12:38 p.m. PST - Slight cheers and applause as Team Liquid defeats Clutch Gaming in game one of the semifinals. The crowd at the LCS arena starts to dissipate as viewers can be overheard discussing how fed Jensen got on his Akali, how little Clutch Gaming could control the superior Team Liquid macro, and how this would be a quick series.
1:42 p.m. PST - The crowd erupts as Clutch Gaming take down the nexus of the back-to-back-to-back LCS champions in a decisive game two victory. I learned in this moment that Clutch Gaming fans are not quiet, and they are not shy.
3:47 p.m. PST - The crowd is silent with baited breath as we await an unexpected game five. I look to my left and see Bruce Stein, a board member of Team Liquid and wonder what’s going through his head. Musing if he expected that Clutch Gaming, a team that almost everyone had written off as unfit for a finals appearance,, could potentially take down the most expensive team in the LCS. Furrowed brows and concerned looks among the members around him. I look to my right and don’t have to wonder what these people are thinking. The staff, family, and friends of the Clutch Gaming organization are filled with excitement and smiles. They are the first to cheer as the Clutch Gaming players emerge from backstage and get situated for the decisive game five. When Team Liquid walks onto the stage, I can feel the floor of the arena shake. Fans chant “Let’s go Liquid” the moment they emerge from their final coaching huddle, ready to cheer on their champions to the end. This is a moment I will never forget.
After the match I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with the victorious top laner Impact for his thoughts on that tough series, his top lane opponent Huni, and what teams he wants to compete against at World’s 2019.
Interview and article by Steve Kangas.
Congrats on the victory, Impact! It went all five games that series so talk me through the nerves you felt going into game five.
Well I don’t actually get nervous too much, but maybe that’s a problem too. We just didn’t focus enough on the early game and we can do better. Especially the second game, that’s our “doom situation” early. We gank top and get flash down, but I can’t pressure because Jake (Xmithie) needs to go bot side. We cannot make plays after that. Also our bottom problem is we’re too forced. We kept thinking “let’s do, let’s do,” but didn’t have the right timing. After that we said let’s just relax, calm down, and just play for information. After that the games were fine.
That’s the Clutch style right? I’ve spoken with them about it before and they describe their playstyle as dragging opponents down into the chaos. Would you say they did that to Team Liquid this series?
Yeah they did that, but that’s the problem because we know that about them. We gave them too many chances to do things. They did look pretty good though.
Specifically the top lane matchup was interesting to watch for me given, how well Huni has been performing. He’s been very confident in himself lately, but how would you rate him this series?
I think this guy’s crazy, because he doesn’t have a jungler and just keeps using Azir Q! As Renekton I have double dash, so if he doesn’t have Q he can’t escape. He kept trying that and I just thought he was trying to lane too much. I just focused on not dying and then when his Q was down I just go. That’s what happened last game too, he tried to win early but I survived the dive so we were fine. Their only win condition was to dive me so if I avoid those, we win.
It seems like that’s the reputation you’ve made for yourself as a top laner, being impossible to dive. Ahead of World’s last year we saw more carry performances out of you and new looks for TL, so are you prepping anything new for this year?
It’s all situational with our team combo. Our combo this time was outscale, and I saw they can’t really play around Tahm Kench. They can only play top lane in that last game. The first game and second game I played more aggressive, maybe too aggressive *laughs*, and then my coach told me I was trying to go in too much. It’s about being able to change. If you’re too aggressive all the time then you can get in trouble. Sometimes you need to learn how to give up side lanes and play to your win conditions. I’m fine with that. I really don’t think I’m always a defensive player, but against Huni you have to be. It’s situational.
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With that win, you’re going to your fourth consecutive finals appearance and can take the record for most championship titles in a row. Looking at Cloud9 in the finals match, is Team Liquid in good enough form to take them down?
I think we have strong laners but our problem is too much processing and not enough doing sometimes. C9 do really well with their mid and jungle synergy and moving around the map alot and turret diving. We need to move around more too. They’re really good right now, I think their weakness is the opposite of ours. They do too much too fast sometimes. Like they threw a 10k gold lead against CLG because they didn’t plan, they just did.
Cloud9 definitely seems to be most comfortable in the early game, and when they make mistakes is usually in the late game. That’s also where Team Liquid seems to thrive with so many games won off of teamfights around objectives. Going against Cloud9 do you think it’s a higher priority to focus more on laning or to double down on teamfighting compositions?
Both of course. We’re better at teamfights, but we can also fight early. Especially when their mid and jungler move, we need to know that and be ready to fight. If we focus on our play we’ll be fine. Mid and bot are our win conditions against C9. They do look really strong though.
Well Team Liquid is known for the fourth place meme, but now you’re going for your fourth consecutive championship. Considering four is such a magic number for TL, is there anything special planned for this particular match?
Well I do have a special pick that I didn’t pull out against Huni. I’m just really excited that it’s C9 in the finals. I get to show off my champion pool and I have a really big pool versus Licorice. He also looks like he doesn’t have a champion pool right now. He’s only playing Kled and Aatrox. Sometimes Kennen. He cannot play Karma, or any of the defensive champions. He plays Gangplank, but too aggressively.
Is your special pick a certain fan favorite, proxying toplaner?
*Laughs* I can’t say.
Understandable. Well outside of LCS, with your victory today you are now officially qualified for World’s 2019. After the experience gained at MSI I have to ask, is this the year that Team Liquid makes it out of groups?
I hope so! Last time I think our problem is we were too cocky. We need to focus more and just want it more. Of course I want to win the LCS Finals to, but I think we all want Worlds more.
As of right now the only other teams that have qualified for World’s are G2 and Griffin. What are the top teams you’re hoping to play against at World’s this year?
Well I want to play against G2 again, and I really want to play against Griffin. They look really strong and it’s my favorite team. Also IG, but they look like they’re starting in the quarter finals so they’ll need to make semis for a high chance of making it. I hope TheShy and Rookie carry the game.
You used to play for them, so are you still an SKT fan?
Ooh, I like to root for them to win, but I also like it when they lose. It’s like, “Oh, SKT lose? Poggers.” If they win, it’s just pretty good. I like SKT and I hope they come to Worlds. They made it to MSI, but lost to G2 in the semis and didn’t make it to last year’s Worlds. I hope they start to work hard and shit on everyone and win summer. If SKT lose people, laugh and make fun, but I also cheer when they win. SKT not being at Worlds is just weird. Kind of like TSM not making it. I really hope TSM wins the gauntlet and comes back. Other teams coming is fun too, but TSM and SKT are just iconic you know? Europe always sends FNC, Korea always sends SKT, and NA sends TSM. I want them back.