Team Liquid’s 3-1 victory over Cloud9 in the first round of the 2021 LCS Summer Playoffs was a masterclass in adaptation. TL had not won a game against C9 all Summer, but thanks to a strong focus on the early game and some unique planning in terms of composition and game plan, they were able to keep the reigning LCS champion off balance to win a convincing four-game series.
TL were confident that if they could best C9 in the early game, they’d be able to close out without fear of a comeback. In two of their games, TL drafted physical damage solo laners and Ziggs bot to capitalize on the passive of Lucas “Santorin” Larsen’s Sejuani in the early game skirmishes. After winning with this composition in game 1, TL ran it back on match point in game 4, with a small alteration: support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in on Shen.
In game 4, CoreJJ set a record for lowest duo proximity in LCS history. Throughout the entire game, CoreJJ was a menace in the mid and top lanes, leaving AD carry Edward “Tactical” Ra alone in the bot lane on Ziggs in favor of pushing the win condition of Sejuani skirmishes with the much-improved Lee Sin of Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and the partial-melee Jayce of Barney “Alphari” Morris. The strategy paid off in spades, and in a very reminiscent form of river Shens of the past, CoreJJ had the same kill participation as Santorin throughout TL’s early game rampage.
Only 3.6 seconds
Duo Proximity is a stat that measures how often a support stays within 1500 range of its AD carry between the 3- and 15-minute marks, and CoreJJ’s preposterous 0.4% set the record by a good margin. CoreJJ essentially left Tactical to lane against Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen’s Varus alone after the first cannon minion wave. The 0.4% only came from CoreJJ and Tactical grouping up to secure a dragon with the rest of the team after the laning phase.
While the support lane has become more team-based and roam-friendly over the years — and providing new playstyle options with the likes of Yuumi and Pyke — CoreJJ took it to the next level. The TL support has been roaming for Alphari throughout this year, but in this game 4, he spent so much time on the top side of the map that Cloud9 support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme was forced to follow suit. Vulcan ended up with a Duo Proximity of 6.4% on his Rakan in game 4, second only to CoreJJ’s record set in the same game .
Throughout the series, CoreJJ proved why he was deserving of a very close 1st LCS All-Pro award, but game 4 was his best performance. TL’s early game planning and new compositional drafting was crucial to defeating C9, and CoreJJ’s roam-heavy playstyle, particularly on Shen, essentially required him to create value out of each map movement he made at the sacrifice of lane experience. 0.4% of the 12 minutes from the 3 minute mark to the 15 minute mark is a paltry 3.6 seconds, but it’s hard to argue that CoreJJ could have made better usage in the time he spent away from Tactical than he did throughout the early game in game 4. TL has not only exceeded initial expectations in the LCS Championship, but CoreJJ’s performance on Shen was the linchpin in establishing a new style of Team Liquid and a dangerous flex pick.
Team Liquid’s next match in the post-season is against 1st place TSM, and with a guaranteed World Championship qualification on the line as additional stakes for the match, expect any combination of Ziggs, Shen, and even potentially a Lee Sin due to the potential three-way flexibility TL can boast with the Blind Monk.