This instalment of Tracking Liquid will depart from the previous format slightly, with the sole focus being on their recent game against Dignitas, which I believe highlights some of their key flaws but also contains some hope for the team overall. Whilst this match-up seems fairly one-sided on the surface, a closer look at how both teams play the series gives us a clearer indication of the difference in level between them.
Team Liquid currently sits in last place alongside Team Envy, with an overall series score of 2-8 (20%) and a total game score of 9-17 (34.6%).
A look at the overall rankings table for NALCS Spring Split provides us with some context to these rankings, and in particular the total number of games that Team Liquid as played. Having played 26 out of the total 30 games possible we can postulate that Liquid often win at least 1 game in their series despite their poor win record. Compared to Team Envy, who are also sitting in last place, we see that they have both less games and wins hinting that they often fail to pick up even a single win in their series. This presents a small nugget of hope for Team Liquid fans in that they are able to at least take a win in each of those series, and depending on how lopsided the subsequent matches are could indicate that Liquid have simply not found their identity as of yet.
In fact a further look at how the two bottom teams stack up against each other shows that NV has a higher level of variance, winning and losing in extremes far more often than TL. This at least shows TL to be the more consistent team, which will benefit them more if they are able to fix some of their current problems. It
should be noted that one of the series in which
NV scored a 2-0 was against TL, and so removing that set of data causes the graph to look a little differently. Here we can clearly see the less high-end variance for NV and less low-end variance for TL.
This establishes that although TL have not been performing as expected, with each series being somewhat disappointing in terms of the level of play, there is still at least the potential for growth.
TL vs DIG.
Despite winning the first game TL were unable to close out this series allowing for DIG to bounce back 2 games in a row. Throughout this series we see TL slowly start to collapse, from Botlane picking Caitlyn 3 games in a row despite Ashe being available, to Goldenglue having a particularly poor performance overall.
Coming into the draft we see Liquid first pick Leblanc, followed by Rengar + Maokai. This sets them up with an immediate front-line from which they can start teamfights and skirmishes, in which both Rengar and Leblanc excel. This then allows DIG to secure a priority ADC in Jhin, and also both the Corki and Graves to provide poke and waveclear. Since TL currently have 2 damage sources compared to the 3 from DIG, we can expect them to look for a strong botlane combo that scales well. DIG has the beginnings of a siege comp, but currently lack the tanks/disengage to prevent TL from simply running them down with Maokai/Rengar.
After the second phase we see TL secure a fairly rounded composition, with a mixture of damage types and some decent scaling in the Caitlyn. At this point we can begin to identify which lanes are going to be the focus of this game, with TL focusing botside, whilst DIG look to play topside. However Reignover also has the option to look for a gank topside in the early game, with Maokai being able to provide the setup and wanting to put the Camille behind as much as possible. Looking at the composition DIG has formed shows that they have doubled down on a poke/pick comp with the later inclusion of Thresh and Camille who want to isolate targets or force a pick around an objective. This type of glass cannon composition requires a lot of teamwork and synergy in order to be played successfully, and having not seen much of that from DIG recently seems fairly risky.
During the early game we see Reignover path towards botside in order to provide vision for the early push that Piglet and Matt are developing, in exchange for this Chaser looks to get Ssumday ahead with a gank onto Lourlo, forcing his flash and the tp from Goldenglue. Because of this early TL botside push, they are able to take first turret at just 5 minutes into the game, and netting themselves a kill in process. And because Reignover spent the rest of this time topside, DIG were unable to get anything in return.
Having taken botlane T1, TL then rotates their botlane to topside in order to start clearing up some of the gold stored in these outer turrets. At 12 minutes we see a rather clever play from Goldenglue in using the Leblanc clone to scare DIG away from that topside T1 in case of a dive, allowing TL to secure it with no trouble. TL now have a 3k gold advantage + mountain drake all from their botlane advantage, which they then use to force DIG off the next cloud drake, taking that for themselves as well.
At this point TL are trying to chip away to secure the midlane T1, and despite a number of kills traded back and forth as people get caught out of position, they are able to set up a TP play topside which allows them to then rotate back to the midlane in order to finally take the T1. With these outer turrets gone the game reaches a stalemate, with TL pushing in both mid/topside whilst contesting vision around that topside jungle. At this point they are trying to force DIG into checking baron so that they can make a pick or force a teamfight whilst they are ahead.
Eventually they are able to pick off Chaser trying to contest vision, which leads them to secure Baron and an extra kill onto Ssumday. TL are able to then push 1-4 across top/midside with Goldenglue forcing DIG to send at least 2 people to deal with him. At this point DIG are too far down in gold to win teamfights, and the scaling of Caitlyn/Maokai allows them to easily win the final teamfight around the drake pit.
