After watching MSI 2021, I have gone through many VODs and read up on articles that dealt with the MSI tournaments that happened before the one that just finished. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 tournament was cancelled and would have made for an interesting tournament. However, what this means is that the one most recent (besides the one that just ended) was the 2019 tournament.
MSI 2019 was an interesting tournament as it will be remembered for the gap between the west and the east finally closing for a split second. It was two western teams that made it into the finals, both of which beating out eastern giants.
G2 Esports beat SKT T1 in the semi-finals, and eventually won the tournament. However, the story that most people forget was the three-game series in which Team Liquid defeated Invictus Gaming (iG) in a dominant fashion.
After winning their second LCS title in a row, but bowing out in the group stages at the 2018 World Championship, Team Liquid knew that their roster needed to make some changes. What they did was they upgraded in their two weakest positions, being mid and support.
Though Pobelter was a serviceable mid laner, he lacked the potential and ability to be dominant on the international stage. He was serviceable enough to win the NA LCS, but he was a known quantity and lacked that pit of push that was needed on the global stage.
At the 2018 World Championship, Jensen was on Cloud9 who made it to the semi-finals. To get there they had to beat Afreeca Freecs, the top Korean team in the quarter-finals. Cloud9 did so in three games and Jensen played a major role in that victory. Additionally, prior to this tournament, Cloud9 was constantly overperforming at international events because of Jensen, but the rest of the team lacked in skill in comparison to the talented mid laner.
Jensen however, had not won a single trophy during his time as a professional league of legends player. But he had shown that he was one of if not the best players in the region. Cloud9 simply did not field a strong enough roster for him.
Eventually, for the summer split of 2019 Jensen signed with Team Liquid. This signing seemed like the perfect one for Team Liquid and Jensen. Team Liquid wanted international success, so they signed the player with the most impressive performances on the international stage from the region. Jensen wanted a NA LCS title, and Team Liquid won back to back titles.
Another signing that Team Liquid made was to sign CoreJJ to replace Olleh.
Olleh had issues at the 2018 MSI, and throughout the rest of the 2018 season. The general consensus was that there were issues in regards to his mindset and his approach to the pressure.
Support is a position in which there is little margin for error, and hesitation. The best supports are the ones that are confident, knowledgeable, and experienced.
CoreJJ being signed by Team Liquid was a major move and is still considered one of the best moves in LCS history. What CoreJJ brought to Team Liquid was the experience, and mentality needed for strong international success.
CoreJJ was part of the Samsung Galaxy team that dethroned SKT T1 at the 2017 World Championship. However, they failed to retain their championship and faltered in the 2018 World Championship, under the new name Gen.G. They became the only Korean team to not make it out of groups at Worlds with their abysmal 1-5 record.
CoreJJ needed change and brought his experience over to the strongest North American team at the time. He and superstar Doublelift became one of the best bot lanes in the world and dominated the NA LCS.
Team Liquid eventually won the 2019 Spring Split with Team Liquid and they got to represent North America at MSI 2019.
Being the North American representative, typically there is a lot of pressure to perform. However, due to the constant failure that North American teams face on the international stage, beating the other top three regions is usually something to hope for, and not to expect.
Invictus Gaming had just won the 2018 World Championship, and the 2019 LPL spring split. Their superstar roster was made up of players that are considered some of the best of all time. TheShy, Rookie, Jackeylove, and Ning, were all dominant players with some of the best mechanical abilities.
The odds seemed extremely slim for the North American team, as the Chinese team were the favorites to win the series and the entire tournament.
However, Team Liquid defied all of the odds and defeated iG 3-1 in a best of five series.
During this series, Team Liquid showed that they were a elite level team and that a North American team can defeat teams from the east.
Throughout the series, the two new signings from Team Liquid outperformed the Invictus Gaming players in their respective positions. This was especially impressive as Rookie, the iG mid laner, was considered the best in the world at this point in time and Jensen kept him under control. Meanwhile, CoreJJ outperformed Baolan in three of the four games and only was outperformed when Baolan got his signature Rakan to pick.
The TL top laner, Impact was able to keep TheShy under control during the series. TheShy at this current time was considered the best in his position, and potentially the best player in the world due to his dominance and ability to carry games. Most top laners were losing in the lane by a hefty margin, but Impact held TheShy and suppressed his ability to carry the game.
Team Liquid also did an excellent job shutting down iG in the drafts as they banned out Jayce (4/4 games) and Leblanc (3/4 games) against them. The one game iG’s Rookie got Leblanc, they won the game. However, Leblanc and Jayce were priority banned as those picks were the iG solo laner’s most domaining picks.
Statistically Team Liquid performed at an extremely high level. Jensen (5.1), Doublelift (5.9), and CoreJJ (5.7) all finished with extremely high KDAs.
Doublelift’s final game in the series was on Kai’Sa and he finished the game with an impressive 10-0-8 score. He benefitted from CoreJJ’s dominance in lane and was protected by Jensen’s Lux pick. This led to Team Liquid eliminating the world champions from MSI.
Though Team Liquid eventually lost to G2 Esports in the finals of MSI 2019 in a quick three-game sweep, they showed that a North American team can be successful on the international stage. The narrative that they faltered in the finals is the story that people will remember, but in reality, they accomplished something great.
The two signings from that 2019 Spring Split still remain on the team, while Impact, Doublelift, and Xmithie have all moved on. Meanwhile, CoreJJ and Jensen remain as the faces of the team.
Jensen and CoreJJ look to win their third NA LCS title, and Team Liquid as an organization look to win their fifth title this upcoming Summer Split.