Team Liquid’s summer split lineup shift in the North American League of Legends Championship Series is the latest move done to the shape the future of the team.
In a move that seemed shocking at the time, Liquid went away from Korean AD Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin before Week 3 of the summer split, calling up rookie Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen from its Challenger team, Team Liquid Academy. The move came with less fanfare than the previous split, when teens Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Matthew “Matt’ Elento became starters and Liquid built toward a fourth place finish.
In between splits, Dardoch got suspended and appeared to perhaps be on his way out. Rumors surfaced of a rift between Dardoch and coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub, and between Dardoch and Piglet.
Dardoch admitted to Slingshot his own problems with maturity — that caused his suspension — in an interview during Week 2 of the LCS, but it was also clear in a separate interview two weeks later that Dardoch and Piglet weren’t necessarily an easy fit, either.
“I have really strong opinions. Piglet has really strong opinions. Loco does too,” Dardoch said. “If we disagree on something it turns into a clash, and it takes a while for that issue to get solved. With fabbbyyy and the rest of the rookies, we’re all listening to Loco.”
The move from Piglet to fabbbyyy — aside from anything going on with Piglet — is representative of the shift Liquid has been building since it stockpiled a handful of young and talented players. As Dardoch put it, moving away from the veteran presence and focusing more on the development of himself, Matt, Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and even fabbbyyy will better position the team for the future, even if the returns weren’t immediately visible.
Piglet, one of two holdovers (Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun) from the pre-Liquid days of Team Curse, put the team at an impasse. Removing Piglet for fabbbyyy — even if there’s a drop in individual skill — is better for the team going forward because it gives Liquid a clear direction.
“We want to keep the core of the roster, which is me, Matt and Lourlo: The rookies,” Dardoch said. “The only thing was, we’re building our roster toward the future, and we’re basing our play style and our gameplay on something that’s not going to be with us forever (Piglet).
“We’re kind of 50/50 on where the roster wants to go. Old Curse was like a bunch of older veteran players where the obvious goal was worlds. Where our roster’s like, we have the youthful talent we want to build up and sort of turn into that veteran team.
Moving away from Piglet has come with adjustments, as more shot-calling duties are now on the shoulders of Dardoch and Matt. Fabbbyyy is a different style of player from Piglet and said his goal has been not to try to duplicate what Piglet did but play his own game.
“I want to contribute in any way, but I may contribute in a different way,” fabbbyyy said. “Playing utility AD Carries instead of just the hard carry, and try to let my solo laners do the work and I just support them. So I just prefer to play a different style.”
Liquid was 1-3 when it made the switch and has gone 7-3 since, its only losses coming to Immortals (twice) and Team SoloMid, the two runaway leaders of the summer split. Liquid has risen to third place as it continues to figure itself out, and the team has done so in clearing up its vision for the direction of the team to go heading forward.