region has never missed an MSI group stage and there’s no sign Team Liquid will be the first to flop so early.

Prediction: Team Liquid 3-0 Phong Vu Buffalo

Flash Wolves vs. Vega Squadron

On paper, this one should be easy to call. After all, LCL is one of the weaker regions in League of Legends, while LMS has long been the gatekeeper to aspiring teams at international events. In reality, however, the series could be closer than expected.

Flash Wolves might be synonymous with the LMS as the most domestically dominant team in League of Legends, but their current iteration is no longer the FW we know and which made three consecutive MSI top 4’s. Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hu SwordArT Shuo-Chieh — the two players who basically were Flash Wolves — have moved to China. Kim “Moojin” Moo-jin has returned to Korea to join Hanwha Life. Yu “MMD” Li-Hong and Chen “Morning” Kuan-Ting are no longer actively playing.

Today, the current Flash Wolves play with a rookie jungler and an on-loan mid laner. They are a far cry from the best FW days, even if they still hold the reigns of the declining LMS.

At the same time, there aren’t many good things to say about Vega Squadron either. Vega finished only third in the LCL regular season before they rallied for a deep playoffs run. They dominated their group at MSI, yes, but it was a weak one, vastly inferior to PVB, 1907 1907 Fenerbahçe’s, and Bomber’s Group A.

This could be a close match not because the teams are that good, but because neither makes a strong case for being the favorite. Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang is the Wolves’ best player at the moment but even then, Vladislav “BOSS” Fomin is a formidable opponent.

That said, Flash Wolves still have a bot and top lane who know what it is to go far in such tournaments, while this will be Vega’s first international best-of-5 of that caliber.

Prediction: Flash Wolves 3-1 Vega Squadron

Decider match: Vega Squadron vs. Phong Vu Buffalo

If the knockout stage reaches this decider match, odds should be with PVB based on everything we’ve seen from them so far. Vega’s have mostly been playing through BOSS and Lev “Nomanz” Yakshin and it is these lanes that PVB have to figure out. Fortunately for them, Meliodas has had excellent map awareness all tournament, helping his solo lanes snowball hard, and has shown better overall performance than Kirill “AHaHaCiK” Skvortsov, even in the context of Vega’s easier group.

When they come into this best-of-5, Vega will have to get used to the fact that PVB are nothing like the teams they’ve faced so far. They won’t just sit, watch, and surrender objectives for free like MEGA did. They won’t allow top, mid, and jungle to go on a cumulative 12/0/27 score in 25 minutes, like DFM did. PVB will go on that stage, riding the crowd’s roars and it’s unlikely that Vega can withstand it.

Prediction: Phong Vu Buffalo 3-2 Vega Squadron

Final MSI Main Event line-up:

— SK Telecom T1
— Invictus Gaming
— G2 Esports
— Team Liquid
— Flash Wolves
— Phong Vu Buffalo

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