Team Liquid has surprisingly announced they will return to their original starting lineup to begin the 2017 Summer Split. After a tumultuous split that included roster changes at three different positions on the team, the only difference will be their new Head Coach Nu-ri “Cain” Jang.
While many question the sanity of this decision, the organization, including co-owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet, pointed to a change in the meta and faith in their new coach as reasons for returning to the original roster. Steve’s faith in the shifting meta being a positive for Team Liquid, is well founded.
To call Team Liquid’s spring split “disappointing” would likely be an understatement. After the huge influx of investment into Team Liquid during the off-season from names such as Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis, Liquid fans were expecting a roster that would challenge for the top spot in the NA LCS. They immediately made a splash with what could have been considered the highest profile signing in NA by acquiring former Immortals jungler and NA MVP, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin.
After Reignover however, the rest of the roster failed to inspire confidence or excite, and Team Liquid would struggle greatly in their first split as a unit.
Some of the blame for Team Liquid’s poor performance in the first split was directed at factors outside of their control, including a shift in the meta that placed their star players in unfamiliar and less than ideal roles. AD carries moved towards a very utility-based focus, with popular picks including Varus, Ashe, and Jhin. These picks failed to separate the good ADCs from the great as the role transitioned to little more than a crowd control tool.
With ADCs switching to a utility role, much of the carry potential transitioned to the jungle as picks like Rengar, Kha’zix, Lee Sin, and Graves skyrocketed in popularity. No longer the tanky and supportive players for their team, junglers were called upon to be a primary damage source, a role many of the former popular picks such as Rek’sai and Gragas did not fulfill.
For Reignover, a switch to carry junglers did not fit the playstyle that he had grown accustomed to as a player and had found great success with. A cerebral player, Reignover was able to outpath and outsmart his opponent to gain advantages, all while controlling vision for his team.
Forced to play champions such as Rengar and Kha’zix, it was clear this was not the the same player that had won NA MVP just two short splits ago. With a possible shift in the Meta back to tankier jungles such as Zac and Sejuani, Reignover should be able to immediately re-establish himself as one of NA’s best junglers.
As both a member of Fnatic and Immortals, Reignover excelled at putting his teammates (namely top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon) in a position to carry games. Moving back to a supportive and tank role will allow the Korean to reclaim that role and to act as an enabler for the true carry on Team Liquid, ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin.
Piglet has always been designated as the carry and playmaker of Team Liquid, a distinction that forced a desperate move to mid halfway through the split in an attempt to give Piglet greater influence over the game.
The ADC position has once more resettled into its role of being the mid to late game damage threat on the rift. With the re-emergence of picks such as Caitlyn, Kog’maw, and Twitch, Piglet will have the opportunity to once again be the focus for Team Liquid moving forward. With a jungler such as Reignover to pressure their opponents jungle and control vision around the map, Piglet will have every opportunity to prove he is still an elite ADC in NA.
While a shift in the meta may help Team Liquid, there is still much work to be done for them to challenge for one of NA’s three spots at Worlds. The addition of Cain has seemed to ease some of their drafting issues, and those around the team continue to mark the significance of his arrival to their future success.
It may be a split late, but this is finally the meta Team Liquid was hoping for when they assembled their roster. Now they must prove their original roster decisions were the correct ones, and they have both the talent and chemistry to be successful.