Just five weeks into the 2021 LCS Summer Split, fans were already accustomed to an array of controversies that seemingly affected every team. It would take a millennium to cover all the juicy stuff circulating around the LCS, but there’s another crisis emerging just as the crucial race for playoffs is ramping up: FlyQuest.
FlyQuest’s poor summer performance
Starting with a 6-12 record from spring, FlyQuest has gone 3-12 five weeks into the summer to sit one game off sitting in the last place. Had the records from spring not carried over to the second half, FlyQuest would have been last in the table outright. By losing to Team Liquid to close out Week 5, they are currently on a 10-game losing streak, by far the longest stretch in the organization’s history.
Upon first viewing their struggles, one would think that it arrived on the back of a rookie-laden squad who are acclimating to the LCS. Instead, it’s because an assembled group of players with a plentiful amount of combined competitive experience hasn’t played well together at all. For a team whose lineup was conceived with tremendous promise, their current form is less than ideal. Far from that.
“We are not having the results we would want on stage and we are running into a bunch of problems that seem to be difficult to fix,” said FlyQuest top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie in describing their form during an interview after Week 5. “From my time in [the NA Challenger Series], I have always been on top teams. I finished Top 2 twice and went straight to Cloud9 and found a lot of success there. It is definitely not something I am used to and that has been a learning experience for me.”
Under that context, Licorice is learning quite a lot so far. That’s because his team is performing as the worst in the league. According to Oracle’s Elixir, on average, FlyQuest is last in KD ratio, gold per minute, gold differential per minute, mid/late rating, gold differential at 15 minutes, dragon control rate, and jungle control rate.
Nothing best exemplifies FlyQuest’s struggles than their recent loss to TL. By 10 minutes, as four FLY members joined up to kill Jenkins beneath the top lane Tier-1 tower, the remaining TL players took advantage of the free space given to them and destroyed two turrets. Later, mid-laner Cristian “Palafox” Palafox TP’d inside the red side jungle to pick off Tactical with Brandon “Josedeodo” Villegas in tow, but he was preemptively stifled by Nocturne’s ultimate.
Simultaneously, with the lack of vision prohibiting Josedeodo from assisting Palafox, both FlyQuest players were sequentially picked off, causing a scene that presented them as a lost bunch that forgot how to coordinate. Finally, Licorice TP’d on TL’s backside to provide a flank for a possible surprise engagement. Unfortunately for him, he was discovered, as just after he appeared out of the bush, TL swarmed him while retreating for an easy kill. Each mistake was more insidious than the last. Each murmur of their incompetence was increasing in volume with each loss.
When the game finally ended, FlyQuest’s body language was eminent in that they were listless and devoid of any spirit. Their response was so jarring that caster Alberto ”Crumbz” Rengifo suggested its management to sub in new players in order to reinvigorate their morale.
“You just gotta shake it up. Things clearly aren’t working on this side. They’ve been trying so many different compositions. They’re trying to figure out what champions work best for them, but it hasn’t stuck. I think [there have to be] changes in more than drafts. It has to be something within the team. I just think you gotta start using your entire roster now,” said Crumbz.
Experimenting with FlyQuest academy
In Week 4 against Golden Guardians, FlyQuest did exactly that, switching out Licorice, Johnsun and Dreams for Kumo, Tomo and Diamond as a result of the latter group’s positive performance in NA Academy–but for one game.
In that game, FlyQuest’s new lineup was ahead for the most part until GG secured Elder Dragon at the final stages. Despite the loss, Kumo and Tomo distinguished themselves as notable prospects for the team’s makeup in the future, but that didn’t stop the team’s losing ways.
Regression comes as a result of an amalgamation of issues that hinders a team’s performance. It is when the things that normally happen flawlessly for a winning squad become a Herculean task for a losing team.
In FlyQuest’s case, their regression resides in the lack of identity, which Licorice identified. Originally, it was believed that since he was the most experienced member, he would be their driving force of FlyQuest’s constructed lineup in games. That he would be their carry was a conclusion fans assumed would happen.
Alas, that didn’t pan out. In all the LCS, Licorice is third-to-last (just above Johnsun) in kill participation percentage. Among top laners, he’s near the bottom in damage dealt to enemy champions and KDA.
“For me to be the main shot-caller, the team would need to play around me a lot more. That is something that the team is not set on yet. In general, we still lack team identity and that is one of the biggest things I am trying to push personally. We need to pick something,” said Licorice.
As the team continues to search for an identity, the clamours for adjustments from its fans begin to heighten. One grievance, in particular, was made on a thread posted on the team’s subreddit, which charged the coaching staff for not teaching their players the trait of “aggression or decisiveness” in their play and that they “sit around and wait for s— to happen to engage.”
In response, FlyQuest’s general manager Nicholas “Swaguhsaurus” Phan emphasized that in addressing those issues, it’s their responsibility as a team to rectify them.
“We’re actively working on dissecting [them], but at the same time, it’s incredibly important to contextualize that mistakes and issues will always sound louder when the results aren’t there,” said Phan.
“I’m not saying wins aren’t important but it’s important to my staff and me at this time, that we do our best to constantly nitpick, dissect, and explore the roots to the issues we’re having and why so that we can focus on developing every player on our roster–even our veterans. It’s still a long season, and we just have to continue reflecting and getting back to the lab.”
After taking time to reflect on said performance, FlyQuest did reach a conclusion, which would send shockwaves to the LCS just like their adversaries did a few weeks before.
Time to Switch Things Up
On June 6th, FlyQuest announced changes to both their LCS and Academy rosters. They transferred Licorice to GG and appointed Kumo as their newest starting top laner. Also, the Academy roster will replace the first-string team for Week 6 in the LCS, giving the latter side “more time to improve and work their way back to the main stage.”
“We decided it was best that, as an LCS team, to take a step back and problem solve in a better headspace,” said Phan of the move. “It’s clear that our academy team has played very well over the course of their own season and have shown the kind of synergy that’s eluded our LCS team this year. It only makes sense that in our position we give them the opportunity to show what they can do as a team.”
Indeed, it was evident after what happened against TL that changes needed to be made. By bringing in a crop of talent that has a decent amount of experience in the LCS, FlyQuest is taking a different direction to compete.
“If you’ve watched any portion of academy you’d see we are right there at Top 2/3. They are a good TEAM, academy or not and the synergy that this team has, combined with their talents is capable of fighting for playoffs,” said Phan of the Academy team coming into the main stage.
For all it’s worth, work is being made to curtail FlyQuest’s dismal form, but only time will tell if it’s enough to avoid direct elimination from the playoffs.
For the last two years, “Showcasing Greatness” has been the mantra for the team which was created before the 2020 season. It’s a call for players to perform at the best of their abilities to inspire others to do the same, but if FlyQuest continues their form in summer, the only semblance of greatness they’ll showcase is the scale of ineptitude they amassed less than a year after they escaped it.