Let’s answer the question above with a swift, “No”.
Certainly the losses Team Liquid suffered should initially raise concerns from fans, but can be set aside rather easily. While sitting in the middle of the standings doesn’t bring a significant amount of comfort to many, we are only in our second week of the regular season. There is still plenty of time for Team Liquid to find themselves and be ready to enter the mid-season showdown in a respectable fashion. The idea of Team Liquid “finding themselves” is a big point of discussion here as every team is clearly attempting to figure out how they can be successful. These stories of self discovery result in intersections across teams as positive and, in the case for Team Liquid this past week, negative results.
The conversation around Team Liquid’s matchup against TSM can be wrapped up rather quickly and more specifically at the in game time of 14:17. This is exactly when the words “Quadra Kill” flash across the screen after a devastating fight in favor of TSM takes place in the bottom lane. It is at this point anyone who knows PowerofEvil as a player should have said to themselves, “yeah, this game is over”. PowerofEvil is an exceptionally experienced player and although he is a new face within TSM, knows full well how to avoid foolish positioning and carry a game. If anything, if PowerofEvil wasn’t able to carry this match, we should have all considered it as a cry for help to save PowerofEvil from TSM. With the swift TSM victory that followed we know that isn’t the case.
The more significant take away from this match however, goes back to each team’s journey to figuring out how they should function. While PowerofEvil was given the means to end the match and pull more control from Team Liquid’s advances, this match was more about TSM finding how they can play. TSM in this game functioned far better than they ever had at any part this year and a significant part of that comes from the play of SwordArt on Pantheon. Up until the bottom lane disaster Team Liquid experienced, SwordArt was moving across the map dictating the pace of the game and even outpacing CoreJJ in the bottom lane. Within this match we saw TSM find some semblance of an identity with SwordArt leading the charge and TSM members stepping up when called upon. Team Liquid, with their own growing pains taking place, happened to stumble in at a high point of TSM’s tale. The only other thing others can take from this TSM centered story is perhaps banning Pantheon and keeping SwordArt in check.
As for the match against 100 Thieves, this loss could be accompanied with some melodramatic violin playing while staring at a picture of Impact. The conclusion you draw from the imagery shouldn’t be blamed on Alphari, instead it should be seen as looking back at what Team Liquid was. It is no mystery what kind of role Impact served while playing on Team Liquid. Impact was the rock in the top lane who would almost always play tanks, even counter picking himself, and the guy that would occasionally find the perfect flank to win a game. Impact for the most part didn’t receive a significant amount of resources and played a role that had him controlling fights alongside CoreJJ. With Impact now gone, Team Liquid needs to learn how to function without the tools Impact brought to every match. Team fights for Team Liquid might feel far more out of control now as a result of Impact being gone and basics need to be reworked. The same freedoms Impact may have afforded his carries need to be taken into consideration and tuned up.
Impact leaving may have left a much more significant crater than Team Liquid had realized, but this might actually be for the better. With Team Liquid’s constant attempts to pursue more aggressive playstyles, removing Impact and bringing in Alphari will likely have the most direct change. This can be more clearly seen in the 100 Thieves match where Alphari had received a larger number of resources and was put in a position to carry. Team Liquid as a whole failed at specific team fights within the match, it is in these instances this roster needs to determine how to execute appropriately. Impact is no longer there acting as a wall to help regulate and restrict opponents. Now members of Team Liquid need to not only do a better job of keeping themselves safe, but figure out how to do the most with the shifting resources they will receive. Team Liquid is now going to have much more variance in their play as a result of Alphari being there to grab more resources. While Team Liquid also have Santorin joining the line-up the degree of change from the position is going to be felt far less than that of the top lane. It comes down to Team Liquid to identify how they need to play around each lane across different games rather than the same static playstyle they were known for with Impact.
With a great level of confidence, it is still completely fair to imagine Team Liquid standing at the upper end of the league by the end of the year. If anything fans should feel a sense of comfort with Team Liquid experiencing this slight slump after the success they experienced winning the Lock-in tournament. These losses will likely weigh heavily on Team Liquid’s players and staff which could result in rapid progress. While the losses of Team Liquid will likely look gruesome, these growing pains could result in a far more aggressive squad. As we head into week three of the LCS, it will be the perfect series of scaling difficulty of opponents to test out a potentially revitalized Team Liquid; Golden Guardians, Evil Genius, and Cloud9. Although a mixture of losses could still occur as other teams figure out how they want to play, it really feels like only a matter of time before Team Liquid is a massive threat within the league once more.