Liquid is one of the only real contenders to win the Major. They are the only team that has consistently run Astralis close over the last year, and they’re looking to do more than run them close here in Katowice. They’ve made some roster moves that have major implications on their structure as a team, and this will be their first test as a roster.
What Needs to Go Right
They Overwhelm Their Opponents
One of Liquid’s biggest assets with their newest roster configuration is their firepower. The team has three former MVPs, three top 20 players from the last couple years, they are an NA dream team. They need to use that to their advantage, because their roster is no longer constructed the way it used to be.
On the old Liquid, they had Taco and nitr0, both of who added structure to the team, and enabled Twistzz, EliGE and NAF, in that order. They had a well thought out system in place, that led them to numerus top two finishes last year.
That’s all over now. Their system is going to have to change, unless they want to relegate one of their four top 20 players to support, which I can’t imagine will work. Instead of playing the controlled style they played with their old lineup, they’ll have to play much more aggro.
There will be less resources to focus on one or two players, which means everyone on the team will have to play make, for themselves and for others. Expect to see them play in loose groups of two, and to apply pressure uniformly across whatever map they’re playing on.
They Might Have an Awper
This is a relatively minor concern, but still one that I figured is worth mentioning. The closest thing Liquid had to an AWPer last year was nitr0, who used the AWP roughly 31% of the time in 2018. That’s a major jump from his stats in 2017, where he used the AWP only about 6% of the time. He has been a serviceable AWPer, at least in most of Liquid’s series last year, but at the EPL Season 8 finals, over a best-of-five against Astralis, he had 3 AWP kills against device, and was AWPed 4 times in return. Now, that stat may not be too alarming, but it gets worse when you realize that device went 8-1 against NAF, 7-0 against EliGE, 5-0 against Twistzzz, and 7-1 against TACO. Device picked them apart with the AWP, and nitr0 couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t go toe-to-toe with him to shut him down.
It seems they might have found their answer in Stewie2k. At the iBUYPOWER Masters in January, nitr0 had only about 8% of his kills with the AWP, while Stewie’s numbers went from 11% to 14%. Over the best-of-three grand finals, Stewie lost the matchup with device 4-5, but managed to hold him under 15 total AWP kills on the rest of his teammates.
While that is encouraging, there’s also plenty shaky or even misleading about these numbers. First off, it was a pretty minor tournament a month before the Major. That means it’s highly unlikely Astralis was putting in 100% against Liquid. Number two, it was just one tournament. Just because Stewie AWPed a little more here, doesn’t mean that that trend will continue, nor does it mean he will be able to consistently shut down device at full strength. Thirdly, this wasn’t a great tournament for device. It’s likely we’ll see this duel tip even further in his favor in future meetings between these two teams.
What Could Go Wrong
The Team Could Fall Apart in the Clutch
Picture this for me. Astralis and Liquid are in the grand finals, they’re down a map. It’s late in Liquid’s T half, they’re down 3-7. They only have one AK, they need this round. Who gets the gun?
This scenario, or one like it, is what’s worried me since Liquid made that trade in the off season. I don’t know who is going to step up on Liquid and be the guy. Is it EliGE? Stewie? I could see anyone but nitr0 on this roster stepping up in the clutch spot.
While yes, there is large upside in having four guys that could take over a round while playing against Astralis, or someone like Astralis (although that list of teams is pretty small), it’s also important to have a clear number one option to turn to in a tight spot like the one I’m describing.
Twistzzz Gets Stunted
This isn’t so much an immediate concern as it is a long term one. Last year Twistzzz blossomed as a player and looked like he was turning into a perennial all-star. He hit highs that we haven’t seen from a ton of NA players, which is a big deal. If he continues to improve, or just maintains his level from last year, he could be a legitimate second, or even first option on a tier one team.
With Liquid’s roster moves, they removed their support player and added one of the better carry players from NA in the last three years, which is a big deal. Unfortunately, it may not work out all that well for Twistzzz. The addition of Stewie2k could stunt Twistzzz development in a major way and put a cap on his ceiling for the time being.
There are only so many resources to go around, and by late last year Twistzzz was playing like a first option. He was the focal point of the team, and the first- or second-best player on a title contending team.
This isn’t to say there’s no way this could work. Twistzzz may play even better when sharing the spotlight, who know? But it’s certainly something to be aware of as this team moves forward for the rest of the year.
Liquid is one of the best, but most volatile bets at the event. Depending on how well the roster move works out, it could be the final push they needed to take out their nemesis. Or it could explode in their faces.