Cain: The Man Behind the Super Teams
November 12 2020
“My jaw is on the floor right now,” Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles speaks over the dull roar of an inhibitor’s explosion, over the sharp jolts of pings, and over the ugly audio mix that of early era League of Legends. “This Najin Sword, I am so surprised at what we’re seeing from them today.”
“Yeah, it’s like a brand-new team,” Erik “Doa” Lonnquist adds.
They’re commentating the Najin Sword’s incredible rout of Team OP in the 2012-2013 Champions Winter tournament. It’s a game which will end in under 22 minutes at a time when that was far from the norm or what the meta dictated. Savvy as ever, MonteCristo sees something special in the dominance that Najin Sword shows.
Even if it is over one of the tournament’s weaker teams, Najin’s win is special.
It’s the opener to one of the most dominant playoff runs in the history of Korean League of Legends - a precursor to SKT, Longzhu, and DAMWON Gaming. After their annihilation of Team OP, Najin Sword will win two best-of-3’s and 4 best-of-5’s while only dropping two games, a record of 16-2. In the process they will invalidate CJ Entus, cut down the KT Bullets, punch a hole through MVP Ozone (AKA Samsung White), stomp out Azubu Blaze, and liquidate Azubu Frost.
16-2, during the cresting of the Korean golden age against the very best Korean teams, Najin Sword’s run was a lot of things.
It was the subtle changing of the guard, the beginning of the end of an Azubu consulate where either Blaze or Frost usually reigned. It was the awakening of 5 players, each a giant in their own right, coming together to prove the full immensity of their talent. It is now largely forgotten.
It’s hard to blame League fans for that. The tournament barely exists in VOD form now that the OGN Twitch channel went defunct (as far as I know). Where you can find the VODs, many aren’t in English and some are only available on Youku - a great alternative to Youtube if you like watching videos in 480p only and need more ads in your life.
Not to mention, the tournament took place eight years ago.
In the hectic swirl of esports, eight years is an era. Eight years is enough time for old legendary tags to lose their significance and for roster sheets to become historical documents. These rosters are where we find humble and not-so-humble beginnings of later champions, coaches, and hall-of-famers.
Like Jang “Cain” Nu-Ri, the support for Najin Sword.
Cain entered the League of Legends scene at 25 years old, very much a senior despite not even hitting the big 3-0 yet. Cain got lucky in that he quickly joined one of Korea’s most talented rosters and became mentor and partner to one of the best AD Carries in League of Legends history - Kim “PraY” Jong-in.
PraY and Cain struck an interesting silhouette. PraY was very tall, towering over most interviewers and players. But he was also sheepish, goofy and awkward in that way many teenagers are. Cain, on the other hand, was roughly average height, skinny, with thick rimmed glasses. But he was seemingly more confident and aware of what to do with himself in the way that you get after being a genuine adult for a few years.
True to its nature, the silhouette gave a distorted but not inaccurate depiction to their partnership. PraY was in many ways the larger figure: the player that got the MVP points, made the famous 1v2 outplays, and probably got the most press after MakNoon. Cain was a touch more understated, reaching his highest heights on Sona and Nunu, supports that struggle to make highlight reels.
MVP points and highlights aside, in season 2 and 3 Cain posed a legitimate threat in the botlane and had a consistent argument for being a top 5 support in the world. PraY spoke for his support being the best in the world in an interview with Dignitas, though the bias there is obvious. More tellingly, in a Korean interview (translated on TL’s very own forums), legendary support Mata put Cain at the top of the list.
“Cain, Mafa, MadLife, and Lustboy. With one spot being left, it would be odd to count myself out,” Mata said in the July 2013 interview.
Later in the interview, he followed up by highlighting Cain’s Sona: “His runes and masteries were no different from mine. It’s so strange. I get the feeling that Cain’s Sona is stronger or something. If you manage to interview Cain next, please don’t forget to ask him if he has any trade secrets (laughs). He’ll probably say there isn’t any. But why does it [Cain’s Sona] hurt so much?”
Cain wasn’t more than just strong in lane. He also held the role of a team elder, which in the early days of League was surprisingly vital and common. Homme on Samsung White, Tabe on Royal Club, even Chauster on CLG, the steady voices of non-hormonal adults helped even more in the early League era where support staffs weren’t nearly as padded out.
In an interview with Dignitas, MakNoon called Cain the team’s most dependable member, on account of both age and amicability. You can see Cain’s steadiness and well-spoken nature in some of Riot’s early features, where he leads the show despite not necessarily being the star.
