The Liquid Review - January 2023

January 04 2023




The Liquid Review









Happy New Year folks,




Team Liquid rang in the new year across three continents last week, and although the Utrecht offices won world first in the race to 2023 (typical), that didn’t stop Los Angeles or Rio from celebrating too. But now the confetti has settled, and we’ve had a few days to sweep up, and toss out those tacky 2023 glasses we didn’t even wear.





Why do they keep making these?



It’s been quiet on the esports front for a while. It seems like every competitive scene collectively agreed to a holiday armistice for the past few weeks, allowing players to take a break before the new year of competition begins. But even through the last few silent nights, we’ve still got some tournaments to catch up on, and a whole new year to look forward to.



Starting outside the server, at the Esports Awards, Liquid`Hungrybox won content creator of the year, and daiki won the Brazilian Esports Awards honor for VALORANT Player of the Year. Liquid+ dove into the TFT scene to put a player spotlight on robinsongz. And Liquid and Jersey Mike’s teamed up for another month of giving, raising money for Feeding America. Meanwhile, our newest CS:GO star YEKINDAR stepped up to volunteer and represent Liquid in the UNITED24 effort to raise funds for Ukraine. And in the Race to World First for World of WarCraft, Liquid’s fundraiser for the Ocean Conservancy raised $17,683.60.



To round out your memory of Liquid’s 2022 one last time, you can check out video recaps of all things Team Liquid with TL;DW.





Hearthstone:







BUNNY WINS A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN AN ALL LIQUID FINAL!!!



Both Bunny and DeadDraw escaped the group stage 2-1, both winning their opening matches, but losing the next series, and putting them against two representatives from China on the verge of elimination. But Bunny dispatched Xiaobai 3-1 in his decider match, while DeadDraw swept Xc, sending both Liquid’s players to the single-elimination quarter-finals. Bunny advanced to the finals with close wins against Xmg and YuYi. On the other side of the bracket, DeadDraw blew through his opponents XiaoT and levik 3-0 and 3-1 respectively, clearing a path for an All-Liquid finals.



Over the next two hours, Bunny displayed a masterclass of Hearthstone. He began the series piloting his mage deck into a normally favorable matchup against DeadDraw’s priest. But DeadDraw was able to grab a copy of the same mage hero card Bunny’s deck relied on. Still, Bunny was able to play out his gameplan, freezing or polymorphing DeadDraw’s board to protect his health while he whittled away at the priest with his damaging spells and upgraded hero power. DeadDraw was able to bounce back with a quick win in a game 2 Demon Hunter mirror matchup in just 6 turns, but Bunny ran back the Demon Hunter deck, and was able to punch through the stall in DeadDraw’s priest deck in 6 turns of his own.



If you add games 2 and 3 together, it’d still be less than half as long as Game 4.



The series was decided in a priest mirror match that took a staggering 38 turns and more than an hour to conclude. Both players continuously filled their boards with big minions and cleared them after a turn or two, healing themselves back to full effortlessly, and refilling their decks to avoid fatigue damage. But Bunny was able to heal just a little bit more, and build just a little bit of a bigger board, and avoid just a little more fatigue damage until DeadDraw was forced to concede, handing the championship and $100,000 to Bunny.




World of Warcraft:









On the surface, Vault of the Incarnates seemed to follow the same track as Sepulcher of the First Ones. Liquid was able to take world first on the majority of the bosses, but Echo passed us at the final mark to beat the last boss and win the race. Echo outplayed us in both races, and we made key strategic mistakes in both tiers, there's no denying that. However, it does feel rough for Liquid fans that in both races, the guild didn't really get to have a proper finish.



The Jailer fight dragged on so long that Liquid got burned out, and quit the race early. For Raszageth, both Liquid and Echo looked somewhat close towards the end, pulling the boss to around 10%, but unable to eke out those last few drops of damage to finish her off. Echo did have a clear lead but it felt like the finish might at least be exciting. Then Blizzard nerfed the boss while Echo was pulling, and Liquid was still asleep. Ten minutes later, Echo crossed the finish line.



So all told, Liquid put up a good fight but got outplayed and got second. The Race’s finish felt lackluster and frustrating—for a second raid in a row—but there’s good reason to believe that the nerf didn’t change the outcome - even if it feels bad. All that's left to do is for the Guild to look back at what went wrong, what we can do better, and try to hit the next tier even harder.





With the new year brings an all new roadmap of content for World of WarCraft Esports, and you can bet this won’t be our last race. Blizzard released a schedule for WoW updates for 2023, including two more raids, one in summer, one in the fall.






