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Tactically Used – Team Liquid’s Complicated Relationship With Their Budding Marksman

CoreJJ interview

I was trying to find the right word or phrase to define Edward “Tactical” Ra.

He has one of the most fascinating storylines in competitive League of Legends. Originally, he was the solid TSM Academy marksman that moved over to Team Liquid Academy. Then, he was substituting in for a North American legend on the main roster as the organization was crumbling under visa issues and player motivation. Suddenly, Team Liquid was able to put the pieces together with their full line-up finally together for the summer split and new head coach Joshua “Jatt” Leesman guided the team along the right path. They make it Worlds and he pulls together some incredible performances on Twitch. More importantly, the team finishes on a win – eliminated as a result of a tiebreaker.

The next thing he knows, he’s now the future of North American League of Legends, featured in the LCS’ hype video for the spring split. It all happened so quickly.

When Gen G eliminated Team Liquid from the 2021 World Championship, the connection was made. Each player would express their reactions in a different way. Barney “Alphari” Morris would have his hands on his head, forcibly pushing back his hair and falling into the back of his seat. Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in would be slumped in his chair, finger pressed between on the corner of his eye to potentially prevent an emotional response. But the side profile camera would have Tactical in its focus. Closest to his monitor, he wouldn’t show much emotion. An open-mouthed stare at the screen, it was as if the reality of the situation hadn’t fully hit yet.

He was the younger brother of this Team Liquid lineup.

Team Liquid was expected to be a contending line-up from North America in 2021.

They paid a lot of money to sign Alphari and Lucas “Santorin” Larsen to their lineup — adding to their already high bankrolled team. The publicized numbers of TSM and Cloud 9’s high dollar signings took away some of that attention. Steve Arhancet also wouldn’t be as public about expectations. Their impressive performance at the 2021 Lock-In was the starting point — with Alphari, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen and CoreJJ playing incredibly well.

The season would feature hiccups. We’re still waiting for answers regarding the benching of Alphari. Head coach Jatt would resign as a result of backlash regarding the ordeal. And Santorin would miss a significant amount of time due to health complications. It was an understandable setback for the team.

Yet in a way, it could have been a moment for Tactical to secure his status as one of North America’s best. It just didn’t happen. There were three different versions of Tactical that would show up this split:

Tactical #1 – The Good One

When Tactical is good, he’s really good. 

His pre-nerf Samira performances were some of the best of his entire career. Riding the fine line of maximum aggression, it was the best he looked this season. He was constantly forcing his pace of play in the laning phase — with or without CoreJJ. More importantly, the early lead would cushion potential errors in the mid-to-late game. If he was in a bad position, he might be able to overpower his way through it.

A similar narrative could be spun with his 6-2 record on Xayah this season. When able to get himself out of a bad situation, he would be a positive influence on his team.

Tactical #2 – The Less Involved One

During the second half of the summer split, Team Liquid adopted a style that would feature Tactical basically not playing team League of Legends for a good portion of the game. He would be stuck in a side lane, constantly managing waves. Meanwhile, CoreJJ would be constantly roaming around the map, disrupting the general flow of the opposing team. Mid laners would adopt the “CoreJJ” ward around their lane as a result.

It did rejuvenate a team that was losing steam. CoreJJ wasn’t having his best split — a trend that would continue at Worlds — but it was putting players like Alphari and Jensen in better positions to carry a lot of weight. Meanwhile, Tactical would take on the second-lowest economy of marksman — taking on 24.8% of his team’s overall economy – but still put out meaningful damage numbers.

He played the role of a weakside marksman well – averaging solid lane gold and experience leads while also putting together the best damage per minute numbers among marksmen in the summer split.

Tactical #3 – The One That Gets Roasted By Doublelift

Alternate name: the one that plays Tristana. 

This was the version of Tactical we remember and despised the most. All that really needs to be mentioned is the soundbite moments. Here’s Doublelift’s put it best. Here’s another clip. Also this one.

It is tough to ignore these types of mental errors.

Then again, shouldn’t have this kind of been expected? He’s still one of the younger players in the league and this was also still his first full season as a professional League of Legends player.

This season, Tactical has kind of been the quarterback that you don’t expect to pass the ball. Or if he does pass it, it’s usually five yards or less. If you’re running a two-minute offense and expecting Tactical to win you the football game, he probably couldn’t.

I may or may not have been thinking about Blake Bortles in 2017 when writing this passage. 

Alphari has been getting most of the resources, getting Team Liquid advantages and the remaining three Team Liquid members all have been pillars to the team. Not expected to be the carries, their mid, jungle and support all are expected to be able influential no matter the circumstance. But when there is a need for Tactical to really step up and put the team on his back, he hasn’t been that guy. There was this lack of notice to put him in a position to put the team on his back.

Think about the 2021 Mid Season Showdown Grand Finals. The five-game series would feature Cloud 9 making Alphari’s life a living hell. In Game 5, Team Liquid would need someone to step up to the plate after a level one “cheese” strategy from Cloud9 put Alphari severely behind and simply no one on Team Liquid could do so. The team simply rolled over and died. Fans would be proud of the team’s efforts overall with a substitute jungler taking them to five games. But there should have been a general acknowledgment that even with Santorin in the line-up potentially assisting Alphari, that version of Team Liquid would still have issues.

That was the same Tactical we were going to see with or without Santorin.

Returning to previous analogies, Team Liquid has to be mindful of how they’re presenting Tactical.

They’ve been incredibly protective of their budding marksman — whether it is through media or on-the-rift strategies. Sometimes, you have to leave him out to dry to let him struggle in an effort to see him grow — let him trip, fall and scrape his knee. We haven’t seen a progression in his play and really haven’t seen points of improvement regarding his development.

Tactical is the first player that comes to mind when discussing areas of improvement to the Team Liquid lineup.  While a part is the blunders he made, the bigger part is how what he offered or offers isn’t as valuable as other members of the team. It is pretty unfair. You can’t just run the ball fifty times, have your QB throw the ball five times and say it is all the quarterback’s fault. Sometimes, you need them to throw three interceptions to prove your point.

For the player himself, it does feel like a recoverable setback year. It is difficult to return to earth after experiencing incredibly high highs at such an early point in your career. Yet it continues the compelling tale that is Tactical’s career arc.

His contract is set to expire in November of 2022 which means Team Liquid may have to make a difficult decision this fall.

Tactical more than likely needs a different situation — a situation where he can either fly or fall. Being a weakside marksman isn’t for everyone. Despite finding some sense of success, it truly is capping some of his potential as a marksman. CoreJJ’s roaming really took away from his potential kill pressure in the 2v2 laning phase that made him famous.

If the rumors regarding Alphari’s departure back to Europe are true, it may just be the best of both parties. Tactical has shown enough to make him a potentially great player in the future. The hype around him was overblown but this is a tendency for nearly every good young North American player that comes on people’s screen. The important thing should be to focus on fostering the best team environment for that young player or if that environment can’t be fostered internally, get a good return on your asset.

It will be interesting to watch how everything plays out for Team Liquid and Tactical this off-season. Not only could this be telling of the future for both parties, but it could also be one of the more under-discussed yet super important storylines to follow.

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