Team Liquid - The Hippocampus
It was impossible to deny that Liquid was one of the favorites to win the Aegis the previous years - and guess what - they are again one of the strongest teams before the competition. The difference this year is more so in their path, rather than their current shape; yes they had more Major finals (or even participations) in the last year, but this time the team recovered from what was the darkest time they have faced since 5Jungz.
Matu, Mind_Control and even Jerax faced their first big breakdown after losing at TI6. After such a fall, it was up to Kuro to pick them up - he is already used to these hard letdowns. With Miracle and Bulba, two renowned players, the task of building the team back up didn’t seem as difficult, but for Liquid, it can never be that simple. Immediate bad results led to a disastrous Boston Major qualifier, which ended up forcing the team to make a tough decision and release Bulba to make room for a new talent, Maroun “GH” Merhej.
The addition of GH paid its dividends but was not instant, the team had to learn to understand Miracle and the new patch while trying to stay competitive in a landscape that constantly changed. Most importantly, there was one fewer Major ; qualifying to the next one was now more imperative than ever,a life or death situation for a team with much at stake.
After a while, Liquid’s comeback started to become a reality: they won two StarLadder i-Leagues, DreamLeague S6, and the qualifiers to DAC 2017. However as soon they were back, they faced yet again the sour taste of defeat. Their next visit to China was particularly bad; losing to Faceless in a best-of-one was unexpected even after a bad group phase at DAC. They were forced back to the drawing board, a board that usually brings disband and roster changes for most teams. This squad, however, decided to give it another go.
The Kiev Major did not turn out much better, but exiting this Major after being eliminated by iG in a very close series was definitely an improvement. With the direct invitation discarded in their minds, assuming they would have to play the qualifiers, Liquid focused on training together. What came after this is a story of great success: they won three tournaments in a row and received a direct invitation just after they defended their championship in EPICENTER. Team Liquid went from a team that failed to qualify to the Boston Major to a directly invited team. They are considered one of the strongest in Seattle, forged by hardships and the unstoppable will of picking themselves up again and again.
It is difficult to describe Liquid’s game style in simple terms, with talents like Miracle and Matumbaman, who can switch between mid-game and late-game focused heroes with no issue at all, Kuroky can decide on different approaches to every particular matchup.
It has been pointed out in the past that flexibility is one of the strengths of Liquid, and that has not changed much. What did change is how the team utilizes its midlaner; Fata and Miracle are both tremendously talented players, but Miracle puts much more emphasis on the late game potential of his hero. While Juggernaut, Templar Assassin or even Anti-Mage are common picks for Miracle, Fata was more of a Razor, Death Prophet or Puck player, and while both play Invoker their style differs drastically. This emphasis on farm attracts more attention to the mid lane, forcing enemy supports’ rotations and opening space for Mind_Control and Matumbaman to take advantage of. While Mind_Control will most likely be on a team fighting hero such as Dark Seer or Clockwerk, Matu will be farming for a specific purpose, be it a cheesy Necrophos or a more standard Lone Druid.
In the end, this talented lineup will be relying on Kuroky’s leadership, yet again, to avoid making the same mistakes they did during the previous’ year International.
A player that requires little to no introduction, for he has been in this squad since its 5Jungz days. Matumbaman has a positive attitude; he is a jokester, a bit cocky but it never feels overboard, not afraid of saying that Liquid did terrible in a match or that a rival was not much of a challenge. There’s not much more to see in a very transparent Lasse.
Matumbaman is the kind of player that requires motivation, something that is not easy to maintain over the course of a Dota career, especially after being eliminated from a TI in which Liquid were one of the favorites. Matu faced his greatest challenges as soon as the new Liquid squad gathered, as he swapped roles with Kuro around the Boston Major qualifiers. This was a dark time for Liquid, their newly formed roster was facing major troubles and his ability as a carry player was in doubt.
Thankfully, with the arrival of GH Matumbaman came back to the position he is known for, the carry position. However, being a good carry player is not as simple as farming; despite being able to keep his farm on par with other top tier carries, Matu has a particular hero pool consisting of heroes like Lone Druid and Lycan which can push the enemies towers’ while Miracle steals the show, or a more out-of-the-pocket pick like Necrophos. Lasse enjoys running into his enemies and slapping their faces with Lifestealer or hitting them with his hard hammer as Faceless Void – there’s a reason why he is called Matumbaman after all.
Miracle is a midlaner who has developed his style as a player around his mechanical skill and ability to amass large amounts of farm like Sumail, Sccc, and MidOne. Where Miracle’s playstyle differs is that the team often appears to revolve completely around his position. The few times Miracle has a truly bad game are when the enemy team dedicates completely to shutting him down, something that much easier said than done.
