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Team Liquid were once on top of the Dota 2 world. In 2017, the addition of Maroun “GH” Merhej to the roster proved to be the magic touch and they rattled off tournament win after tournament win. It culminated in Liquid entering TI7 as the clear favorites and they repaid the community’s trust duly by winning the event.
Many TI champions fall off or disband after their championship wins. But while Liquid slowed down, they were still consistently getting top placements throughout the DPC season, culminating in a fourth-place finish at TI8. Sure, this would be a great result for many teams, but not for Liquid.
Liquid started the season by not attending the first Major, citing competitive fatigue as a major reason. When they qualified for the second Major, they had to find a stand-in for Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and only came in eighth place at the Chongqing Major. Surprisingly, even with Miracle- back, they went to the DreamLeague Stockholm Major and got dead last.
Just as people started wondering if it was the end of Liquid’s two-year roster, they finally regained their mojo in Paris. A second-place finish wasn’t Liquid’s highest placing, but it sure was an improvement over the majority of the season.
And then, the unthinkable happened.
Everybody loved Liquid not just for their dominion over Dota 2, but because each player seemed like actual friends and had lovable personalities to boot. Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, one of their more outspoken and entertaining players, was shown the door by Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi in June to make way for Aliwi “w33” Omar.
With the fresh acquisition of w33, Liquid entered the last EPICENTER Major revitalized. With the power of w33’s Windranger and Templar Assassin, they demolished Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD, and Virtus Pro (twice). After a hard-fought, five-game series, they fell once again to second place against Vici Gaming.
Even though they came in second place, Liquid looked more dangerous than they had for an entire year. Say what you will about the ethics of MATUMBAMAN’s removal, but KuroKy and the rest of the squad are once again on the hunt for a second Aegis.
So what makes Liquid even more dangerous than before? Will the addition of w33 prove to be the impetus Liquid needed to push for their second Aegis?
Under the tutelage of KuroKy, Liquid have transformed into one of the most dominant early-game teams with an extreme emphasis on taking down objectives around the map. As it turns out, this emphasis can be a little too extreme sometimes:
Taking down towers equates to more space around the map, and even farm-hungry monster Miracle- understands that. While he’ll prefer sitting and farming both the jungle and the lane if he can get away with it, he’s not one of the best players in the world simply because he knows how to farm.
Besides Miracle-’s farm-heavy distribution, the other Liquid players are more than willing to fight early. W33 likes mid heroes that can get active after the laning phase, such as Windrunner, Visage or Templar Assassin. Ivan Borislavov “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov loves heroes that contribute to teamfights and those that can splitpush well, like Nature’s Prophet and Beastmaster. And GH is a literal god of roaming on heroes like Earth Spirit and Earthshaker.
While Liquid’s early domination is well known, their ability to drag out a game through a combination of splitpushing, defending, and clearing waves is equally feared. MinD_ContRoL and Miracle- are two of the best decision-makers in the world, seemingly never getting caught out while pushing the limits when it comes to splitting the map.
The addition of w33 has added another dimension to their play. While MATUMBAMAN was known for his extreme cheese heroes like Broodmother, Dazzle, and Viper, w33 might just be on par with heroes like Visage and Meepo. The biggest thing w33 brings to the table is a more powerful laning presence due to his top-notch laning skills.
Player to watch: Miracle-
Miracle- is widely regarded as possibly the best player in the world, both by fans and fellow luminaries. He farms so much because he’s quick and efficient, but also because Liquid trusts Miracle- to be their win condition.
Miracle- isn’t adverse to making aggressive moves. Just look at this clip of his one-vs-five rampage on Outworld Devourer.
He has a sublime innate understanding of his hero’s capabilities against the others present in the game. Miracle- usually handles the most powerful late-game hero, which 90 percent of the time means he’s on a weak early-game hero. Thus, he makes up for it by farming at inhuman speeds as soon as possible so he can transform into a headache for the enemy team and not Liquid.
Make no mistake, Liquid might have a new roster entering TI, but as of yet, there’s still little reason to believe their best player isn’t Miracle-.
Although they don’t have a brand-new roster by any means, Liquid will enter TI with a little bit of an unknown quality. TI-winning teams tend to have an X-factor hidden somewhere: It could be a new in-game strategy, a pocket draft to sneak games away, or simply the hidden surprise of somebody’s hero pool. With w33’s exotic breadth at Liquid’s disposal, expect teams to keep a keen eye out for Meepo.
W33’s laning prowess has melded easily with Liquid’s early-game philosophy, bringing a new angle to their domineering play. Will Liquid be able to replicate their success from TI7? As of now, it seems very possible.