Blizzard has also announced the return of both the Arena World Championship and the Mythic Dungeon Invitational, starting this month.





Liquid’s arena team will look to improve on last year’s bronze medal in the regional finals as Blizzard’s new system culminates in an international grand finals in April. To get there, Liquid will need to finish in the top 3 at one of the AWC open cups, which directly qualifies to the grand finals. If we only manage to finish in the top 8, we’ll still qualify to the AWC Gauntlet at the end of March, where we’ll have one more chance to qualify for the finals.



The Mythic Dungeon Invitational begins with open time trials in February. The top 24 teams across the world qualify for a group stage of 8 teams each. 2 teams from each group make the finals, while the remaining 18 teams fight for the two final spots at the Last Stand Tournament.





CS:GO:








Liquid took home yet another silver medal at the BLAST World Final last month, beating Outsiders and Na’Vi once again to do it, and winning a cool $250,000 to boot. Liquid has committed to donating 50% of the organization’s share of this prize money to Rainbow Railroad, an organization dedicated to helping LGBT people facing violence and oppression get to safety. Obviously, this single gesture does not erase the real damage done to queer folks by the Saudi regime, nor does it absolve Liquid of a continuing responsibility to foster an inclusive esports scene. In a perfect world, Liquid wouldn't have to work with with Savvy Gaming Group at all; in a perfect world, Saudi Arabia wouldn't imprison, torture, or execute people for homosexuality. Liquid's gesture is a drop in the bucket, but it's something. And coming on a month later, Liquid is the only team who competed at the BLAST world final to say anything about the issue at all.



On the server, Liquid faced a tough road to the finals, and every one of our series until then went to map three. The Cavalry showed well in our three games on the new map, Anubis, beating Outsiders and OG comfortably, and conceding it to FaZe off the back of a monster performance from Twistzz.



Team Liquid proved that this roster can work by getting to the finals, but once we got there, we faltered against G2. We got utterly dominated on Inferno, and lost a slightly closer affair on Mirage. Through both maps, G2 was firing on all cylinders, and two top-fragging performances from EliGe weren’t able to save us. Still, the second place finish is an improvement from last year, when Liquid’s troubled Stewie and Fallen roster vastly outpaced expectations with a semi-final finish.



The 2023 CS:GO season begins mid-month with the first group stage of BLAST. Liquid faces off against the same 11 partner teams split into three four-team groups. After a GSL-style group stage, the three winning teams qualify directly for Spring Finals, while the rest fall into the Play-In Stage to battle for the last 3 spots.






Rocket League:







In back-to-back majors now, Liquid finished in the top 8. And in back-to-back majors, Liquid was eliminated after going the distance against the team that won the entire tournament. In London, it was a 2-3 loss against Moist. In Rotterdam last month, it was a 3-4 loss against Gen.G. Still, The Cavalry won a respectable $12,000 prize, and 12 more RLCS Points that we will be thankful for when invitations come along for the RLCS World Championship in August.



Rocket League starts back up again at the end of this month for the Winter EU Regionals. Oski, Atow, and AcroniK have already pre-qualified for the main event of all three regionals, vastly improving our chance to qualify for the Winter Major at the convention center in sunny San Diego, California this April.






VALORANT:







The Red Bull Home Ground was supposed to be an opportunity to glimpse the potential of Liquid’s new roster, including Redgar, nAts, and Sayf. But with visa issues for Redgar and nAts, we went to Manchester with two stand-ins - Meddo and Enzo. Unfortunately, without the whole roster together, Liquid didn’t look particularly good at Home Ground. We were able to beat out two EMEA partner teams in FUT Esports and Heretics, but we lost both our series against partner teams from the Americas. This included a 1-2 series against 100Thieves, and two close losses against KRU Esports, landing the Cavalry with a quarterfinals finish. Not great, but it could be a lot worse when you’re missing your IGL and one of the best sentinel players in the world.




So we don’t know exactly what this team looks like together yet. And we won’t know until the new Lock//In tournament in February. The concept for the Lock//In tournament is amazing. All 30 partnered teams get together before the regional leagues begin for what I believe to be the biggest international tournament RIOT has ever held. While we wait for more details on the tournament’s format and schedule, you can scratch that VALORANT itch with profiles of our new players, Sayf, and nAts and Redgar.








Rainbow 6 Siege:







Liquid`Siege finished off 2022 right with a crushing victory over w7m, a up-and-coming team that has been a thorn in our side all year. Liquid and w7m traded blows on the first two maps, losing Border 5x7 and winning Oregon 7x5. After that, Liquid opened up the floodgates, dominating w7m 7x3 on Chalet and a perfect 7x0 on Clubhouse. The Cavalry took around $38,000 in prizes for its trouble, and galloped off to the break to prepare for the biggest tournament of the year.



