A Liquid Curse- Debunking the hype surrounding Team Liquid
The new Team Liquid, formerly known as Curse, has found itself riding a monumental hype train entering the new season; driven by an organisational switch as well as two roster moves Team Liquid are now being touted as a top 3 contender by many for the spring split, if not top 2. But when these roster moves are properly analysed, particularly when contemplating the problems that had plagued the previous Curse team, it becomes difficult to definitively suggest that this new roster will do significantly better than the old, at least without considering the generally weaker state of the rest of the league.
A carrying force –
With the addition of Piglet, Team Liquid is in possession of one of the most potentially potent carries in the west. Boasting a world championship and 2 OGN titles, there is no one of Piglet’s pedigree currently playing in the LCS (bar his old team mate Impact). Not only are Piglet’s achievements impressive, but so is his play itself; operating as a second carry next to the legendary Faker, Piglet would often win lane despite being paired with one of the weaker laning supports in Korea, progressing to an incredibly mechanically impressive teamfighting style. Even when Bengi and Poohmandu’s form dropped off a cliff, Piglet was still able to display his elite level carry potential at times, if not to the same consistency as he had historically. There is no doubt that in this area Liquid has bagged itself a monumental upgrade, as the slow and steady Cop was not quite the carry force that was necessary in a team that also housed the conservative Quas and the often inconsistent Voyboy.
The question is whether or not Piglet can truly settle in the west, and his psychological wellbeing should be a huge concern for the management of Team Liquid. Anyone who has followed Piglet’s career in any depth will be fully aware of the fragility of his mental state, his breakdown despite winning OGN Winter a prime example of this. Piglet himself has stated his own fear of being unable to adapt and settle in NA, and I would say that it is no certainty that he will ever manage to do so. Whilst there is a huge potential upside to Piglet, there is also a very real possibility that it will never be realised, and when suggesting where exactly Team Liquid will end up next split, it is almost impossible to give the full credit of Piglet to them at this point.
The supposed wildcard –
I am surprised at the lack of dissent when Fenix, formerly known as Miso, was announced as the mid laner for Curse. Not only was Voyboy a particular fan favourite due to his streaming personality and history as an exciting top lane talent, but Fenix is a largely unproven player hailing from one of the worst teams in OGN. Fenix was not even a mid laner during his time on Jin Air, but actually the starting top, and boasting one of the worst win records in competitive Korean LoL (for a player who played more than a single split), going 3 – 15 over his career. It is not even as if one could suggest Fenix didn’t get a chance to settle, as he played two splits of champions as well as starting six times in Masters, giving him plenty of game time to adjust and show his true ability. In fact, his play arguably got worse over time, with some torrid showings in Spring 2014 including a 0 – 8 – 6 game on Ryze. It’s hard to look at this as anything other than a significant downgrade, as despite Voyboy’s inconsistency in terms of star carry potential he was at least solid in the majority of his games.
In search of a leader –
Curse’s late game shot calling was some of the most awful in the whole of the NA LCS. They appeared to have a reasonable grasp of the early and mid-game, IWillDominate’s early moves often helping his already strong laners gain leads and as a team they were often capable of transitioning this into mid game towers and dragons, but they were very prone to throwing large gold leads in the late game. They seemed to struggle cracking the base, knowing how exactly they were supposed to dance around baron, and their choice of when to teamfight late game was also at times suspect. Curse were fortunate in that they were often able to accrue leads large enough for this deficiency to not matter, and the NA LCS in general was fairly weak in terms of late game rotations, meaning this flaw was rarely punished.
In this new look team, I can’t see these problems being ironed out easily. Possibly some better coaching may assist them somewhat in this area, but adding two non-English players can only serve to make shot calling matters more difficult. Additionally, Voyboy appeared to be somewhat of a shot calling force on the old Curse, and I would argue that his removal would more likely hurt than aid any late game shot calling from Curse.
A new dawn –
The one aspect that significantly aids Team Liquid’s chances of really challenging for the top spots in NA is the organisation backing them. Team Liquid has a long and decorated history in esports, and the benefits of their foray into League of Legends for the community have been greatly documented. With a strong coaching staff and some money behind the team they may be able to overcome the problems facing them, particularly their late game shot calling, and allow them to challenge C9 and TSM for the NA spring split title.