The 2020 League of Legends esports season marks the fourth season of Team Liquid jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen’s career, and it has been his craziest one yet. After spending his first three seasons with Fnatic, Broxah crossed the Atlantic to join TL in the organization’s attempt to make its 4-time domestic champion roster even better. However, visa issues held Broxah in Europe for the first three weeks and didn’t join TL until week 4.
“I had only two days of scrims with the team; this is my third day in Los Angeles, so for me, things have just begun. I have a lot of catching up to do,” Broxah told Inven Global’s Parkes Ousley after his LCS debut — a loss to Immortals.
Broxah would eventually settle in, earning LCS Player of the Week honors for his performance in Week 6, but ultimately did not succeed in turning around a struggling Team Liquid. In addition to Broxah’s visa issues, Team Liquid’s players never got on the same page and the roster remained a far cry to the title-winning team of previous years. The new Team Liquid never gelled.
Stylistic mismatches and inability to adjust to a new style plagued the team. When Jake “Xmithie” Puchero was Team Liquid’s jungler, he played primarily around the bot lane duo of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. Broxah, on the other hand, has spent the majority of his career ganking for Fnatic’s solo laners. Doublelift has always been a resource-heavy player, and playing through the bot lane has been a hallmark of TL’s success in the past few seasons.
In the eyes of the critics, Broxah was seen as a one-for-one downgrade to Xmithie, exacerbated by a 9th place finish for Team Liquid. Still, it was hard to fault Broxah individually given his own circumstances and the state of the team as a whole.
“I personally had the feeling, even before Broxah got here, that our problems were not related to the jungle position at all,” TL mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen explained in an interview with Inven Global during the Spring Split.
“We've been playing badly as a team. We are individually making a lot of mistakes and our play was just different before.”
As summer came for the former, fallen-from-grace champions, Team Liquid set on to make changes. Doublelift was traded away to TSM and rookie Tactical got the promotion to the starting roster. The coaching bench also saw major changes, with former analyst Jatt joining as head coach. and Jang “Cain” Nu-ri to the position of Strategic Coach.
Despite Team Liquid’s 9th place finish in the previous split, the team was well-thought-of coming into summer and was expected to re-establish itself as a top North American team.
Stylistically, TL sported a different look in summer. Tactical not only was able to hold his own individually, but his flexibility allowed Broxah to play around his solo laners, primarily Jensen who often played second fiddle to Doublelift on TL’s previous iterations, re-established himself as the elite mid laner he was on Cloud9, receiving the most attention from Broxah and resources around the map to put him in the position to carry.
Not every win was clean for Team Liquid in the LCS Summer Split, but the results speak for themselves: TL finished 1st with a 15-3 record, the best in the organization’s history, and took home the Coaching Staff of the Split award.
At the conclusion of the 2020 LCS Summer Split, Broxah spoke to Inven Global about TL’s summer success, attributing it to being able to prepare with his team before the split started. “I think it has been a positive team for Liquid to have new individuals coming into the team with a fresh mindset and a different perspective," Broxah said. "Sometimes, when you are around as a team for a long time, you get kind of ingrained and you are not as open-minded as you can be.”
Despite Team Liquid’s 83% win rate in the 2020 LCS Summer Split, acclaim for the #1 seed heading into the post-season has been tepid. The nature of Team Liquid’s wins were not always convincing, and while the team showcased a very methodical style of play, other teams had been able to showcase more flexibility in win conditions and team compositions. Cloud9’s slump in the middle of the split was viewed as the reason for TL’s 1st place finish more than the team’s own triumphs.
Even though Team Liquid is back on top, Broxah has not escaped criticism. He played much better in the Summer Split due to proper preparation without visa issues and a stylistic change within the team that aligns better with his style of jungling, but has yet to show his peak level he has shown on Fnatic in seasons past.
Crucially, Broxah has not been a definitive upgrade to Xmithie, leaving Team Liquid fans underwhelmed despite the team’s success. When TL’s strengths are discussed, fingers point to Jensen’s hard-carry play and CoreJJ’s bid for his second LCS Most Valuable Player award in as many seasons.
Despite this, Broxah has let go of any care for criticism for his individual play as long as the team continues to succeed and stay on the same page. “I'm past the point now of really caring what people are saying. Obviously, getting positive feedback is good, but the main thing I care about in this current moment is what my teammates and coaching staff think about me. If they are happy with me, then I am happy.”
Team Liquid plays its first match of the 2020 LCS Summer Playoffs today against Golden Guardians. If TL wins, it qualifies for the 2020 World Championship alongside FlyQuest, who upset Cloud9 yesterday. With C9 looking out of sorts, Team Liquid should be looked at as the favorite to win the LCS Summer Playoffs, reclaim its domestic throne and go to Worlds as North America’s first seed.
However, if the Summer Split is any indication, Team Liquid will continue to fly under the radar as one of the least celebrated 1st place teams in LCS history. TL will have to prove its worth through action, regardless of its history, but through two very different splits in the LCS, Broxah has fully diverted his attention from public opinion.
“I don't care what people think about me. If I come into the game as an underdog, I'll take it. That's an advantage for me if anything.”
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