Despite a 1st seed qualification into the 2019 LCS Spring Playoffs, Team Liquid's stock was the lowest it had been all year. A heightened focus towards diversification of playstyle had the team playing towards the top side of the map more frequently with Top Laner Jeong "Impact" Eon-yeong playing exclusively carry champions. Instead of an eventual progression in proficiency, TL regressed, seemingly forgetting how to win the game through any lane, let alone Top Lane.
TL ended the split in less than stellar form, which had TSM and Cloud9 looking as the strongest teams heading into playoffs. It is this factor that made Team Liquid's sweep of FlyQuest on Sunday afternoon so impressive. Not only did the LCS 1st seed show a return to form in dominating FlyQuest, it accomplished so in playing only top side focused compositions. TL Bot Laner Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng was given the role of utility while Impact went on to win player of the series.
Most encouragingly was Team Liquid's ability as a unit to play through a top side advantage. Jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero and Mid Laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen showed a previously unseen level of comfort and proficiency in playing around Impact's advantages. The duo acted as a crucial time keeper for the match as TL marched to the beat of Impact's drum to a 3-0 sweep. TL look every bit ready to face TSM in the Finals next weekend.
Jensen joined Inven Global following TL's triumph over FlyQuest to reflect on the series, the team's improvements, and defeating the mid laner he replaced in Eugene "Pobelter" Park.
Congratulations on your victory, Jensen. Did you expect to dominate FlyQuest so one-sidedly?
Practice hasn't gone super well, so I felt like we maybe wouldn't be playing super well and FlyQuest would have played pretty well. At the same time, coming into the match, I thought FlyQuest was a worse team than us. I felt like we were both better individually and had better macro as a team.
I wasn't too worried about playing against FlyQuest, but I didn't expect it to be that easy.
So practice wasn't going well this week. Was there something that clicked for the team before the match?
I'm not sure. The last few days, our practice improved a lot, but at the beginning of playoffs, it was not going very well at all. We were losing almost every game, but at the same time, we were only practicing against Cloud9 and TSM. They are two really good teams, so it kind of made sense.
At the same time, we were not playing at our level at all. We were making a lot of mistakes both individually and as a team. It got to a point where even when we got advantages, we completely forgot how to snowball or close out the game properly because we were so used to losing.
Today, a lot of us expected Team Liquid to come in and play around Doublelift, but you succeeded on the same compositions you struggled with late in the split. What has improved in TL's play on top-focused compositions?
In the past, Team Liquid really only played around Doublelift, so we've worked a lot in the past few weeks to play more around both Mid Lane and Top Lane. I think it showed today. Impact was playing really well, and we helped Top Lane a lot. We got a lot of Rift Heralds, and instead of only playing through Bot Lane, we showed that we can play pretty much any style as a team. I'm glad it worked out for us.
While you did prove you could play multiple styles, Doublelift mentioned in his post-match interview that you guys had finally returned to playing League of Legends 'The Team Liquid Way'.
How would you describe 'The Team Liquid Way'?
I think it's hard to say. There's probably a lot of specifics in regards to what Doublelift was referring to, not just during laning phase, but also after laning phase. In the games we were playing before, when we fell behind early, we would still come back and win. We would come back through great macro and great individual play, but it seemed like that was something we were missing leading up to this week, and even the last few weeks of the split.
Now, it seems like we're really clicking as a team again and playing well overall. We didn't just return to 'The Team Liquid Way',we can now play any style. This will really help us moving forward.
You were able to show your superiority in the Mid Lane matchup over Pobelter today. Was the Mid Lane matchup on your mind given that you replaced Pobelter on Team Liquid?
I wouldn't really say it impacted the way I looked at the game. It's definitely something I've thought about, but at the same time I knew I was the better player and I wasn't really worried at all. Every time I play against Pobelter, he is mostly playing not to lose and hoping his team can carry. This time around, I had the better team, so that wasn't going to work.
Looking towards the finals against TSM, what is your focus heading into that series?
Playing against Bjergsen is not something I really think about. Last time I faced off against TSM in a best of five series, it was pretty easy for me. When I was on Cloud9 in the 2018 NA Regional Qualifier gauntlet, we 3-0'd TSM to qualify for the 2018 World Championship. I don't really think about Bjergsen too much or TSM as a team that I have to do something different against in my approach. As long as I play the way that I've been playing, and the team does the same, I think we will be fine.
Is there validity to there being an extra factor to traveling to a different city and having a feeling of higher stakes for LCS Finals?
No, not really. It really only hits me the day before we start playing that, 'Oh ****, we're actually playing at a big venue, and there's going to be a lot of fans." etc. It just makes for a better experience. It's not really something that would ever affect me negatively anymore. At this point, I've played on so many big stages that it's pretty comfortable to me. It's a great experience to look forward to.
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