The Flash Wolves have been tearing up the Mid-Season Invitational since their entry in the Play-In Knockout stage. They shut down Gambit Esports in a 3-0 fashion, continuing their domination over each Wildcard team they faced. However, coming into the tournament, many analysts were not hot on Flash Wolves. Analysts cited the loss of their star Jungler, Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan, and Coach Chou “Steak” Lu-Hsi as well as the declining talent in the League of Legends Master Series. This has been seen as being a detriment to Flash Wolves coming into the tournament.
Day One: Impress
The first game that Flash Wolves played outside of the Play-Ins was against fellow Knockout Stage winners, EVOS Esports. As the Vietnam representatives were cut down by Flash Wolves in an almost perfect game. People then began to notice that maybe Flash Wolves weren’t just the Wildcard killers, but instead contenders.
Flash Wolves’ next game would come in the form of a win against crowd favorite Fnatic, with a less clean but not any less convincing win. The game was hard fought on Fnatic’s side, with the potential for them to turn it around at any moment. Flash Wolves earned the win and started off the tournament 2-0.
Day Two: Narrative
Flash Wolves dominated versus Team Liquid, with a different style than what they had shown earlier in the tournament. They put their Mid-Laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang on a supportive, tanky frontliner in Galio. They then allowed the rookie Jungler, Kim “Moojin” Moo-Jin, to carry and play Graves. Moojin systematically ripped apart Team Liquid. He ended the game with a 66.7% kill percentage, complete neutral objective control, and four kills to his name.
Contrary to analyst beliefs, Flash Wolves’ game against Royal Never Give Up was not as one sided as they argued it would be. Many of the analysts, in particular, Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith, stated that he did not believe that Flash Wolves AD Carry Lu “Betty” Yu-Hung could stand up to RNG’s AD Carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. However, Betty stepped up in the lowest kill game so far this tournament with his double “Tear of the Goddess” Ezreal build accompanied by the Teleport Summoner Spell and the Kleptomancy Keystone. (More on this build in an article by Christian Huang here: https://armchairallamericans.com/breaking-down-pray/)
Day Three: Dragon-Slayers
The first game Flash Wolves played on day three was thought to be a preview of the tournament finals. Kingzone Dragon X, being the representatives from dominant Korea and the pre-tournament favorites, were in contention for first place with Flash Wolves. A last pick Yasuo for the rookie Top-Laner Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang, turns the expected outcome of the game on its head. First tower for Hanabi unlocked his lane and opened him up to split the map against the teamfight reliant Kingzone composition. Key ultimate usage by Hanabi in a teamfight 25 minutes into the game allowed Flash Wolves to secure the Infernal Drake as well as the Baron to crack Kingzone’s base wide open.
Flash Wolves and EVOS met again on day three. The Flash Wolves looked as strong as ever coming in. However, in game, Flash Wolves got cocky, carelessly diving EVOS when they could have waited with the Baron buff to get the Tier Two Mid-Lane tower. The LMS representatives giving up four kills on members buffed by Baron. The superior teamfight composition that Flash Wolves possessed allowed them to get the win in the end, squashing EVOS in a true five-versus-five scenario, securing Flash Wolves the 6-0 record.
Day Four: Disaster
Surely riding the high of an undefeated run, Flash Wolves came into the fourth day striving to stay undefeated. Their hopes were quickly dashed when they lost to both Fnatic and Royal Never Give Up. Their loss to Fnatic was brought on by the double baron steals out of Fnatic’s Jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen as well as their plays around the top lane, pressuring Hanabi and making him less effective.
After the loss to Fnatic, Flash Wolves were shaken, as could be seen in the way they played their next game versus Royal Never Give Up. RNG won cleanly over Flash Wolves, with Uzi looking on point. As he used arguably his best champion this tournament, Kai’Sa. Flash Wolves could not pick up a single tower or drake, which seemed to indicate a helplessness about them.
RNG was aggressive, coming off a win earlier in the day against Kingzone, and ran right over Flash Wolves. A scrappy fight in the jungle near blue buff right at about eight minutes into the game gave four kills over to Uzi, cementing his lane lead against Betty’s Kog’Maw. The early pressure got to Flash Wolves and from then on they played on the back foot. Not being able to make any more proactive moves for the rest of the game they would lose and ending their first day without any wins.
Day Five: Staunch
In a single day, Flash Wolves went from “undefeated, undisputed favorites to win,” to “struggling to maintain first place”. The inevitability of Flash Wolves getting first in the standings was quickly being questioned more and more as the day went on. Flash Wolves were set to staunch the bleeding and continue winning. Going up against Team Liquid, who had momentum on their side, was an unwelcome challenge in Flash Wolves’ path. The greater teamfighting abilities of Team Liquid were integral in tearing Flash Wolves apart. The final teamfight was what sealed the game for Team Liquid, Flash Wolves fought the last fight unfocused and scared with multiple members backing off then re-entering the fight, seemingly unsure of themselves.
Their last game of the day was against a Kingzone hot off a win against Fnatic. Flash Wolves intelligently target the weak point in Kingzone: the Jungler Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan. At Worlds 2017, it was Cuzz who was the true point of weakness in Kingzone, formerly Longzhu Gaming. Hence why Kingzone picked up their new Jungler, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. They wanted to shore up the weaknesses in the Jungle position with the acquisition of Peanut. With their backs against the wall, after three straight losses, Flash Wolves stepped up and refocused. They took it to the pretenders in Kingzone, and won with a split map attack.
Now Hanabi’s split-pushing and the ability of Flash Wolves forced unfavorable fights for Kingzone. Flash Wolves continue their history of being the Korea Killers and go 2-0 against Kingzone.
Now with Team Liquid falling to Royal Never Give Up, a tiebreaker was forced for first place. This would pit RNG versus Flash Wolves. In the end, RNG was able to come away with the win off of the back of their star AD Carry Uzi who played phenomenal all tournament. Flash Wolves were not able to wait for the late game for Betty to get six items on Ashe. Nor for Hanabi to get the items he needed to influence the map in Flash Wolves favor. Flash Wolves misread their win condition in putting more people bottom lane than RNG does. Had they attacked the bottom lane and put the poke-heavy duo of Ezreal-Karma behind to help out the weaker Ashe-Soraka lane, they would have been able to stay afloat in this game and perhaps win it.
In conclusion, Flash Wolves had one of their best international showings in recent history, reminding people that Taiwan is a region to be feared. The way that people looked at this team coming into the Play-In Knockouts was strange. They attributed most of their success in their region to the region being weak. They proved the doubters wrong with their strong run at MSI 2018.