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3 Takeaways for Team Liquid from MSS Finals Weekend

Team Liquid in the Opening Ceremony of 2021 MSS Finals.

North America’s first ever Mid Season Showdown wrapped up over the weekend. Cloud9 comes away with the LCS Spring Season title and qualification for the Mid Season Invitational. Team Liquid took Saturday’s series versus TSM in fairly dominant fashion, followed by a close 2-3 loss to C9 on Sunday. Liquid’s Spring Season finishes here, so fans will miss them until June 4. Here are 3 Takeaways for Team Liquid from MSS Finals Weekend.

[Related: 3 Takeaways for Team Liquid from MSS Round 2]

Team Liquid Suffered with Alphari Starting Behind

Alphari dying for First Blood was the most obvious weakness from the Cloud9 series over the weekend. Fans and analysts alike are still pointing out how well Fudge manipulated the top lane in the early game for Blaber to assist in putting Alphari on the back foot early. Throughout this year, Alphari has brought consistent pressure for Team Liquid at all stages of the game, but his early laning almost always accrued an individual lead that TL could leverage across the map.

Fudge and Blaber started well ahead of Alphari and Armao in Game 1 of the MSS Finals.
Fudge and Blaber started well ahead of Alphari and Armao in Game 1 of the MSS Finals.

Cloud9 showed in both Mid Season Showdown series versus Team Liquid that breaking Alphari’s ankles early throws a huge wrench in TL’s gameplan. Game 1, Fudge and Blaber combined for a nearly 2,000 gold difference at 15. In three other games they averaged about 700. The one match Alphari and Armao had a combined gold lead over Fudge and Blaber was Game 4, and it was only about 70 gold difference. The flow of the game suddenly feels clunkier for Liquid, who typically starts their games with large gold leads. With Alphari handicapped out the gate, Cloud9 got to dictate more of the early game and start stacking neutral objectives.

Armao’s Substitution Had Very Little Effect on the Gameplay

Santorin was probably the only player that Team Liquid could swap in the Academy player for and still stand a chance at winning. Armao has less experience, less history of clutch performances, and no pedigree when it comes to MVP and All-Pro voting. However, the jungle meta features several champions with a similar farming jungle style–Hecarim and Udyr being prime examples.

While there are ways for individual players to outplay each other on these champions, as proven by Blaber in the LCS and Inspired in the LEC, the floor for this playstyle is pretty solid. Most junglers at the Academy level can play this style closer to LCS level than, say, the Camilles, Kindreds, and Elises of metas past. Also, Armao had substituted for Team Liquid back in the Lock In tournament earlier this year, making the transition for the team slightly easier. It probably felt a little bit more comfortable than if CoreJJ suddenly subbed out for Eyla, or if Alphari subbed out for Jenkins.

Armao subbed in for Santorin in the MSS Finals weekend.
Armao subbed in for Santorin in the MSS Finals weekend.

Spring Season was a Success

Yes, of course Team Liquid’s number one goal with this roster is to win titles. That is the same goal as Cloud9 and TSM, judging by recent successes and offseason roster decisions. However, this Spring Season is as close to winning as anyone in the LCS except Cloud9 got. Team Liquid won Lock In Tournament. Sure, it does not matter for anything outside of confidence and glory, but it was a dominant start to the year. The team started Spring Season sort of rocky, but picked it up as the weeks went on. Finally, TL showed grit in the Mid Season Showdown. They lost to Cloud9 in Round 2, but picked themselves up, cleaned TSM out of the tournament, and took C9 to a tight five-game series with a short notice substitution.

Now the team gets a break, while C9 flies off to Iceland to represent North America. In the grand scheme of things, this will probably work out for the best. Tactical complained of burnout early after Lock In tournament concluded. For a young rising star, this is a worrying trend. Santorin is suffering from migraines that took him out of the LCS Finals. These guys need a break to recover and get everything ready to roll for Summer Split, where it will be time to put up for shut up.

Spring Season was only six weeks long. Summer Season will be nine weeks long, still playing three matches per week. The playoffs format will be longer, as the top eight teams face off across 12 series. 2021 Worlds qualifications doesn’t happen until August, and lasts a full month. Team Liquid needs to solve the burnout, migraines, and overall gameplay if they want to shoot for a championship and first seed at Worlds later this year.

 


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