The Summer Split is right around the corner. A lot of roster swaps are incoming, but not all teams have decided to change their lineup. One team in particular is Team Liquid. This raised many eyebrows in the NA LCS community, as Team Liquid struggled to avoid being relegated last split. They went so far as to bench starting mid laner Greyson ”Goldenglue” Gilmer and sub in starting ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. Then, shockingly, Team Liquid picked up Yilang “Doublelift” Peng in a desperate attempt to stay in the league. All those changes worked out, as the team managed to survive the relegation tournament and return for the summer.
However, Team Liquid decided that they won’t make any changes to the starting roster from summer, despite the rough Spring Split. Goldenglue and Piglet will be returning, along with Samson “Lourlo” Jackson in the Toplane, Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin in the jungle, and Matt “Matt” Elento as support.
Team Liquid looked shaky all spring, but in the offseason has made some moves towards improvement. Most notably Goldenglue who, in his time off, has been bootcamping in Korea. He has lived with LCK challenger squad Ever 8 and has been spamming Korean soloq. He did this all this in an effort to improve his mentality and game sense, as well as refine his mechanics. Goldenglue should be returning stronger than ever, and able to hold his own against the other mids of the league.
It’s also worth mentioning that the team has played together for most of a split now. This means that they’ve had time to work through any communications and synergy issues that they may be facing. Moving forward they should have streamlined shot calling and in game communications. A team with good shot calling can go a long way even with substandard players.
Team Liquid also has a great infrastructure and plenty of funding. They can afford to make dramatic roster moves and high profile pickups. This indicates that Team Liquid can afford the best for its players. The team has been around in one iteration or another since 2015, when it bought out Team Curse. This means that the org has an established infrastructure, and even though there was some struggling they have never been relegated.
No pick up or roster swap saved Team Liquid from finishing ninth last split. But they made a clean run in the promotion tournament, not dropping a set. Team Liquid’s goal isn’t to be successful in promotion tournaments. Team Liquid is taking much too big of a gamble by fielding the same roster and hoping the training has paid off. The team could have easily picked up another player, or subbed in someone already on their roster.
This is especially prevalent when you consider that they elected to move Piglet to mid, rather than sub in Austin “Link” Shin last split. It’s clear that Piglet is the most mechanically skilled player on the roster, but he’s played exclusively ADC during his professional career. Link has plenty of mid lane experience having started for CLG in seasons 3-5. Team Liquid had a clear and defined option to replace Goldenglue with, yet they elected to place a player in his off role and sub in a rookie.
It’s heartening to see a team that believes in their players, but the results don’t support their decision. The team has been in decline since summer 2015, finishing worse in each subsequent split. If the trend continues, we will see the team inevitably in relegations again, and maybe this time unable to make it out.
There are two major points of contention with this team. This first is Piglet, positioning much too aggressively, especially in recent splits, and gettting caught out. He also has a clear mental barrier. Piglet wants to succeed and has lots of drive, but often tilts. He has also been in decline since joining the team. It’s apparent that at this point Piglet has run his course with Team Liquid. There are other options available for Team Liquid, and if they want to survive as a team they should explore these options.
There’s also the issue of Goldenglue. Who, despite playing for many teams on the LCS or CS stage, has fallen short numerous times and has failed to impress. Sure, he’s been away on boot camp in Korea, and there is no doubt that he has improved, but there’s little reason that he can’t be replaced. With Liquid fighting to remain in the LCS they should be trying to maximize their chances to win, rather than trying to develop existing talent.
The team is taking a massive risk by sticking to what has failed in the past. Matt had a great first split, but didn’t live up to expectations. This could be chalked up to sophomore slump, but another weak split will be cause for concern. Lourlo also struggled, often being left on an island in the top lane to fend for himself. This was a result of Reignover looking lost without dominant lanes. These are all issues that seem to stem from the weaknesses from the mid lane and ADC positions.
So while Team Liquid seems confident in their players, the reality seems much less certain.
Images by Riot