From 2012 to the middle of 2013, the star was clearly MakNoon. MakNoon played an unconventional style, often using unconventional picks as well. He demanded jungle pressure and attention from his team and he could get that attention in part because the bot lane didn’t need it. PraY and Cain were a lethal lane that tended to come out on top in the 2v2 and generate pressure on their own.
The two worked well as roaming unit too. Cain’s prominent picks — Sona, Nunu, Leona, and Thresh — facilitated those roams each in their own ways. Unlike with Mata and Samsung White, Cain didn’t necessarily pair with the jungler to create vision and vertical jungling opportunities. That would be SSW’s innovation.
But the two would show up to fights early and assist with the intense forward dives that the team quickly became known for. They could also help mitigate loss when MakNoon inevitably went way too deep.
Come Worlds Season 2, the team was a dark horse to win the tournament and a little bit of a crowd favorite. MakNooN’s charm, playstyle and strong english was part of the reason. But the bigger reason was probably the team. Najin Sword played with aggressive abandon in a meta with power picks that could stagnate the game - like Karthus or Anivia. In the group stage, they even managed to convincingly stomp the world’s best stall-for-late team: CLG.EU.
In one interview with MakNooN, Travis Gafford noted that SaintVicious predicted Najin would win it all. Azubu Frost, Moscow Five, and even World Elite may have been the more consensus picks but Najin had a lot of upside. In particular, they were a recently formed team that started off hot and seemed to keep improving. In an early interview with Montecristo, Cain speaks to the team all feeling on the same page, willing to support one another in anything. Watch speaks to the team bonding over board games together.
And MakNooN elegantly lays out the team identity. “One MakNooN is troller, but five MakNooN is Najin Sword.”
When they drew TPA, many thought Najin Sword wasn't only good, but lucky. Compared to World Elite or Moscow Five, TPA should’ve been easy. We’re all pretty clear on what happened next.
The stunning loss did seem to teach Najin some crucial humility, however. When they came into OGN Winter that year, they were ready not only to learn, but to adjust their style away from getting kills and towards pressuring for objectives. This was why MonteCristo was so shocked by Najin’s win over Team OP.
The win itself wasn’t as surprising as how it was done. Minimal overreaches, less dives, less kills, more poke, and suffocating map control. This was a big part of how Najin could beat Azubu Frost. The lead eventually grew too wide and Najin played too intelligently to throw it away, forcing Azubu to make losing moves to regain ground.
After the peak came a much longer and arguably deeper valley. Najin Sword were getting outpaced abroad and at home in early 2013, eventually resulting in MakNooN leaving the team entirely. With MakNooN gone the team entered into something of an identity crisis and didn’t even get into the bracket stage of OGN Summer 2013.
The team eventually changed to Expession, Watch, Nagne, PraY, and Cain, with SSONG on the bench. Despite the abysmal Summer showing, the team qualified for Season 3 Worlds by doing very well at three different NLB tournaments, which were online events and something of a relegation league. These gave Najin (now Najin Black Sword) enough circuit points to not only qualify but as Korea’s first seed.
It was an odd, but not unearned first seed. The dominant win in Winter set the stage for it, and the team’s refusal to die in the lower NLB league delivered them there. Those NLB tournaments weren’t full of slackers either, and Najin Black Sword had to beat both CJ (formerly Azubu) teams, KT Rolster B, their new sister team White Shield, and the up and comers in Incredible Miracle.
By the time Season 3 Worlds rolled around, the team’s identity had seriously shifted. Now, they were renowned for their bot lane, which was in the argument for being the best at the tournament - alongside Uzi and Tabe, Piglet and Pooh, and Imp and Mata.
They would genuinely get lucky with their quarterfinals draw this time, going up against a shaky Gambit Gaming that recently toppled an even Shakier Samsung Ozone. (This was the tournament where Dade underperformed so intensely that Thorin and MonteCristo created the Dade Award).
Najin Black Sword also had the element of surprise. Their method of qualification meant they hadn’t played a streamed game in quite a while and could hide any strat they liked. The time also gave them ample chance to shore up their shotcalling, drafting, and slate of in-game issues. To top it all off, they had 9 games of footage they could use to learn Gambit’s tendencies.
They used the footage well and each game specifically targeted Alex Ich, knowing he was more the focal point of the team than ever. In draft, Cain’s sona almost became a bait - something Gambit would try to pick away from him, only for Najin to counter the pick with Thresh-Twitch or highly lethal lanes that could blow up the Sona for one false move. In the duo lane, Pray and Cain simply demolished Genja and Voidle.
