Defying tradition, MSI 2023’s new format avoids a Rumble Stage entirely. Abandoning the previous three stage tournament - Play-ins, Rumble, Bracket - viewers can now expect the Play-in Stage to be followed by immediate best of fives, which will be played in a double elimination bracket. This format is reminiscent of Worlds’ Playoffs, with a hint of CS:GO Group Stages.
The teams already here are eagerly waiting for the last three slots to be filled, each by a team currently residing in the Play-In Stage. The current favourites according to Pinnacle's LoL odds from each group are G2 Esports (15.300*) and Bilibili Gaming (7.860*), with third place being a two-way split between GAM (30.820*) and PSG Talon (30.820*).
The victors of the LEC Spring split - and Europe’s first seed - won a hard-fought set of series after needing to play a tiebreaker to even progress from the best of one stage of the tournament. Most of Europe expected Team Vitality or BDS to emerge the victor, but with one of Europe’s most sought-after talents, Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla, stepping up in the Playoffs, they became an unstoppable force in the bracket. Securing wins against G2, Vitality, and BDS is no mean feat, but they managed it.
Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer now joins an exclusive club of people who hold both LCS and LEC trophies, and will set his sights on the international stage. While my expectations for Mad Lions are measured, it’s hard not to see a world where they can make a run through to the semi-finals. However, with the firepower present on the Eastern teams, a realist can’t count on them to go much further than that.
Pinnacle values them at 28.000* to win the whole event.
JD Gaming (JDG) are my personal favourite to win the entire event. Having taken Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk from Gen.G and acquired young star Zhou “knight” Ding, JDG added to the prodigal pieces they already possessed to complete what can only be called this year’s super team. A consistent and domineering performance in the LPL earned “Ruler” his first LPL title. I would evaluate this team to be pound-for-pound the strongest by position of any at MSI.
While this MSI is about defiance, it’s important that some traditions remain intact, and as such it’s only fitting that after Royal Never Give Up won last year that we have another Chinese team as victor of MSI 2023. Given how close the top of the table was amongst the best Chinese teams in the LPL, my only fear for JDG is that Bilibili Gaming will rise from the Play-In Stage and meet them again in the semi-final. Although, with the existence of the new lower bracket, it’s difficult not to see them going all the way.
Pinnacle values them at 3.390* to win the whole event.
One of these teams is not like the others, and for many, T1 already stand out amongst the crowd. Whether that’s because of the tenure of their players - their team has remained entirely intact after their runner-up finishes at both MSI and Worlds last year, not to mention the fact that Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok still resides on the team 10 years into his professional career. However, there is another, less positive reason this team differs from its peers locked into the Bracket Stage. Due to last year’s Worlds victor being a Korean representative, the LCK has their second seed automatically qualified for the Bracket Stage, rather than an extra representative at the tournament as would have been awarded in previous years. This means that T1 come in as the only pre-allocated non-first seed.
Make no mistake though, this team is still the powerhouse it showed itself to be throughout the duration of last year’s season. However, this team also showed itself to be something else this year – ‘almost heroes’. T1 made the 2022 LCK Spring final, the 2022 MSI final, the 2022 LCK Summer final, the 2022 Worlds final, and the 2023 LCK Spring final. Of all those finals, they were only the victor in Spring of 2022. The perpetual silver-medallists are on a tour of heartbreak and disappointment, coming close but yet so far each time. Should they make the final here at MSI, will it be their third international final loss in a row? Or will they finally take it home?
Pinnacle values them at 3.710* to win the whole event.
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Since the Luka “Perkz” Perković edition of the roster in 2021 that saw them reach their first Worlds quarter-finals since 2018, Cloud9 have had a tumultuous couple of years. After “Perkz” decided to return to Europe, Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami was moved to the Mid Lane role, but has since been sent back to the Top Lane. After a Summer Split where they struggled to find an identity, it seems Cloud9 have finally settled on an incarnation of the roster which features Jang “EMENES” Min-soo, a player who was initially on trial in their academy team to ensure his temperament was that of a professional. It became clear in the LCS Spring Playoffs that “EMENES” was a cut above the majority of his peers within his role, but it seems he also now has the attitude to match. This is incredibly exciting for Cloud9 fans, as they might have a Mid Laner who will stick around.
Picking up young T1 academy AD Carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol, thanks to connections through former coach Nick “LS” De Cesare, has been more than a blessing. Former AD Carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen admirably stepped out of the role to play Support, and the duo have been unmatched within the LCS since they came together. While this didn’t necessarily meet the mark at Worlds, they’ve had more time to grow as a duo, and seemed like a worthy match for fellow LCK up-and-comer Lee “Prince” Chae-hwan. “Fudge” and Robert “Blaber” Huang have grown to become the most stable and long-standing players on this roster in their respective roles. Cloud9 now have all the pieces they need to have an impact: the best talent North America can afford, and imports that are incredibly strong players even in their domestic region. This roster should have North America’s expectations at their highest in a long time.
Pinnacle values them at 18.890* to win the whole event.
Last but certainly not least, the victors of the LCK. Kim "Peyz" Su-hwan, a rookie, completed the golden road by not only winning, but being the MVP in his first ever LCK final. Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon also seems to have recovered his form after his own T1-esque choke in the Worlds 2022 semi-finals. It’s an incredibly scary prospect when a team can lose a player such as “Ruler” and still look just as dominant coming into an international event. Of course, untested as he is, the big question mark remains around “Peyz” and whether he can maintain his incredible form in the face of international competition, and the pressures that come with it. As a first seed representative of the LCK, to not make the finals would be a disappointment.
Pinnacle values them at 3.810* to win the whole event.
*Odds are subject to change.