The League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational is down to its final leg. After two weeks of play in Germany, the line of domestic champions across the world has been whittled down to the final four. Vietnam's EVOS and North America's Team Liquid are the latest teams eliminated following a five-day group stage, and that leaves back-to-back champions South Korea, top-seeded China, tournament surprise Taiwan and the home-crowd favorite Europe still in the hunt to win the championship on Sunday in Paris.
Before the scene shifts to Paris, we must first look back and hand out some superlatives (and, well, not-so-superlatives) for all the action that went down in Berlin.
Most valuable player(s): Royal Never Give Up's Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming
It would have been really easy to ignore everyone else in the tournament thus far and give the award to Uzi. In a tournament of the best AD carries in the world, Uzi has been a level or two above the competition throughout the five-day group stage, and few would question who the greatest marksman in the world is at this point and time.
But that would be unfair to his bottom-lane partner, Ming. While not as flashy as his bottom-lane partner, Ming has been just as good. In a must-win game against Team Liquid to keep RNG's hopes for the No. 1 seed alive, Ming's Braum was the key to shutting down TL's bottom lane and guiding his team to a one-sided victory. Uzi was considered the best AD carry coming into the tournament but probably not part of the competition's strongest bottom lane. After the Germany leg of the tournament, Ming deserves his own recognition for being elite among fellow premiere supports.
Biggest disappointment: Kingzone's Kim "Khan" Dong-ha (and pretty much the rest of KZ)
Khan arrived in Berlin as the clear best top laner at the onset the Mid-Season Invitational. After a 10-game group stage, there is a case to be made that he was one of the worst top laners. For the most part, he was not good. When he was put on tanks, his play was ineffective, and even on his signature carry picks, there were games in which his positioning and teleport placement were an anchor to his team's chances of winning.
To be honest, the entire Kingzone team left a lot to be desired. This was a team expected to not only win MSI running away but also maybe drop only one or two maps throughout the entire tournament. KZ has already dropped four maps, barely has a winning record and wasn't even in the discussion for the No. 1 seed when RNG and Flash Wolves battled for that honor in a one-game tiebreaker. This was supposed to be KZ's tournament to flex its muscles and put fear into the heart of other teams on the road to the World Championship in South Korea later this year. Even if Kingzone can get things together and blast through the best-of-five stage to the championship, international squads will not be scared going up against KZ at Worlds, regardless of how dominant the club has looked in the regular season.
Biggest surprise: Flash Wolves
The only team to return to the main-event group stage from last year, Taiwan's Flash Wolves are in the spot of a lifetime. Ever since South Korea became a major region in 2012, it has never once failed to send a team to the final of a Riot-hosted major international tournament. While the Taipei Assassins and EDward Gaming have defeated South Korean teams in the finals in that time, there has never been an event in which at least one South Korean club didn't make it through to the semifinals.
That might all change when the Flash Wolves play Kingzone in the semis in Paris. "The South Korean Killers," Flash Wolves have adopted the nickname through numerous international tournaments in which they have one-upped the best teams from the world's most dominant region. Although usually SK Telecom T1 has been the team that Flash Wolves has upset, Kingzone has had nothing for the Flash Wolves in this tournament. Kingzone is 0-2 versus Taiwan's champion, and even though a best-of-five match with days of preparation should still make the South Korean representative the favorite, this is the closest it has ever come to feeling like there might be a Riot-hosted international final without a team from the LCK.
Almost six years since Taiwan's most famous team, the Taipei Assassins, defeated Azubu Frost in the 2012 World Championship final, can the Flash Wolves do the unthinkable and put an end to South Korea's reign over tournament finals?