In what has to be the wildest group stage of any League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational to date, North America's Team Liquid was eliminated by Fnatic on Tuesday in Berlin in a last-ditch effort to advance out of groups, and Royal Never Give Up claimed the top seed heading into the bracket stage.
The stars needed to align for Team Liquid to have a chance at making it to the playoffs, and that began with a win over Flash Wolves. Jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero had a rough outing as Gragas early on after some first-level shenanigans from Flash Wolves, but he recovered, landing clutch Explosive Casks to set up AD carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's Kai'Sa to lead the team to victory. Just as he has done ever since Liquid turned around a sloppy 0-4 start, Doublelift took over the late game, dominating teamfights en route to an 11/0/4 KDA (kills/deaths/assists).
Despite the win, though, Liquid needed Fnatic to drop a game to EVOS Esports, or else miss out on a chance to play a tiebreaker game with Fnatic for the fourth seed in playoffs. Fortunately for Liquid, the Vietnamese representatives popped off against Fnatic, led by AD carry Nguyen "Slay" Ngoc Hung's Ezreal, who controlled the flow of the game from the early laning phase.
Despite the script lining up perfectly for a meme-worthy Team Liquid fourth-place run, Fnatic persevered at the end of the day. While AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson's Xayah ended with a strong 9/0/2 KDA, the real MVPs for Fnatic were jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen's Trundle and mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Winther's Taliyah. Broxah was everywhere in the early stages of the game, setting up picks with clutch Pillars of Ice while keeping Xmithie in check. All the while, Caps was having a phenomenal performance on a carry champion, picking up a 5/2/9 KDA while outroaming and outfarming Liquid mid Eugene "Pobelter" Park, who has had an exceptionally poor tournament. At the end of the day, Liquid was no match for Fnatic's aggression, as it took hold of the game early on and never let go, punching itself a ticket to Paris for the semifinals.
With the top of the standings in flux, especially as the Flash Wolves looked increasingly vulnerable as the group stage went on, one thing became increasingly clear: Royal Never Give Up might just be the most dominant team in the world. Led by superstar AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao, who took down opposing AD carries with ease, RNG cruised through the final day of group stage play en route to a 3-0 record, crushing EVOS Esports and Team Liquid before bodying Flash Wolves in a tiebreaker game for first place. Throughout the day, Uzi proved himself as the best AD carry in the world, posting a 23/2/11 KDA as RNG claimed the first seed and the right to choose its opponent in the semifinals.
On the other side of the coin, Flash Wolves might have ended on a whimper, but still managed to take a dominant win over Kingzone DragonX earlier on Tuesday. Coming into MSI as the tournament favorites, Kingzone has struggled mightily, with teams matching it head-on in terms of attacking the laning phase, seemingly stunning the Korean champions. This was the case against Flash Wolves, as the Wolves drafted a four-carry composition and rolled through Kingzone in teamfights, not letting Kingzone's teamfighting composition find space to breathe. Time will tell which version of Kingzone will move on to the playoffs -- the inconsistent version we see now, or the best team in the world that we saw dominate Korea -- but teams should still be wary going against this sleeping dragon.
Royal Never Give Up selected Fnatic as its first-round opponent, while Flash Wolves will take on Kingzone DragonX in the MSI semifinals. The semifinals begin at 4 a.m. ET Friday with RNG and Fnatic going head-to-head.