Nearly two weeks ago, Team Liquid announced burgeoning AD Carry prospect Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen would be replacing Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae in the starting lineup for the team’s games against NRG and Phoenix1. The move was expected to be a temporary one, with games against two of the bottom teams in the league serving as a perfect time for Liquid to start preparing for its eventual post-Piglet world.
Well, it turns out that world might be coming sooner than we thought.
After wins against NRG and Phoenix1 and better overall teamplay around star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, fabbbyyy also got the starting nod against Apex (putting on a star performance with Ashe) and second-place Immortals (the team’s first loss with fabbbyyy in the lineup). The team has improved from 1-3 to 4-4, and now a revealing interview with Slingshot’s Vince Nairn shows Liquid’s possible plans for the future.
In the interview, Liquid head coach Yoon-sub “Locodoco” Choi hinted at deciding a permanent AD Carry starter soon, noting that playing many games in the LCS can make it difficult to play in the Challenger Series for Team Liquid Academy (as Piglet is now and Fabbbyyy was before).
Then there were comments from Fabbbyyy and Dardoch, who made it seem like 1) the 22-year-old Piglet, now a fourth-year veteran three years removed from his Season 3 Worlds victory, may be about ready to retire and 2) “strong opinions” from Piglet, Dardoch (suspended at the beginning of the split for insubordination) and Locodoco led to clashes within the team.
‘We’re pretty much trying to get Piglet a break because he’s burned out from the game for now, from what I understand,’ Fabbbyyy said Saturday.
‘Piglet is nearing the end of his career, and you can tell he’s pretty tired of playing competitively and trying so hard 100 percent of the time,’ Dardoch said. ‘I think Piglet has a really good fit on the Challenger team because every person and the coach respects him. That’s a good environment for him because there’s no clash.
‘I have really strong opinions. Piglet has really strong opinions. Loco does too. If we disagree on something, it turns into a clash, and it takes a while for that issue to get solved.’
Of course, Piglet could very well end up returning to the lineup, even if there is an in-game issue with him and Dardoch. For the first three games of the split, Liquid tried a lineup with Piglet and jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate. But after three bad losses, Dardoch was subbed back in.
He certainly has the talent to play at a high level in the LCS, and judging by a recent interview with ESPN’s Tyler Erzberger, he has the desire, too.
This is your fourth split in the North American LCS. What is your goal for the end of the year, and what could the future hold?
I definitely want to win, that's all I'm thinking about. And even when the season ends, I'm going to be a pro-gamer.
So no vacation?
So there are three things I can take from that: there's retiring, taking a short break, or just being a pro gamer consistently. As of right now, I still have the passion to keep being a pro gamer.
This isn’t the first time Liquid has sat Piglet. After a 2-4 record in his first six games with the team, he was benched in Spring 2015 in favor of Yuri “Keith” Jew, currently the starter for Echo Fox. Piglet returned after just two weeks on the bench, leading the team to a playoff berth and upsetting Counter Logic Gaming in the quarterfinals before finishing the split in third place, the highest-ever finish for the team.
So far this split, both Piglet and fabbbyyy have played nine games. Liquid is 6-3 with fabbbyyy and 3-6 with Piglet (albeit against significantly tougher competition). Piglet has better farming and damage numbers, but fabbbyyy has the advantage statistically in KDA and kill participation.
It’s a big decision for Locodoco and Team Liquid, which stands at 4-4 and fifth place in the LCS standings, one game behind stumbling Envy and two ahead of a rapidly improving CLG side. As of right now, Liquid’s playoff spot seems fairly secure, but it’s far from guaranteed in a league with more than a handful of quality teams. Make the wrong choice, and Liquid could be watching the playoffs from home.