Team Liquid finally looked like itself in its most recent game of the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split against Counter Logic Gaming. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen shook off a groggy LCS debut on Lee Sin with a clinical Sejuani performance, and the bot lane duo of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-In dominated the 2v2 matchup in the trademark aggressive fashion that has been absent from TL’s games this season.
Team Liquid sits at 3-5, but are absolutely on the up and up and look relieved to finally have Broxah in US the after visa issues kept the team from their starting Jungler for its first six games. Doublelift spoke with Inven Global’s Nick Geracie about Team Liquid’s morale after four weeks of play, gave his opinions on changes to the LCS format, and opened up about his recent struggles with motivation.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Doublelift. You're fresh off of TL's cleanest victory of the season, and I wanted to get your opinion on how much of that was because of Team Liquid, and how much of it was CLG being the last place team in the LCS?
I think our team has been in a slump lately, and it's been pretty hard to understand what exactly is the area that needs the most improvement, because there's a lot of things that end up going wrong. I think the number one thing is individually, we're making too many mistakes compared to before.
I hate when bad teams chalk things up to 'oh, it's only team play' because usually, it is big mistakes that people make that make the game much harder for everyone else. If everyone puts in a few mistakes of their own, it makes the game almost impossible to win, even if you had great team play.
I'd say we've been really focused on playing better, cleaner, and I guess more aggressively. CLG is a weak opponent; I didn't realize until after the game that they were in last place, but from my perspective, top lane got kind of screwed early, so Jeong "Impact" Eon-young was playing from behind. But he's usually pretty good at that, and we were f*****g their bot lane 2v2.
We got the first drake and had a really good advantage, so we went all-in 2v2 and got the kill, then lane swapped for Rift Herald. I think the game was paced through bot lane very well, and then, every play CLG went for failed. Nowadays, if you go for a play and fail, it's really punishing compared to before because the game is so fast-paced now.
I think CLG just failed too many plays. It would have been better for them not to do anything and just hold their cooldowns than use their cooldowns and not be able to contest for the next two minutes. We are still learning, and I think a lot of the stuff we learned about the game from last year is not really applicable anymore because the game is very different.
Can you elaborate on how the game has changed at the top competitive level since last season?
It's more Rift Herald than it is changes to Dragon. Herald opens up the map super fast, so it's a lot harder to play immobile control mage-type champions without dying. People end up dying a lot because the turrets go down fast, and then Rift Herald snowballs the game in a way where you end up with a ****ton of gold on one guy. It creates a lot of volatility in the game, and I think that overall, the game is a lot more spicy.
The jungle experience changes changed a lot. There's no more level 2 ganking then going for Scuttle Crab, it's more about level 3 timings and stuff like that. The pacing of the game feels a bit differently; you ward at different times, you use your cooldowns differently, but in general, it's not super different. The reason we suck is because we're playing really weird. We're not playing comfortably, and our drafts sometimes don't make much sense.
Speaking of the draft, the biggest change we've seen this weekend is the disappearance of Senna as a top tier marksman. This has made Aphelios almost always banned, so we're seeing many other marksmen picks like the Varus you used to beat CLG. What's your opinion on the 10.3 meta for bot lane?
Yeah, I definitely feel like Apheilos is top tier and a level above the rest, but not by too much. I think right now there's a lot of emphasis on playing ADs that synergize well with Essence Reaver/Infinity Edge as a two-item core because the game is really fast. Champions that don't spike on one or two items are kind of weak. Also, I think crit-focused ADs are able to contest mid lane the best because their waveclear is fastest.
Ezreal's still in the meta, too, but he's always been a good mid contestant. Miss Fortune and Aphelios are top 2, and I'd say Xayah is up there as well. Those champions are picked a lot because they clear mid very fast, and they spike within that 1-2 item range. They also scale well, but the game doesn't often go super late.
There's not too much of a replacement for Senna. Our team didn't lose any games because of Senna except for the very last game I picked it, in which I just ran it down. The other three games I think we were playing fine, we just ended losing.
I think I was playing fine on Senna, we just weren't able to play the game out properly. That had nothing to do with my AD pick, but maybe there were some small factors that we were not considering that made the game harder for us, so basically, it's good for us that Senna got nerfed.
