Trying to figure out the Team Liquid League of Legends team has been a fool’s errand for months now, and the unbridled oddity of the organization took another turn during Week 2 of the North American League Championship Series.
Liquid has gone from one of the more competitive LCS teams to one of the most scrutinized. The team earned its first win of the split Sunday against a surprising Dignitas team, but even that came with more of the weirdness that has defined Liquid’s 2017 campaign. Liquid was already under fire for its sudden change of mid laner from Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer to Andrew “Slooshi” Pham from out of nowhere. Liquid abandoned Goldenglue after one series but the result with Slooshi was still a loss. The move painted a picture of a ruthless Liquid, which sought to immediately switch out a “problem,” despite of the narrative that was behind GoldenGlue: a hard-working player who stepped down in the middle of last split to go to a Korean hyperbolic time chamber in order to become better.
In another stunning move, Liquid returned Goldenglue to the lineup for Week 2, and it worked. Liquid beat Dignitas, and Goldenglue was acknowledged as the player of the match. The team dynamic is still rather unclear, especially after Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin’s emotional and impassioned interview with Inven Global during Week 1, but perhaps this could be a turning point for the ailing team.
Phoenix1 is off to a brutal start through two weeks, as its 0-4 start left P1 in sole possession of 10th place. A surprising outcome, no doubt, for a third place team that went through a successful rebirth last split.
The reason isn’t completely clear as of yet, but it is easy to point out the team does seem a lot less cohesive, with individual star players rather lacking compared to their previous exploits. Top laner Derek “Zig” Shao threw in a surprise Urgot pick in Sunday’s loss to FlyQuest to no avail, and the No “Arrow” Dong-Hyeon who won MVP of the spring split has not shown up yet. The team even tried switching out junglers, but William “Meteos” Hartman held no better results than Rami “Inori” Charagh.
Envy continues to impress
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies EnVyUs, a team that was forced to defend its spot for the summer split after placing ninth in the spring, which is off to a 3-1 start. Its three wins aren’t against pushovers, either. Envy overtook a strong-looking Immortals team and the aforementioned Phoenix1, which was still a top three team last split even amid its current struggles.
The unexpected success of Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik in the mid lane — who helped deliver P1 a loss after spending a year with that team — proved to be exactly what the team needed, as he was able to seamlessly transition into being part of the team with little to no opposition. Pirean has proven himself as a clear contender, not a place holder for the soon-to-arrive Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer, and EnVy might have found a flexible pick in the mid lane.
TSM not in the clear yet
TSM won the spring split as it tends to do and entered the summer split with the usual expectations of making it to the finals. But the first two weeks have left fans scratching their heads at exactly what’s going on.
During Week 1, TSM lost 2-0 against Immortals, dropped a 2-1 match Saturday to the Dignitas team that turned around and lost to Liquid one day later. TSM’s two wins are against perennial powers Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming, which furthers the confusion.
It’s too early to make any concrete judgements about TSM’s future, but it is safe to say TSM is going through some unexpected troubles. The most obvious weakness in both weeks was Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen’s performance, as he was often not on the same page as the rest of the team, giving precious momentum to the opposing team. Whether or not TSM will adapt — as it always seems to do — to claim the summer split is not yet clear, but the current situation raises enough eyebrows in the community.
Froggen at the top of Player of the Game standings
It’s always good to see an old hat learn new tricks, and Henrik “Froggen” Hansen has been the embodiment of that so far. Usually pegged as a control mage who farms out until a team fight victory (a reputation he touched on during an interview), Froggen has shown great prowess as LeBlanc, a hit-and-run assassin, and has been quite successful in the mid lane over a variety of picks.
Echo Fox stands at 2-2, which isn’t the most impressive record, but to see a veteran like Froggen regain some of the spotlight again has been a welcome change of pace. Froggen has played LeBlanc, Lucian, Taliyah, and Ekko so far, and It’ll be indeed interesting to see if he can pull out more unexpected rabbits from an old top hat.
CLG is back
CLG was never gone, but the older CLG of 2016 has come back with a slight change in the roster. After Week 2, CLG stands at 3-1 and at the top of the standings, with its only loss against TSM on Sunday. It’s almost refreshing to see CLG this competitive, and with great performances fans of the team wanted to see last split.
Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun has been pure magic, asserting once more why Aurelion Sol should be banned against him, but also that he is still in the running as one of the best mid laners in North America. Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black has written the book on Rakan support, and the fans have yet to see a Rakan player as effective as he is. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes has been able to show off why he held the title of “best AD Carry in NA” with solo kills and dazzling mechanics. Darshan “Darshan “Upadhyaha in the top lane is in his element, as the top lane meta allows for split pushing, duel-happy, and damage dealing top laners such as Fiora and Renekton.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games