For the 2nd time in four years, a North American team will be headed to the finale at MSI. The last team to do so were Counter Logic Gaming in 2016, where they were defeated by SKT T1. However, Team Liquid now have the chance to take home the trophy and all the bragging rights associated with it.
Despite the odds against them, Team Liquid defeated Invictus Gaming 3-1 in a thrilling, best-of-five series. Previously in the tournament, TL fell to iG not once, but twice. This certainly stuck in their heads, as they looked sharper than ever when taking down one of the world’s most talented teams.
The New Sheriffs in Town
What makes this victory so incredible for Team Liquid is how much it means to their players. It’s been eight years since Yiliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng has made it out of the group stages at an international event: a streak that can finally be put to rest. In addition, this is Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen’s first time competing at MSI and he’s performing incredibly. It seems that Team Liquid’s momentum from the LCS Spring Split has traveled with them to Taiwan.
Team Liquid’s dominating performance against Invictus Gaming was symptomatic of their preparation and skill. Not only did they get the victory on the rift, but they made sure to take over the pick/ban phase as well.
Staying True to the Game Plan
If there’s anything that Team Liquid are good at, it’s preparation. Before each of their matches against IG, they looked to control champion select and their play reflected it. Since TL have one of the world’s best bottom lane duos, they weren’t worried about banning their opposing laners’ champions. Instead, they tried to even out their weaker match-ups in the solo lanes by taking away opposing flex picks.
Invictus knows how important the bottom lane match-up is against TL, so they attempted to ban a lot of champions from Doublelift. This transitioned to more jungle bans as Jake ‘Xmithie’ Puchero became increasingly relevant for Team Liquid. However, IG didn’t do enough research and let the Skarner slide to Xmithie in game four, where they would meet their demise.
Despite their focus on evening match-ups across the map, Team Liquid maintained their bottom lane pressure throughout the series. In fact, Doublelift posted a K/D/A of 5.6 that topped everyone else. His success was a major factor in Team Liquid’s performance, especially during the later stages of each game. By picking champions like Sivir, Vayne and Kai’sa, Doublelift had the opportunity of a massive power spike after building two full items. This boost was enough for him to shred the opposition in important team fights and ultimately close out the series.
Flowing Like Liquid
It seems pretty clear that TL have found their rhythm at MSI after a rough middle of Group Stage. Their discipline, composure and talent have reigned over the competition so far and they have no plans of changing that. This same type of dominance was evident in their 7-0 run to kick off the LCS Spring Split. Whether it’s their team play, shot-calling or fighting ability, their sound fundamentals are keeping them at the top of League of Legends.
Overall, Team Liquid looked readier in this series than they have throughout the tournament. A victory over the defending world champions will certainly go a long way for this squad, however they’re not finished yet.
Featured Image Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr.
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