Throughout the first three days of the MSI Play-in Stage, no team has looked quite as dominant as BAUSuperMassive. However, if anyone is going to challenge the Turkish powerhouse, it’s the Dire Wolves of Oceania, who, despite entering the tournament as massive underdogs, have proved to be contenders in an otherwise difficult group.
Although SuperMassive stands tall and unflinching heading into the final day of the group stage with a perfect record of 3-0, Dire Wolves was the only team to challenge the TCL champions on Friday. While KaBum Esports and Pentagram both lost to SuperMassive by at least 18,000 gold, Dire Wolves held the matchup close throughout the majority of the game, as the Wolves even held the lead as late as 26 minutes into the game.
It wasn’t until the final 5 minutes when SuperMassive was able to snowball the game out of Dire Wolves’ control after finding catches onto Ryan “Chippys” Short and Shern “Shernfire” Cherng Tai, allowing them to secure Baron Nashor and eventually the Wolves’ nexus as a result.
On Sunday, pacing will be the key for both teams. SuperMassive was able to quickly clean up Friday’s match mainly due to the fact that although the team was trading kills and objectives throughout the course of the game, a quick Baron secure and well-fought team-fight effectively ended a half-hour long stalemate in under 5 minutes. Despite an explosion of advantages at the end of the game, SuperMassive kept pace with Dire Wolves for the larger part of 30 minutes. Both teams proved to be able to steal advantages as well as hold their ground during their first meeting on Friday, and if their previous contest proved anything, it’s that both rosters know exactly how to hold the gold in place and chip away at the map, one piece at a time.
With another matchup slated for Sunday, both SuperMassive and Dire Wolves will have to look for advantages early in the game, as the team with the gold lead at 15 minutes so far in Group B has won all 6 contests. This time around, the victor will be decided by the team that “sets the pace” of the game. Oftentimes in League of Legends, you’ll have one team deciding the flow of the game, and the other team playing defense, trying to find advantages wherever they can.
With Dire Wolves and SuperMassive, both teams have excelled at MSI when it comes to setting the pace of their games. Both teams were able to take advantage of KaBum and Pentagram, but when faced off against each other, the Wolves and SuperMassive struggled to snowball; a true sign of an even matchup. Whichever team can play to their strengths and find an early lead will most likely end up winning the game outright.
For SuperMassive, that strength is Lee “GBM” Chang-seok. GBM has proven to be one of the strongest mid laners at this year’s Play-in Stage, as his 8.5 KDA is the 5th highest in the entire tournament through three days of play. With All-Star caliber performances on Cassiopeia, Ryze, and Vladimir on Friday, GBM rekindled the fire that made him one of the most talked-about mid laners in Korea at one point. If he can keep up that level of play on Sunday, specifically against Dire Wolves, SuperMassive should have no trouble advancing to the Knockout Stage.
For Dire Wolves, they’ll need a little bit of magic from an unlikely hero. Support player Andy “Cupcake” van der Vyver will need to step up and take the Wolves under his wing if the team is going to have a chance against the group favorites. Cupcake posted a modest 3.8 KDA across three games on Friday, but highlighted his day with a stellar 0/1/9 performance on Rakan, a champion that has quickly become a favorite of his. And now that his Alistar sits at a 90% win-rate over the course of 2018 after a win over KaBum, Cupcake has firmly established himself as a key playmaker for this Dire Wolves squad. If he’s able to get his hands on a lethal playmaker like Alistar or Rakan, he could easily put the rest of the team on his shoulders, carrying them to an incredibly meaningful victory.
Although SuperMassive might enter Sunday’s matchup as the on-paper favorite, it would be foolish to rule out the Wolves, as their roster has clearly proven its talent is applicable on the international stage. If Dire Wolves are able to find weaknesses in SuperMassive’s game-plan, it’s possible that we could see a deadlock tie at the end of Day 4. However, it’s important to note that both of these teams have some pretty massive strengths in addition to their exploitable weaknesses. Whichever team is able to play to their strengths and establish their dominance early and often should have no trouble bringing home the top spot in Group B.
Photo Credit: Lolesports, Dire Wolves, BAUSuperMassive