In teamfights, Cain was fairly savvy, serving as a sacrificial support when needed, going forward to flay an escaping opponent when needed, and of course peeling for PraY when needed. In a crucial game 3 moment, Cain wins the team a massive dragon fight not only by hitting Genja with a surprise hook, but by then strolling up to flay him in range for Expession to follow up.
When they would reach semifinals they’d have the toughest matchup possible: SKT. SKT qualified through winning Champions Summer and were in essence the true Korean first seed. Everyone at the tournament knew about Faker and the original SKT lineup and most expected them to win the whole thing.
Pretty much every analyst agreed that if there was any chance of victory for Najin, it was through PraY and Cain. Najin managed to put up a much, much better fight than even the more generous analysts thought they could. They dragged SKT down into a full 5 game series and gave one of the most legendary teams in history their toughest challenge of the entire tournament.
Najin came out of Worlds looking like the second best team overall, mostly through merit of how they’d challenged SKT. However, results can be deceiving in their own way, telling little white lies. SKT members chalked the losses up to stage nerves, much of the roster being new to Worlds. Perhaps they were right, as Najin would deteriorate over 2014 until in 2015 they were finally failing to perform in Korea’s challenger scene. Pray would leave to join Gorilla on the legendary Tigers lineup.
Cain would turn to coaching. The decision only made sense. Many other older players had made the same move and made it successfully. Homme in China, SSONG in Korea, Reapered in China first, then NA. Cain had the makings of a good coach as well, with his calm approach, affable personality, strategic mindset, and strong experience on a top team with good team building tactics.
According to one of our SQUAD videos, coaching was something Cain had in mind for a while: “Younger players would wake up and play the game until they sleep, but for me that was really tough. I wanted to keep playing League of Legends but I always had a transition to coaching in mind.”
Cain’s talents got him a spot coaching one of Korea’s legacy teams: CJ Entus. However, CJ Entus wasn’t the old Azubu dynasty it used to be. The team had some admirable performances from 2014 to 2016 but nothing like its successes back in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, CJ Entus would take a body blow when OGN became the LCK and Riot dissolved the sister team system.
CJ Entus had two very different teams each lined with talent that couldn’t easily mesh into one squad. CJ ended up losing Flame, their legendary top laner, as well as Emperor and Swift, two talented players. 2015 CJ Entus was still solid, but by the time Cain joined the team, CJ had lost two other star players in Ambition and Coco.
To make matters worse, the team was waiting on their new mid laner, Bdd, to hit his birthday and age up enough to play in the LCK. Even with Bdd, the team just wasn’t that high caliber. CJ’s bot lane, MadLife and Kramer, became the highlight of the team, which often played for the hyper late game where Kramer could carry. At a point in the middle of the 2016 Spring season their simple strategy was enough to get the team up to 4th place but a brutal losing streak in the final weeks knocked the team out of playoffs.
Since the beginning of his career, Cain’s inner knowledge as one of the original best supports in the world meant that he could level up a team’s bot lane. Going forward, this would become a defining feature of the Cain-era of Team Liquid. For CJ, things were only going to get worse, until eventually the legendary organization was relegated out of the LCK entirely at the end of 2016.
“I started as a coach on CJ in Korea,” Cain said on the Reapered Show. “Back then, I had no experience as a coach and the team’s results were really bad. It could be said that my start was a complete failure.”
In Cain’s eyes, the problem was overconfidence: “When I first transitioned from a player to coach, I was really confident. [...] I thought that I could deliver my knowledge to the players well; I was really confident. But that was arrogance. I wasn’t able to do as well as I thought and as much as it was my first time, it was hard.”
Hearing Cain and his players talk now, it’s clear he took the lesson to heart and washed away his arrogance. When Reapered asked Cain if he ever saw his players perform and thought he could do better, Cain said he’d used to but had since gotten past that.
When players themselves speak on Cain, they quickly bring up his approachable nature and ability to see multiple sides of things.
“To come to think of it now, I think, ‘I should have done it this way back then,” Cain says of CJ Entus. Musing that even the less rigid and more atmosphere-focused style of NA coaching would’ve applied better. “Right now,” he continued, “I have so many regrets. [...] Looking back now, I think I was immature. I would tell myself I was overconfident back then and I thought of everything as too easy.”
Humbled, Cain would look to NA for a new opportunity on a stronger team with a more established roster.
