At the start of the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, Team Liquid had big hopes for the forthcoming campaign. The roster now find themselves ending week 5 with a dismal 2-8 record, a standing no-one expected from the highly anticipated lineup. The age-old organisation needed something remarkable to save their season, they may well have found it in the role-swap made by former veteran AD-Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin.
Critics and fans alike were cautious to place their faith in the surprising role-swap. Given that many of the TL roster swaps from the past had ended with absolute failure, the prospect of switching a veteran AD Carry to the Mid lane was certainly a bold move. Piglet’s debut Mid lane performance however, sought to steady any quivering hands.
Although it can be claimed that Piglet’s career began in the mid lane, this was over five years ago; the Korean has since won a World Championship as an AD Carry with SK Telecom T1. Whilst a popular fan favourite, Piglet perhaps hasn’t bedded into Team Liquid with the ease many expected of him, anything but an improvement in results from the mid lane would result in further criticism.
Fortunately, Piglet finally provided Team Liquid fans with a glimmer of hope. Though a 1-1 week may seem average for most LCS teams, for struggling Team Liquid, it is a sign that there could be positives to take from the season.
Piglet’s first test was to face-off against former teammate Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett’s new team Immortals. IMT are without doubt a middle-of-the-pack team, but even they can be considered to be a tier above Team Liquid entering the second half of the NA LCS Spring Split.
Piglet’s first game in the mid lane certainly looked daunting. Getting out rotated and systematically destroyed by the Immortals line-up can certainly crush morale, yet Piglet’s performance was the shining beacon of the team, ending the game 3/1/1 with a dominant 50 CS lead over veteran mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park. Though Team Liquid slumped to yet another game loss, Piglet seemed determined not to have his role swap judged as a failure.
Uncharacteristically, Team Liquid fought their way back into the series. Game 2 witnessed Piglet not only securing another 50 CS advantage over his lane opponent, but applying the gloss finish with an impressive 5/1/10 scoreline. It showed that Piglet was able to put the team on his back and carry them to victory, a task he had not been able to perform from the AD Carry position.
Team liquid fans step slowly out of their caves, squinting as the light hits their eyes.
“Is this our time?” pic.twitter.com/6jXqlqTyVQ
— scarra (@scarra) 4 March 2017
No game exemplified this point better than the conclusive game of the Immortals vs TL series. With Team Liquid having a small 3,000 gold lead, a fight around baron would decide the game. It was here that Piglet showed of his first big play in the mid lane with an excellent Cassiopeia ultimate on 3 members of Immortals. Piglet certainly seemed confident in his abilities, as noted in the post-match interview:
Though TL’s series win over IMT provided cause for optimism in the new Mid laner, the following series would remind Liquid fans that the Korean still has a long way to go. Piglet struggled in the subsequent series against Echo Fox, understandable given his match up against seven year Mid lane master Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, a tall task in your first week of competitive mid lane play.
To Piglets credit he managed to hold his own in the first game, establishing a slender lead the team wasn’t able to close out as they conceded defeat in the opening game of the series. Team Liquid returned with a vengeance in Game 2, bloodthirsty from the first bell. Piglet picked his fifth unique champion in Syndra, managing to end with an excellent score of 5/4/14 in a performance to shout about.
Sadly, by the final game Team Liquid appeared to have run out of steam, as even their newly-found star Mid laner couldn’t achieve a decent score line and ended the game with a CS deficit of 120, flame horizoned by Froggen in spectacular fashion.
The series loss to Echo Fox brought Team Liquid crashing back down to earth, reminding fans there is still a lot for the team to improve upon moving forwards. Piglet may not yet be of a standard to hold his own against the experience of Froggen, but at the very least he can pitch himself as an above average Mid Laner in the NA LCS. This level of play is an improvement on the demoted Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, with Team Liquid’s playoff aspirations still within reach.