Team Liquid has punched its ticket to the 2018 NA LCS Summer Finals, and subsequently, the 2018 World Championship. With a 3-1 victory over 100 Thieves, Team Liquid is set to face Cloud9 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland next Sunday.
100Thieves made a roster announcement just before the series: Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh would be starting in place of Cody “Cody Sun” Sun.
To call the move unexpected would be an understatement. Cody Sun has struggled against Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s laning phase for the entirety of the year, but Rikara’s first LCS appearance would now be in the Semifinals against the best Bot Lane in the league. That’s a tall order, even with Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black as your Support.
Doublelift had a field day in the laning phase, earning Player of the Series honors in Team Liquid’s victory. He sat down with InvenGlobal following TL’s victory to discuss the match vs. 100Thieves, facing Cloud9 next weekend, and Team Liquid’s first World Championship qualification in League of Legends history.
We’re here with Team Liquid’s Doublelift. You’re now in the 2018 NA LCS Summer Finals, and you’ve now also qualified for the 2018 World Championship. What’s the main thing on your mind right now?
I think the main thing is…what a relief to win. I was really nervous coming into this match. I had been worrying for two weeks about 100 Thieves coming in hot. They had just come off of a 3-0 sweep of FlyQuest and had a lot of momentum. I thought we were going to come in cold without information on the developing meta since the Quarterfinals.
We had a lot of problems in practice -- a lot of late nights struggling with each other regarding the team’s playstyle, what we were doing, and how we were fixing our problems. I was really worried about the worst case scenario of us not even qualifying for Worlds. We could have lost here, and then lost in the Regional Qualifier Gauntlet, and all of our hard work would have been for nothing.
I’m a really negative person when it comes to stuff like this, so I’m just really relieved. I’m really grateful that I get to say I’m going to Worlds.
In our last interview, you mentioned that you felt it was pretty easy playing against 100Thieves. What was different about facing 100Thieves in this situation?
I think when you have something to prove, your whole paradigm shifts. I’ve been in their shoes back in 2015 on CLG. We were coming into the 2015 NA LCS Summer Finals against TSM, and we were expected to lose because we always lose to them. My CEO dyed his hair pink because we lost to TSM!
People were starting to lose faith in the rivalry because it was so one-sided, so I came in so ready and eager to prove myself. I was the underdog, they were expected to win, and they were cocky. Against all odds is a different mentality, and I thought that if I were in 100 Thieves’ shoes, I would have that fire.
Because they’re good enough to win, eventually. I feel like there will be a day where 100 Thieves seize the day and get the better of us, even though we usually win. I’m just so happy it wasn’t today.
100Thieves did manage to beat you guys in Game 1 before you settled down and closed it out. They played with Rikara in the lineup in place of Cody Sun, which was unexpected. How do you think he played today, and how did his presence change the team’s style?
I think Rikara actually performed really well with the amount of resources he was given. I think from the outside, it looks like I was just hard-stomping every lane, which is true. But the difference is when I’m stomping Cody, I get a lot more out of it. I think Cody is more prone to making a really bone-headed move against me and potentially could end up giving away more to me than just CS.
40 CS in lane is a huge advantage, and Rikara gave that to me. But 40 CS at the end of the game? That’s only 800 gold. It’s nice. That’s a pickaxe or a core item completed a bit quicker. But let’s say I got a kill, and subsequently, a tower push or a dragon, or an invade for vision. That would be a lot worse.
I think 100Thieves actually played really well around their losing Bot Lane. They slowed down the game a lot so that losing lane didn’t matter as much, and then they played really well around top side. Ssumday was getting a lot of help and resources, and he was carrying that pressure towards me.
I think Rikara actually performed well for his first playoffs. People are going to say he got stomped in lane. That is true, but he played well outside of that. I think Cody Sun would have been more even in CS, but his team would have lost the game a lot faster.
It’s so funny because I used to be that player. When I was 10 CS behind, I would make all the wrong decisions and make it impossible for my team to win. I’d be really focused on the fact that I was behind, and what I should actually be doing. I was expecting Cody Sun to come in at some point, and I would have actually been relieved. I know exactly how to play against Cody and I didn’t know how to play against this guy.
