Photo: Riot Games

After a couple of days filled with exquisite League of Legends, we have finally reached the Knockout Stage. This is, by all means, the best and most entertaining moment of the tournament. While Best of 1s do bring out the volatility out of all competing teams, nothing beats a good ol’ Best of 5. This is the moment when all the best League of Legends tends to happen. The exceptional one-sided shellackings, the brutal and exhausting five-game wars, as well as the exciting reverse sweeps.

When two teams of seemingly equal strength collide, the viewers tend to win out the most. We get to watch two titans clash; two giants of incredible force and talent. They go back-and-forth and absolute chaos tends to ensue. This time around, we’re not exactly getting the two best teams in the world, but we’re getting the next best thing — a fight between the defending World Champions and a team that’s brimming with potential: the North American champions.

Now, if you’ve been following both regions over the last couple of months, you’re probably aware of the fact that Team Liquid basically don’t stand a chance. That’s not exactly a scientific prediction, but it is one that’s made out of common sense. It is grounded in reality and based on empirical evidence. Everything that we’ve seen so far, everything that has transpired over the course of the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, leads us to believe (with good reason) that Invictus Gaming are the heavy favorites coming into this Knockout Stage Best of 5.

Perhaps that’s even an understatement. They’re the Goliath in this scenario, but they plan on rewriting the biblical story.

Invictus Gaming is, for a lack of a better word, an absolute titan. They’re the best team in the world, and their last games gave us an even deeper insight into their innate strengths and weaknesses.

We’ve seen an aggressive, highly cohesive, unrelenting Invictus Gaming. A team that is basically without equal in the current meta. We’ve seen their split-second decision-making as well as immense talent across the board. They’re exceptional in every regard. We’ve also seen the playful Invictus Gaming — a team that’s willing to ignore good reason and just fight willy-nilly regardless of the opponent. They’re a League of Legends giant, but even giants want to have fun sometimes.

These moments shouldn’t be deemed as a “weakness”, but rather just another layer that makes them who they are. They can experiment to their heart’s content and still turn things around the clutch out the game.

They have multiple playstyles and they’re dominant and exceptional regardless of the path they opt for.

Their only recent blemish was a rather one-sided loss to SKT T1 in the last game of the Group Stage. That is the aspect that makes predicting their full strength a rather complicated endeavor.

Then again, they’re not going up against SKT T1. At least not tomorrow. Instead, they have a team that’s far less capable and layered.

The North American champions are a great team — there’s no way around it. They have two World Champions within their starting line-up, and some of the best and most talented players that the region has to offer.

And yet they are nowhere near as flexible or as capable as most of their peers. They’re, in fact, rather one-dimensional, and their avenues towards success are also fairly limited. They can all chime in a carry a bit of the weight, but when push comes to shove, they always rely on Doublelift to do the hard carrying. And that’s perfectly fine overall — he is a spectacular clutch AD carry after all. But against team that are as capable and as flexible as Invictus Gaming, SKT T1, and G2 Esports, that’s just not enough. They need to diversify their arsenal, and even if they are working on their biggest flaw they definitely don’t have enough time in order to challenge a team of Invictus’ caliber.

Anything they might come up with, Invictus will definitely have an answer. There’s a very palpable limit to how crazy and creative Liquid can be. They never shocked anyone with their flexibility — they focus on what they did best, perfected those singular aspects of play, and always played to their strengths. That was more than enough on home soil (they’ve just stringed three championships after all), but when it comes to the international stage, that’s just inadequate.

They did, however, start improving as the tournament went on, so they could, in theory, be able to trade blows with the LPL champions, but once the dust settles they shouldn’t be capable of doing much against Invictus. They simply don’t have the right tools in order to win. Not yet, at least.

We’re going with the LPL titans on this one. How could we not, after all that they’ve done and the immense skill which they’ve displayed? While they should be able to get the win, Liquid could, in theory, be able to make things somewhat competitive. Obviously that’s a bit of a stretch, but it could happen. Either way, this could be a Best of 5 for the ages.

Winner: Invictus Gaming, 1.01 (odds @ Betway)