This week we will be taking a quick look at Team Liquids performance so far, whilst continuing with the trend of looking at the most recent games with a view to determing whether progress is being made, and what to expect of them in next weeks games.
The last 3 weeks have been a mixture of ups and downs for Team Liquid, and whilst the mood is fairly sombre with their overall score of 2-4 there are a few silver linings that can be taken away from recent performances. In fact their overall game score of 6-9 indicates that things might not be so bleak, indeed this places them 6th amongst all NALCS teams.
However this optimism needs to be somewhat tempered, a quick glance at the overall rankings, including a look at those teams below Liquid, shows a less comforting picture for their fans.
Unfortunately for Liquid, their current standings may simply be a by-product of the concurrent collapse of both Dignitas and Immortals, combined with CLG’s trouble adapting to the current meta. In fact the only team that Liquid can reasonably be happy about defeating has been the recently surging Echo Fox, who have been riding the surge of momentum following Akaadian having some standout performances. However, whilst this all sounds particularly grim, and it should do, Liquid can take some comfort in taking both TSM and FlyQuest to 3 games during those series. In fact Liquid are currently the only team (apart from Echo Fox who took a series from them) to have not been 2-0’d by the rampaging FlyQuest squad.
What does all this mean for Team Liquid? Well really it all falls down to patience, the upcoming week will really cement Liquids identity as either a potential contender with some kinks to iron out, or as a team struggling to make it out of the bottom of the pack. For me personally I want to keep an eye on how Piglet and Matt develop as I feel like they are still an uncharacteristically weak point for Liquid. Piglet is still dying way too often during these games. He currently ranks second in total deaths out of all NALCS ADCs, and is only 2 deaths from becoming the category leader. Even for the current meta in which ADCs are having a rough time, Piglet really needs to adapt and show proficiency on the more utility based champions such as Ashe, Jhin and Varus.
During this week Team Liquid played both Team EnVyUs and Echo Fox (NV, EF). They went a total of 1-1 on series, and had an overall game score of 2-3.
A quick comparison of their current performances week-by-week shows a huge dip in performance for week 2, with a moderate recover for the third week. As mentioned earlier further data will allow for us to determine whether their upward trajectory will continue, or if more inconsistencies are to come.
What to say about this series for Liquid? Simultaneously handing NV their first win, whilst bringing back that familiar feeling of despair to those who thought maybe Liquid could bounce back from week 2.
Game 1 started with a promising draft, Reignover got his Olaf pick and we saw the possibility that Piglet was starting to pick up these more utility focused ADCs. The second round Shen pick indicates their plan to play around botlane again, combined with the shields from Orianna and Karma. However we see NV put all their eggs in the mid-game basket with Corki, Varus and Rumble which ultimately allows them to run straight through Liquid during that time frame.
In the early game we see a rather clever rotation from NV’s botlane, where they move top alongside Seraph using the blasting plant, from here they can easily dive Lourlo to secure both the first blood and turret, giving them a 1.8k gold lead at around 8 minutes.
From this early game lead we see Liquid take some decent teamfights to stall out through the NV powerspike, but an unfortunate teamfight from Goldenglue sees NV secure a 4-1 fight followed by the baron. From here NV simply push up lanes and are able to bait Liquid again once the baron respawns, catching Piglet and wining the teamfight, and the game.
Overall the first game was fairly close during the mid-game, something that I was not expecting. Liquid have shown that they are able to effectively turtle up once they find themselves at either a gold disadvantage, or overwhelming map pressure placed on them. Ultimately the carries for Liquid just didn’t perform that game, both Goldenglue and Piglet had some less than optimal performances, with missed Shockwaves and Piglet prioritising summoner spell usage during the final teamfight.
