Race for MSI playoffs heats up with Day 4 upsets

North America's Team Liquid did just enough to keep its hopes alive in the group stage of the Mid-Season Invitational on Monday. Riot Games

There were upsets all over Day 4 of the Mid-Season Invitational group stage on Monday, as the race for the playoffs heated up in Berlin.

The biggest shock of the day by far was the previously undefeated Flash Wolves going 0-2 on the day. While the team admittedly didn't have much to play for after having secured a playoff spot following Sunday's slate of games, it was nonetheless surprising to see a team that had ran roughshod on the competition tumble so far. A large part of the team's lackluster showing Monday boiled down to its jungler, Kim "Moojin" Moo-jin. While he is usually able to secure leads for his team by setting the pace of the game through the jungle, he routinely failed to do so in both outings on Monday. First it was giving up two Baron steals to Fnatic jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen's Olaf in the first game -- which gave Fnatic full control over the contest -- and then it was succumbing to the pressure of Royal Never Give Up jungler Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan, allowing RNG to take an early lead that it never relinquished in the 29-minute game. The playoffs may be a guarantee for this team, but the run could be cut short if it doesn't shore up some deficiencies.

While Kingzone DragonX didn't lose both games, its 1-1 showing didn't do much to inspire confidence in a team that has been underperforming thus far at MSI. It was picked apart by RNG in the opening game of the day, despite securing three early kills on RNG jungler Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu, as the Chinese representatives bounced back by out-teamfighting Kingzone in the final half of the game. Kingzone did manage to stabilize with a win against EVOS Esports in its final game but it wasn't a cakewalk. EVOS played Kingzone tight for 17 minutes before the LCK Spring champions exploded for 19 kills in the final seven minutes to take the win and eliminate the Vietnamese team.

One team that didn't disappoint one bit, however, was RNG. After going just 3-3 throughout the first three days, RNG picked up two big wins over Kingzone and Flash Wolves. Getting victories against two of the strongest teams in the world is certainly a big deal in its own right, but more than that, it was RNG's stifling presence that was even more impressive. Winning both games in 31 minutes or less, RNG was led by a scorching performance from AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao who finished with a 20/0/8 KDA (kills/deaths/assists). The playoffs are not yet a certainty for this team, but if RNG keeps playing like this, fans can surely expect a deep run from the Chinese squad.

That leaves the North American and European rivals of Team Liquid and Fnatic. Both teams started off the tournament 0-2 after the first day, but Fnatic has since been on the rise, going 3-1 over the next two days. That trend continued in its first game of Day 4 where it managed to take down Flash Wolves in a surprising upset. But then the Europeans ran into Team Liquid. After taking down EVOS in its first game of the day, Liquid had its MSI playoff lives on the line in the final game of the day against Fnatic.

All Fnatic had to do was win and it would secure a semifinal berth while simultaneously eliminating Liquid. From the outset, however, Liquid was in supreme control over every aspect of the game. Fnatic tried to buy time throughout the majority of the match, and almost turned things around with a massive teamfight win at 29 minutes, but Liquid's bottom lane was too much to handle as Liquid stave off elimination and cleaned up the 39-minute win.

Going into the final day, the only certainty is Flash Wolves advancing to the semifinals and EVOS eliminated. Everything else is up for grabs when Day 5 kicks off at 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday with Fnatic taking on Kingzone DragonX.