[Worlds 2019] LCS Insights: TL Doublelift talks G2 Esports, his style with CoreJJ, and Sona Bot Lane

Since G2 Esports won the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, every team both inside and outside of the LEC has upped its willingness for hyper-aggression in the early game. For example, Clutch Gaming found its footing by taking several pages out of G2's book and cranking the knob to 11. On the other hand, SK Telecom T1 retained its controlled, measure-paced identity while making sure Jungler Kim "Clid" Tae-min isn't the only T1 player on the rift willing to throw down in the early game.

▲ photo by Parkes Ousley

Another team who has looked towards G2 is Team Liquid. A few months ago, the LCS champion took NA all the way to the MSI Finals for the first time since 2016 after a stunning Semifinals upset win against defending World Champion and 2019 LPL Spring Champion Invictus Gaming. However, TL would have to settle for silver, as G2 swept the LCS Spring Champion out of the Finals and securing the first MSI championship for the LEC in European League of Legends history.

G2's global influence

G2's success didn't just rub off on the LEC, but the entire global LoL Esports ecosystem. Most specifically, Team Liquid took what it learned back to the LCS for the Summer Split.  In an interview with Inven Global at the conclusion of the 2019 LCS Regional Final, Clutch Gaming Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon credited Team Liquid for not just improving itself, but improving the LCS as a whole. 

"NA is actually getting a lot stronger," Huni said after reverse sweeping TSM to qualify for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. "Team Liquid learned a lot of lessons on how to play as a team at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, and we followed those lessons."

▲ Image Source: Riot Games

One month earlier, Team Liquid defeated Clutch Gaming in a close 3-2 match. After winning the 2019 LCS Summer Semifinals, Team Liquid had punched its ticket to Worlds 2019 regardless of the outcome of its Finals match against Cloud9. TL Bot Laner Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng sat down with Inven Global's Nick Geracie after defeating Clutch Gaming in the LCS Semifinals and discussed how G2 Esports had terraformed the competitive landscape of League of Legends. 

"Subconsciously, every team in the West looks towards G2," explained Doublelift. "They take small leads and blow them up really hard; harder than what was traditionally acceptable for snowballing in the game before this season.We all watched those games really closely, and were like 'whoa we could be there.' "

However, while Team Liquid was able to take some lessons from its thrashing in the MSI Finals, retaining one's own identity as team is important. There must be a balance between playing to one's own strengths and applying lessons from other teams with those factors in mind.

"The reality is G2 does things no other team can ever do," Doublelift said. "They're a very unique team, so it's not a conversation we're having like we're trying to figure out how to copy them, and trying to explode games way faster like they do, but I think we are trending slightly in that direction."

▲ Image Source: Riot Games

The NA Special

Doublelift hasn't begun apeing G2 Bot Laner Luka "Perkz" Perković and start playing Syndra in elimination games, but Team Liquid's duo has continued to develop its proficiency on Sona-centric Bot Lanes. Usually paired with a Taric or Tahm Kench for Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-In, Doublelift has thrown any steadfast concepts of marksman purism to the wind. Despite not being played in other regions, Sona continued to influence the LCS meta throughout the Summer Split as a pick for several teams.  

"Core and I are the best Sona/Taric | Sona/Tahm Bot Lane in the world; I'm confident in that," Doublelift asserted. "We've played it so much; we know every single match up. We literally play every trade perfectly. There's no way we could possibly squeeze out any more damage or damage mitigation in our trades. Generally speaking, we also know how to play it within our team super well."

Doublelift's proficiency in piloting the Maven of the Strings combined with CoreJJ's word class playmaking in both offensive and defensive context isn't just a fierce 2v2 matchup, but also gives Team Liquid a much needed second style to change the pace on opponents in the ever important best-of-five series play that makes up the format for the season's most important matches. Team Liquid, like many teams throughout Doublelift's career, normally play around the star AD Carry.

"It's a huge stylistic change," said Doublelift. "Usually, we draft a winning Bot Lane and play through bot a lot early game, so for teams to have to deal with this different second style in which the enemy's solo laners are going to feel super pressured while CoreJJ and I gracefully lose."  

Since alternatives to marksmen began rotating into the meta in the summer of 2018, Doublelift hasn't been known for exceptional play on mages in the Bot Lane. However, the mechanically-inclined, seasoned AD Carry found his stride on Sona this year, taking comfort in the familiary of Sona's steady backline position. Sona isn't just something Doublelift can play, it's one of his best champions and completely changes the way teams must play and prepare against TL.

Since debuting on the pick in the 2019 LCS Spring Playoffs, Doublellift has played Sona in eight games. He currently owns a 7-1 record on the champion. It's wonder that TL Head Coach Jang "Cain" Nu-ri has no issue drafting Sona for his team every time it's possible. "Everyone on the team realizes that there's almost no chance of me losing every time I get Sona," boasted Doublelift.

Team Liquid has yet to pick Sona at the 2019 World Championship, and the Maven of the Strings has not been banned away from the team, either. This could imply that Sona has phased out of TL's playbook for this meta.

Another potential explanation is that Team Liquid feels like the strategy could be punished internationally. In his conversation with Inven Global, Doublelift explained TL's thought process behind drafting Sona and the success it led to for the team throughout the season. "...the question always is 'Can the opposing Bot Lane ****  me uper hard early so I can't scale to my power spike?'," explained Doublelift. "And the answer is, 'Not in NA.'"

While Team Liquid could see Sona as potentially exploitable by teams at Worlds 2019, it should be taken into account that only two games have been played by the North American champion, so we may see TL draft Sona in the days ahead. TL currently possesses a record of 1-1 in Group D with a win against DAMWON Gaming and a loss to Invictus Gaming. On Day 3 of the Group Stage, Team Liquid will conclude its first round robin in the second scheduled match of the day vs. ahq e-Sports Club.

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