I’m going to be taking a different approach to writing on this tournament that’s more in line with how I’m betting it than a daily article. For the Group Stage I’ll be giving out my opening positions and cases for each matchup all in one place (here). From there I’ll be doing my usual daily recaps and any thoughts and adjustments to my positions like the articles you’ve come to expect from me but they’ll have a much lighter reading because you’ll already have the context of my opening positions and thoughts.
Another thing you’ll notice that’s different is a much lighter touch on the quantitative analysis for a few reasons. Comparing data across leagues can be useful but not as much as it is in within the context of that league itself. A team with an 1850 raw gold per minute against very weak competition isn’t as impressive as a team with an 1850 kill agnostic gold per minute against stronger competition is more of an indicator.
Simply put, international competition, specifically shorter form tournaments tend to be more art than science.
That’s not to say that we won’t dive into some of the applicable data we do have but there’s a lot less time for the numbers to play out in a tournament like this. Stylistic and individual matchups are also much more important on a game-to-game basis when you have the wide variety of competition you have at these events. You have to be quick to adjust in short form tournaments. Sometimes a team is just in strong or poor form and it’s critical to identify that. The challenge is balancing your pre-tournament read with what you’re actually seeing and not over-adjusting. International tournaments can reward you for sticking to your guns or they can absolutely crucify you.
For those that haven’t read my Mid-Season Invitational Preview and Futures I’d recommend doing so. I introduce every team, the players, how they got here, what type of team they are, as well as a full tier list ranking to provide context to my betting positions.
A Few Miscellaneous Notes
Keep in mind, this is on Patch 11.9 (Viego and Gwen disabled) which is three patches (four for NA) away from where these teams were playing a couple of weeks ago during playoffs. The game will look a lot different. You never know when a team just has a bad read on a patch or poor idea of what to do or even if the scrim meta is wildly different so keep that in mind, particularly in the opening days before the tournament metagame really settles in.
Underdogs tend to do well in the opening days because it’s the most prepared they’ll be for the entire tournament and gives them a chance to prepare some unique and creative strategies. They’re also good spots to take later on in groups when teams have clinched and you can get them at inflated prices.
Previous iterations of MSI had a higher average combined kills per game by a little more than a kill per game than the average of the major regions competing. This is partially due to teams like the VCS representative and Brazilian representatives being EXTREMELY bloody but it’s worth noting that the combination of “getting to know” or “feeling out” new competition and a new patch in a new setting tends to make the games a little less clear cut and clean than we see when these teams are dialed into form in their respective regular seasons. Expect slightly higher kill totals but this isn’t a situation where it’s auto overs. The results tend to be very polarized on one end of the spectrum or the other frequently avoiding the average by a lot. I’d consider median projections over mean.
I’ll be taking a lighter approach to totals in this tournament until a get a feel for how these teams have read this patch. If that means I miss out on value and it sails by the time I’m comfortable with it then so be it but it’s difficult to tell if teams will have the same ideas I do going into this tournament. In fact it’s likely that they won’t. Light touch on props.
Group A Matchups
*Reminder: Group A will be QUADRUPLE Round Robin because there is no fourth team.
Pentanet.GG vs Royal Never Give Up
We talked a lot about this on The Gold Card Podcast this week but RNG are priced in a prohibitively expensive manner in this tournament. The LPL deservingly gets a lot of respect in the betting markets but RNG are being priced as if they utterly steamrolled the entire league and as we mentioned on the show I’m not even sure they’re the best team in the LPL. Keep in mind that I say that as someone that profited from a futures position on them to win the league before the season.
Pentanet are Oceania’s representative from the new LCO which took over the defunct Oceanic Pro League (OPL). This team is quite good but with a lot of the talented players from the league being poached it’s difficult to really tell how strong they are relative to the other leagues. Oceania has represented well at international competition and has developed a lot of talented players in the past few years but a lot of people are questioning whether or not the dilution of talent is a big enough knock on Pentanet.
Simply put, I don’t think it has as big an impact as the masses seem to think. I mentioned it in my writeup but Pentanet did exactly what we expect a good team from a small league to do, completely demolish everyone. Even if you think the competition is weaker all they can do is smash their league and that’s what they did. In fact they were much more convincing than almost every other smaller region team besides Talon in this tournament. That said, they did have a little more trouble against the other strong teams in the playoffs compared to their regular season. Still, I think Pentanet are probably the “best of the rest” (6th best team in this tournament) or at least in that tier.
Pentanet are a fundamentally sound team that are going to be capable of beating a higher class team, particularly if they clown around . That said, asking them to compete with RNG who are in a completely different weight class is a tall ask especially because Pentanet are NOT a team that jumps out to early leads on people.. I think a small moneyline position is worth it simply because of the price point here especially the Day One/Final Day matchups. Underdogs will be more prepared or have special strategies for day one more than any other day and the final day argument is an “already clinched/limit testing” vs “must win” or even a meaningless game narrative. You never know how a team is going to react to a major patch change.
