There’s not much to say about Team Liquid at this point. After assembling an All-Star roster before 2018, they were looking toward winning titles, and they snatched both that year. In the following offseason, they added possibly the best mid-laner in North America: Jensen: and one of the best supports in the world: CoreJJ. So of course, they grabbed another two in 2019. Coming into 2020, they traded veteran jungler Xmithie for newer, European phenom Broxah. At this point the only questions are “How will Broxah mesh with the team,” and “Have any rosters made enough changes to finally compete with the growing dynasty?”.
In the top lane is non other than Impact, the former world champion and best top-laner in North America. Impact has rarely, if ever, seen failure in his career. After joining SKT in early 2013, he ended the year with a world title. The next year, SKT played well, but barely missed the World Championship, falling to Najin White Shield in the regional final. Then, coming to North America, Impact would play on a couple of decent teams in Team Impulse and NRG Esports, before joining C9 and eventually Team Liquid. Aside from a fifth place finish in LCS, the world performance he’s had is fourth place in Korea, which is pretty dang passable if you ask me. All of this has certainly happened through Impact’s play; becoming one of the best and most iconic tank players of all time. As you can assume, his Shen is God-like, as he has his own skin in the game. Other tanks like Maokai and Ornn, he’s made a name for himself on. But he’s not as one-dimensional as many people always think. He solo-killed who many believe to be the best top-laner in the world, with Aatrox. He’s destroyed many people with his Jayce, and even his Kennen has made highlights. He always has his doubters, but there’s nothing this man hasn’t done, and can’t do.
Impact (far left) with teammates on world champion SKT T1.
Up next is the newcomer Broxah, whose past is less clear-cut. The Danish jungler made his debut on European team Fnatic toward the beginning of 2017. With the team, he was able to make three World Championships, including in 2018, where they made the World Final itself. It’s no doubt that he’s been on the most or second-most successful team in Europe the past three years, but the public opinion around him has been very inconsistent. It seems every year almost, he goes from being the undisputed best jungler in Europe, to more middle-of-the-pack to bad. This has been first, due to Fnatic’s weird inner struggles, but also due to the meta changes. When Elise, Lee Sin, and other aggressive junglers are good, Broxah is good. When Zac, Sejuani, and Trundle are good, he’s not so good. The role at which the jungle plays in the meta determines his play. And until he can change that, I’ll see him similar to the way I see Blaber; as a very skilled jungler whose playstyle hinders his consistency.
You’ll probably start to see a pattern soon, but on Team Liquid is also the best North American mid-laner, Jensen. Jensen entered the LCS after Riot unbanned him, and allowed him into competitive play in 2015. Replacing Hai began as a struggle, and he didn’t immediately mesh with the team. But once Hai began starting as the jungler, they were able to salvage their performance and limp into the World Championship. And since, the worst he’s been is second best at his position. Throughout 2016 and 2017, it seemed the debate was always over Jensen or Bjergsen for first. And because Bjergsen would win the matchup and therefore the championships, he was the default answer. But since the fall of TSM, it seems Jensen has taken his place atop North America, and doesn’t seem to be letting go. Though there have been a few criticisms on champion pool, he’s managed to be the most consistent performer on the international stage, and I think on the domestic stage as well. He may not win his matchup each time he steps on stage, but I struggle to think of a single example of when he’s been the sole reason for the loss. As long as his mental state is okay, he’s great, and definitely number one for a reason.
Jensen (right) with Sneaky (left), who I may have named both of my dogs after…
Bot-laner DoubleLift is the man who needs no introduction. He’s won more domestic titles than anyone else in North America, destroying his opponents and paving himself as by far the best the LCS has ever seen. Before leaving TSM for TL, I think a majority of people would’ve put Bjegsen as the historic MVP of the league, but I don’t think it’s fair to question it at this point. DoubleLift is the kind of North America. Mechanically, he’s amazing. In lane, he somehow manages to gain CS leads in losing matchups, even when he falls behind, he knows how to soak waves to catch up, and at least domestically, in teamfights, he’s a terror. His international success continues to be questionable, but in terms of playing in North America, it’s hard to perform better than he does.
Behind him is the world-class support CoreJJ. After leaving Dignitas’s ADC position, he became an ADC for Samsung Galaxy in Korea, but a few months later, they transitioned him into a support. And that was the best thing they could’ve done. As a support, CoreJJ took SSG to two different World Championship Finals, winning one over SKT T1, and effectively ended their dynasty. But when his team Gen.G started performing poorly, he came to North America with mid-laner Crown, and joined TL. Since then, he’s won MVP, almost twice, and proved to be the missing piece Team Liquid was needing. Prior to CoreJJ, DoubleLift, even when performing well, would often complain about his support. He did it with Biofrost on TSM, he did it with Olleh on TL his first year, but he can’t really pull that anymore. And when he doesn’t have anything bad to say about you, you’re pretty dang good.
CoreJJ at the 2017 World Championship, which he would eventually win.
As you can tell, Team Liquid is a pretty stacked team. When it comes to individual players, they don’t really have a weakness you can exploit easily, compared to other NA teams. The tough part comes with making them work together, in a singular identity. Before this year, Xmithie seemed to me to be the emotional and communicational center for the team. He wasn’t the flashiest player, but his veteran status, especially within the specific Team Liquid system, he could bring everyone together. Now, with Broxah, someone else needs to take his place. I know DoubleLift is a very vocal player, and can probably pick up the playcalling slack, but I don’t know who will be the calm voice. If they can manage to find someone to take his place in that regard, they should be very good. I did mention earlier that Broxah doesn’t play the most consistent game, but I think his tank play is on-par with Xmithie’s (minus Skarner), and his carry play is a whole level above Xmithie. Also, his aggression is something they struggled with, but wanted to incorporate into their playstyle last year. I think if they’re still aiming for that goal, he’ll help them achieve that a lot quicker and better than Xmithie would.
Coaching isn’t something I’ve ever been worried about, when looking at Team Liquid. Each player has been in the league for quite some time, and I think in general they haven’t had many personnel issues. No one mentions Cain too much, but he is certainly qualified for the position. He’s been the one watching over this dynasty through its entire existence, and before it existed. He was part of the Cloud9 organization for a while as well. And he has both coaching and playing experience back in Korea. Unless I’m missing something, Cain seems to be doing a great job, shadowing over everything.
Cain at the center of his team, in 2018.
I am slightly uncertain about the chemistry change brought in with the Broxah change. But no matter what, they have top two talent at each position in their league. Throughout the past two years, TL has shown that worst case scenario, they get first place. The only thing that changes is how convincing it is. I don’t think it’ll impact their domestic performance whatsoever, minus maybe a few games in the regular season. It could cascade in either good or bad ways, into their international performance, but we’ll have to wait and see.