Group stages at international tournaments are the peak of LoL to me. The highest quality? No. The most meaningful matches? No. But the promise of anything being possible for every team, the development of the tournament meta, and the diversity (in style, culture, etc) of each league showing itself internationally is as cool as esports gets in my book.
It has also created some of my most profitable gambling opportunities through two avenues: backing underdogs in early games and mispriced futures. Let’s start with the futures:
The futures for MSI are priced as if no team has any significant chance to make the finals besides DWG and RNG. When it comes to DWG, that’s probably right. Especially, with Showmaker talking about creating their own dynasty like T1 of yesteryear. But with RNG, a team with discernible weaknesses and who seemed to really thrive in the playoff meta (which has now changed), I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion. Should they still make the final a majority of the time? Yup. But in my opinion it’s more like 55% of the time and in the other 45% of the time there’s serious money to be made. So, then the question becomes: If not RNG, who and what are their odds? Here are three teams I love for the odds:
There’s not a lot new to say about C9. They have a mid-jungle duo that can seriously compete internationally and an ADC and Top laner who are big question marks. Here’s the promising part for them: this looks like a mid-jungle focused meta. With solo lane Lee, Zed, Irelia, Yone and Rumble, Kindred, and Fiddle Jungle due to make appearances in the tournament, C9 could get some pretty dominant pairings for their superstars. Of course, there is also whispers of the hyper carry adc with Karma and Lulu, but that probably favors them too because it makes it easier to hide their weaknesses. Their long odds are just too long for a team that is a near-guarantee to make it out of groups. Plus, if C9 make a run at the tournament, I don’t want to be rooting against them.
Recommended Bets: C9 to make final (+1000) 1u
PSG Talon is one of the most undervalued teams I think I’ve ever seen in LoL. They just had one of the most dominant seasons in all of International LoL, only dropping 1 game en route to their spring title in the PCS. They qualified with ease from the playin stages at Worlds. They could have made it out of their Worlds group that included JD Gaming and Damwon with a little more luck. Yet, they’re priced like any other wildcard team. The PCS is a top 5 league in the World and I personally have it on the same level as the LCS and LEC. PSG, Beyond, and Machi would all compete for the title in Europe and North America. I am pretty confident of this. But PSG looked like 2020 Damwon in their league. They played stock-standard, teamfight focused LoL and kicked everyone’s asses. They’re great at a lot of the same things that Damwon is, taking an inch and turning it into a mile. Obviously, the competition was weaker, but this is not a flukey-slow-wait-for-opponents-to-lose team or early game sinners, they are legitimately very good. It’s rare that you get to bet on a team this good at these kinds of numbers.
Recommended Bets: PSG Talon to win group B (+240) 3u, PSG Talon to make final (+2200) 1u
What I’m truly banking on with each of these bets is for the teams to make it out of the group stage and then to have a chance to hedge in a semi-final with one of them. It’s not because I believe any of them should be favored to do anything at the tournament. With that said, the Wildcats are also massively mispriced. The odds for Group B assume that Mad Lions is a pretty significant favorite to get first, just like they were a significant favorite to get out of the play-in stage at Worlds last year. Who upset them there? A Turkish team. Granted, the Mad Lions have clearly improved this year and put together a nice playoff run in the LEC, but I don’t think all their issues have disappeared. A shaky bot lane, overplaying from winning positions, and a propensity for solo deaths all showed up at some point in the Spring. It was better in their playoff run, but we could still see it come back at MSI. If that version of Mad Lions shows up, I think Turkey has sent an even stronger representative to knock them off. The gold stats for Istanbul Wildcats are even better than their record and eye test suggests. Once again, they are a team playing meta LoL and getting big gold advantages from their play, not from compositional cheese. That’s the right style to beat Mad Lions with in my opinion.
Recommended Bets: IWC to advance from Group (+300) 1u, IWC to win group (+1200) 1u, IWC to make final (+3300) 1u
On to my favorite bets for day 1:
C9 ML vs. Damwon Gaming (+300) 1u
This is really just a bet on first day variance. You know everything there is to know about Cloud9 and Damwon. Cloud9 is a pretty good North American team, Damwon is vying to be the greatest of all time. However, 25% to win in a best of 1 on a brand new meta is too good to pass for any competent team. Cloud9 is a competent team. They will not get absolutely smashed in every lane (maybe 1 or 2) and it’s possible that they come into the tournament with a better read on the meta than Damwon. Especially, with the Korean teams’ history of taking the early stages of MSI a bit lightly, this one is worth a first day variance bet.
Istanbul Wildcats ML vs. Pain Gaming (-130) 3u
I am not going to pretend to have watched every game of either of these teams, but here’s why I am pretty confident in this bet: the TCL is a much better league that CBLoL. The TCL looks fairly similar to every other pro league in the world. The CBLoL looks like a challenger level solo queue game. It can be very hard to break those kind of habits. Outside of the difference between the two leagues, the Wildcats were more statistically dominant than their opponents in their home league. Pain had a +7.9% GSPD where as the Wildcats had a +9.2% GSPD. Pain went 11-7 where the Wildcats went 14-4. Better team in a better league at near coinflip odds? Hammer spot.
PSG Talon ML vs. Mad Lions (+125) 2u
I won’t rehash the case here too much for PSG Talon. Here are the stats: Mad Lions with a 72% Win rate and +5.8% GSPD, PSG Talon with a 95% win rate and a +16% GSPD. The Mad lions are pretty heavily favored. Even if you rate the LEC as a significant cut above the PCS (I don’t), this feels heavy-handed.