Even better than that I like the kill spreads. RNG were 13-15 against the kill spread as favorites this season with an average spread of 6.6 kills. They were also just 7-5 against the map spread. RNG tend to win through macro more than individual outplays and skirmishing and frequently dug themselves in holes and had to pull themselves out of it with some creative map play later in the game. You can get +11.5 on Pentanet kill spreads and that’s my favorite position here.
There’s a case for the over 29:00 at +103 for the first match. Overly conservative first map argument etc. I’m just going to wait and see like with most of the totals in this tournament like I mentioned in the intro.
Kill Spread: Pentanet +11.5 kills @ -112 (1.12 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +849 (0.25 units)
Kill Spread: Pentanet +11.5 kills @ -119 (1.19 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +884 (0.25 units)
Kill Spread: Pentanet +11.5 kills @ -112 (1.12 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +973 (0.25 units)
*Kill Spread: Pentanet +11.5 kills @ -112 (1.12 units) *Moneyline: Pentanet +973 (0.25 units)
* this is on the same day as Match 3, no lines up yet, will take same position
** never posted
Unicorns of Love vs Royal Never Give Up
The Unicorns of Love were sort of like G2 in Europe during Spring 2020. Rough regular season but it was one of those “nobody really thought they weren’t the best team” situations. They tried a new ADC that wasn’t a native Russian speaking player in Frappii and it wasn’t quite as clean, once they switched back to former Gambit ADC Lodik things were a lot cleaner. That said, Unicorns of Love are getting a lot of credit for previous performances and perhaps more importantly, the benefit of the doubt for the LCL as a whole performing well at international competitions. That certainly wasn’t the case at Worlds this past season where many had crowned them arguably the “best LCL representative ever” and they got completely decimated individually. I’m not giving nearly as much benefit of the doubt to them this time around BUT they still get some degree of credit from me. The LCL is a stronger league than most of the smaller ones around the world but that’s not necessarily an indication that they will perform significantly better than some of the other small region teams in any way.
UOL are much less “wild” than their previous iteration and for that reason I like them considerably less as a “punch up” underdog than the 2020 or even 2019 versions. Still, the top trio are aggressive and confident and I could see them flipping heads a few times in a row to get off to a strong start against a team like RNG. We’re getting a significantly worse price with them than a team I rate similarly in Pentanet but I still like the underdog kill spread/moneyline angle here mostly because of RNG than these teams in particular.
Kill Spread: Unicorns +10.5 kills @ -116 (1.16 units)
Moneyline: Unicorns +566 (0.25 units)
Kill Spread: Unicorns +11.5 kills @ -122 (1.22 units)
Moneyline: Unicorns +549 (0.25 units)
Kill Spread: Unicorns +10.5 kills @ -114 (1.14 units)
Moneyline: Unicorns +600 (0.25 units)
Kill Spread: Unicorns +10.5 kills @ -114 (1.14 units)
Moneyline: Unicorns +600 (0.25 units)
Unicorns of Love vs Pentanet.GG
This is obviously the more interesting matchup and as you can probably anticipate I’ll be all over Pentanet here. I rate these two teams very similarly and actually prefer Pentanet’s film overall but I’m willing to concede a strength of competition argument and respect that enough to say this is close enough to even. However, it’s not being priced that way AT ALL. The betting markets have Pentanet as the worst team in the tournament and I simply don’t think that’s the case in fact I think it’s a full tier off so we’re getting great prices on them across the board.
This is a position I’m willing to be convinced off of rather quickly and if it turns out I don’t like what I see in the opening days I’ll probably cut my losses on the way out in some form or another but for the time being give me the disrespected dogs here.
Kill Spread: Pentanet +8.5 kills @ -130 (1.3 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +204 (0.5 units)
Kill Spread: Pentanet +8.5 kills @ -135 (1.35 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +202 (0.5 units)
Kill Spread: Pentanet +7.5 kills @ -125 (1.25 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +178 (0.5 units)
Kill Spread: Pentanet +7.5 kills @ -120 (1.2 units)
Moneyline: Pentanet +190 (0.5 units)
Group B Matchups
Istanbul Wildcats vs MAD Lions
The Wildcats have a few debutant players to pair with HolyPhoenix and Farfetch experience on the international stage. I went into more detail in my preview article but the TCL is less concentrated at the top than it used to be which means a few things. First, overall the league is stronger, but the elite “tests” aren’t packing quite the concentrated punch that they have in previous years with teams like Dark Passage, SuperMassive, and Fenerbahce. Istanbul Wildcats were tested along the way but you typically want to see a more dominant team emerging from these smaller leagues so I think there’s a chance they don’t show quite as well. as their predecessors.