The Six Invitational is just about a month away, and Team Liquid will be fighting against 19 other teams to be crowned the best team in the world. Liquid will head north to the hockey arena, Place Bell, in Montreal.





This will be Liquid’s 6th appearance at the Six Invitational. We’ve come within reaching distance of the gold before - we even made the finals in 2021. But that first place finish still eludes us.




League of Legends:







It’s official.


  • World Champion Pyosik.

  • World Champion CoreJJ.

  • World Champion Marin.

  • World Semi-Finalist Reignover.

  • 2x Proving Ground World Champions Haeri and Yeon.



Get hyped… as much as you can.



The LCS kicks off again at the end of the month with an all new timeslot in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. That’s right, the LCS is now on Thursdays and Fridays, beginning at 3:00 pm Eastern, or 12:00 pm on the West Coast.




Stupid co-streamers.



While the LCS desperately claws for the surface as RIOT holds its head underwater, there’s only so much a team in the off-season can do to make the league more attractive to potential viewers. Namely, branding.



Liquid’s done a whole lot of branding during the boot-camp in Korea over the last month. Team Manager Ben Zieper has published 20 videos in his effort to learn Korean with each member of the team, trying to thaw the chilly reception around Team Liquid’s Korean-speaking roster. Ben’s efforts have had the dual effect of showing off the roster-members’ personalities and letting us get to know them better. And as an aside, if you want to get to know Summit better, he is currently looking for a girlfriend, and you can DM Ben on Twitter for more details.




It's pretty easy to market a player that is BTS-level handsome.



On top of trying to introduce our players to the world, Liquid has invested hard in developing NA talent. Liquid’s new NACL roster includes Bradley, Arrow, Mir from SEA, and two brand new faces to Academy in Kim Down and APA. But wait, there’s more! Liquid has also signed a provisional NACL team, Team Liquid First, composed of Srtty from EG Academy, and four newbies in SiddyWiddy, Aspect, miya, and rovex.



Liquid’s LCS season begins January 26th against the extremely hyped-up FlyQuest roster featuring Impact, Spica, and Prince. But the real story is the growing beef between the former TLA botlane duo, Yeon and Eyla.





In fact, Team Liquid will compete against its former players in four of our first five games. After the opening match, Liquid will face Santorin and Jensen on a massively revitalized Dignitas roster, and Tactical on Immortals. The week after, Liquid matches up against 100Thieves, including a reunited Bjergsen and Doublelift.





Dota 2:







Nisha is here.



With Matumbaman’s departure into the greener grass of retirement, Liquid has found in his replacement one of the best carries in the world. The Polish phenom joins the Cavalry from Team Secret, fresh off a 2nd place finish at TI 2022. Nisha played mid for Secret, and Liquipedia seems to think that miCKe will take over Matumbaman’s position 1 duties while Nisha stays in the mid lane. But I don’t think there’s been any kind of official announcement to that effect yet.



In any case, a new campaign towards TI 2023 begins next week as Nisha tests the waters with his new team. The regional DPC league is a simple round robin between the eight teams. The top four teams make the major in February, and the bottom two teams drop to division 2. Liquid’s first test will be against Nisha’s former team - Secret the Silver and Bronze medalists from last year’s TI.






StarCraft II:








In a truly heartbreaking finish to the WTL, Liquid barely miss out on the playoffs. After walloping both iG and SSLT, a win against PSIS would have earned us the last playoff spot. But the team fell short, losing the match 2-4, and finishing in 8th place overall.



On the individual side of things, Clem had another impressive month, reaching the semifinals of the WardiTV 2022, and the quarterfinals of the HomeStory Cup 22. Clem topped his group with an impressive 6-1 run at the HomeStory Cup, earning him a spot in the upper bracket quarterfinals. There, he unfortunately lost a close 2-3 series to Korean Protoss Zoun, falling to the lower bracket. His lower bracket run included impressive wins over Scarlett and GuMiho, but he got stopped in his tracks by a red-hot Astrea, who would ultimately take second in the tournament overall.



At WardiTV, both Clem and Kelazhur made it to the single-elimination bracket playoffs. Unfortunately, they had to play each other in the first round. Clem prevailed, but fell in his subsequent TvT match against Cure.



