Team Liquid Doublelift and the Question of Motivation
The reigning LCS champions are in a lot of trouble, and that includes their venerable AD carry Team Liquid Doublelift. No one ever expected a roster stacked with so much talent and potential to be on the brink of missing the playoffs — it’s a development that truly boggles the mind. How could a titan that has endured on the top of the LCS for two straight years fall off in such a short amount of time? The meta certainly didn’t shift to a noticeable degree (not to the degree that would affect Team Liquid, at least). They’re still some of the best and most talented players in the world and have been playing with one another for quite a while.
In many ways, they have all the right tools to go for yet another spectacular run and defend their LCS title. Well, that’s at least what everyone thought. Right now, however, there’s a lot of trouble in paradise. Liquid, as a team, has looked somewhere between bad and abysmal almost every time they stepped foot on stage to compete. They did have a couple of brilliant moments, but they were too few and far between to warrant any benefit of the doubt. They were bad on an individual level but also as a five-man unit — often getting caught out of position, making egregious mistakes, and playing like they couldn’t communicate in any way, shape, or form. In short, they’re a pale shadow of their former selves.
Things Suddenly Change for Team Liquid
Amongst all of them, Team Liquid Doublelift certainly looked the most apathetic. A confusing sight, especially for a player well-known for his immense drive and willingness to go the extra mile to get the win. One could argue that that’s his most prominent trait, a virtue that has allowed him to persevere through many great meta shifts and multiple different rosters and organizations.
An awe-inspiring grit and resilience define Team Liquid Doublelift. Love him or hate him, his work ethic and dedication to the game are second-to-none.
2020 did, however, bring a couple of changes. The most important one is the fact that the Spring Split carries very little significance regarding World Championship qualification. Many fans and players even went a step further and said that it’s insignificant, and it’s easy to see why.
For those who have changed teams during the off-season, this is a great thing. They can now compete without any fear or pressure, knowing that they have an entire split worth of time to gel with their teammates, work on their synergy and individual play. That’s about as big of a benefit as you can get — a hall pass, of sorts; they can practice and experiment to their heart’s content as there’s nothing on the line.
For those who didn’t change teams, however, things get a bit more complicated. Take, for example, Team Liquid. They’ve only made a single change to their starting line-up and after winning the LCS four times in a row, this Spring Split almost feels like wasting time. They’ve already attained an immense amount of success. Heck, they even broke the record previously held by Team SoloMid and have become the most successful and dominant champion in LCS history. Team Liquid, as an organization, had a complete 180 once franchising kicked.
Some of their players have won so many times in a row that there’s no motivation to try hard and go the extra mile. And that’s understandable. Sure, you can argue that playing League and competing at the highest levels is their job. But if you’re “Employee of the Month” for two years in a row, it’s only a matter of time before your motivation depletes.
That’s exactly what happened to Team Liquid Doublelift. It resulted in him getting benched.
Doublelift Getting Benched Affects Team Liquid
This was a scandal. A young rookie who never played on the LCS stage took the place of Team Liquid Doublelift. He has the most LCS titles behind his belt, known for immense talent, laning, teamfighting, and mechanical prowess. The decision boggled the minds of many. But it did make sense in the grand scheme of things. Doublelift’s lack of drive affected his teammates as well, and they couldn’t improve as much as they needed to.
To make matters even more fascinating, his replacement Edward “Tactical” Ra played out of his mind in his first LCS weekend. Of course, when you have such tremendous teammates it’s slightly easier to blend in and do your job, but the point still stands.
After warming the bench for three straight games, Doublelift made his return. It didn’t go as planned as Liquid lost entirely to a seemingly inferior Immortals. Once again, even with their full starting line-up and famed European jungling titan Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, Liquid failed to get on the same page and mount an offensive.
This wouldn’t be such a big problem if we were at the beginning of the season. With two weeks of play left, however, Liquid has found themselves in a dire situation. They’re sitting at an unimpressive 6W-8L record. They have to step up immensely in a very short amount of time to stand a chance of reaching the playoffs. Right now, they’re tied for seventh place. The level of play which was on display last weekend certainly didn’t impress. They have Evil Geniuses, Golden Guardians, FlyQuest, and Cloud9 lined up for weeks eight and nine.
That’s a very tough schedule. Even the one game against the Golden Guardians isn’t a given seeing how they played some surprisingly solid League of Legends. Heck, they’re even ranked higher than the defending champions Team Liquid. Who would’ve expected such a thing coming into 2020? No one. That surely includes the Golden Guardians as well.
