With a victory over Echo Fox in the final week of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split, Team Liquid has secured the 1st seed heading into playoffs. In one of the most competitive splits in NA LCS history, Team Liquid has solidified themselves as the team to beat.
I sat down with Xmithie following TL’s win to discuss playoffs prep, the importance of experience in best of 5s, and the 2018 World Championship.
I’m here with Team Liquid Jungler Xmithie. You have now clinched the 1st playoff seed, and now a bye. Do you think the playoff bye is a big help for you guys heading into playoffs?
I think being 1st place is a boost for our morale, but also, we get to choose who we play in the semifinals. In addition, we can practice behind closed doors and watch the other teams play and gather information on their playstyles.
Is there a potential downside to having the week off?
I think it depends on how you use the time. We’re going to have more practice and we’ll be watching the quarterfinals, so we’re not taking very much time off. We have scrim blocks during the games, but we’ll be watching the VoDs after we’re done practicing.
Are there any teams in the playoffs that you would prefer to avoid? Is there a dark horse that could take everyone by surprise?
C9 has been pretty strong lately. They’ve really picked it up the past two weeks, and they can also sub in two players that play at almost the same level as their starters. Maybe TSM, if they can put together enough wins to make playoffs.
Right, you can never count TSM out completely. From your perspective, what’s changed about the way that Cloud9 plays?
I think it’s mainly a resurgence of their confidence. They seem a lot more confident in themselves and each other as a unit. Before, Cloud9’s individual players were doing the right things, but they weren’t acting as a unit. So even if they had a lead, the other team would work together more than they were and eventually come back and win.
Now that they’re committing, even if it’s an objectively bad play, it can still work because they’re a good team and they’re trusting in each other. That’s why they’re not faltering in the same ways they were before.
I’m glad that you brought that up because Pobelter played Azir for Team Liquid today. In some of Pobelter’s Azir performances in the past, even if he’s been able to gain an individual advantage, the team has not been able to convert them into victories. Has TL changed the way it plays around Mid Lane?
To be honest, we didn’t really practice much Azir. I know it looked we were playing cleaner, but honestly, I think we could have played much better. There are so many options in mid right now that it’s impossible to prepare for everything.
Part of Cloud9’s resurgence was Jensen’s pocket Zilean, and now everyone is trying to play that champion. But that’s the thing about Mid Lane picks right now - you actually have to be good at the champion for it to be viable.
The Mid Lane pool being in flux affects how the Jungle role is played as well. Have you had to change the way you prepare for games?
Yeah, definitely. Mid and Jungle rotate to the side lanes together most of the time, so you need to have a strong 2v2 to be able to play through Mid Lane. The biggest factor in our early game is how well we do in the Mid/Jungle.
Let’s look ahead at the 2018 World Championship. KT Rolster and Flash Wolves have qualified from LCK and LMS, respectively. Do you think the international picture is shaping up differently than years past?
I think every region always has their own meta before an international tournament. Korea always plays controlled and passive. They scale throughout the game and don’t make many mistakes. In China, they play very aggressively. If a top Chinese team wins the early game, they’re probably going to win the game.
Europe and NA can play both styles, but they’re not really great at either of them. I think that’s why western teams struggle at worlds. That’s why you see mostly Korean and Chinese teams going deep into the tournament, accompanied by the occasional Flash Wolves upset.
Flash Wolves have very little competition challenging them for first place historically, but Team Liquid’s #1 seed was earned in a split full of parity. How important is veteran experience going into the best of 5 scenarios in playoffs?
If we win playoffs, I think our team’s wealth of experience will be one of the main reasons. If we lose, I think it will come down to our cohesion not being as good as the other teams. You can’t win off of experience alone. Look at Griffin in the LCK - they’re a team full of rookies taking the entire league by storm.
Experience matters a lot, but if the meta doesn’t suit your team and you have trouble adapting, then you lose.
Speaking of Griffin, what are your thoughts on Tarzan as a rookie Jungler?
I think he’s really good. I’ve studied his pathing and engages a lot. He fights around scuttle crab a lot and plays through those river skirmishes really well. I try to watch every region as much as I can and learn from watching other junglers.
Xmithie vs. Tarzan would be a fantastic Jungle matchup at Worlds this year, so we hope to see you there. Thanks so much for the interview, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Thanks to every Team Liquid fan out there, and the Xmithie fans out there who have followed my journey this far. This year has been a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of it, we usually win. It’s not always easy, but the support is appreciated.
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.