Cain joined Cloud9 as an assistant coach to Reapered. Although he signed a two year contract, he only stayed with Cloud9 for a few months. Another struggling legacy team was staring down the barrel of relegations, in desperate need of a new coach and a new direction.
“I got a good offer from Team Liquid,” Cain said in the same SQUAD video above, “but the team was in a position where they were going into relegations. It was a gamble on my part, going to Team Liquid.”
In going to Team Liquid, Cain got a head coach position that he’d wanted to have for a while. He would get more control over the direction of the team than he had before on CJ Entus and Cloud9. However, he was stepping wilfully back into relegations and gambling on his reputation. Failure here could mark him as the coach that couldn’t get out of the promotion tournament.
If you went by Team Liquid’s reputation at the time, failure was more likely than a total victory. Ever since the Curse days, at its best, the organization was always a step shy of making Worlds. At its worst it was Breaking Point.
If you’re new to following Team Liquid, this was a feature-length documentary that laid bare the immense infighting that occurred on the Dardoch and Locodoco led Team Liquid of 2016.
However, this time Cain had a great deal of good roster luck. With the team’s star ADC Piglet moving to mid, Team Liquid could bring Doublelift into the ADC position as a temporary stopgap. Doublelift was still on TSM at the time but had taken the split off as a break from competitive gaming and found himself wanting to return by the end.
Cain and Doublelift would find tremendous, immediate success. They pulled off a tense 2-1 upset victory over TSM in the regular season, putting the team’s fate in its own hands. Unfortunately, the team’s wins came in no small part from individual heroics and TSM’s own arrogance and couldn’t be replicated against Flyquest.
At the time, the Flyquest team was 3/5ths of the old Cloud9, piloted by Hai. In game 3 of a pivotal series that could’ve kept TL out of relegations entirely, Hai and Flyquest simply outmaneuvered the squad. TL were winning fights all the way up to the 28 minutes mark, but Flyquest held on through objectives and through wiley return kills from Hai. The game stayed even for long enough that Team Liquid got antsy and overstepped with a disastrous realm warp that would lead to Flyquest getting Baron.
This is one of the unique difficulties of coaching that Cain spoke to. It’s easy enough to express your vision of the game and even to teach that vision. It’s even harder to gather agreement around that vision. And even harder still to Implement that vision on stage.
Fortunately, by relegations the team had improved enough to survive. Cain and company would defeat Gold Coin United to stay alive (ironically shutting MadLife out of the LCS in the process). However, it wouldn’t be until the team rebuilt entirely that Cain would see genuine, full-throated success as head coach.
After staving off relegation again in the summer, Team Liquid would put their chips on the table as well, signing Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift, and Olleh. The new lineup was a bonafide super team, as well as an organizational mandate. Win now and win big.
To those less familiar with sports (or less inclined to think critically about them), that mandate seems so obvious as to be meaningless. Of course Team Liquid would want to win as much as possible, as quickly as possible! Who wouldn’t?
But it’s a question of how you plan to achieve those victories - and what resources you’re willing to spend. Many teams try to be cost-efficient in their efforts to win, sometimes because they have to be, sometimes because they’re an entire organization with other teams and esports wings they’d rather feed into.
In this case, these teams can go for one big contract player, which they then build around using either rookies or strong roleplayers. In some ways, these were the last two teams Cain had worked with. CJ Entus had MadLife and Kramer as a focal point and then built out with a mix of roleplayers and rookies. Team Liquid in 2017 had Piglet and a mix of rookies and roleplayers. (And yes, Dardoch and Reignover too, but the situation there was more complex).
Another method is to employ and build entirely around talent scouting and rookie players. Cloud9 gets held up as the example here, but truthfully they often have one or two big, proven names to build around. Teams like the MAD Lions, Griffin, Damwon are better examples and it’s no coincidence they’re not NA teams.
The rookie method is considerably harder to pull off in NA where the talent pool is legitimately much more shallow. It can also be more expensive and more of a gamble as the organization pays to process visas and fly in unproven talent from afar. Then, should those imported rookies fail, the team will get even more acrid reception from the community. If you were going to import, why not a star? If you were going for rookies, why not NA? So it went for 100 Thieves (Ryoma), Immortals (Eika), CLG (Seraph), and many more teams.
Even if you do succeed at the rookie method in NA, the marquee teams have such war chests that eventually they can buyout that talent you developed. The world of esports makes it harder for a metaphorical Cleveland to hold on to a metaphorical LeBron and it was already incredibly hard for the literal Cleveland to hold onto the literal LeBron.