Liquid 1-0 DIG
During the draft for game 2, we see an interesting adaptation from DIG as they ban the Maokai away from Lourlo, and first pick Jayce as a flex pick for mid/top. We then see TL also adapt by moving to a more supportive jungler in the form of Ivern, which suggests strong solo laners for him to work with. They secure this initially in the form of Caitlyn again, plus the poppy which has a fairly strong laning phase. At the end of the first draft stage we see DIG again with multiple sources of damage, whilst TL are looking to build on the success of the botlane from last game.
At the end of game 2 draft phase we see TL with a slightly toned down version of their previous comp, removing 2 damage sources in the Rengar/Zyra and looking towards a more supportive based comp with the Ivern/Nami. This reduction in damage however is of concern though, as DIG have built a high damage comp with plenty of poke/siege, and now TL no longer have the threat of Rengar with which to contest vision battles around objectives. The early game pressure from the Nidalee pick also threatens to snowball multiple lanes, already forcing TL to think about how to survive the upcoming early game.
A brief snapshot at the 5 minute mark of game 2 shows early leads for DIG across the topside of the map, with botlane down in cs (as expected against Caitlyn). However shortly after we see Keane get an early recall, and using his tp is able to return to lane with an item advantage over Goldenglue.
Here we can see that DIG have already spotted the incoming gank from Reignover, and Chaser begins moving towards mid in order to support Keane. At this point DIG have the stronger duo and so should win the fight, but an incredible 1v2 from Keane means that doesn’t even need the help from Chaser. If you haven’t watched the first blood I would highly recommend you doing so here and slowing the speed down to 0.25/0.5 in order to understand how he plays this fight.
At this point we see that not only does Jayce still have all his abilities ready, but Leblanc has missed her cc and is not yet 6 in order to cast the mimic on the chains. This means that Reignover not longer has a guaranteed stun, and exhaust is almost about to run out. The moment exhaust is finished we see Keane turn the fight, hitting a two-man accelerated shock blast, he then switches into hammer stance and q-w comboes onto Reignover killing him and dropping Goldenglue low enough to secure the double kill with flash. The fact that Keane was able to land 2 aoe abilities onto both Goldenglue and Reignover, plus the early item advantage, allows him to turn this gank into an advantage for DIG.
At 11 minutes we see a recurring theme with TL botlane, Piglet getting caught whilst still having his summoners up. There are a number of possible reasons for this continuing mistake; such as underestimating opponents damage, overestimating his ability to outplay the situation or simply not processing the situation fast enough to react. This kill for DIG botlane means that TL are going to struggle to convert their only lane advantage into something more tangible, as LOD will now be able to catch up in cs and xp.
Another gank from Chaser onto the midlane allows DIG to follow up their earlier advantage netting a kill onto Goldenglue, and giving them the gold for first turret which goes onto Keane.
With Xpecial landing key snares onto TL botlane, we see the only winning lane for TL begin to crumble with a pick onto Matt translating into a kill and eventually the botside T1 turret. At this point the game should be easy for DIG to close out, all their lanes have a gold advantage and their full damage composition has an early lead.
From here DIG are able to rotate around the map and use their siege comp to force TL away from defending their outer turrets. With all outer turrets down, DIG are able to copy TL from game 1, by clearing vision in topside jungle and forcing them to check Baron blind. This enables them to get a pick onto Goldenglue which allows them to further siege TL base, taking mid and botside inhibitors. Ultimately because DIG damage composition was allowed to get an early lead through Keane’s early double kill, plus TL botlane playing far too aggressively. This early lead makes a siege comp highly obnoxious to play against as they are able to either poke TL off their turrets, or force them to try and engage at a gold disadvantage.
Whilst these early plays led to TL losing this series, I feel that they had already handicapped themselves in the draft phase, losing 2 damage dealers in exchange for putting all their eggs in that botlane basket.
DIG 1 – 1 Liquid
Straight away we can see TL looking to replicate the success they had in game 1, this time with a scaling midlaner and splitpush/peel oriented champion in the toplane. DIG is also looking at another heavy damage composition, with neither side changing things up a great deal. It should be noted that Ssumday and LOD have both played the same 2 champions the whole series, and it’s interesting to see that TL seem quite happy with giving away the Camille pick.
This time we see DIG pivot away from the siege comps that they have favoured this series, into a more pick reliant composition with Elise and Malzahar being taken in the second rotation. The overall composition from DIG has huge zone control potential, in which they can control large areas in which TL are unable to walk around objectives. This forces TL to be able to engage with either the Poppy, or to have enough vision control to make a pick onto someone from DIG. Overall I think that TL have a strong late game teamfighting composition, which is somewhat reliant on vision control in order for Lourlo to make a tp engage to set up the fights. If TL are unable to do this then they will have trouble contesting the vision required to set up for teamfights at the neccessary objectives.
