The first big international tournament of 2016 kicks off early tomorrow morning (or late tonight, for you night owls). The top teams from every major region around the world (and a few from the smaller ones) all converge onto Shanghai to battle for supremacy and a better placement spot at Worlds later this year.
That means we’ve got some epic fights between top teams that we’ve never seen play against each other before. As a very rough rule, based on each region’s performance at Worlds last year, you can expect the general strength order to be: Korea > EU > China > NA >Wildcards.
DraftKings is doing 2 contests a day throughout the group stage of this tournament (Wednesday – Sunday), so make sure you enter into all of them!
Featured Image Photo Credit: LoL Esports Flickr
The Stud: Kikis vs. FW ($6400)This G2/FW game should be a fantasy buffet — and not the wimpy Sizzler kind. We’re talking Las Vegas-style eat-whatever-you-want-for-hour buffet. Both teams love to punch people in the mouth and these top laners will be right in the thick of it. Rins has more kills/game than all other top laners in his region, and Kikis fits perfectly into the current meta. It’s hard to say which team will win in this first match (since we don’t even have a similar opponent to compare them against), but my gut is going with G2 and Kikis, and you only save $400 for taking the underdog here.
The Value Pick: Darshan vs. RNG ($5900)The only top laner lower than Rins you can even think of starting is Darshan, who has stepped up big lately to hard-carry. And, despite, all the analyst’s predictions, has found a really good place in the current meta of tanks in the top lane. This is an uphill fight, for sure, but if CLG is going to upset, it’s certainly going to be through Darshan’s lane.
The Stud: Trick vs. FW ($6000)Trick is a crucial part of G2′s game plan, and should be able to hold his own against the notoriously aggressive Karsa. Mlxg is a slightly safer choice if you prefer RNG over CLG, but G2 has the potential to get a lot more kills overall, so I’m willing to take on the risk. And with his current average points (37/game), he’s a great cheap alternative in a spot where SKT’s sub strat makes it too risky to go big.
The Value Pick: Xmithie vs. RNG ($5500)CLG has been upsetting prediction throughout the entire playoff season, and they’ll need to do it again today for these cheap CLG picks to pay off for us. But Xmithie (5 KDA), along with Darshan, has really risen to the challenge lately and played beyond his expected skills. He could’ve easily been crowned as the MVP of the finals, and contained an on-fire Svenskeren. That gives me a little more confidence in his chances against the equally aggressive Xlmg today (68.5 KP).
The Stud: Faker vs. SM ($8300)It’s kind of a shame that ROX Tigers didn’t make it to MSI — at least for fantasy owners. Their kill-happy playstyle gave us endless points at Worlds, and while Faker has been producing good points with SKT (135 total kills), his quieter playstyle won’t be as lucrative for us as Kuro’s would’ve been (161 total kills).
Still, SKT should absolutely stomp all over SuperMassive, a team so inexperienced that you didn’t even know what “SM” stood for in the header. You’re definitely paying the celebrity premium on Faker’s price tag, but if you’ve got the salary to spare, he’s the safest player pick of the day.
The Value Pick: Maple vs. G2 ($6900)If you like FW’s chances against G2, this is the first position I’d take. You save a bundle going cheap in mid lane, and Maple has been racking up tons of kills (116) — even more than their ADC! Perkz plays an aggressive style that Maple should be able to match, and potentially punish if he gets ahead early.
The Stud: Bang vs. SM ($8300)He costs the exact same price as Faker, for the exact same reasons. SKT should stomp this game and, if any decent number of team fights happen before the Nexus crumbles, Bang will put plenty of notches in his rifle.
The Value Pick: NL vs. G2 ($7100)Don’t get scared by the big “0.0” average points next to NL’s name on the contest page. He’s been playing with Flash Wolves for most of their season, and has been racking up the team’s highest KDA (7.1), far above the KDA of his opponent Emperor (4.9). NL also has higher creep leads on average as he lives up to his name “Never Loses (lane)”.
I’m hoping this game gets big points for both sides, but putting your money on NL over Emperor saves you $100 and gets you better laning stats on top of it.
The Stud: Mata vs. CLG ($5500)You’re going to be tempted to buy the SKT pick here because it’s the cheapest route to get the kings of Korea on your roster list. But you gotta cool those jets, Faker fanboy — I think their support is a bad pick today. He has the second-lowest Kill Participation stats (68%) of any support in Korea.
Normally that’s no big deal with SKT because they win so often that he’ll still get plenty of points. But in a stomp like this game should be, there’s a very good chance that the total kill count will actually be quite low and that the game will end early — before Wolf can really get involved in larger teamfights. SKT could probably win this match 4v5 and, for fantasy purposes — they just might.
So, in his stead, I’d grab RNG’s Mata. His game should go longer, and they’ve still got plenty of opportunity to win.
The Value Pick: Hybrid vs. FW ($5200)This isn’t much of a discount on the value pick, but this is as low as i feel comfortable going. Hybrid is the last support I feel confident will snatch up points, regardless of the outcome of their game. SwordArt is a decent flip-side of the coin, but for $200 more, I’ll take my chances with the team expected to win. Aphromoo could step up big and do well here too, but I think he’s more likely to be passively babysitting Stixxay in his first international tournament.
The Stud: SK Telecom vs. SM ($6100)These are all best-of-1s, so there’s no bonus points for winning in fewer games than the max. But, even without that, SKT is still the safest of the safe picks today. The only danger is that they win too quickly, which should limit their upside. But this is such a stable pick that it might as well just say “Pay $6100 to get 20 points.”
The Value Pick: Counter Logic Gaming vs. RNG ($4100)CLG is one of those coveted fantasy squads that score decent team points every game, even if they lose. They push hard on side lanes and make sure they methodically demolish every objective on the map.
That makes them a very safe value pick, and if you’re gambling on any of their players in your roster, you simply have to take this too and put the extra $2000 to use somewhere more important.
The closest Josh Augustine got to going pro in esports was beating his older brother at Street Fighter. He currently works as a game designer at Daybreak Games. He’d love to talk with you on Twitter.