In game 3, you shot the Blast Cone plant in the jungle and Olleh died because of that. Can you take us through the comms of that moment?
Oh my god...dude, instantly I was just like “Oh sh*t, I’m so sorry.” (Laughs) Right as soon as I attacked it, Pobelter said he was going to Ryze ult us out of their jungle to safety. And that’s when I realized, “I just f*****g doomed him I’m so sorry.” That’s the first time in any game I’ve done that. I’ve never made that mistake before, and I felt really bad for Olleh, but he took it well. He was totally cool with it.
Next weekend, you will be playing against Cloud9. You’ve done pretty well against them historically, especially in the finals. What are your thoughts looking towards the 2018 NA LCS Summer Finals?
I’m really experienced playing against Cloud9, and I feel like a lot of the time in the playoffs, I end up picking on Jensen. I remember, back in Season 6, my strategy was to push my lane as fast as possible and roam mid on him so he can’t play aggressively. If he did, he would die, and I know how tilting that must be (laughs) you have no idea what’s going on, and then Kalista shows up mid, throws Alistar at you, and you flash or die.
That was Jensen’s experience playing against me back then, and every playoffs since then, I’ve gotten the better of him when we’ve met. But this time, they don’t have to play him. They can sub in a different Mid Laner, so I kinda lose my target against Cloud9.
This is so interesting because we were just talking about the strengths of subbing in Rikara for Cody Sun today from the perspective of 100Thieves. Do you think we’ll start seeing more frequency in substitutions as the NA LCS develops year by year?
Yeah, I think subbing in players and having a larger roster is a huge advantage. Jensen and Blaber are a lot more instinctive than Goldenglue and Svenskeren. Goldenglue and Sven are a lot more thoughtful and patient; their playstyle is cerebral. Jensen and Blaber pull the trigger at a random time, and it works because they’re good enough mechanically to pull it off. If it doesn’t work, their team is done.
I’m worried about Cloud9. I think they’re really strong, and for now, I’d say they look like the strongest team in NA. I’m not really happy with how we played today. Right after this interview, we’re going to do about three hours of VoD review.
Will facing two different rosters require more preparation on your end?
I actually think Cloud9’s playstyle remains the same, no matter what roster they run. There is a slight difference in the mid/jungle playstyle, but it doesn’t change their team identity or their win condition.
How do you think the rookies of Cloud9 will perform on the big stage?
In the Finals, the pressure is on. You either thrive in it, or you get crushed. In my first NA LCS Finals, I thrived. I played the best I had ever played up until that point, but I have also seen, and played with, and played against players who just get squashed by the pressure.
It’s funny, I feel like I’m picking on him a lot, but Jensen is notorious for causing a big mishap in the Finals. I feel like even just mentally knowing that you have a backup ready to step in when you’re not feeling it is a really big advantage for them to have.
My team, though, we work a lot on consistency, so I hope we can show that.
It will be a great series but win or lose, Team Liquid has qualified for the World Championship. All of the TL players have gone to Worlds before, but this is the organization’s first LoL World Championship qualification. Have you had a chance to talk to Steve now that you guys have sent him to Worlds?
Yeah, after we won Steve came up to me and said, “When I signed you, you promised me Worlds, and we got it.” So I felt really happy for him, and I’m happy to make that promise a reality.
We probably won’t have a chance to talk again before Worlds, so how do you think the relative levels of NA and EU stack up?
EU looks pretty strong. I would say the average level of the EU teams is lower than NA, to be honest. However, I’d say their top teams are probably better than our top teams right now.
Worlds is its own different beast. When you get there, it’s like your on a quest to improve as fast as possible with a different level of competition. It’s like you got invited to this club, and it doesn’t matter what everyone’s level was before they came into the club. That’s why you’ll see crazy upsets happen at Worlds. The only thing that matters is what level you come out with at the World Championship.
Even after week 1, it’s a marathon. You have to keep improving every day. Typically, North American teams have a great week 1 and then we suck in week 2. We’ll just go 0-4 and lose out, even after a good first week.
My mentality for Worlds is, as always, I want to prove myself. I don’t want the same story to happen again. I’m really grateful for this chance to change my life, hopefully, and take an American team the farthest they’ve ever been.