During this game we see Liquid pick a fairly similar comp to last time, taking both the Olaf, Shen and Orianna, whilst swapping out their botlane for Varus/MF. One thing that I think is important to note about this draft is that often we see the Varus paired alongside the Corki in order to provide an extra damage source during that mid-game spike. This allows teams to poke people off towers and to have a diverse range of waveclear, and I feel that taking a safe pick like Orianna with this comp just doesn’t capitalise on the overall strength of that Varus. And especially during the second game in which Corki was available for Goldenglue, it would have allowed for an all-in mid-game powerspike that we have seen yield results elsewhere. Instead NV take Corki as their last pick, which rounds out their Jayce siege composition.
Early game is fairly uneventful for both teams, NV secure the first blood gold with a kill on Piglet, and Liquid return with an immediate kill onto Seraph. The rest of the game is fairly even with both teams trading kills, and TL botlane once again playing really aggressive and often burning summoners on both sides in these continual trades they seem determined to force. Around 15 minutes we see a number of key plays happen, in which NV take 2 turrets and kills despite losing a turret and kills themselves. This all stems from the pressure that NV has with two pushing lanes, allowing them to get chip damage onto top and mid turret which converts into extra gold for them to hit their mid-game spike early. We also see Reignover focus the botlane during this exchange picking up a kill and turret for Piglet, but the problem for Liquid is that Piglet is on Varus who’s job this game is to provide poke with the lethality build and force people off turrets. This basically comes full circle to Liquids draft, because the only winning lane they have is botside we would have to see Piglet rotate into other lanes in order to try and siege those turrets. But because neither of Liquids other lanes are winning, Piglet and Matt are simply stuck botside trying to force a 3v7 with Reignover.
In the end this game highlights that kills don’t win games, with NV demonstrating some really effective wave control, combined with their understanding of how to play their siege comp. This basically denies Liquid almost any opportunity to push turrets against the waveclear of Jayce and Corki. Despite Seraphs typical late-game tendencies to get caught out, NV are able to utilise their comp to push down Liquid to secure turrets and ultimately bleed Liquid out of the game.
Ultimately I felt this series was quite disappointing from Liquid, not just because they lost but because of how they lost. The first game is lost through Liquids carries just getting either caught out or not doing anything in teamfights, and the second game we see Liquid just sit around whilst NV are allowed to fully utilise their team comp. I think from these games we really need to see some more proactive plays from Liquid, both games we see Lourlo on the Shen pick with his ults being used retroactively, rather than combined with the Olaf to force fights.
Coming off a difficult loss, it was good to see that Liquid were able to stand up to the surge of Echo Fox. Ending the week on a win will definitely improve the overall team atmosphere as they look to spend the upcoming week trying to iron out their challenges.
During the draft phase I was really relieved to see the Corki pick from Goldenglue, as I had concerns from the previous game vs NV that he simply hadn’t picked it up yet. We see here that Liquid heavily prioritises this Jayce pick for Lourlo, and even hand over the Kha’Zix in order to make sure they get it, resulting in Reignover falling back to the Olaf pick once again. As a strategy I like putting Lourlo on a lane dominant champion, as it shows a willingness from Liquid to move away from the previous botlane priority they used to default to.
However the game immediately gets off to a poor start, not only does Lourlo get caught out whilst warding with Reignover, but it’s Akaadian on Kha’Zix who picks up the kill. Lourlo even burns his flash trying to escape, forcing him to play safe during the early lane rather than push the inherent advantage that he should have. Instead Looper punishes this safe play by pushing up the lane against Lourlo, allowing for Akaadian to revisit through the toplane without being spotted by any wards.
We can see here that Lourlo is still flashless, and both Looper and Akaadian are able to commit their flashes if required. More importantly Looper has been able to shove the Lourlo into tower, and so he knows that none of the top bushes are warded allowing Akaadian to walk through lane just as the wave begins to push back against Echo Fox.
