LCS Summer 2020 Playoffs: Why No One Picks Team Liquid to Win

Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games.
Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games. /

Even though Team Liquid finished in first place during the regular split, not many people seem to have confidence in them to emerge victorious in the LCS playoffs.

Team Liquid has done the unthinkable and secured 1st place in the LCS summer regular season over Cloud9. The team that finished in 9th place last split with a 7-11 record and replaced their star AD-carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng with Academy AD Edward “Tactical” Ra improved beyond perhaps even their own expectations.

Their 15-3 finish is the single best record the Team Liquid organization has ever had in a regular season. Even the TL super-team of last year finished 14-4 in both splits. The only three losses the team has incurred were at the hands of the reigning champion Cloud9, the spring finalist FlyQuest, and the spring 3rd place team Evil Geniuses.

Despite a seemingly dominant regular season, few fans, casters, analysts, and experts are singing their praises. There is a hesitation to crowning Liquid the best team in North America. During their rise in the regular season when they were neck and neck with Cloud9 few gave the team credit. Even now it is hard to find a prominent figure in the scene who adamantly believes that TL will claim their 5th LCS title at the end of the month.

The question is why? Why does almost no one believe Team Liquid is the best team in the region?

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Perhaps the hesitation lies not so much with Team Liquid, but with their competition. We could be in a situation where most people are hedging their bets on Cloud9 returning to form. After all, C9 looked by far in a way like the best team in the region four weeks ago. This coupled with the massive gap between them and the rest of the league last split would have any rational person thinking twice about the boys in blue being out of the conversation.

Other LCS teams like FlyQuest, Team SoloMid, and Evil Geniuses have also given Liquid a significant challenge in the regular season. It is not out of the realm of possibility one of these teams could eliminate Team Liquid in a best of five playoff series. How can it be that a team who went 15-3 seems so vulnerable?

The last time the LCS’s first-place team was not considered to be the best team in the league was ironically enough Summer 2015 Team Liquid. In what seems like an eternity ago many thought their late-season surge was impressive but had major concerns with their ability to win in the postseason. This TL is far more experienced. Three of the five starting players from last year are still on the team, and performing well.

CoreJJ is likely to win the MVP of summer, Impact has been criminally overlooked all split long, and Jensen has been notably strong in the mid-lane. Tactical has also shown that he has been more than capable in replacing Doublelift and may very well win the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. A fair question to ask is how much of Team Liquid’s success is due to CoreJJ being stellar. Perhaps a more appropriate question would be how many of Team Liquid’s flaws are being masked by CoreJJ’s brilliant performances.

That said, it is important to highlight Team Liquid’s strengths before giving the impression they are not one of the best teams in the LCS. In summer, no team has been more punishing to mistakes than TL has been.

When given the opportunity they exploit their opponent’s weaknesses and in-game mistakes. They also have the most consistent three lanes of any team in the league. Apart from their loss to FLY where Impact’s Kennan was demolished by Solo’s Renekton, rarely will you see one or any of their lanes ‘lose’ and rarer still has a team successfully snowballed a lead acquired during laning phase.

It is also true that Team Liquid are not proactive in the early game and very often do find themselves down in gold or map pressure. Tactical has been good, but it’s a lot easier for him to focus on his play when his lane partner might be the best support in LCS history. Easier still when his solo laners are Impact and Jensen.

Of the two, Impact is a weakside top-laner and not a carry threat in the same way a player like Licorice or Brokenblade can be. Jensen doesn’t smash open his lanes like he used to despite being the best performing mid laner in the LCS this split.

We now come to the elephant in the room: Broxah. He has been okay but he has not been performing as TL had hoped he would when they released Xmithie and signed him in November of last year. He was not responsible for the team failing to make playoffs last split, but he is also not a major factor in their victories this split. He’s just kind of there.

Much like Spica on TSM, Broxah just kind of exists to do the bare minimum that is required of his position. Try to maintain vision control, help set up and secure neutral objectives, and gank when appropriate. Perhaps that is a little too harsh considering he is more or less being asked to play this role for the team, but the point remains.

Broxah has been one of the least impressive Junglers in summer, all year for that matter. CoreJJ is fulfilling many of the duties that TL’s Jungler would traditionally be responsible for; if you find that hard to believe go watch their games.

Team Liquid also did not look dominant in-game very often this split. All season long, but especially in the first half, Team Liquid was either coming back into games they were losing or were struggling to close the game.

Last year, Team Liquid was the best team-fighting team in the LCS, and among the best in the world. They were not very active in the early game, but they would punish their opponent’s mistakes to the fullest of their ability. This year Team Liquid has remained one of the best team-fighting teams but Cloud9, Team SoloMid, and FlyQuest are equally as good at 5v5 team-fighting and have the potential to be better if given the right draft or in-game advantage.

There are several instances this split where Team Liquid should have lost games or at the very least should have won more convincingly for a top team. There was the Week 4 Immortals game where rookie mid laner Insanity missing his ultimate allowed TL to win. Before that, their Week 3 match against Dignitas it took them more than 46 minutes to defeat a highly dysfunctional bottom LCS team. That is why many do not confidently claim they are the best team in the league. Liquid looks way too vulnerable.

Another concern people like myself have is how good will this team look in a best-of-five series where teams that may have dropped Game 1 against Liquid can adjust. What would a best-of-five look like for Liquid if FlyQuest or Golden Guardians can adapt to TL’s drafts and their in-game tendencies? We may see a situation where Liquid does not make the LCS finals.

Even if TL ends up winning the summer split, I personally have serious concerns about how the team will fair internationally. Their playstyle only works because they have some of the strongest, if not the strongest, laners in North America.

TL’s international opponents will be much better, and they won’t have the ability to just sit back and punish mistakes. This is especially true when considering both the LPL and LEC – two of the more aggressive and skilled regions – have an extra team attending the World Championship this year. We may see another year where Liquid goes 3-3 in groups and exit the tournament early.

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Summer 2020 Team Liquid may be the most disrespected team in LCS history. They are not a very exciting team to watch. They play very standard and try to win through smart calculated plays rather than flashy and risky 50/50s.

Despite only losing 3 games they have been doubted and criticized all split long. Even now, few people are confidently predicting the team to lift the LCS trophy in a few weeks, and with good reason.