The trick to this is just how much better the MAD Lions are. This is a different team than the youngsters that struggled at Worlds 2020. They had VERY LITTLE on-stage time and LAN experience in general going into that tournament and had to travel halfway around the world to face stiff competition. They also have a new top duo. This isn’t Armut’s first rodeo, in fact there’s a bit of a TCL/Armut revenge angle potentially at work here.
MAD Lions showed a ridiculously high level of play during playoffs. It was honestly impressive but the fact of the matter is this team is streaky. During the middle of the season the bottom lane looked legitimately bad (or checked out, however you want to interpret coin flipping level two every game). I’m not saying the same result will happen but any time you have a team run as red hot as MAD did during playoffs you have to ask questions (think Suning from Worlds). It’s not a knock on them as I think their ceiling performances have then capable of beating anyone in this tournament I’m just not sure how reliably they can hit that level and there’s a chance that with a few weeks to “cool off” from the heater they were on that they’ll look more mortal.
The MAD Lions are being priced as fairly heavy favorites here and I think there’s a chance that this is simply too heavy handed for a best-of-one situation, especially in the first match as I’ve mentioned a few times with underdogs. Another light underdog position. I think this is just a little too big a price for MAD to be laying in an opening best-of-one.
Kill Spread: Istanbul +8.5 kills @ -105 (1.05 units)
Moneyline: Istanbul +265 (0.5 units)
Kill Spread: Istanbul +8.5 kills @ -110 (1.1 units)
Moneyline: Istanbul +305 (0.5 units)
Istanbul Wildcats vs PSG Talon
If it wasn’t painfully obvious from my MSI Preview article and on The Gold Card Podcast this week I’m all over PSG Talon every which way in this tournament. They’re simply being disrespected and were so even before the substitution which isn’t going to make as big a deal as people are making it out to. I’d suggest reading that article for more detail.
Talon are one of the few favorites I’m backing in the opening salvo of picks. I think they’re a full tier above Istanbul and might just be the third best team in this tournament. They dominated their league which is significantly more competitive and of higher overall quality than any of the other smaller region leagues around the world. The prices we’re getting on them are criminal and going to look stupid after the first few games.
Moneyline: PSG Talon -278 (2.78 units)
Moneyline: PSG Talon -303 (3.03 units)
Parlay: Both ML @ -124 (1.24 units)
Istanbul Wildcats vs paiN Gaming
Again I’d refer you to the preview article but I just don’t have a lot of faith in Brazil’s loosey-goosey stylings. The league isn’t what it used to be and while it’s tremendously entertaining as a product, the overall quality of the play has deteriorated since the “glory days” of Kabum pulling upsets. Brazil isn’t the “suprisingly strong” underdog region it used to be but people cling to that narrative and what they know from previous years and it’s just not the case anymore. Don’t be fooled by metrics from the CBLOL which are massively inflated by ridiculous kill totals in most games.
paiN are a wild enough team that they could just catch teams off guard but I’m willing to bet against that. IWC play in a tougher league against better competition and I have them a full tier above paiN in overall quality of competition and play.
Moneyline: Istanbul -135 (2.7 units)
Moneyline: Istanbul -114 (2.28 units)
MAD Lions vs paiN Gaming
The prices on these series indicate that the books seem to think Pain are similarly rated to the Wildcats and I think that’s a bit nuts to me. MAD Lions are one of the favorites I’m willing to lay chalk with in this situation. Even if they’re far from their playoff level I think MAD haven’t faced a team as bad as paiN this entire calendar year, in fact you could make a case that the EU Masters teams are stronger.
Parlay: Both MAD ML @ -187 (3.74 units)
MAD Lions vs PSG Talon
I think Talon are a better team than the MAD Lions and perhaps more importantly I think their “average” game is better than the majority of MAD’s games. I think MAD might be better when they’re in their best form but even if you knock this to a coin flip it’s just a back the dog situation.
Moneyline: PSG Talon +132 (2 units)
Moneyline: PSG Talon +108 (2 units)
Parlay: Both Talon ML @ +383 (1 unit)
PSG Talon vs paiN Gaming
This is maybe my favorite position of the tournament and is perhaps the most obvious confluence of overrated and underrated in the entire group stage.
Parlay: Both Talon ML @ -118 (3.54 units)
Group C Matchups
Cloud 9 vs Detonation FocusMe
Have you read the preview article yet?
