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Team Liquid At Worlds 2021 - A Preview

Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

7th Oct 2021 12:28

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League of Legends biggest tournament of the year is almost here and in just one week 22 teams will be competing in it for a chance to hoist the most prestigious trophy, the Summoner’s Cup. 

Among those teams is North America’s Team Liquid, a team that at the start of last year’s season finished at the bottom of the barrel, this was following the creation of their dynasty that included a 2019 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) finals visit. They later turned it around come summer, giving themselves the third and final Worlds spot. This is the organisation’s third World Championship in a row and for an organisation that has sat atop or near the thrown in the past recent years, this is their time to take the next step.

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How Team Liquid Qualified for Worlds

Lock In Tournament

Having had underperformed at their third consecutive Worlds was a downer to the organisation and their fans. In order to turn it around, Team Liquid, like Cloud9, went on the offensive during the offseason, making some of the more significant changes. With the team having been freed of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the summer, and a new up and coming AD Carry that shined bright at Worlds, Edward “Tactical” Ra, they had something to build off of. Couple that with the fact that they still had the best support in the region, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in and one of the better mid-laners in the league, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Team Liquid was in good hands.

They decided to let go of longtime stable top laner, Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, as well as their jungler, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen. This meant that two key positions were open for the team. Team Liquid minced no actions and went to grab outstanding replacements for each. They brought in Barney “Alphari” Morris from Europe and grabbed Lucas “Santorin” Larsen from FlyQuest. A solid top laner who was among the best in his region and a jungler who had reinvented himself throughout the years and showed to be a key addition to any team. This team, for all intents and purposes, was to be the other half of the pair that many thought were gonna dominate the league—Cloud9 and Team Liquid.

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Once the Lock In tournament started they clearly showcased that, and although they had to play with their substitute jungler, Jonathan “Armao” Armao for the first week, they got to both realise something valuable they would utilise later on and were able to dominate all the way through the finals. At the finals they were looking like the favourites, having had dominated everyone in their path versus a Cloud9 who had struggled and had to fight tooth and nail to get there. Team Liquid quickly took a 2-0 lead signifying that the first-ever Lock In tournament was theirs but with some pushback from Cloud9, things turned around. Fortunately for Team Liquid, come game five, they fully clamped down and took home the series victory.

2021 Spring

Riding high off of their finals win versus Cloud9, Team Liquid were looking to continue what they had started in the spring’s regular season. This was the plan, until things became uncertain and inconsistent, almost as if Team Liquid celebrated that win a little bit too much.

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It was frankly, a rough start for Team Liquid and it continued to around the end of the regular season. They were just good enough to keep the teams below them but didn’t have their bearings quite together when it came to facing the teams above them, unless they were Cloud9 which in that case they 2-0 them. This meant that they finished in third place after losing map differentials with second place Team SoloMid. All in all, not bad, but not what many expected.

Once in the playoffs, or the Mid-Summer Showdown (MSS), Team Liquid threw all of those inconsistencies out the window and looked like themselves again—themselves being the Lock In winners. They dominated Team SoloMid in Round 1 of the playoffs and were looking to be back on form just in time for their rematch versus Cloud9 in Round 2. Unfortunately for Team Liquid, they did not show up for this match and were knocked down into the losers bracket. And to make matters worse, Santorin once again had to miss games, this time due to health-related issues.

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Photo via Riot Games
Photo via Riot Games

With the knockdown to losers and Santorin out, things were looking dire for Team Liquid but they still were able to pull through. Thanks to solid performances from Armao and the rest of the team, they defeated Team SoloMid in a rematch, making it to the finals once again. In the finals, they overperformed considering their circumstances putting themselves up 2-1 early on but Cloud9 turned it around taking the MSS trophy from them. 

2021 Summer

Looking to bounce back to what was a “what if” ending, Team Liquid were determined to make sure they held their stay among the top. It all started with Week 1 of the summer regular season, in which they lost their MSS playoffs rematch versus Team SoloMid during the first game of the weekend. Following this, head coach, Joshua “Jatt” Leesman announced on Team Liquid’s Twitter that their Academy top laner, Thomas “Jenkins” Tran would be starting over Alphari for the remainder of the weekend. This immediately was cause for concern for Team Liquid fans. The organisation would explain in a later statement that Alphari would return several weeks later.

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But prior to his return, more turmoil hit the team. Jatt resigned as the team’s head coach, and once again, Santorin was out due to taking a medical break, this time, the break would be even longer. This led to the team having even more inconsistencies than the spring’s regular season, until Santorin’s eventual return in the final week of the LCS. Here, they looked much more measured and back on track—a good sight to see prior to starting the LCS Championship playoffs.

In the LCS Championship, the expected Team Liquid finally showed up as they ploughed through everyone in their path. A rematch versus Cloud9, followed by another rematch with Team SoloMid all ended in 3-1 in their favour, this led to a Worlds spot. Once in Round 4, they received more resistance from a surprising 100 Thieves but ultimately were able to defeat them 3-2, giving themselves a spot in the finals. In the finals, they would once again meet up with 100 Thieves from the losers bracket who took the very same names Team Liquid took. But unfortunately for Team Liquid, they were completely dominated in almost record time, meaning that Team Liquid would be the second seed at Worlds.

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How Well Could Team Liquid Do At Worlds 

As the second seed at Worlds, and a team that has failed to get past the group stage in the past, Team Liquid has a lot of pressure. 

Out of all of the North American teams seeded at this year’s Worlds, be it, 100 Thieves in Group B or Cloud9 in Group B of the play-ins, Team Liquid got placed in what many would call the “group of death” just by the sheer competitiveness it will probably bring come playtime. This isn’t the same Team Liquid from years past, it’s new and improved, and although they only won one tournament at the start of the year when teams weren’t fully settled, the fact that they’ve managed to reach every single final this year is commendable. This is on top of ongoing health issues that Santorin has had to face and the inner turmoil that occurred to start the summer.

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Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT

They have the best top laner and spring MVP runner up in Alphari who will certainly make waves at Worlds, a former World champion in CoreJJ, a mid-laner who’s been part of Worlds numerous times now in Jensen and a glue that is Santorin in the jungle. This is also rounded out by Tactical that, although hasn’t quite met expectations this year, had a breakout performance at last year’s Worlds.

The team is shocked full of experience, at least compared to the other NA representatives and has players that all are among the top, for their roles. This is their chance to make it out of groups. A stronger roster, an easier group and key performances will get them there. 

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Running It Back - Team Liquid

Photo via Riot Game/Getty Images

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

22nd Oct 2021 16:51

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