"That’s the Real Version of our Team"
Though Team Liquid finished their Apex Legends Global Series Split 2 season on an upswing, climbing to place eighth overall in the North American League, they weren't necessarily the favorites to win it all at the Split 2 Playoffs in Stockholm, Sweden. After all, they were up against 39 squads comprised of the world's very best Apex pros. But by the time the event ended, TL proved they were the ones to watch out for, surviving through groups and the upper bracket. While it's true that they came just shy of winning it all, Team Liquid took the international stage by storm over the LAN event's three days to claim second place on the podium. It was a killer global debut for this new version of TL's roster, one they largely felt confident taking.
"We showed up incredibly confident, we played our confidence," said Brandon "Nocturnal" Singer. "We just played our aggression, played smart, took advantage of every single team and kind of ran away with it for most of the event."
"Being on stage was just different," said Brandon "FunFPS" Groombridger. "It felt like we were kind of at home really, all three of us."
FunFPS clearly felt comfortable, as he put on a clinic in damage and kills during the event. He tied with Luminosity's Saul "YanYa" Ocampo Plascencia for highest average damage dealt per match during the event with 999, and took home the Apex Predator award for most eliminations.
Though he didn’t rack up the same stats, Zachary "Gildersons" Dennis' strong performance may have been even more impressive - given that it was the 18-year old’s first time competing at a LAN event. Despite the amount of pressure that must have been on his shoulders, Gildersons largely enjoyed his first in-person tournament. The teenage controller player might have the makings of a true LANimal.
"LAN honestly felt pretty amazing to play on," he said. "The only day that was pretty rough was [day 1] where we had to play three series in a single day. I think that we paced ourselves pretty good for the first few series, but the third series was pretty rough because we were all pretty tired."
Controlling the pace of each game, and pacing themselves as well, was key to Team Liquid's success in the Split 2 Playoffs. They, and the other teams they were competing against, all had a brutal group stage where they had to play a series of six games against each group (three other groups for 18 games total) to get through in order to be seeded into either the upper or lower bracket. Burning out too quickly would have devastating results for any squad.
"We didn't want to go all out in the first round, because it was the best of all three groups," Nocturnal said. "Realistically we wanted super consistent gameplay. And we didn't want to go for like a 100 point game and one group or something."
But that final group stage proved to be just as rough for the veterans as it was for their rookie teammate. All the teams faced hours of back-to-back competition to try and secure their spot in the tournament's upper bracket.
"The last group was just incredibly hard," Nocturnal said. "We were already up for like 12 plus hours of just pure competition and then we had to play another six set of games so we had to survive, and then go into the next day with heads high because we survived the first day and it was the hardest groups we ever played."
Still, they managed to keep it together by maintaining their mental and focusing on the bigger picture of the overall tournament, rather than any one game or result. They emerged from this challenging gauntlet in first place, proving themselves as the team to beat.
"Honestly, just keeping a positive attitude the whole time is one of the biggest key things," FunFPS said. "I feel like a lot of teams crumble purely from taking one game or or taking a loss just way too seriously."
Team Liquid's first place finish in groups moved them to the Split 2 Playoffs upper bracket, where they continued their excellent performance. Here they finished in third, which qualified them for the tournament finals. Ultimately, they came away from the tournament with a second place finish under their belts, $150,000 from the $2 million prize pool, and a renewed passion for their esport.
"Obviously, we were all passionate and wanted to win," said their coach, Haris "hodsic" Hodzic. "But it's so different when you're traveling, like bootcamping together as a team and then playing in person. Then you can visualize the trophy in front of you."
After this stellar LAN performance, Team Liquid are looking forward to the next one, and any competitions they can play in until then. They're ready to prove that they deserve to be a household name, not only in North American Apex Legends, but around the world.
"We all want to be one of the teams that's always talked about, too," hodsic said. "[One of] the teams that people are looking out for and expect to do well, because we know we haven't really been that for the last couple years. So I know I personally would like to see a lot of that momentum carry forward, even into some smaller online tournaments to show that the LAN wasn't a one off, it wasn't just a fluke.”
“That's the real version of our team."
Everyone on TL shares hodsic's sentiment; this is who they are as a team. Looking forward to July's ALGS Championship tournament, the squad are mostly trying to stay consistent with the performance they put on in Sweden. They know they have the skills and fundamentals, now it's just about keeping the good vibes rolling and learning from past success.
"We just found the recipe to success," said hodsic. "It's nice to have a kind of template. We know what we did well and we know why it worked. It's kind of nice to have that template to always be able to reference when things aren't going well."
"We just know our strengths and weaknesses and we always cover for pretty much both of them," Nocturnal added. "We enable the strengths and cover up the weaknesses for each other. Our team cohesion right now is unrivaled."
With Gildersons' addition to the team, Liquid are able to come into fights with a lot more confidence in their firepower. They're no longer just about positioning and hanging back; now they're just as deadly on offense. Storm Point's addition to the competitive map pool has also shifted how they play, pulling their focus to playing zone, rather than edge, and making sure to utilize Loba's ultimate ability to capitalize on loot, regardless of what stage of the game they're in.
With that cohesion and ever-expanding playbook, Team Liquid Apex look more dangerous every day. Gildersons currently doesn't plan on going to college, instead looking to continue focusing on his gaming career. He just graduated from high school, removing the stress of missing days to compete. Nocturnal, meanwhile, is settling into feeling secure about himself, his teammates, and what they're capable of accomplishing.
"I know for me, it's just confidence," Nocturnal said. "I can sit down at the end of the day and be happy with myself, I can be happy with my team and trust myself and my teammates to be able to get to the end goal."
The end goal for this year awaits them in Raleigh, North Carolina this July, where they'll once again face off with the best Apex Legends teams in the world to see who will raise the trophy and take the crown. If Team Liquid have anything to say about it, they'll be the next kings of the Apex world.