With MSI’s Play-in Stage starting this week, we have the analysts from the Mobalytics team to give you a preview of the top champion picks to expect at the tournament. Let’s dive in!
The Play-in stages comprise of two groups of four teams (A and B):
Play-in Group A:
1907 Fenerbahçe Espor (TCL)
Phong Vũ Buffalo (VCS)
Isurus Gaming (LLA)
Play-in Group B:
DetonatioN FocusMe (LJL)
Vega Squadron (CIS)
MEGA Esports (LST)
INTZ e-Sports Club (CBLOL)
The winners of these groups will play either Team Liquid (A) or Flash Wolves (B) and battle it out for a chance to be part of the six Group Stage teams. For the purposes of this article, the following tier list will be focusing on these ten teams. If you’re looking for SKT, IG, and G2, come back for our next tier list for Group Stages!
Tier List Methodology
Our champion rankings for MSI are based on three categories: Permapicks (S), Predicted Picks (A), and Pocket Picks (B).
Permapicks (S) represent champions that will be highly contested and make an appearance in most drafts either as a pick or ban. These champions were likely popular picks from the Spring Split and playoffs for the ten teams.
Predicted Picks (A) are champions that we expect to make an appearance based on Patch 9.8’s changes and recent trends from solo queue activity. They’re predictions because they weren’t played much during the recent playoffs for these teams but may become contested during this tournament.
Pocket Picks (B) are champions that may not necessarily be “meta”, but are champions that players are known for and may use as a trump card. These picks are rare and would likely be used as surprise picks to catch opponents off-guard.
Note that we couldn’t account for champions that were played in scrims leading up to the tournament, so it is possible that we’ll miss some surprises here and there.
Will tanks finally make their return?
Riot has been consistently buffing tank champions and tank items in recent patches. The Cinderhulk changes that went live in Patch 9.8 have lead to increased strength for tanky junglers in solo queue. For MSI, don’t be surprised to see the likes of Jarvan IV, Sejuani, and Nunu making appearances. If tanks become a mainstay, it’s only natural for Trundle to be considered as a counter option, which is why we included him as a Pocket Pick.
Game speed and pace will vary if tanks become the standard, we can expect the game pace to slow down. The presence of beefy frontlines has historically resulted in longer games with teamfight and scaling compositions (Team Liquid is salivating).
That being said, our experts believe that the fast play that characterized the 2018 World Championship will still definitely have a place. Play-in stages can be especially hectic since so many regional play styles clash — teams like Vega Squadron that rely on aggression and frequent skirmishes will still likely opt for this faster pace.
Keep an eye on flex options.
As always in pro-play, having the option to flex picks across multiple roles is invaluable to the mind games of champ select. Keeping the enemy team guessing can give laners favorable matchups in situations that otherwise would have been counter picked. Many of the high priority Permapick champions like Irelia, Jayce, and Ryze are all part of this group.
Bot lane will have a little of everything.
Since the days of FNC Rekkles benching himself last year due to the rise of non-traditional marksmen at the bot carry position, it seemed that things had mostly gone back to normal for most teams around the world.
This year’s MSI Play-in Stage, however, will truly be a mixed bag for bot lane. Due to the likes of 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor, don’t be surprised to see Yasuo or mages like Cassioepia and Viktor entering the mix. And of course, don’t forget that the potent Sona/Taric combo has avoided nerfs since its debut in the pro scene.
Will we see Nautilus?
Nautilus received significant buffs recently and has risen in popularity since. By now, you’ve probably heard of the AP Nautilus Mid build that pros like Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg (RIP TSM) have been practicing in solo queue.
There’s no guarantee that we’ll see Nautilus emerge from the depths to make an appearance at MSI, but it’s definitely possible since he can be flexed across three roles (Top, Mid, Support). In bot lane, he’s a solid pick into Thresh (a counter that was used at Worlds 2018), and a good option into Sona/Taric lanes due to raw kill potential. For these reasons, we’ve ranked him as a Pocket Pick.
Following an international tournament meta and its gradual adaptations is always one of the most exciting aspects as a spectator. Be sure to check back during Group Stages to see how the entrance of SKT, IG, and G2 impact the meta with our updated list.
Let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve missed any predictions! This list was created for pro play, if you want to know the best champions for climbing, check out the Mobalytics tier list for solo queue.