From a Tiny Creek to a Mighty River: The History of Team Liquid
May 01 2019
Team Liquid stands as a leader of the esports industry across a wide array of different titles. But it wasn’t always this way. Everything has a starting point. For Team Liquid, this was back at the turn of the century in late 2000, when Victor “Nazgul” Goossens decided he wanted to start his own clan in Brood War.
Along with this decision to start a clan with some well mannered and highly skilled foreign players Liquid`Nazgul made another decision that would set the stage for Team Liquid to grow in the years to come. He and Liquid`Meat founded a community website on May 1st, 2001. This community site would attract viewers, casters, and competitors of Brood War alike. It quickly became a central hub for all things Starcraft in the years to come. Community events like “TL Attack” were extremely popular, strengthening the bond that people felt with the website and the players on Team Liquid.
The TSL (Team Liquid Starleague) was another massive undertaking that we had been involved in. TSL would be the largest prize pool for Brood War ever given out on non-Korean soil. Not only that, it had an open qualifier system and within the first 36 hours more than 1000 users had signed up to take part. TSL 2, which took place in 2009, remains the largest non-Korean Brood War tournament to date.
When the Starcraft 2 beta was announced, we got involved early on. We announced an invitational tournament, which resulted in the recruitment of one of our community site moderators known as FrozenArbiter (better known as Jinro), as well as TLO, and the three-time DreamHack Champion HayprO. We entered Starcraft 2 with a bang, acquiring sponsors on top of securing an agreement with oGs, a Korean org that allowed us to be the first foreign team to be involved in the Korean SC2 scene.
Focusing on the Korean scene proved to be a successful strategy, as Jinro was able to give us our first major victory at MLG Dallas in 2010. After that, the newly acquired Protoss player HuK won DreamHack Summer 2011. That was followed by Homestory Cup III within a single week. HuK’s brilliant play under Team Liquid also led to one of the greatest rivalries in Starcraft 2 history: Us against EG - Idra in particular. When he left to join Evil Geniuses it only strengthened the rivalry between the two orgs. Team Liquid and EG were like opposite sides of a coin and the rivalry continues to this day in a multitude of different games.
Team Liquid would also be one of the first foreign organizations to pick up Korean players, as we signed HerO, Zenio, and Taeja. In 2012, two major events took place. DreamHack Open Winter saw us earn 1st and 2nd place when HerO and Taeja were named as champion and runner-up respectively. HerO also became the first two-time DreamHack champion with his win over Taeja. It was the golden age of Starcraft 2 and we were right in the thick of the competition.
Team Liquid would also make our first foray into a different game when Nazgul announced a North American Dota 2 team would be playing under the organization’s banner. This roster would make their mark in Dota 2 history at The International 3 as they faced off against one of the favourites to win, LGD. David “LD” Gorman’s shout of “Sylar to fall, Liquid are doing it!” was a massive moment for North American Dota 2. It still serves as a moment of pride for the entire region.
While Team Liquid was busy making a name for themselves in Starcraft and Dota 2, there was another organization making waves across the pond. After picking up the former unRestricted roster on August 25th, 2011, Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet’s Team Curse entered the North American League of Legends scene in 2010 (albeit with a different name at first).
In its early days, Curse saw a venerable smorgasbord of talent come through its doors. Players like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, and Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani helped build Curse into an LCS caliber team. With later rosters seeing the likes of Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black (then an ADC), Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera, Alex “Xpecial” Chu, and Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin.
Despite their talent, however, Curse placed 4th at MLG Raleigh in 2011. Not bad for your first ever event, but this also put them 4th place in the NA circuit rankings. And thus began a pattern that Curse’s LoL team would never escape. Despite finishing 2nd at CSN Dawn of Champions Cup 2011, Curse would end season 2 in 4th. Entering the LCS in season 3 only further solidified this trend. Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 4 saw Curse end in 4th place a total of 6 times. The meme was born. Curse became synonymous with 4th place.
After the expansion of the LoL team into Curse Academy and Curse EU, Steve and Team Curse were looking for more. Although LoL was both Steve’s first love and his focus for the first few years, he eventually turned his sights on making Curse a fully fledged esports organization.
With this move towards greater esports came the signing of a full Counter Strike team, SSBM’s Juan “HungryBox” DeBiedma, and Street Fighter’s Du “NuckleDu” Dang in 2014.
Team Curse merged with Team Liquid on January 6th, 2015, shortly after new LCS rules mandated they break ties with Curse, their main sponsor. A move that would turn out to be a monumental event for both teams in the years to come.
The Liquid Era
This new, unified Team Liquid was immediately involved in many more games than before. As a whole, the teams spanned Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros Melee, Street Fighter V, and CS:GO. Then, on October 9th, 2015, TL once again stepped back into Dota 2 with the signing of 5JungZ.
Thus began a period of domination for us, as our Dota 2 team immediately became known as one of the best teams in the world, winning several events. NuckleDu won Capcom Cup in SFV, one of the biggest tournaments in the fighting game community - and the largest in Street Fighter V. HungryBox was standing out from the other “Gods” of Melee, claiming eight first place finishes in 2016 before heading into EVO and beating Armada in the grand finals. A moment that we will never forget.
HungryBox didn’t stop there. Over the last two years he has won an astonishing 33 tournaments, making him one of the most decorated esports players of all time. Even more impressive is that, over the last 7 months, he has only lost 3 sets in total.
Team Liquid would not be the Team Liquid we know today if it had not been for the groundbreaking partnership that began on September 27th, 2016 with Axiomatic. With the announcement, titled “Wizards, Warriors, and Magic,” Team Liquid was ushered into a new era of rapid development. The results we have achieved since then could not have been earned without their guidance and experience in business helping us every step of the way.
Nothing makes this more apparent than one of, if not the biggest moments, in Team Liquid’s history. At TI7, we made a miracle run through the lower bracket against old rivals and tournament favourites until we finally stood on stage, lifting the Aegis of Champions. The International 7 had been the largest esports tournament - in terms of prize pool - for its time, only recently eclipsed by TI8.
Our story doesn’t stop here though. Shortly after winning T17, we unveiled the Alienware Training Facility in LA, the first of its kind in North America. It was a monumental project that would bring our teams and departments together under one roof, drastically changing the way we thought about and approached esports. The more structured environment has helped our players improve greatly, and has made bootcamping for events much easier to coordinate.
Last, but certainly not least, there is our League of Legends team. Long gone are the memes of 4th place, as we now sit atop NA as the reigning three-time LCS Champions. This past year, we made it to the LCS finals, MSI, and Worlds for the first time in our team’s history. Most recently, we faced TSM in the 2019 LCS Spring Split Finals in what was a very hyped up meeting of old versus new titans. Though the series was tense at first, a reverse sweep left Team Liquid the Champions. This made us the second ever NA team to win 3 consecutive LCS titles.
This win also pushed our players to reach individual milestones as well. DoubleLift won his 6th LCS title, thus making him the single most winningest player in the history of the LCS. With this being his 5th title, Xmithie tied Bjergsen for the second most titles, while Jensen finally managed to win his first LCS title after years of failing to do so on other teams.
Even with all this, we have barely skimmed the surface of what Team Liquid has gone through and accomplished over the last 19 years. Our teams and players in our other games are among the best in the world. Indisputably, in many cases. And we will continue to make history in the years to come. You can definitely bet we haven’t come anywhere close to our best moments yet. Liquid up!
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