The best North American League of Legends team the last two years, here is how we think the reigning LCS champions will perform in 2020.
Team Liquid has been the premier team in the LCS for the last two years. Unfortunately, they still haven’t been able to perform during international tournaments. 2020 figures to be a make-or-break year as North America’s best League of Legends team attempts to translate that domestic success to the world stage.
High expectations missed
Liquid finished in first place during both regular-season splits in 2019. They continued to dominate during the playoffs, as they took down TSM and Cloud9 in the finals of the Spring and Summer Split, respectively, to claim their third and fourth LCS titles in a row.
However, outside of North American soil Liquid had mixed performances. At MSI, they finished second after a shocking semifinal win over then-World Champion Invictus Gaming. Unfortunately for NA fans, in the finals of that tournament, they were swept 3-0 by G2, but for a team known for finishing fourth-place throughout their history, a second-place finish was an improvement.
After that moderate success at MSI, the 2019 World Championship was the negative of the mixed bag internationally for Liquid. They started off group stage play with a win over highly-rated Damwon Gaming, which was Damwon’s only loss of the group stage. Liquid also took both games against lowly AHQ. However, they got crushed in a win-or-go-home game by Invictus to finish the tournament at 3-3 and failing to get out of groups.
Liquid’s roster in 2019 that achieved the four peat featured in the top lane, in the jungle, in the mid lane and a bottom lane duo of .
If the roster ain’t broke, don’t fix it
The 2020 roster only has one change from 2019 iteration and that is Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen replacing Jake “Xmithie” Puchero in the jungle. By preseason rankings this move is an upgrade. Liquid gets the top-ranked jungler in the LCS in Broxah, while losing the fourth-best jungler, making a good team even better.
However, visa issues are present for Broxah and he may miss significant time during the spring. Academy jungler Shern “Shernfire” Cherng Tai, is also experiencing visa issues, so Liquid is exploring alternate routes for the starting LCS spot.
A recent update said that Eugene “Pobelter” Park will step into the role but if this happens Liquid might be in a bit of trouble. Pobelter is a decent player but doesn’t have too much jungle experience as he has been a professional mid laner up to this point.
Yet outside of the jungle Liquid should be set. They do still have the top-rated bottom lane in the LCS, with Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in both receiving the top rankings at their positions. This comes after both had MVP-caliber 2019 seasons.
Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong is still steady in the top lane as the third best-rated top laner in the LCS. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen is also rated as the third-best LCS mid laner going into 2020. No team has a higher overall rating than Liquid does and it made sense to not make more changes to this roster.
Expectations remain high in 2020
Expectations for this team should still be high even with the current state of their jungle. Anything other than the LCS title is a bust of a split for Team Liquid. They have the talent to keep winning in North America and it wouldn’t surprise me if this season is a lot of just Liquid dominating everyone.
However, Liquid should be careful not to look too far ahead. They do still have to win the LCS before they get to worry about returning to MSI or Worlds. Even if Liquid is focused on righting the ship in international play they can’t forget to perform in North America.
I think with Broxah in the lineup, Liquid should fare better internationally. He has experience going further at Worlds than Liquid ever has by making the 2019 Worlds Quarterfinals and 2018 Worlds Finals as a member of Fnatic. Broxah wins on the international stage and bringing that to Liquid is a step in the right direction.
However, if they have to field Pobelter as a jungler in international play they could be in big trouble. Pobelter was criticized as a weak link for TL during their 2018 Worlds run and was replaced by Jensen in 2019. With Pobelter in an off-role, I can’t see his level of play improving in international competition and he could once more be a weak link for Liquid.
I do still think Liquid is set to have a strong 2020 season. So hopefully they can get the visa issues resolved before too long and we get to see this team at full strength. I think at full strength this is a team that has a pretty good shot at making it to the World Championship and even contending to get out of groups.