This article has been edited to correct an error that stated the LPL's IMay were headed to the Group Stage, when in fact the LPL team has yet to be decided.
When Dire Wolves clinched their first Oceanic Pro League title this past weekend, they didn't just end the Chiefs' reign as Oceanic champions - they also wrote their name on tickets to the Mid-Season Invitational in Brazil, where they will face off against international competition in the inaugural Play-In phase of the tournament.
But when is all that happening? Who will Dire Wolves play against? And what does it mean if they do well in Brazil? We've got answers to all those questions.
This year's Mid-Season Invitational takes place in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from April 28 until May 21. However, the huge timezone difference between Brazil and Oceania (3:00 PM BRT is 4:00 AM AEST the next day) means it will be more like April 29 until May 22 from our perspective.
MSI brings 13 regional champions together from around the world and is split into three tournament phases: Play-In, Group Stage and Knockout.
This year the tournament begins with a new Play-In stage, where teams from 10 regions compete for three spots in the Group Stage.
Those 10 regions are Brazil, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Japan, Latin America North, Latin America South, North America, Oceania, Southeast Asia, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau (collectively the LMS) and Turkey.
For Round 1 of Play-In, eight teams (everyone except the NA LCS and LMS champions) will be drawn into two groups, and teams within those groups will play each other twice (a double round robin).
The two group winners will then advance to Round 2, where they face off against the NA LCS and LMS champions respectively. The winners of those matches qualify for the Group Stage. The losers then play each other in Round 3 to claim the final spot in Groups.
If you're curious about how the teams were seeded, including why the NA LCS and LMS champions have to compete in Play-In, check out the LoLesports deep dive on the MSI seeding to understand their placement.)
At the time of writing, IMay just beat QG Reapers to take Round 1 of the LPL Playoffs, but the final team heading to the Group Stage won't be decided until the Grand Final come April 29. Over in Korea, the LCK Finals take place April 22 between current MSI champions SK Telecom T1 and KT Rolster, while over in Europe we'll see G2 Esports and Unicorns of Love do battle in the EU LCS Finals on April 23.
MSI is extremely important to a region's Worlds seeding. The top four regions at MSI will secure the top four seeds at the Worlds Group Stage, while the highest ranking region out of BR, CIS, JPN, LAN, LAS, OCE, SEA and TUR will gain an additional seed at Worlds. Their number one seed will start in the Group Stage and their second seed (the second seed from that region) will join the Worlds Play-In, which will be similar in format to the MSI Play-In.
If two regions from the eight mentioned above somehow finish in the top four at MSI, both of their number one seeds will start in the Group Stage as top seeds, their number twos will start in Play-In, and the rest of the Play-In will adjust accordingly.
The theorycrafting is a bit head-spinning at this point, so think of it this way: if Dire Wolves finish higher than BR, CIS, JPN, LAN, LAS, SEA and TUR, then the first seed from OPL Split 2 go straight to the Group Stage, and the second seed will go to the Worlds Play-In. If Dire Wolves fall short though, then we go back to having a single OCE spot in the Worlds Play-In.
Why should they? If Worlds 2016 taught us anything, it's that the competitive gap between what were previously known as wildcard regions and the traditional big boys is not the same as it once was. Albus NoX Luna beat CLG, G2 Esports and ROX Tigers on their way to the quarterfinals, while Brazilian team INTZ e-Sports managed to beat EDward Gaming in groups. The Dire Wolves themselves certainly fancy their chances.
"We're not sure how we're going to prepare, but we're definitely coming in to take it all," Shern "Shernfire" Tai said in a post-match interview after his team's historic OPL victory this past weekend. "We're definitely not here to just like mess around and have a holiday. This is serious ****, so we're going in there like fully prepared and ready."
We can't wait to see the boys in action.