But it’s the reality we find ourselves in, and the idea of Liquid not reaching the playoffs is a very real possibility. Cloud9 is looking incredibly strong now and have sole possession of first place. FlyQuest tied for second. Evil Geniuses also picked up the pace after an abysmal start to the season. They’re now 7W-7L and have even taken FlyQuest down last week in an insanely clean, commanding win, so one must consider them as a top-tier challenger as well.
Liquid could lose at least three out of their four remaining games. If that happens, they’re quite literally out of the running for playoffs. To say that the pressure is mounting would be an understatement.
This is, in a way, the most important moment in recent Liquid history. They’re on the verge of a debacle, one that has never happened in Western League of Legends. While they have all the right tools and players to get the job done and secure a spot in the Top 6, one simply must wonder whether that’ll happen, given just how steep a climb awaits.
Finally, all of this means that we could see a brand-new champion crowned by the end of Spring Split. If you’re into betting, odds are pointing towards Cloud9 being the heavy favorites. However, Team SoloMid is looking like a mighty challenger as well. It’s still too early to know for sure, but we’re in for one heck of a ride as the regular portion of the split concludes.
The Impact of Losing Xmithie
It seems that losing Jake “Xmithie” Puchero left a much bigger mark on Team Liquid than anyone could have anticipated. Now, sure, Xmithie is as experienced and impactful as they come. But he’s not the kind of player that’ll push you over the finish line when it comes to international competitiveness. It’s hard to blame Liquid for importing Broxah over from the LEC as they needed that extra bit of oomph to get the job done internationally.
But by doing so, they lost one of their most seasoned and level-headed players. Xmithie has a calming effect on the team, and his presence surely enabled Liquid often. He’s not a particularly flashy player, but his consistency was instrumental in Liquid’s regional dominance. Without him leading the charge, Liquid looks a lot less stable and consistent. But that’s just one half of the problem.
This Liquid line-up has nothing to play for. They’ve already attained ultimate success four times in a row. There’s nothing left to prove. With Spring being insignificant overall, there’s a smaller incentive to play to the best of your ability, at least for Liquid. They know they’re one of the best teams in the world and have proven it on multiple occasions.
They know they won’t win Worlds any time soon and have, therefore, become complacent. How could they not? They can talk about motivation and drive for days. But if you’ve already won everything, you’re not going to keep competing with equal enthusiasm.
That’s just human nature. Getting to the top, by comparison, is incredibly easy. Staying there is what’s hard. It’s not because of any external factor, but because of the inherent challenge that comes with being a champion. If we take this fact and stretch it over two years, it’s easy to understand the problem that Team Liquid found themselves in, Doublelift included.
What Happens to Team Liquid Now?
Still, there’s perhaps a small silver lining in all of this: they’re finally in a disadvantageous position. What does it take to light a fire underneath a competitor if not an actual challenge and the possibility of losing fame and fortune? There’s a lot on the line, and everyone knows it. Team Liquid is finally the team that is on the outside looking in. They’re the underdogs with odds stacked against them.
That’s not exactly a position anyone wants to find themselves in. It’s the only thing that can motivate and push the defending champions to get back to their winning ways. The only question now is: did they take things too far? Will they be able to still end up on top? That’s a burning question. We cannot wait to see it answered.
Fortunately, we won’t have to wait for long as Liquid will have to win against both Evil Geniuses and Golden Guardians next week. Both teams rank above Liquid. They’re all competing for the last playoff spot. The margin for error is, therefore, literally non-existent. If Liquid makes even a single mistake, their playoff hopes and aspirations will immediately go out the window.
Talk about a high-pressure situation…
If anything, at least we see a brand-new narrative in the LCS, and an unexpected one, to boot. Watching Liquid dominate and outclass their opposition for two years in a row wasn’t nearly as exciting as it might sound on paper. It’s not just that they weren’t particularly engaging as champions. The region suffered and failed to step up. With the way the Spring Split developed, we could see a triumphant return of the defending champions or a brand-new one crowned in a matter of weeks. Both options sound mighty exciting at this point.
Team Liquid Doublelift wanted a challenge. It’s easy to understand why. Bulldozing through the region becomes less and less engaging every time it happens. But change is on the horizon. He needed four whole splits to find an adversary worthy of mentioning. Even though the wait felt like an eternity, at least we see a shift in the LCS status quo. Now is the moment for the revered veteran marksman to step up and prove his worth.
Will the real Team Liquid Doublelift, please stand up?