The biggest storyline in the the NA LCS Promotion Tournament revolved around Team Liquid. Not only is the team surprisingly in the tournament after losing their LCS spot, but they would potentially have to go through former Liquid members to get back in.
Last year’s coach, Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub is now in charge of Gold Coin United, and he brought with him mid laner Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun.
Both Team Liquid and Gold Coin United won their first matches on Friday night to set up the pivotal meeting. In Gold Coin’s win against Team EnVyUs, FeniX completely dominated and the team used his winning mid lane as a fulcrum to pressure the rest of the map.
Now he would be going against former teammate, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. Piglet’s accomplishments as a player are legend, but his results in the mid lane have not been good. He has the worst laning numbers in the entire region, even behind EnVy mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo. On paper, this was looking like a matchup nightmare for Piglet and Team Liquid.
How on earth was Piglet supposed to win against FeniX?
He started by going with a pick nobody expected: mid lane Karthus. In 221 NA LCS games this split, Karthus has been picked once. And in the hands of Piglet, it worked wonders.
As long as you’re going to have an off-role mid laner, you might as well match him with an off-meta champion. No matter how much Piglet has practiced, there is no way that in a few short weeks he can learn all the meta matchups, not when mid lane is the position with perhaps the most champion diversity. By picking Karthus, Liquid can level the playing field by forcing FeniX into a matchup he too isn’t familiar. Karthus hasn’t been picked at all in the Challenger series this year.
Karthus’ kit also makes sense with what Liquid wants to do. They know they can win bot lane, and with the talent discrepancy in mid the only other winning lane they might have is top lane with Samson “Lourlo” Jackson. Lourlo delivered, with two fantastic Camille games to start the series.
But if Lourlo is going to need resources, Piglet needs a way to stay safe. Karthus gives him ranged wave clear, key to help him stay even in CS. Karthus’ E allows Piglet to conserve mana, something he hasn’t been good at either with ability usage or with his item builds. The Wall of Pain helps dissuade mid lane ganks. The entire kit is focused on allowing Piglet to CS with minimal disruption.
Then there’s the ultimate. One downside to keeping in lane is that Gold Coin can force power plays in the side lanes with Fenix roaming. But the Karthus ult allows Piglet to do damage all over the map, on multiple members, without ever leaving mid lane. The Rumble ult is called the Equalizer, but in this series, Karthus’ ult might have better fit that moniker.
Piglet’s good timing on his ult combined with a couple botched plays by Gold Coin allowed Liquid to play to their win conditions and snowball games one and two to take a commanding lead in the series.
After going down to the combination of Camille/Karthus, Gold Coin United decided to ban both, and it worked. Both Piglet and Lourlo looked extremely uncomfortable and Liquid’s focus on bot lane became two easy to read. Piglet keeps picking Taliyah, and it keeps backfiring.
In the deciding game five, Gold Coin made the fatal error of leaving Camille up. Liquid happily first-picked her for Lourlo. But Karthus remained banned—who could Piglet turn to in this crucial moment? The answer was Ahri. Ahri got Piglet his first LCS win as a mid laner, she’s super strong right now, and she would prove key in this matchup as well. FeniX countered with Cassiopeia, someone who can bully lanes and make CS’ing hell.
But somehow, Piglet managed to stay even in lane, even while jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin again devoted the bulk of his resources elsewhere. Reignover was again able to help Lourlo get a lead on Camille and the Liquid snowball was rolling. And then Piglet finished Gold Coin United off.
To be fair, Liquid knew FeniX was there and Piglet was far ahead. But this is the type of execution they need from their old mid laner if they want better results next summer.