League of Legends Worlds: NA is not to blame for Team Liquid failing

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games /
TL Xmithie. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games /

Now that NA’s run at Worlds is over, fans are blaming Team Liquid for not being able to showcase the region’s best League of Legends talent. But fans shouldn’t be surprised that Liquid couldn’t measure up.

Team Liquid, proclaimed by some to be the best North American League of Legends team ever, failed to make it out of the group stage at Worlds. Depending on your viewpoint, this was either a massive choke by NA’s best hope for a serious shot at the title or a predictable outcome for an over-hyped team that had a lot of flaws that were never fully addressed.

In the aftermath, there has been a lot of analysis and discussion over what this loss means for Liquid and NA as a region. After all, if the best team we’ve ever produced couldn’t even make it out of a fairly easy group, what did that say about the region as a whole?

Given that North America as a region went 5-13 as a region in the group stage of Worlds, it’s easy to understand the community frustration towards the region and questioning its reputation within the League of Legends professional scene. However, it’s a bit too far to say that Liquid’s failing is a reflection of NA’s failure as a whole.

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While certainly, North America has a lot of ground to make up relative to the rest of the world and this point will be discussed ad nauseam throughout the summer, to focus on Liquid’s failure as the need to improve NA’s talent pool is disingenuous. As I noted previously, teams like the 2013 Cloud9 and 2016 TSM were both far more domestically dominant than this iteration of Team Liquid.

Additionally, let’s not forget that we are but one year removed from Cloud9 reaching the semi-finals of Worlds with a roster that had far less talent on paper. While North America, as a whole, performed far worse than last year, let’s not forget that NA teams did have a winning record against teams not from EU, China, and Korea. The gap is less due to the fact that NA took a step back, but rather that the other regions took steps forward.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to see players like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng attributing Liquid’s failures, at least partially, to not being able to get quality practice time in NA. Certainly, that is a factor for NA teams not improving as fast but that argument carries a bit less weight when the team offering it only won 72% of their games against domestic opponents and were twice pushed to a fifth game in the semifinals and finals of LCS playoffs.

And if you want to make the argument – as some pundits did – that this Liquid team wasn’t taking the LCS split seriously because of the lack of competition, that they were far better than the domestic series results bore out, well then you can’t have it both ways. If the complaint is that Liquid isn’t able to get quality practice against NA teams and then they proceed to sleepwalk through the LCS season, why is it the rest of the region’s fault when they have to “speedrun” in Doublelift’s words at Worlds. Surely Liquid would have an incentive to find a way to maximize their time playing on stage and in scrims together for their ultimate goal of winning Worlds?

As the great American football coach Bill Parcells once said, “you are your record,” and Liquid’s record was that of a very good team that at times struggled against teams like TSM, Clutch, CLG, and Cloud9. To blame the teams in NA for TL’s level of play at Worlds is preposterous considering Team Liquid either was tested throughout the LCS season or willingly passed up on their opportunity to experiment and refine their play against weaker competition.

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The fact of the matter is, this is Liquid’s talent ceiling. By failing to make it out of the group stage again they didn’t underperform or choke, this is just how good they are.