IEM Katowice waits on the horizon, the World Championship of StarCraft. Clem has already qualified to the main event, qualifying with an ungodly number of EPT points (3,945, if you’re curious). He’ll work through a six-player group stage, where he’ll need to place in the top three to qualify to the playoffs and the top 12. From there, it’s a single-elimination bracket, where the winner of each group gets a bye to the quarterfinals. Before all that takes place, however, Liquid’s newest StarCraft player, Elazer, will play through the round of 36 - a double-elimination bracket - on February 8th, and if he makes it through to the main event, he’ll join Clem for four more days of StarCraft and a $500,000 tournament.





Smash:







After a veritable whirlwind of dramatic posts on Twitter and Medium, the final score is this: Smash World Tour was canceled, and the Panda Cup Finale was indefinitely postponed, with no plans of rescheduling. In their place sprang up the Scuffed World Tour, a quickly thrown-together tournament hosted by Ludwig Ahrgren and Aiden McCaig as replacement to them both. There was no big crowd, no stadium or convention center stuffed with roaring fans. Just 32 players playing Melee and Ultimate, cheering each other on, and shooting the shit. It was so close-knit, so local, so undeniably Smash.



(Editor’s note: If you want more details about Smash’s end of the year woes and how the community could move forward, Logan wrote an article for Liquid on just that.)



And hey, Hbox did pretty good there, too. Although he was banished to the lower bracket by Mang0, he beat out Jmook and Axe before getting a chance at revenge in the lower final. In the rematch, Hungrybox and Mang0 traded game after game, taking the series the distance before Juan prevailed 3-2 to face the Yoshi terror aMSa in the grand finals. Hungrybox was able to reset the bracket by scoring a 3-1 victory over aMSa, but fell 1-3 in the second set.



On the Horizon, Riddles is currently visiting Dabuz in New York as both get ready to attend Let’s Make Big Moves, which starts today. Meanwhile, Atelier is back in Japan, getting ready for the Umebura SP9 starting tomorrow in Tokyo. And at the end of the month, Dabuz, Riddles, and Hbox will all get together in San Jose for GENESIS 9.




Teamfight Tactics:






It’s heartening to see Kurum and robin doing well among the best TFT the region has to offer. In the oddball duo-format, Liquid’s players teamed up with Souless and Kiyoon to play normal free for all lobbies, where their placement scores were added up at the end of the round. Through this format, both teams featuring The Cavlary made it to the final lobby, where Kurumx took first, and robinsongz got third, winning Kurum’s team $10,000, and robin’s team $3,000.



Looking ahead, the new TFT Esports season has dropped, and it’s just as easy to understand as always.






Just remember Regional Finals is the qualifier to worlds.



The Defender Cup this month begins with 128 players that quickly get whittled down to 64 after 6 games. Day 2 brings another 6 games with the remaining players, and the top half join 32 additional players who have auto-qualified to day three of the event. It’s not clear yet who these extra 32 players are, or why they auto-qualified to day 3, though. Anyway, the 64 remaining players go through another 6-game series, and the top 32 move to the final day. There, they’ll play 5 games, and the top 16 players play a semi-final, where the top 8 head to the final lobby. Finishing top 4 there will get you to the mid-set finale, one step closer to the regional finals and to worlds.






Age of Empires IV:







DeMusliM’s fun foray into the world of 2v2 and 3v3 competitions has concluded with a decisive victory. In the Winter Team Championship, DeMusliM’s team - C H I M P S - won a nail biting semifinal against LucifroN, TheMista, and VortiX, then absolutely stomped all over 1puppypaw, Wam01, and IamMagic, 5-0. The win earned DeMusliM and his teammates $12,000, and the title of undisputed team-play champions of Age of Empires IV.



Next up in AoE IV esports is the second installment of the Golden League hosted by the Elite Gaming Channel. The online tournament boasts a $70,000 prize pool, and takes place from mid-February through the end of March. The two open qualifiers will select which 48 players will take place in the competition. The Golden League consists of three “rounds” - double-elimination brackets that have a distinct set of rules changing how the game is played. For example, in Round 2, the players in each game will start with 12 workers instead of 6, massively accelerating the game. DeMusliM finished in the top 8 of the first Golden Series, so he’ll be looking to improve on his performance here.




POSTSCRIPT:


This month’s article is being donated to the following organizations:






Writer // Tortious Tortoise
Graphics // Stacey "Shiroiusagi" Yamada






















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Dota 2   Matumbaman - A legacy in numbers When it comes to Liquid Dota, no player quite defines the team like MATUMBAMAN. Matu made Liquid his home and helped Liquid to lift the aegis, as well as contend for it on two very different rosters. As a player, he is truly a legend, a standout, and a favorite in the Liquid world. In order to honor that legacy, we worked in tandem with our partners over at SAP and created a retrospective in numbers, using their top-of-the-line analytical tools.
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