League of Legends MSI on Patch 9.8: Winners and Losers
The field is set and teams will be playing on Patch 9.8 at League of Legends’ 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. We’ve detailed the changes in Patch 9.8 and how they will affect the meta, but each patch also benefits and hurts certain players. Here are our MSI field winners and losers from Patch 9.8.
SK Telecom T1’s top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha is a big winner based on Fiora’s buffs in Patch 9.8. Fiora was rewarded with a longer slow/stun duration and more damage on her W, Riposte, as well as a lower mana cost on her E, Bladework. Coupled with the buffs to the champions she counters such as Camille and tanks Gnar, Ornn and Singed, Fiora is in a great spot for MSI.
That’s good news for Khan and SKT. He was the only player to use Fiora consistently in 2019, going 5-0 with her in the LCK Spring Split. Fiora was his third most played champion in the Spring while the rest of the big five region top laners combined to play one game on her, courtesy of Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok. SKT likes to put Khan almost exclusively on carries, and the Fiora buffs will help them do just that at MSI.
Invictus Gaming’s top laner TheShy is the best top in the world right now and has to be in the conversation for best overall player as well. However, it’s hard to see how he personally benefits from Patch 9.8. TheShy has more of a champion ocean than a champion pool, but his adaptation will be tested at MSI.
In the LPL Spring Playoffs, TheShy and iG leaned on early picking and flexing Ryze between their solo lanes. That often left Ryze to TheShy, while Song “Rookie” Eui-jin got his choice of counter picks for mid lane. That strategy will be tougher to justify with the buffs to champions like Ornn and Gnar that have great gank set-up, not to mention the dueling threat from Fiora.
TheShy can play tanks, but it is definitely a win for every other team if that’s the direction he and iG are forced to go in the tournament. Fiora seems right up his alley, but it remains to be seen how effective he can be on her. TheShy went 1-0 on Fiora in the 2019 Spring Split, but remember he was 0-2 on her at Worlds 2018 — the only two games iG lost in the entire tournament when TheShy played.
TheShy also played a lot of Vladimir, and while he remains untouched and a great option against tanks, it becomes easier for teams to justify spending that ban on him to force TheShy in a different direction. TheShy will have his response to the changes ready, but Riot didn’t make things easy on him in Patch 9.8.
Most of the changes in Patch 9.8 revolved around top lane, so we roll on to our third top laner affected. Team Liquid’s Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has never been known for his carry picks, so he and TL have to be thrilled with the buffs to tanks. Impact is at his best when he’s playing lane not to win, but to survive and group with his team to be a main form of engage.
In that sense, the Ornn buffs should be exciting enough, but the biggest change to benefit Impact came to Gnar’s ultimate. R-GNAR! had its cooldown drastically decreased — from 120/100/80 seconds to 90/60/30 seconds — meaning his ultimate is up almost a minute faster at level 16 this patch. That’s insane. Gnar will now be able to ult at 16 as fast as he can re-charge his Rage bar.
Gnar is a great champion at surviving tough lanes, bullying weak lanes, and grouping with his team later in the game. There isn’t a lot of flashy play to his game — perfect for Impact. That is also borne out in his stats on Gnar. Impact is 25-16 on Gnar in his career, good for a 61% win rate on his second most played champion.
LOSER: FANS OF MID LANE ACTION
This will be one of the most memorable MSIs of all-time. Nothing this patch did can stop that. G2 Esports, SK Telecom T1 and Invictus Gaming all look like juggernauts, while Team Liquid continue to dominate North America domestically. There are star matchups everywhere you look, especially in mid lane. Rookie, Caps, Faker and Jensen might be the strongest mid lane pool at MSI in its history.
But instead of getting rewarded with buffs to the more exciting duelists mid lane, fans saw nerfs to an already very situation dependent Zed. One of the most exciting mid lane champions in the game at the highest level saw nerfs to his damage on Q, Razor Shuriken, and cooldown to W, Living Shadow. These nerfs almost certainly remove him from consideration of play — a shame for anyone who hopes to see the tense matchups he provides in mid lane.
Buffs to Cassiopeia don’t point toward exciting action in the mid lane either. There once was a time when Cassiopeia was an aggressive champion in lane that threatened all-ins as early as level 2, but that was before her re-work. Now she’s used to passively clear waves and scale up to be a late game team fight monster. Sure she can pop off and carry a game by herself later, but don’t expect her to be outplaying anyone for a solo kill in lane.
Top lane meta will be the early focus at MSI. Have the tanks gotten enough love for players to eschew the mage and poke champions dominating at the end of the Spring split? Follow the action at https://www.twitch.tv/riotgames as MSI kicks off on Wednesday, May 1 at GG Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.