With the off-season just about wrapped up, there’s one player in particular who didn’t make it onto an NA LCS roster. That is former world champion and Team Liquid ADC, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. His fall from grace from World Champion to barely making it back into LCS is a rough one. Team Liquid spent a few years trying to build a roster around him that could compete. Similar to TSM with Bjergsen, Team Liquid kept Piglet as a strong point to their roster. Piglet seems to be looking to return to Korea, but his time on Liquid was a roller coaster of a ride.
The Fall of a Champion
It wasn’t too long ago SK Telecom T1 began their dynasty as League of Legends powerhouses with their first world championship with Piglet being a star player on the roster. He began his career on SK Telecom T1 in February of 2013. He was one of four members picked up from solo queue built around star mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The team quickly found success qualifying for the World Championship as Korea’s 3rd seed by denying KT Rolster Bullets 3-1.
It was at Season 3 worlds where SKT would begin their dynasty, as they would proceed to go 7-1 in their group. They would go on to dominate Gamania Bears 2-0. Heading into the semi finals they would face off against Korea’s Najin Black Sword. In the closest series of the tournament, SKT would barely eek out the victory in a 3-2 series win. In the finals, they’d face off against China’s Royal Club who they would sweep 3-0 in dominating fashion.
Piglet himself would earn the best AD carry award at the Korean E-sports awards 2013. Piglet saw himself as one of the best and looked to live up to that title. It didn’t take long for rivalries to form between himself and the other ADC’s in the league. Players like Imp and Deft would begin to challenge him.
The team began to struggle as Samsung White and Blue began to dominate the region. They would be swept by Samsung White 3-0 for the 2nd seed of Worlds before being defeated 3-1 by Najin White Shield. SKT would release Piglet and his laning partner, Lee “PoohManDu” Jeong-hyeon, in the off season.
Slow starts, but steady improvement
The following year Curse offered Piglet a spot on their roster. They believed Piglet still had the mechanics and prowess to be a top ADC in the world. After many years of having a sub par ADC in David “Cop” Roberson, they were ready for a hyper carry star. They fielded a decent roster on paper with a good mix of veterans and Korean imports.
Piglet’s start in North America would be a rough one. Due to visa issues the team was forced to field a sub for the first week of LCS. They took on a rising young talent at the time in Yuri “Keith” Jew who actually showed decent success on the team helping them go 2-0 during his time. As Piglet came on the team would struggle and go 2-4 over the next three weeks and replace Piglet with Keith for week six. Piglet would eventually make his return the following week though and begin to finally show success with the team.
Much of the criticism revolving around Piglet was his vulnerability to stop communicating in game. From Liquid rebirth you could see the disconnect between the players. Despite being talented individually, the team chemistry just wasn’t there. Eventually, things would get better as they would finish Spring in 3rd place.
They took the same roster for Summer and finished 1st during the regular season. They looked like strong competitors heading in, but were handily defeated by TSM 3-1 in the semi finals. There was still hope as they would place 3rd for Summer playoffs and would only need to win one best of five to make it to Worlds through the gauntlet. Cloud 9 would eventually make their underdog gauntlet run and upset Team Liquid 3-1, ending a promising year for the Team Liquid squad.
Piglet and rookie Korean mid laner Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun seemed to take the loss the hardest. Team Liquid looked like they had the ability to finally make it to Worlds, yet barely fell short.
Bringing in the Young guns
The following year Team Liquid would release veterans Diego “Quas” Ruiz and Alex “Xpecial” Chu. In to replace them would be rookie Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Andy “Smoothie” Ta. This year they would attempt to field a 10 man roster with an academy team. Every player would have a sub and Team Liquid would utilize everyone. Right off the bat, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Matthew “Matt” Elento would be sprung into the starting lineup after the first game of the season. The roster of Lourlo, Dardoch, Fenix, Piglet and Matt would finish out the season as the main starters. The team was young and hungry and looking to improve fast. They finished 4th in Spring and headed to Korea for a boot camp during the off-season.
This is where everything went wrong for Team Liquid. As fans know from the Team Liquid documentary, Breaking Point, during defeats in Korea the team internally imploded. Dardoch’s toxicity towards the team was apparent in how it effected the team’s performance. Yet he was too talented to keep off the starting roster. Piglet would eventually ask to go down to the Academy team where he felt he enjoyed playing much more. Team Liquid Academy would nearly qualify for LCS, just barely losing a 3-2 series to Cloud 9 challenger.
The worst year in Team liquid history
As we know, Team Liquid headed into Season 7 with high hopes that the acquisition of star jungler, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, would be enough to propel them to the top. This meant taking on North American mid laner, Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer. The team headed into the season with a roster of Lourlo, Reignover, Goldenglue, Piglet and Matt. This was far from the truth as Goldenglue struggled to compete at an LCS level. Reignover struggled to adapt to carry damage jungle meta and the team began to crumble.
Team Liquid hovered around last place before taking on TSM’s hiatus ADC, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to save their season. Bringing on Doublelift meant trying something new. Piglet made it an option to have him switch over to the mid lane position. He felt from the mid lane he could carry much harder and have more of an impact. The spring of Season 7 saw the ADC role more of a utility poke meta in which Piglet felt he had no impact. Making the switch to mid was an ironic one, but one they felt they needed to make. They would also add Korean head coach, Jang “Cain” Nu-ri who was learning under Cloud 9 at the time. Team Liquid would avoid relegation and save their LCS spot.
Heading into Summer they decided to go with the same exact roster that fielded terrible results at the start of Spring. As expected, Team Liquid nosedived and were a bottom tier team for most of the season. They re-acquired Dardoch and took on Korean mid laner, Son “Mickey” Young-min. With the roster of Lourlo, Dardoch, Mickey, Piglet and Matt they fought off relegation once again to come back into the NA LCS.
Many people forget, but Piglet was one of the first Korean imports to come to North America. Him and Impact made their debuts the same year. Impact adjusted well and has shown to be a god tier top laner at times. Meanwhile Piglet has had his moments, but was never really above and beyond the competition like many expected. The mechanics are there, but Piglet himself never seemed acclimated to NA LCS team structure. Was he really set up for success on Team Liquid?
It’s a major question to be contemplated as Team Liquid invested three years of trying to build around this player. In his first few seasons you could definitely see his clashes with management and just how rough the transition was for him. Bringing in another headstrong personality in Dardoch and Locodoco definitely didn’t help along the way. Even in Breaking Point when he’s granted his wish of playing on TLA, he still contemplates quitting before management has to step in to talk him out of it.
Team Liquid has had a quick trigger finger when it comes to subbing people. The attempt at innovation with a 10 man roster was laughable. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Team Liquid never found success with Piglet. They may have never found the right pieces to surround him with, but maybe they tried too hard to play around him. Sticking with him for three years despite lack luster results was tough to watch. As Piglet looks to head back to Korea, it introduces a new beginning for Team Liquid without him.
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Cover photo by Riot Esports