Immediately we see DIG botlane look to secure an advantage for themselves by using the voidlings to tank red buff, allowing them to potentially steal it away. However TL have placed a ward by the red buff in order to check for exactly this, causing Piglet and Matt to leave botlane and contest the steal. In the second picture we see another case of TL botlane playing overly aggressive, with both Piglet and Matt flashing into the drake pit in order to kill LOD who had secured the red buff. From TL perspective they feel pressured to succeed in their only lane winning match-up, and so LOD having red buff would prevent that. Despite the understandable rationale for wanting to win the botlane match-up, they should know that Cassiopeia will have an early push against Ryze, and so Keane is already zoning Goldenglue from joining the fight, whilst being in position to take a 2-1 trade himself. At the end of it all we see Keane once again with a double kill, plus the red buff, whilst the laning phase has barely even started.
Despite the early advantage for DIG, TL are still able to capitalise on their botlane in order to secure the first turret and burning the exhaust from Xpecial. This trade prompts TL to back, during which time DIG manage to just sneak the Infernal drake at the cost of two members due to a tp play from Lourlo.
This play from Liquid demonstrates that they understand how to play to this comp, as Reignover was able to place a ward by redside blue buff from taking the T1 botside. This allows for Lourlo to make the tp play necessary to start the teamfight that TL needs. With Chaser being low from taking dragon he attempts to be a sacrificial lamb in order to allow the rest of DIG to make it out, but Lourlo is able to flank and also take out Xpecial in the process. With the two kills for TL, DIG doesn’t come out of this trade too good, despite picking up the best drake for scaling and also furthering the cs advantage for Ssumday as he opts to not follow Lourlo’s tp botlane. With a 1.8k gold advantage on a decently scaling composition, we see TL set up for success and confident in the knowledge that they are able to successfully make their overall composition work.
At around 14 minutes an example of why contesting vision in this game is so important for the success of TL’s comp. TL had been unable to clear the pink ward line past the river, and so when Reignover moves past that to contest vision we see that DIG is able to make a pick with multiple forms of cc. Because Keane is closer than Goldenglue to this skirmish, he is able to provide another form of zone control which prevents additional TL members from joining this fight. Without sufficient support and knowledge of where DIG members are, it is fairly reckless of TL to push up like this and risk getting engaged on. Even with another infernal drake about to spawn, Reignover needs to wait for both Goldenglue and Matt to be in a position to support him gaining deep vision for another tp flank from Lourlo.
This leads to DIG being able to contest infernal drake 4v5 as rengar is unable to join the fight in time. Here we see Ssumday match the tp from Lourlo to ensure that they do not lose another fight, this means that whilst both teams burn tp, TL suffers most from it as they are reliant on it for starting their teamfights as a method of avoiding the zone control from DIG.
Here we see TL attempting to make a tp flank with Lourlo, as a preclusion to securing baron. However straight away we see that the core of DIG; Chaser, Xpecial and Jhin are already engaging onto Goldenglue in order to force a 4v5. With Malzahar ult down TL are still determined to force the tp play, despite only Malzahar ult being down. The resulting fight is a disaster as TL lack the damage provided by Ryze, and Reignover dies almost immediately upon attempting to pick of Xpecial, wasting a Lulu ult in the process. This allows DIG to secure the Baron and push in to take the lead in turrets and gold.
During the final teamfight we see how important having vision control is for DIG, as they are able to make sure that any deep wards from TL have been removed, denying Lourlo the opportunity to make the tp engage that TL need in order to set up for a successful teamfight. Because TL are unable to split the zone of control from DIG, they are forced to all channel in from one direction.
The delay in teleport from Lourlo means that TL main source of damage is already dead before he even gets there, with Lulu ult also having already been used. This forces him to walk at DIG through the zone of control from Jhin/Cass/Camille, i.e. he can’t enter the fight at all.
Throughout this game we see glimpses of understanding from TL, prioritising deep vision at drake in order to allow Lourlo to tp engage so that they can set up their teamfights. However towards the late-game they seem to lack the coordination or synergy in order get this deep vision against the pick comp from DIG.
Ultimately this series bodes well for both teams, and despite TL also losing their next series against CLG it shows that they have glimmers of understanding of how to play their compositions. The main troubles that emerge from this series is that TL drafted the same composition 3 times in a row, with the second one just being a slightly worse version of the rest. And whilst we also see that DIG doesn’t switch up their composition a whole lot, they are often thrown early leads by TL being far too aggressive or not understanding how to play their composition in the late-game. A prime example is the 3rd game in which TL were unable to secure deep vision for Lourlo to set up the teamfights with a tp flank, which then prompted them to run into DIG 4v5 with Reignover immediately dying. To other teams this says that TL will eventually hand you win either with miscalculated early aggression or poor decision making late-game. All this seems rather harsh on TL, and I do commend them in actively making these aggressive plays, the lack of consistency in how and when they make these plays really hinders their overall performance. In the game that they did win TL were able to transition their lead botlane into global gold from all the outer turrets. From here they successfully controlled baron vision topside which forced DIG to blindly check into them, eventually securing them the victory. This victory was fairly clean and was actually a rather impressive performance from TL, and so I look to them in the coming weeks to establish how and when they can continue to make these aggressive plays that allows them to generate their leads.
All stats are taken from Oracleselixer.com.