During this time we see Liquid make a failed attempt to gank botlane, and I’d argue that Reignover should never have been botlane in the first place. Liquid should know from reviewing EF previous games that when Akaadian gets ahead, he is able to snowball that lead, and so leaving a stranded Lourlo on an immobile champion against a Maokai that can easily set up ganks seems a rather interesting choice to make. Ultimately I think Liquid should have stuck with the “play around Lourlo” strategy that their draft indicated, and it seems a little unusual for Reignover of all junglers to not predict that Akaadian would head straight for toplane.
From this a failed toplane dive by Reignover all but secures the victory for EF, with Jayce being placed in a massive deficit and both Akaadian and Looper having 2 kills apiece. The rest of the game is dominated by this early advantage for EF jungle and top, and despite their botlane have some unfortunate plays we see the fights quickly turn once laning phase is over. Liquid then spend the rest of the game getting caught out and led around the map from some smart rotations by EF, with the final toplane push simply overwhelming them.
Whilst this game was pretty rough for Liquid it did show a willingness to draft priority picks for Lourlo, it just needed the in-game follow up from Reignover to make sure that this Jayce pick was not abused following the disastrous lvl 1 kill.
The first pick rotation from Liquid already promises good things, as Reignover is able to get a top tier jungler in Kha’Zix, whilst I know he has had previous success with the Olaf pick it just doesn’t seem to be working out for Liquid at this point in time. This Kha’Zix is also a takeaway from Akaadian who has been having enormous success on that pick as demonstrated from the previous game. Overall I liked the final draft from Liquid with the priority on a dueling jungler for Reignover and the Corki/Ashe as secondary carries.
At around 6 minutes we see Liquid finally make a proactive play in swapping their botlane top having shoved EF botlane to turret and forced the recall from Gate.
This allows Lourlo to shove the lane up, especially with Reignover also moving towards the blueside top jungle to provide vision/counter jungle.
A number of factors allow for this first turret to be taken by Liquid, as mentioned before Liquid botlane has shoved up to turret then recalled, from here they move top right as Lourlo also begins to shove up the wave he has had frozen with Reignover moving to support. This has meant that both Gate and Keith have been forced into a difficult back time, especially as Varus wants to pick up his tear as soon as possible. This means that a counter push by EF in botlane is not possible, and Froggen is unable to push the midlane against the waveclear offered by a Corki. For Liquid to be able to create and recognise this early advantage bodes well for future games if they are able to reenact it.
At this point EF try to balance the gold by having their botlane shove up and try to take a turret in exchange, but the topside of the map hasn’t changed and Akaadian is not in place to support the Shen from yet another shove by Liquid, who take 2 turrets toplane in exchange for nothing as Keith is unable to take the turret by himself. This nets Liquid a 2k gold lead based on map rotations alone.
This early game opens up the toplane for Lourlo to shove a couple of waves and roam towards the midlane whilst Shen either has to match and lose cs, or allow Liquid the opportunity to transition their advantage to other lanes. At 12 minutes we see Liquid take advantage of this with Lourlo pushing top in before rotating towards dragon in case EF try to contest.
From here Liquid is able leverage the advantage that mid-game Corki provides by securing two kills and an inferno drag just before the 20 minute mark. Despite a couple of picks from EF, we see a beautifully coordinated teamfight from Liquid in order to secure the Baron buff
Matt flashes in order to get a 3 man snare, this is followed up by Reignover immediatlely flashing in to get an evolved w +q to force Froggen into his passive, from here Looper tries to taunt into Reignover to buy time for Froggen, but the rest of EF are far to low to reengage the fight, leading for a 2 for 0 + Baron for Liquid.
This allows Liquid to transition into the mid-game where the Corki hits a major powerspike, allowing them to push down lanes and clear up a lot of the available gold on the map from turrets. This leads into an attempt by EF to force Liquid off the Elder Drake but once again beautiful team fighting from Liquid allows them to pick up an Ace plus the Elder.
