Looking at the North American League Championship Series Regional Bracket is a lot like looking at an advent calendar during Christmas season. Sure, there are technically some other important days in between, but the only one that really matters is at the very end. Last week’s summer finals proved two things. First, Cloud9 and Immortals are both rather good Team SoloMid might have gotten the 3-1 victory against C9, but the game Cloud9 won was a rather dominant performance, and their two losses on Vel’Koz were not bad ideas as much as they were well countered by the veteran TSM squad. Meanwhile, Immortals bounced back from a 14-kill game from Counter Logic Gaming’s Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun to win the third place series, as Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon showed that being aggressive does not always mean one has to play recklessly.
That’s the second lesson from this series: both Cloud9 and Immortals learned from their series against each other and actively improved. This is where the benefits of having both talent and infrastructure come into place. C9 Head Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu has demonstrated a strong understanding of the meta and a willingness to think outside the box, which is huge when facing an opponent like TSM and may very well be the difference maker in these regional finals. On the other hand, Immortals’ Dylan Falco has proven some of his harshest critics (myself included) wrong with performances in the third place games of consecutive splits. They may not be the best at adapting to new metas quickly, but when they do, they do so decisively while never letting go of their “see opponent, kill opponent” play style. It’s easy to get excited over the prospect of two teams that already fought each other to a five-game series getting one more shot at it with a worlds berth on the line.
Of course, it’s much harder to get excited about the other two teams in this tournament, so much so that it’s easy to forget they are there in the first place. Team EnVyUs is a non-factor ever since people realized that it’s easy to camp Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong and throw their entire game off. Instead, let’s focus on Team Liquid.
It’s hard to imagine Team Liquid wants to be here either, given the cavalcade of drama that has followed them over the last year. We can’t ignore the start of this story: former SKT star ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin was benched during his first split of his NA career back in the spring of 2015 due to him not being seen as willing to improve with the rest of the team. It’s easy to say the team got over that, except once they realized that they need to keep him happy, other dominos began to fall. Alex “Xpecial” Chu explicitly stated that he would not be returning to Team Liquid because “Piglet just doesn’t like me,” and the unrelated suspension of Diego “Quas” Ruiz certainly didn’t help matters.
That was supposed to be where the drama ended, especially since they grabbed their typical fourth place finish this spring, largely thanks to the incredibly talented duo of Piglet and rookie Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Naturally, Dardoch gets suspended before the split even begins due to a falling out with Piglet and Locodoco. The team crumbles in their opening series so badly that they un-suspend him before the end of the first week. Two weeks later, Piglet is benched for Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen. We are told at the time that Fabbbyyy asked for some time and had earned it throughout his years as a Team Liquid Academy veteran. The rest of the season tells us that is a lie, as Piglet opts to play for the Challenger team, away from Locodoco and Dardoch, for the rest of the split. For a guy that is as hyper-competitive as Piglet is, it’s impossible to imagine that this was anything other than an understanding that he either could not or did not want to play with that squad anymore, even if it meant sitting in the Challenger scene for a bit.
It’s okay, though, because Team Liquid has a plan. Fabbbyyy joining the roster means the team can rebuild around their younger talent. You’ll notice that star mid laner Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun isn’t mentioned in that article despite having an incredible season to that point. It’s a baffling statement to this day given how much they relied on him, but it made sense when the team signed Lyonel “Arcsecond” Pfaender, perennial Challenger scene mid laner, right before the roster lock. Clearly, the move for youth was in full swing. Unless, of course, Fabbbyyy did so poorly in the playoffs that the team felt the need to substitute back up Phil “Jynthe” Vu, who had no reputable challenger experience since being suspended in June 2015, let alone any time at the LCS level. Their 3-1 loss to CLG gave them the worst finish the team has posted in a long time, but the gauntlet is built to give teams another chance to rebuild. Hell, maybe Jynthe would end up being the key to a stronger bot lane in this new standard lane meta with enough time to prepare. The only thing that could doom them entirely would be if, say, Dardoch was to leave the team right before regionals, forcing Arcsecond, who has never played as a jungler in competitive play to fill in for him.
You know, co-owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet put the podcast on blast this spring for looking too much into their reality show “Liquid – Rebirth” when making our preseason analysis. It turns out he was 100 percent correct. You shouldn’t read into their reality show to see what a mess the team appears to be. You don’t need to. The team manages to create more drama all by themselves than a reality show ever could. It’s the kind of trainwreck that only a Team Liquid fan can hate (and if you are a Team Liquid fan, you probably already started drinking midway through that second recap paragraph).
But hey, as Team Liquid has been saying since they were Team Curse, there’s always next year.
On today’s episode of the Rough Drafts Podcast, Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar and Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk take a look at the upcoming NA LCS Regional Finals. They begin by discussing how CLG can take steps forward to prepare themselves for Worlds, how TSM cemented its status as the most dominant team in the region, and how both Cloud9 and Immortals showed improvement since their previous semifinals series. They then guess the line for an EnVyUs v. Team Liquid series that is the league equivalent of a train wreck before making their final prediction on who will be the third representative from the region at Worlds.
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