I think we're still figuring out what's working for us in the bot lane, and we can always go back to the safe and tested stuff. Yesterday, we played Kalista and it didn't work because I died and then got outscaled. It feels bad when you're not able to play to your win condition, so you go for the easier win condition instead.
Last summer, you told me that you'd always rather be the hungry underdog than someone sitting atop the throne, so through this unexpected circumstance, you have gotten that change once again. Even with this, no one expects TL to miss playoffs, but is there any expectation the team is putting on themselves for the remainder of the regular split?
I think the goal has always been the same, which is to play better every day. If that takes us to playoffs, or the Mid-Season Invitational, that doesn't really matter. I think each player has their own individual goals, of course. Broxah might want to come in and win it all in his first split in a new region.
CoreJJ has already won Worlds, so he probably just wants to keep winning like I do. I also want to win an international tournament. If it ends up being MSI, that’s cool, but preferably it’s Worlds. There’s so many individual things, but I think the overall incremental progress is what’s important.
Our team has been together for a long time, so our motivation has to come from your inward emotions. For me, when I lose, I feel really f*****g bad. I want to show people I can be consistently great. That’s my motivation for working hard and playing better.
The 2020 LCS Spring Split no longer has circuit points that factor into World Championship qualification. Does this make the Spring Split matter less, and subsequently, lessen the value of MSI?
It definitely matters a lot less, objectively, for your career and everything. I had the mentality where I was pretty bitter about Spring Split, but when we started losing, I realized that I do care. The mentality of Spring Split not mattering is something I wish I had.
I wish I had that carefree attitude, but I guess I do care because I am part of the community and I am reading online comments and those types of things. Even though I’m not f*****g staying up crying about it, it does feel really bad when you’re not playing well or when you’re losing, so I definitely experienced a complete 180 in my mentality.
I think while this Split matters a lot less, a lot of pros want to prove themselves and show that they are really good. Everyone wants to win, and you’re already putting in the hours, so you might as well put in the intensity and the drive.
I definitely wasn’t very driven recently until I had a wake-up call. Ever since then, I’ve been trying a lot harder. I think I kind of needed that wake up call, because I never would have realized how much competing really means to me. Once in a while, you need a refresher, like, ‘Oh, even if Spring Split doesn’t really matter, competing matters to me.’ I think it’s the process that matters to me more than this Worlds qualification idea.
Regardless of the context, you still care about how you compete every day. Just because the Spring Split doesn’t have circuit points doesn’t mean starting out 2-5 feels fine.
Yeah, exactly. I realize now that competing and being at the bottom of the standings feels really s****y, and playing like this feels really s****y, but I needed to know what that was like and gain that perspective again. It’s been a really long time since I wasn’t trying my absolute 110%, so it was good. The hardest part for people is admitting it, but I don’t really have a problem telling people.
It’s pretty obvious that I have not been playing my best, and I have not been trying my best either. I apologize for the collateral damage of that, which is that my team had to suffer by playing with a player who is not as driven or in his best form. That feels really s****y, and maybe there’s some trust lost there, but I am now going to be back in my best form. That’s what I’m working towards every day now.
What was the wake-up call you talked about?
When we were playing against Golden Guardians, dying 2v2 to Victor “FBI” Huang and Yuri “Keith” Jew made me realize, “This can never happen to me again. I can never again embarrass or humiliate myself like this.” I didn’t even care that it was an LCS game on broadcast, that didn’t really matter to me. It could have been a scrim. I was just like, “Wow. Am I really capable of dying like this? Playing like this?” It’s frustrating. It’s really irritating to me, so I have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Thank you so much for your honesty about all you’ve been going through, I’m sure your supporters appreciate it. People look towards you as the captain of TL, so is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I think a lot of the Team Liquid fans these days are fans of the team because we won. The truth of it is that if you want to be a team with a big fan base, you have to win. I would say that I don’t really have a problem with fans who come to my team because we win; it’s fun to root for the winning team. I’m more than okay with tanking criticism and stuff, but I have a really positive attitude about the future.
I think our team is going to turn it around pretty easily...actually, I shouldn’t say easily because that’s the mentality that got us here. Our team can turn it around with a lot of hard work, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We have five highly motivated players now, and when we play our best, we can beat anyone.