After three LCS championships and an appearance in the MSI 2019 grand finals, Team Liquid are poised to come in first place in North America for the fourth straight time. For veteran jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, though, maintaining this legacy comes with a healthy dose of stress.
Coming in second at MSI marked a new era for Liquid. Having already proven their ability to win at home, they finally demonstrated to the world that they have what it takes to be an international contender. While global success can add pressure to perform, this didn’t phase Xmithie coming into the 2019 LCS Summer Split.
“The pressure personally for me didn’t come from MSI,” Xmithie told Dot Esports. “It’s mainly coming from just winning three times and having that legacy continued. I need to win the next one and the next one and the next one. Yeah, the legacy part is we need to win.”
Last weekend, Liquid secured their spot as the sole owners of first place in the LCS after defeating Clutch Gaming. There was almost no doubt that Liquid would take home the win, but a seemingly easy match turned into a struggle.
Clutch took advantage of surprisingly easy kills. This led to an unnoticed Baron take by Clutch that allowed them to press the match in their favor. At one point, the teams swapped sides in an attempt by Liquid to prevent Clutch from taking more of their base.
“This game, we were too relaxed,” Xmithie said. “It can be a good and bad thing. But especially this game, it was pretty much a bad thing. We didn’t really expect them to do a two-man Baron that early until it [was] too late. So yeah, we threw a lot of leads.”
Liquid were able to shift the game into their favor with their superior composition and teamfighting ability. And although it’s marked as a win for Liquid, it reminds us they aren’t without flaws. As the team continues on their path to becoming four-time consecutive LCS champions, Xmithie believes the only thing that could prevent them from first place is their inability to adapt.
“If we don’t get first place, it’s not because of our skill—just maybe adaptation of the game since Riot sometimes changes the patch, and we’re pretty slow to adapt sometimes,” Xmithie said. “It takes us a couple of weeks or so to get used to it.”
While Riot loves its patches, the company has eased players’ woes over the years by adding a buffer between updates, making it easier for teams to adjust. As long as massive updates aren’t introduced mid-season, Liquid should continue their dominant run to first place this summer.
The same can’t be said once this split is over, however. And with Worlds slowly creeping up, Xmithie pointed out this issue has been a part of their downfall in previous years.
“I feel like sometimes at Worlds, we do pretty well at the beginning and at the end, [but] we fail to adapt and usually we lose—or our [mentality] wasn’t there,” Xmithie said.
Outside of continuing the legacy, Xmithie has always had the goal of performing well at Worlds.
“Since I went to Worlds for the first time with Vulcan—I’m thankful for Vulcan—that was my goal for every year: Get to Worlds and do really, really well,” Xmithie said. “And that hasn’t really happened to me yet.”
For Liquid, let alone any North American team, this has proven to be more difficult than it sounds. Despite placing first in both 2018 splits, Liquid were eliminated before ever reaching the group stage. And although Worlds is still a few months away, it never leaves the minds of players. It’s seemingly no different for Xmithie.