So the next option is to buy and build a super team. This isn’t simple either. There are the very obvious revenue repercussions (money doesn’t grow on Hondas trees), but these revenue repercussions get considerably worse if the team turns out poorly built. Some teams like TSM and SKT have such brand value that they have more room to fail. Others don’t and if they overpay for a superstar it can cause them heavy problems when trying to rebuild down the line.
And failing with a super team is much, much more likely than you think.
League of Legends is so team oriented that if several stars don’t match, a team can easily collapse. There are no shortages of examples here. The Uzi era OMG. The Rekkles era Alliance/Elements. The Dardoch era TSM. Expectations for super teams are so high that even if you do well but lose to insanely good teams (prime Samsung Galaxy, Invictus Gaming, SKT) — like the Mata and Smeb era KT Rolster — you will get entire think pieces on the depth of your disappointing performance.
Expectation creates a bad cycle in player mentality as well. Even if players can unplug from the fanfare of twitter and reddit, writers, interviewers, and media people cannot. Getting the viewers their answers is part of the job and so players will come to face a diluted solution of that negativity one way or another. From there, team morale spirals down and conflict lines can deepen.
Traditionally, when a super team does perform a lot of fans won’t respond well either. When super teams win it confirms a bias that yes, obviously this should have happened. A monkey could manage and put these teams together and they would still win. Even though, in reality you can find lists of the NBA’s “top 15 failed super teams” or rewatch either Super Bowl where Eli Manning and the Giants somehow beat the Patriots.
For the coach, the responsibility is even steeper. The coach manages and rights the ship, directs the drafting, and becomes the easy patsy for any internal dilemmas. As a coach, Cain only leans into that sense of responsibility.
“My role is to bring the results the team wants,” Cain said on the Reapered show. “Reaching places the front office wants. My job is to reach the result the owner wants.”
He went on to push his responsibility further. “It’s true that the role of the coach, the head coach, is really important. Very important. To compare a team to a ship, the head coach is the person that steers the key. They carry the role of teaching the team which way to go. Bringing the team together as one,” he folds five fingers into fist, “reminding the players constantly about that goal.”
However, he also acknowledges that in a sport where there is no in-game coaching and no timeouts, there’s only so much he can truly do. “It’s the role of a captain but the ability of the individual crew members, the ability of each player is extremely important.”
“As the players play the games for 30, 35, 40 minutes, they have to make a lot of decisions. For example, when they win lane do they roam, or put in more pressure? [...] In my opinion, as a coach, I don’t think you can take care of or guide everything that players decide from outside of the game.”
However, the coach becomes all the more important in the super team for two reasons: the first being their draw. A coach matters a lot in creating buy-in for players without them needing to know the organization intimately. Doublelift openly stated in SQUAD (S2E20) that Cain “was a pretty big reason” why he wanted to join Team Liquid after being cut from TSM.
The second reason: managing the inevitable differences in approach to the game that will arise. As players become better and more experienced, their views on the game calcify into a philosophy. Some players are more rigid and others more flexible, but they will generate an idea of “the perfect game” - what it looks like and how you achieve it.
Opinions harden into beliefs harden into philosophies — this is a tacit part of gaining mastery in anything.
CoreJJ becomes an endlessly rotating spearhead of roaming aggression and counter-aggression on most teams because of his internal philosophy of the game. Uzi was a black hole of pressure and resource-demand in the bot lane for his entire career because of his philosophy. Cain produced high caliber bot lanes even on underperforming teams because of his philosophy.
If you know the questions to ask writers, commentators, craftsmen, teachers, drivers, cooks, anyone honing any kind of mastery, you’ll find they have the same philosophies behind their world and their fields.The problem is, not all philosophies can coexist. Worse still, time and changing circumstance will directly invalidate some philosophies, and sharpened minds are the hardest to change.
Legendary psychology researcher Daniel Kahneman notes that traditional markers of intelligence — test scores, education levels, etc. — only increase a person’s chance of holding onto incorrect biases. A study from psychologists West, Meserve, and Stanovich found that higher cognitive ability and self-awareness created bigger blind spots in bias.
Basically, when you know a lot, you know the channels of thinking and learning well enough to trick yourself into justifying things that may be wrong or unfounded. So it goes with the pros in League, who are masters of a craft which not only has endless theories of knowledge but also endless small shifts which demand flexibility.
On a super team with five very intelligent and successful players, Cain’s tall task would be to coordinate them under one vision and to keep them coordinated.
