From fifth to finals: How Yaltz helped Team Liquid make it to Worlds 2021
Team Liquid Yaltz graphic
Provided by Team Liquid

From fifth to finals: How Yaltz helped Team Liquid make it to Worlds 2021

Yaltz played a big part in the team's trip to Worlds 2021 and he's back to reach greater heights

“One last ult and one last nexus, Team Liquid demolish Cloud9,” David “Phreak” Turley screamed as Team Liquid won their first series of the League Championship Series 2021 Championship last August. “Playoff TL are just built different, Phreak,” Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler said in response.

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Team Liquid entered the summer playoffs as the fifth seed, set to face off against a fourth place Cloud9 and a first place TSM behind them. And, though the org is known to be a top team in the league, fifth place well-represented their strength going into the post-season. They didn’t seem like favorites for the League of Legends World Championship 2021.

Throughout the summer split, Liquid were beaten and battered by medical issues, personal issues and a coaching staff change. They struggled to perform consistently and lost at least one of their three games every weekend.

But, unlike the tight schedule coupled with the instability of single-game matches during the regular season, the LCS playoff format was a playground for Team Liquid. And much of it is due to a man behind the scenes for Team Liquid. A man with an insightful mind and an eye for detail: Evandro “Yaltz” de Cerqueira.

Yaltz on stage with Team Liquid
Yaltz on stage as TL Academy head coach in 2019. | Provided by Yaltz

As Liquid’s head analyst, Yaltz helped the team turn things around, after their weak summer split, and secure a ticket to the World Championship for the fourth year in a row.

From barely scraping through the summer season, to demolishing a fourth and first ranked Cloud9 and TSM, making Worlds 2021 and eventually winning Lock In, Liquid had quite the comeback.

With Yaltz, Liquid adapted for the playoffs

“Honestly, this feels nothing like the TL I’ve been casting all year long,” Phreak said just moments after their first series victory in the LCS 2021 Championship. “I’m excited to watch them play some more.”

Team Liquid’s complete evolution between the regular season and playoffs was immediately evident in their victory over Cloud9. And that growth was in large part due to the way Yaltz approaches League analysis and how he’s able to level up in the postseason.

“Because of the limited amount of opponents per period of time, instead of playing three opponents a week, we play one,” Yaltz said, recalling the demanding schedule of the 2021 LCS regular season.

https://twitter.com/TL_Yaltz/status/1424515621388099587?s=20&t=BboFtCZy7IiATta2mkgypg

“We have more time to look at ourselves,” Yaltz said. “And for playoffs specifically … it’s important to look at ourselves and see what information they have and how they can punish us.”

Yaltz understands the difference between his team’s regular season and playoff needs, as well as how to change his workflow to fit them.

During the regular season, Yaltz explained, his main goal is to analyze Liquid’s opponents and communicate their strengths and weaknesses to the coaches and players in a digestible manner. There isn’t a lot of time for a deep dive. The coaches, meanwhile, handle most of the team’s self-reflection. They study Liquid’s own play and push for improvement.

But in the summer playoffs, Liquid flipped the script. With only one opponent per week, Yaltz had more time and flexibility. In addition to studying their opponents, he scouted Team Liquid as well. He scrutinized their games to find his own players’ predictable patterns, in order to share “how they’re seen in-game and how that leads to openings for the enemy team to punish.”

Team Liquid celebrating
Despite a difficult summer with plenty of hurdles, Liquid made it to Worlds 2021. | Provided by Team Liquid

For Yaltz, understanding how to level up enough to make Worlds was simple. “It’s not necessarily changing your playstyle, but changing how you’re executing the steps to get there,” Yaltz said.

Obviously, other factors like Lucas “Santorin” Larsen’s improved health also played a part in Liquid advancing to Worlds 2021. However, as a man behind the scenes, Yaltz’s focus on internal weaknesses to inspire adaptation can’t be understated.

Liquid at Worlds 2021

After the playoffs, Liquid went to Iceland for Worlds 2021. But, with so many travel restrictions and COVID-19 precautions in place, Yaltz was unable to attend with the team.

He helped remotely and worked closely with the coaches. But, because of his lack of accessibility, it was much more difficult to have a profound impact on the team, as he did during playoffs. “Even though we have a lot of data and information, we need to narrow down what’s the most relevant thing for the players to hear,” Yaltz said.

Yaltz spent more time communicating with Jonas “Kold” Andersen and other Liquid coaches, but he wasn’t able to operate as freely or spend as much time with the players directly. This made it even more difficult to impact the team in a meaningful way.

Team Liquid at Worlds 2021
Team Liquid failed to make it to the knockout stage at Worlds 2021. | Provided by Team Liquid

Furthermore, he and his fellow analysts were working on month-old information for the specific teams in their group, with three or four patches apart from the last scoutable games and the live Worlds patch. As one can imagine, this made perfect analysis rather difficult.

Eventually, the group stage came to an end and, for the fourth year in a row, Liquid went 3-3 for an express trip back to NA.

Yaltz and Team Liquid for 2022 and beyond

After Worlds 2021, Yaltz was offered a position back at Liquid for 2022. But, before finalizing his acceptance, he took some time to himself. He hadn’t been home to Brazil since COVID-19 struck, and he knew that a trip back would help him plan for his future and rejuvenate from a stressful year and Worlds experience.

While he was helping build the roster for 2022, he reflected on Liquid’s 2021 success and his own place in it. “I feel like, when I started, it was kind of like a leap of faith from TL because I’ve never really worked in this position before as a head analyst,” Yaltz said. “It was a little bit of trial and error in the first few weeks of spring. And, as the time went by, I feel like I reinvented myself.”

By summer, he was even incorporating memes in his presentations to help his players have a “hook” to easily remember his instruction.

In December, Yaltz accepted Liquid’s offer to return for another year. “A spark lit up again,” Yaltz said, commenting on the team they were building. “It’s the type of roster you want to be a part of.”

https://twitter.com/TL_Yaltz/status/1469412901798780934?s=20&t=BboFtCZy7IiATta2mkgypg

“I’m eager to keep improving and learning with everyone,” Yaltz said just before the start of the 2022 Lock In tournament, noting the much less demanding schedule of two games a week. “In 2021, most of our time was committed to scouting. That doesn’t give us as much time to look into other things.”

But, with only two games a weekend in 2022, Yaltz and his fellow analysts will have a bit more time to develop new analytical tools and projects. They can dive into solo queue meta picks (like Janna top), examine teams from other regions and respond to their own players’ requests for information.

https://twitter.com/TL_Yaltz/status/1460673060822994959?s=20&t=BboFtCZy7IiATta2mkgypg

Yaltz and Team Liquid have already proven themselves with a fantastic performance at Lock In, netting them another trophy.

“The level of experience and knowledge on this roster creates a very different dynamic from other teams I’ve been a part of,” Yaltz said, commenting on their first couple weeks of practice. “Everyone is opinionated and contributes to discussions, so it’s more about getting on the same page.”

Yaltz and Team Liquid are off to a hot start this year but expectations are sky high for a roster with best-in-class players in each role. Only time will tell how far they can go but, given the extra time they have to self-reflect, Liquid are only going to become scarier.

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Author
Parkes Ousley
League of Legends esports reporter and photographer for half a decade. Sometimes I try to touch grass.