Team Liquid’s 2017 so far has been rocky to say the least. After winning just three of its first 12 series of the Spring Split, Team Liquid has staged some of the largest in-season roster changes in the history of the North American LCS.
The first of these moves saw Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae move from the AD Carry position he has played since his professional debut on Korea’s championship SK Telecom T1 S roster back in 2013, over the mid lane position in order to replace Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, who had been under performing in the first 5 weeks of the split.
More surprising was this week’s news that Team SoloMid would be loaning legendary North American AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to Team Liquid for the remainder of the Spring Split. Alongside this came the news that Phoenix1 support Adrian Ma had been traded to Team Liquid, though it is unclear if the team plans to use him as a starter.
The only question now, is whether these moves will be enough to bring TL out of last place or if the changes will have come too late to help Team Liquid make the playoffs.
In terms of the standings, Team Liquid likely has one of the hardest possible paths to the playoffs.
TL’s direct competition is likely to be Team Dignitas, Immortals and most importantly, Echo Fox. For the purposes of simplicity, we will say Counter Logic Gaming is a lock for the fifth playoffs spot as it has the best record and the easiest schedule remaining.
Remaining series for .500 or less teams:
CLG: DIG, C9, EFX, FLY, IMT, NV
IMT: FLY, TSM, C9, P1, CLG, DIG
EFX: P1, DIG, CLG, TSM, FLY, NV
DIG: CLG, EFX, TL, NV, C9, IMT
NV: TSM, TL, DIG, C9, EFX, CLG
TL: C9, NV, DIG, P1, TSM, FLY
Of the teams on the outside looking in, Echo Fox has the best chance to make the playoffs, with a fairly good 5-7 record and at least two wins likely in its schedule, and another two — against CLG and P1 — that could be picked up should a few things break in its favor. Even if it doesn’t win either of these series, Echo Fox is likely to finish the split at 7-11.
Of these four teams competing over the last playoff spot — other than Team Liquid — Immortals and Team Dignitas have the longest road ahead. Despite both coming in with better records than Team Liquid, both also have more difficult schedules and will not have the added benefit of new talent coming into key roles. Of the two though, it should be Immortals with the best record at the end of week 10, at something like 6-12.
This leaves Team Liquid facing a fairly tall task in order to make it to playoffs. Liquid is likely to win at least two of the remaining games — against Team Dignitas and Team Envy — bringing their wins up to five. But, with Echo Fox likely to come up with seven wins, Liquid is going to need at least two more wins in their remaining games against Cloud9, Phoenix1, Team SoloMid and FlyQuest — all four league’s top teams.
While playoffs may be the ultimate goal for Liquid, it seems far more likely that avoiding relegation was the primary motivator for the recent roster changes. With the possibility of franchising within the next year or so in North America, keeping an LCS spot could be as valuable as any playoff game this split.
For Doublelift, this situation presents a bit of a win-win. If his stint in Team Liquid ends with the team going to playoffs, he’s a hero who brought TL up from last place. If all they do is avoid relegation, then there was little to be done with a team whose hill was too large to climb before he was involved anyway, allowing him to return to TSM for the summer split.
One thing is for sure. No matter which team makes it to playoffs, Team Liquids roster changes make the competition for the last three weeks of the NA LCS spring split far more interesting and a lot less predictable.