Team Liquid and the Not-So-Problematic Piglet Problem
On the back of wins against Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming with substitute Yuri “KeithMcBreif” Jew, Team Liquid decide to give former World Champion and starting AD carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin another chance in week seven of the LCS. Piglet was previously benched after one week of play due to internal team differences.
“It’s only fair for us to give Piglet another chance,” said Team Liquid analyst Mark Zimmerman. “When we benched him we gave him this big list of things we wanted him to improve on. When we started scrimming with him in the morning blocks, he had improved on them.”
Under such circumstances, Team Liquid fans were cautiously optimistic going into the week against Team Impulse and Team 8.
They took Team Liquid’s less-than-stellar performances with Piglet in stride. The first run of losses were Piglet’s first LCS matches with team. He forgot his masteries in the first match against Counter Logic Gaming. The team lacked synergy outside of the Rift, as evidenced by Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera’s remarks in an post-match interview with onGamers.
“We play more as a team with Keith,” he said. “It’s a different atmosphere. Instead of being like nervous when the game starts, it’s kind of a happy atmosphere. We’re joking when we’re on stage before the game practicing skill shots or whatever.”
He continued: “We just have a much more positive attitude, which I think helps in games [against Team Solomid] where you’re obviously not favored and the other team has won 90 percent of their games. Our attitude is just better and allows us to win games we’d probably lose with Piglet.”
Despite the initial performance and issues with Piglet, the prevailing thought amongst fans was a positive one: all of those things would get better with time. They were fixable. Maybe they would stumble with Team Impulse and Team 8, but they were the heavy favorites due to veteran experience.
As week seven came to an end, reality again failed to match expectations. After another 0-2 week with Piglet, blame reared its ugly head across social media.
Critics looked everywhere. Maybe Team Liquid’s drafts in both series contributed the most to their losses. Team Impulse and Team 8 recognized IWillDominate’s strength on Rek’Sai and banned it. They didn’t want to deal with his ability to be nearly omnipresent on the map, farming and ganking with ease — a major factor in the team’s win against Team Solomid.
What’s more, it could've been Team Liquid’s insistence on the Jarvan pick. In both games, top tier junglers Rek’Sai and Nidalee were banned. Where any other team would’ve prioritized Vi, Team Liquid opted for Jarvan and let Vi through in both matches. On 5.4, after the armor removal from Jarvan’s flag, his position as a top priority jungler plummeted. He still had his engage, but because of his impacted early game, he was no longer the king of the jungle he had been at the start of the season.
In both matches, IWillDominate failed to find any successful ganks with Jarvan. When he did, he would get caught out, dying repeatedly without purpose. Instead, he farmed and his solo laners repeatedly died to overwhelming gank pressure from Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae and Braeden “Porpoise8” Schwark.
But, surprisingly, after another set of losses — a situation that would give even more credence to IWillDominate’s earlier words — the blame was never placed on Piglet. Instead, fans clamored to defend the player. Piglet played okay, they said, but Team Liquid lost because of any of the aforementioned opinions.
Many talked of ridiculous plots by IWillDominate and Quas to intentionally throw, thus solidifying Keith’s place on the roster. Many criticized Quas’ unorthodox build on Kennen, preferring to build Rylai’s Crystal Scepter first over more traditional items. Many pointed to Fenix, asking when was the last time he put in a solid performance.
But nobody blamed Piglet. The losses were not his to own, and many more wanted that to be vehemently known.
In the aftermath of Team Liquid’s poor showing, the community’s intentions, whether conscious or not, became clearer. The outpouring of support for Piglet looked much like an attempt to ward off a decision that they knew was coming. The Reddit posts, tweets, and comments defending Piglet on the back of some other Team Liquid downfall were but one more brick in a wall to protect the AD carry’s position in the starting roster.
The community rushed to Piglet’s defense because of one unassailable truth: there is no “Piglet problem” for Team Liquid when there’s an easy fix in Keith.
The “Piglet problem” never existed after week one of the LCS. There was always a simple solution. It didn’t matter that Team Liquid’s draft highlighted an exploitable dependence on Rek’Sai. And it didn’t matter that Quas and Fenix put in back-to-back sub-par performances.
In the back of every Team Liquid or Piglet fans’ mind, they knew that the team simply wins without the world champion. No matter the attempts to point out IWillDominate’s misplays or the solo laners’ questionable performances, no other flaw in Team Liquid’s play could be blamed until it became a truth with Keith in the roster.
With a week break as teams compete at IEM Katowice, we’ll find out how Team Liquid “solves” the “problem.” They’ll either find the answer to why their draft and their game seems to systematically break down with Piglet in the roster and play with him in week eight. Or they’ll bench him for Keith.
In the end, the “Piglet problem” exists only as a matter of semantics. Did Team Liquid’s original decision to give Piglet “another” chance mean they were going to work on the team’s problems in light of their successes with Keith? Or did they really mean only one more chance?
Photo credit: Riot Games/Flickr