In short I think DFM, Infinity, and paiN are the bottom tier in this tournament and while I love the opportunity to fade a public favorite like Cloud 9 who are frequently overpriced, I think your best bet here is to just lay the chalk. DFM are a little looser than previous LJL representatives and even iterations of this specific team but I actually think that’s worse for them in this kind of situation. I have a hard time not seeing Perkz and Blaber just 2v5 steamroll this team with the way they opt into sketchy situations now. DFM play and draft like they’ll win every lane and that’s simply not going to be the case here. I have my doubts about Cloud 9 but don’t get cute here DFM aren’t as good as previous iterations of this team and I’m avoiding them.
Parlay: Both ML Cloud 9 -221 (2.21 units)
Cloud 9 vs DAMWON Kia Gaming
I know a lot of my colleagues are higher on this Cloud 9 team than I am and I can see why they feel that way but I just want you to take a second and think about this. Just a second. Is this really that great of a price? +285 is an implied 26%. To me that’s about right and I think people just WANT to see an upset on day one. That said, on day one is when it would happen. This is the very first game of the entire tournament and if Cloud 9 have something spicy cooked up it could catch the tournament favorites off guard. Just think about the outer lane matchups and the fact that ShowMaker and Canyon are going to be a very difficult duo to run over for Perkz and Blaber. When those two don’t steamroll games, Cloud 9 loses. Keep that in mind.
Cloud 9 vs Gillette Infinity Esports
Cloud 9 and DAMWON got really easy group draws. I think Cloud 9 are more easily exposed than any of the other top five teams in this tournament but I’m not sure Infinity are the team to take advantage of that. This is an underdog or pass situation. I’ll be passing.
Detonation FocusMe vs DAMWON Kia Gaming
We’re getting some absolutely ridiculous numbers here but you won’t find me fading DAMWON. These teams are quite literally three tiers below the world-class level DAMWON are. I know people will point to the Fredit Brion loss and what not but that team would smash DFM so…
I could see the case for playing kill spreads on DFM since DAMWON were an absolutely terrible against the kill spread team this season but the LCK has a harder to earn win on average in my opinion. Teams damage control well enough that it’s more difficult to completely smash teams in that league than anywhere else in the world. There’s a good chance this is just a 15-0 shutout or something like that. I’ll just steer clear of the freight train.
Detonation FocusMe vs Gillette Infinity Esports
This is weirdly one of the most polarizing matchups of the entire group stage. Some people are really convinced about DFM, some like the experienced veterans of Gillette. To me this is a coin flip so just take the underdog. If it was DFM I’d be taking them.
Moneyline: Infinity +113 (1 unit)
Moneyline: Infinity +115 (1 unit)
DAMWON Kia Gaming vs Gillette Infinity Esports
Same deal as DWG vs DFM. Could see the case for kill spreads but I’m getting out of DAMWON’s way here.
Mid-Season Invitational 2021
Group Stage – Day One
DAMWON Kia Gaming -435 vs Cloud 9 +291
Kill Total: 25.5 (over -111 / under -122)
Kill Spread: -9.5 @ -111 / +9.5 @ -120
Team Kill Totals: 16.5 / 7.5
Time Total: 32:00 (over -110 / under -123), 31:00 (over -130 / under -104)
Gillette Infinity Esports +113 vs Detonation FocusMe -152
Kill Total: 24.5 (over -114 / under -119)
Kill Spread: +3.5 @ -118 / -3.5 @ -115
Team Kill Totals: 11.5 / 13.5
Time Total: 34:00 (over +146 / under -200)
Royal Never Give Up -2500 vs Pentanet.GG +849
Kill Total: 25.5 (over -122 / under -105)
Kill Spread: +13.5 @ -120 / -13.5 @ -109
Team Kill Totals: 6.5 / 19.5
Time Total: 29:00 (over +178 / under -238)
Pentanet.GG +204 vs Unicorns of Love -286
Kill Total: 27.5 (over -119 / under -114)
Kill Spread: +8.5 @ -130 / -8.5 @ -104
Team Kill Totals: 10.5 / 16.5
Time Total: 33:00 (over +105 / under -143)
Istanbul Wildcats -135 vs paiN Gaming +102
Kill Total: 26.5 (over -114 / under -119)
Kill Spread: -2.5 @ -114 / +2.5 @ -118
Team Kill Totals: 14.5 / 11.5
Time Total: 34:00 (over +132 / under -182)
MAD Lions -179 vs PSG Talon +132
Kill Total: 27.5 (over -112 / under -120)
Kill Spread: -6.5 @ -118 / +6.5 @ -115
Team Kill Totals: 15.5 / 10.5
Time Total: 34:00 (over +135 / under -185)
I believe in accountability. For years I’ve tracked all of my picks publicly. 2021’s selections will be via this spreadsheet but it isn’t updated until AFTER the games have started. The Esports Department subscribers get the first look.
Check out The Gold Card Podcast and can find me on Twitter @GelatiLOL
(all lines from Nitrogen unless noted otherwise)