Flash Wolves have their gaze fixed on the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational. Over the last three years, the Taiwanese team has dominated its region and secured five consecutive LMS titles. And yet, Flash Wolves’ latest international showings leave a lot to be desired.
At the 2017 MSI, they barely broke into the playoffs only to get 3-0’d by SKT T1. The 2017 World Championship proved even worse, as the team failed to make it out of the group, stage and its only claim to fame was crushing TSM’s playoffs ambitions. Even the title of the Korean Killers doesn’t ring true anymore—after all, it’s been a long time since Flash Wolves challenged a good LCK team.
So does the organization have what it takes to make a splash at an international event?
Seeds of doubt
Flash Wolves are coming into the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational off a very dominant Spring Split. They went 13-1 in the regular season, dropping a single match to the second-place team, G-Rex. In the finals, Flash Wolves exacted their revenge by crushing G-Rex in a 3-0 sweep. It wasn’t even close.
Even so, fans speculate the main reason behind their success is the overall decline of the region. Indeed, with every passing year, more and more veteran LMS players are either retiring or leaving the league. Flash Wolves themselves lost their jungle ace, Karsa. And while their competitive record is near spotless, the actual games reveal several worrying trends.
For starters, Flash Wolves consistently overstep their limits during ganks and dives. This might be because the synergy between the team and its Korean jungler Moojin isn’t quite on the necessary level. It’s common to see Moojin or the laner he’s ganking for overextending to chase down a kill, and that’s something that can backfire if the enemy team reacts properly.
The jungle issue might be a symptom of a broader problem. That is, Flash Wolves make plays around what they can do, but they fail to account for how their opponents will respond. Most of the time, things work out, as their roster is simply far too powerful to fall to other LMS teams, but globals and sudden rotations can still catch them off guard.
Finally, Flash Wolves are no strangers to questionable Baron plays. They don’t do a great job of clearing wards and securing vision control, so they often opt-in for the 50/50 calls. And even though you can count on Moojin to outsmite most LMS junglers, he’ll have a much harder time winning the coin flip against the stacked MSI field.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Flash Wolves wouldn’t make it so far if they were a bad team, and they have plenty of strong suits. Even though we’ve harped on Moojin’s synergy issues, he’s clearly a very talented jungler. He dominated the competition with aggressive ganks and invades, and his 5.3 KDA and 5.2 CS per minute are a reflection of his proactive playstyle. Granted, he might not be on Karsa’s level, but at this pace, he’ll certainly get there.
In the past, Flash Wolves endured many problems around the top lane. MMD was a known quantity, and he didn’t hold up against the best top laners in the world. At first glance, his replacement—Hanabi—doesn’t exactly set the world on fire either, as he spent the last two patches on tank duty.
However, Hanabi has the prerequisites of a carry player, and earlier in the split, he had great showings on Gnar, Gangplank, and Swain. Still, he’s a complete rookie, so can he really replicate this success on the MSI stage? Maybe not. But his presence is still a breath of fresh air for Flash Wolves.
Maple provides a consistent source of damage and a fair share of side lane pressure since he’s always looking to make a roam or a cross-map play. Meanwhile, SwordArt’s sense for initiation is stronger than ever, and the man shines on playmaking supports. Betty also performs well in the AD carry role, especially on picks like Xayah and Varus.
This abundance of firepower turns Flash Wolves into natural teamfighters. Moreover, they know how to pressure the side lanes, making them very potent in the bot lane-oriented meta. And the moment they get ahead, Flash Wolves seize control of the enemy jungler and advance their vision line to suffocate the enemy team. Finally, most of their players also have huge champion pools, so the Taiwanese lineup can surprise its opponents with a wide range of playstyles and team comps.
So how do Flash Wolves match up to the MSI competition? Chances are high they’re the strongest team in the Play-In Stage, so they should have no issues qualifying for the Main Event.
Things get more complicated here though. The Korean Killers title will likely remain a remnant of the past, and Flash Wolves will have a hard time holding off Kingzone’s onslaught. RNG also seem out of their reach.
Flash Wolves could put a dent into Team Liquid or Fnatic, provided they get a good bot lane matchup to neutralize the AD carries of the LCS teams. Both lineups should be aware of the possibility though, so it’s hard to imagine Flash Wolves handily beating them. Still, if either Team Liquid or Fnatic show signs of weakness, Flash Wolves have what it takes to claw their way into the playoffs.