“It’s not easy, it’s really not easy,” Cain said in SQUAD (S4E11), “It’s really not easy because everyone has five different LoL and then they see a different side, you know? It’s the same game but they understand a different way the game [should go], you know?”
“Broxah wants to up level against the enemy jungle, he wants more farm. And then Jensen needs more ganks. Also bottom top, all same, and then everything is different, right? But we should find what is most good macro to win. I think that is the most hard part for me.”
Difficult or not, Cain and the team would find that winning formula, but not for one split or one year or even with one cast. He’d manage it for 4 splits running, two years in a row, across three different lineups. He would be a part of not only a historical domestic 4peat but one of the biggest upset wins in history when TL toppled IG at MSI after IG had swept through the LPL and exited Groups at 9 wins 1 loss.
Along the way, Cain won the coach of the split award in the Summer of 2019 and 2020 (alongside the entire coaching staff) and he’s been in the running many other splits.
In the world of team games, it’s hard to give credit where it’s due. The natural tendency would be to downplay Cain because of the talent on the roster. So it goes not only for superteams but for League coaches as a whole. But if you want to understand Cain’s importance to the team, you’d just have to listen to the talent.
“Having Cain give me a lot of really crucial individual feedback that I haven’t gotten yet… There’s things that he taught me that you know I still carry around with me to this day. The things that I work on or I improve on or I focus on is things that came from him.”
~Matt, SQUAD (S2E20)
~Matt, SQUAD (S2E20)
“I think his approach to everything is very good-hearted. You know he doesn’t make you feel terrible about the mistakes you made. He definitely deserved it [the coach of the split award]. I think he’s the best coach.”
~ Jensen, SQUAD (S3E18)
~ Jensen, SQUAD (S3E18)
“He’s the person who really easy to talk to him. He’s not super stubborn. He’s always open to getting a new idea. He makes [it so] all the player can think about [the] game easier.”
~ CoreJJ, SQUAD (S4E11)
~ CoreJJ, SQUAD (S4E11)
“Cain brings a real sensibility, maturity to managing the team. And he also is really fucking smart about the game. Really understanding that to the highest level. ”
~ Steve, SQUAD (Chapter 4)
~ Steve, SQUAD (Chapter 4)
“All my previous coaches, they didn’t feel they had the authority to like, override a player’s choice. Cain can actually like challenge the whole team on something. [...] He has enough authority and he’s right enough of the time that everyone just listens to him and respects his opinion. [...] I think he’s just really good at defusing situations and like making them productive. I can think of so many times where we had a shitty LCS week or MSI, where the pressure was super insane and Cain was like… He just took over and he got everyone to be on the same page and he like, got us in the right direction. [...] We really have a lot of respect for each other. [...] Definitely the best coach I’ve ever had.”
~ Doublelift, SQUAD (S2E20)
~ Doublelift, SQUAD (S2E20)
Cain wasn’t without his failures or bad moments. Over all his time as a player and coach, this simply wouldn’t be possible. The fallout between the coaching staff and Doublelift in Spring 2020 circulated well in the media. Cain himself expressed regret for how the team lost trust in one another. For some, his moving to Strategic Coach in 2020 looks like a failure too, but that’s short-sighted.
Team Liquid’s saga in 2020 was one of remarkable growth made in face of incredible changes and setbacks. The loss of one of the region’s biggest stars, the addition of a new coach, an entirely new jungler and ADC, Cain went to work with all of it. He kept the team’s trust largely intact and the team kept their trust in him.
His career started as the amicable, talented mentor and support to one of the world’s best teams. It carried forward into becoming a top 5 support worldwide. And from there, into the most successful years Team Liquid — and probably Curse — has ever seen.
It was not all rosy. We never did make it out of groups, as Cain and the team had wanted more than most things. However, Cain is one of the best coaches in North America’s history. Only Cloud9’s Reapered stands as a true rival to him, so Cain’s leaving marks the end of an era.
If you’re a Team Liquid fan, Cain’s departure should stir something in you. It should make you feel. Nervous. Sad. Curious. Nostalgic. Excited. Strange. Awed. Whatever you feel when you pass a monument to the era you once held on to.
If you’re a Team Liquid fan, Cain is the main traveller to watch for. Not out of disrespect for the many great names that came and went across hundreds of Liquid and Curse games. But out of respect for the one that accomplished more than the rest.
As a fan, I hope Cain and Team Liquid will meet again on opposite ends. Whether it’s in the playoffs or on the international stage. In that moment, we can show him what he taught us and what we’ve learned since.
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