The memory of the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational is still fresh in the minds of Team Liquid players and fans. The preceding spring split resulted in the first domestic title for the organization and the first appearance on an international stage at a Riot event. But even after a split full of domestic accomplishment, reality hit Team Liquid hard.
Underwhelming was the best word to describe TL’s performance at MSI last year. While Kingzone DragonX and Royal Never Give Up fought for the title, TL fell apart. The squad put themselves back together and achieved a second straight domestic title and a pass to the World Championship.
At Worlds, TL was better, but still wasn’t quite good enough. Then came the roster shuffle in the offseason. The team announced two key signings, mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and former world champion support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.
Bringing in a former world champion doesn’t always work. The most recent example of this potential pitfall has been Bae “Bang” Jun-sik on 100 Thieves. Luckily for TL, CoreJJ has turned out to be exactly what the squad needed.
Throughout the season, CoreJJ was the main playmaker with assertive roams around the map and aggressive plays in lane. He was the catalyst that bottom laner Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng needed to reach his full potential. Working hand in hand with jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, CoreJJ set his team up for success.
TL achieved their third consecutive title in the LCS and earned a pass to MSI. As for CoreJJ, he was chosen as the Spring MVP in his first split back in North America. Going to MSI, TL is relying on CoreJJ to guide them to victory against the spring champions from other regions around the world.
CoreJJ generally goes for champions that allow him to initiate, roam around the map, and provide some sort of crowd control. Tahm Kench was his number one pick of the season and soon became the most banned champion against TL. The Abyssal Voyage (R) allows him to influence almost the entire map, joining fights or initiating plays from scratch.
Another CoreJJ pick is Galio, as this champion provides crowd control and a global ultimate that can be a real game changer. Even if Galio and Tahm Kench are banned, CoreJJ can go for Alistar or Braum. He also showed that he can play Rakan and Zyra, and had a good performance playing Taric.
In the LCS, teams targeted CoreJJ’s champion pool and this strategy could continue at MSI. TSM found some success while focusing CoreJJ in the spring final, showing the support player’s importance to his team’s success.
At MSI, TL must go through the Play-In Stage in a best-of-five series. The winner of that series will move on to the main event where SK Telecom T1, G2 Esports and Invictus Gaming await. TL is likely to go through the Play-In Stage without issues, and the real challenge starts on the main event stage.
TL succeeds when they play a standard composition with strong engagement tools. Against FlyQuest in the spring semifinals, they showed that unorthodox compositions are not always a good look for them. This could play against them when they face a G2 team that is known for their creative drafts, as Liquid’s options may be more limited.
SKT plays a more organized and standard style. Against the LCK champion, it will come down to execution and the ability to create opportunities for outplays. SKT’s support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong is big Tahm Kench player, so we could see both teams fighting for the pick.