There’s been an increased emphasis lately in North American League of Legends to develop talent in-house. Whether it’s teams like Cloud9 and Team Liquid establishing teams in the Challenger Series or Team SoloMid signing Challenger prospect Vincent “Biofrost” Wang to replace a five-time European champion, it’s vital to have a talent pipeline to stay at the top of the region, especially if the rumored changes to residency rules take place.
For Team Liquid, that Challenger pipeline paid off in a big way last split, producing Spring Rookie of the Split Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Matt “Matt” Elento, now one of the best jungler/support duos in the region.
And once again this weekend, Team Liquid leaning into youth paid off.
With series against lower-tier teams Phoenix1 and NRG Esports on tap for the weekend, Liquid decided to temporarily sit Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae, the former world champion AD Carry and the team’s star player since joining in October 2014. Instead, Liquid started Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen, a talented but raw AD Carry prospect who requested experience on stage. Fabbbyyy said the decision was because he wanted playing time, Piglet said it was because he wanted a break, but either way, it’s clear this was a short-term substitution.
Fabbbyyyy has long been known as a notorious Draven player in League’s Challenger tier, gaining the reputation as a very gifted mechanical player who sometimes struggled with tilt, throwing away won games. As a result, he earned the nickname “The Gatekeeper,” because how he played often decided whether or not someone won promotion to Challenger.
It’s impossible to know whether Fabbbyyy or someone else will be Piglet’s eventual replacement, but Liquid is preparing.
With Piglet in the starting lineup, Liquid has often run “protect the AD Carry” compositions, focusing the rest of the team’s lineup around protecting and boosting Piglet. But as Piglet gets older and continues to not be shy about his opinions on NA’s talent level, it is wise for Liquid to prepare for the future and its star player’s eventual retirement.
That’s what we’ve seen from the team these last two weeks. First, with Piglet in the lineup, Liquid ran a composition similar to its classic “protect the AD Carry” teams, but instead of Piglet’s Vayne or Lucian being the focus, it was rising star Dardoch’s Rengar. Then, Liquid brought in fabbbyyy, giving a young talent a chance but also giving the team the opportunity to perform without its star player.
It went well. After an 0-3 start to the season, Liquid is now 3-3.
That’s tied with Apex Gaming for fifth place, and one spot ahead of two-time defending champions Counter Logic Gaming in the NA LCS standings.
And while fabbbyyy didn’t perform quite up to Piglet’s peak level, he still put on an impressive group of performances for his LCS debut. In five games, he posted a K/D/A of 10/7/42, participating in 77.6 percent of Liquid’s kills and generally crushing his opponent in the laning phase. Fabbbyyy did struggle to stay alive, which is to be expected for an LCS debut, but overall it was a strong performance and a promising sign for Liquid’s future.
At some point or another, the end of the Piglet era will arrive for Team Liquid. Over the past two weeks, the team has taken significant steps towards preparing for that time, and locked up three wins in the process. GG WP, Liquid!