Like other gifted players in sports or other team-based games, you can’t simply include Miracle in your lineup and expect him to win you games by himself. Quite the contrary, these talents are usually only capable to perform at their peak when the team plays around them, similar to what Barcelona does with Messi. Liquid suffered the consequences of playing a different style for so long with Fata and not really adjusting their gameplay as much as they needed to, including the support players.
This adjustment hit Liquid and Amer very hard, a team that was struggling performed as expected and Miracle missed his first Valve event (since his first appearance) as soon as he joined his new team. For someone that is motivated by being the very best at Dota, this was quite the letdown.
But as Liquid improved their lineup and solved their issues, Miracle came back to his former self and finally became the great asset Liquid needed. Since Matumbaman enjoys hitting enemies more than he does hitting creeps, Miracle will usually take a more farming-focused hero such as his trademark Invoker, Juggernaut, Shadow Fiend or even Anti-mage, which gives Liquid a draft versatility that was put in good use during the recent DreamLeague season 7 finale.
A lot of pro players would be doing something else if they didn’t happen to be professional Dota players – not Mind_ContRoL. As shy he may seem Ivan is actually quite the competitive guy: table tennis, chess and Dota itself, MC has been playing games since he was 5 years old.
This competitive vibe is not something he will simply leave hidden inside of him, he is not afraid of admitting that Liquid choked heavily during TI6 and that he played very poorly. For someone that challenges himself like this, it shouldn’t be surprising that after successfully becoming the best Bulgarian player he decided to try to make a name for himself in other teams.
Mind_Control was invited by Kuroky to join 5Jungz and from there his career skyrocketed. As a classic offlaner, his Dark Seer quickly became the best in Europe and one of the top in the world, even rivaling Universe. The rest of his hero pool is quite standard for an offlaner, Batrider, Centaur, Brew, Furion, and Beast master – Mind_Control assumes the classic role of a tempo-controller and initiator a team needs. And what an initiator indeed, Mind_Control often waits for the best chance to hit multiple-hero ultimates – sometimes more than needed – to quickly decide the outcome of a team fight. For Liquid, it is all about how much control over these team fights Mind_Control can grant them.
GH is a relatively new face in the Dota scene compared to the experienced names that currently play support on top teams, but his background is quite similar to most veteran players: Lan Cafés. Due to the costs of a good internet connection being very high in Lebanon, GH often played even his scrims from a Lan Café. Although he seems calm and collected he often gets very upset when losing, so it was not comfortable to be surrounded by fans that want to chat after losing a match.
One would expect that such enthusiasm would drive him to make mistakes, but GH arrived at Liquid at the best time possible. The team needed a talented support player that would leave room for Kuroky to actually lead the team, something that was quite difficult with Bulba. GH’s hero pool is quite diverse, he can imitate Kuroky with a spectacular Io and an outstanding Rubick, or switch to initiators like Slardar or Earthshaker. It hasn’t happened in a while, but if you are not careful, you might be caught off guard and end up giving away his Naga Siren – and he does not feel a drop of shame in picking such a hero.
The quintessential member you’ve probably already heard so much about, Kuroky is the captain of Liquid’s Dota 2 ship. Kuro has been in multiple teams, tournaments and even played different roles. Yet there is still something he hasn’t won yet, a Valve event.
And he has played in most of them, reaching the finals of majors twice just to lose them to European teams and most importantly, to ex-teammates, specifically ex-Secret members. As if he wanted to leave his past of being the second in charge behind, Kuroky opted to form a new team and lead them, not something he was completely unfamiliar with, but definitely something he was not used to.
The story of Kuroky’s Team Liquid is full of both accomplishment and frustration; heading to TI6 as one of the favorites they left the event in an inglorious fashion while players who had also been a part of his former team, Misery and W33ha, were the ones fighting for the Aegis of the Champions. It was Kuroky’s job to comfort Liquid’s inexperienced players – inexperienced for TI’s standard that is – and to rebuild the team after Fata and Jerax decided to step out. Now with Miracle and Bulba on the team, it was the lack of one single leading voice appearing to cause issues in this talented squad. After failing yet again at the Boston Major Qualifier, Kuro quickly decided to bring the player that was fated to replace Bulba, GH.
Now, with a team as talented as their best iteration, Kuroky is heading to his second international in charge of Liquid. If he happens to reach his third Valve event final while on Liquid, the third time may be the charm.