At this point the game begins to fall apart for Liquid due to the EF scaling composition, and they struggle to push against the Anivia/Varus waveclear. This is further compounded by Froggen and Keith also landing constant poke against the Liquid composition. From here the game devolves into a minor fiesta with both teams getting caught and trying to push too far. In the end Liquid is able to brute force the EF base open and secure the win.
Liquids ability to make proactive plays during the early game bodes well for them, and they adapted to rotate their botlane top in order to start snowballing with the first turret gold. However they take far too long to close out the game, with individual members getting caught out during pushes into EF’s base presenting them with multiple opportunities to make a comeback. Whilst it’s understandable for Liquid to be nervous about late-game decisions as coming off the loss to NV they will be desperate to start putting some wins on the table, in order to establish themselves as a top team they will need to decisively close games once they have gained a lead.
Once again we see Liquid being able to draft for success, grabbing Reignover the first rotation Kha’Zix and Goldenglue the Corki. With the Lulu and Jhin also being grabbed to give Liquid a stable botlane.
Unfortunately the early game is once again highlighted with Liquids botlane forcing trades and blowing summoners, ending in them conceding first blood to EF. Early game woes continue to plague Liquid as Akaadian is able to secure another kill onto Reignover, this time being on a jungler that is able to duel the Kha’Zix in the early game and with Looper having the push and so able to roam down to assist.
By 15 minutes Liquid are down both 5k in gold and 3 turrets. At this point they recognise that they need to play around the mid-game Corki in order to halt them leaking gold, with Goldenglue landing key poke to force EF off their mid outer turret.
However at 21 minutes we see EF make an interesting Baron call, looking at the above picture it’s already obvious that EF should just get out of the Baron pit and look to reset their lead. Their main source of poke, Varus, has been killed and the main tank Looper is also already fairly low from initially tanking Baron. We can also see that Gate expends his ultimate on Lourlo, perhaps concerned about the disruption threatened by him.
At this point we see Goldenglue make possibly the biggest play of the game.
As EF are about to take a 3 man Ryze portal out of the Baron pit, Goldenglue uses the Corki package to knock both Froggen and Gate out of the portal allowing Liquid to pick up 3 return kills and the infernal drake. From here EF continue to lose teamfights at the most inopportune timings, i.e. Baron spawning, allowing them to secure a final uncontested Baron and push into EF’s base to secure the victory.
This last game was somewhat anti-climatic for a number of reasons, the chief of which being EF just losing teamfight after teamfight. Despite watching Liquid dig themselves another early game hole they are gifted multiple opportunities to comeback into the game as EF really underestimate the damage from Goldenglue. I feel like this game was more EF throwing away their lead and so it’s difficult to determine whether Liquid where able to fix their late game issues from the previous games, but I remain concerned about their early game deficits that are usually the result of a poor botlane trade.
Week 3 Summary
This series showcased my continuing overall concerns with how Liquid is playing, in the first series Liquid both dig themselves an early deficit and sit around late-game almost waiting to lose. In the second series we see Liquid start their first draft to play around Lourlo, but don’t follow up with the jungle pressure required to help him after the early first blood. The second game begins with a beautiful early game from Liquid, as they net an early game turret and make crisp rotations in order to start stacking dragons. Unfortunately they are unable to quickly capitalise their early game lead and the late-game turns into a minor fiesta with both sides getting caught until Liquid once again triumph in a teamfight to secure victory. The final game can be summed up in a simple phrase – “EF and Objectives”. So many teamfights are lost at either Baron or Dragon until Liquid have the game almost gifted to them.
I will however concede that Liquid really stepped up their teamfighting in that second series, with Lourlo often soaking up enormous amounts of damage or having key ultimates wasted on him. For next week I really want to continue to watch Liquids botlane, they seem to continue to prefer a lane dominant style regardless of which champions they are playing, and their continued extended trades in lane to burn summoners just seems to dig them into a deficit.
All stats are taken from Oracleselixer.com.