It has been a long time that the team that won The International has come back the next year with the same exact roster. The last time that happened was at TI 4 when Alliance came back with the same squad that beat Na’Vi 3-2 at TI 3 in what was possibly the best TI grand finals. After that, either the team has undergone a change or disbanded completely (does anyone even remember Wings Gaming?). After what feels like an eternity, Kuro ‘KuroKy’ Salehi Takhasomi led Team Liquid have managed to break the curse and stay together after winning The International 2017. Not only that, they go into tournament on the back of a win, having won the Dota 2 Supermajor in Shanghai. Team Liquid have the chance to create history as they head into TI 8, as the first team to win two TI titles as well as the first player(s) to have multiple TI titles. Let us take a look into how their season unfolded.
Team Liquid Roster:
– Lasse ‘Matumbaman’ Urpalainen
– Amer ‘Miracle’ Barqawi
– Ivan ‘MinD_ContRoL’ Borislavov Ivanov
– Maroun ‘GH’ Merhej
– Kuro ‘KuroKy’ Salehi Takhasomi
– Lee ‘Heen’ Seung Gon (coach)
Total games played: 181
Games won: 120
Win rate: 66.30%
Total heroes played: 110 (unpicked heroes – Clinkz, Meepo, Riki, Techies, Wraith King)
Tournaments won: 4 (3 Minors, 1 Major)
Team Liquid started off their campaign strong, picking up where they had left off at the end of the 2016-2017 season by winning the first tournament they played. That was the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3 Minor, where they beat Mineski 3-1 in the grand finals. Although they had decent success in the Minor events, when facing the rest of the big league teams in the Major events, Liquid fell short. In the two Majors that took place in 2017, they fell just short, earning 3rd/4th and 2nd place finishes respectively. They may not have won the DreamLeague Season 8 Major, but in the grand finals against Team Secret, Liquid were part of two of the best games ever played! Never was the team man handled in the early part of any tournament, but teams did figure them out in the later parts of events and beat them when it mattered.
Secret vs Liquid games 1 and 2 of the DreamLeague Season 8 Major grand finals
2018 started on a good note for Team Liquid. Losing 3-2 to Newbee in the grand finals of ESL One Genting, they managed to win the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor. StarLadder has become a standard pay cheque for Liquid, just as most ESL events are for Virtus Pro. After that though, there appeared to be a few chinks in Liquid’s armor. From the end of February to the start of June was a period full of Major events. Liquid’s worst performances came in DAC 2018 and ESL One Birmingham. At DAC, they finished 5th/6th, going out to TNC. But ESL One Birmingham saw something no one expected – Liquid crashing out in the group stages to Pain Gaming! They had had a hot and cold season, but it seemed the fire was dying as we got closer to TI8.
The Dota 2 Supermajor was the last DPC event of the season. With Virtus Pro and LGD Gaming sharing 5 of the last 6 Major tournaments amongst themselves, the Supermajor seemed to be leaning their way. Liquid did have a scare in the group stages when Team Spirit nearly beat them 2-1. But some mistakes by the CIS teams handed Liquid the win in the final game. That sort of was the turn around for the team. The win there got them the confidence boost they were looking for and after that, there was no looking back. Winning their group comfortably, Liquid went through the upper bracket unscathed and defeated a gallant Virtus Pro 3-2 in the grand finals.
Team Liquid by the Stats
With a win rate of 66.30%, Liquid are third only to VGJ Storm and Virtus Pro in the season. Considering the fact that VGJ Storm underwent quite a few roster changes and had most of their games as qualifiers, it is safe to say only VP were better off than Liquid.
Team Liquid’s win rate through the 2017-2018 DPC season
Although dipping a bit as the season progresses, Liquid’s win rate has been quite consistent at all periods of the season. As I mentioned earlier, the last few tournaments were a bit dubious, but they wiped slate clean by winning the Supermajor. On the whole, Liquid have been one of the most consistent teams of the 2017-2018 DPC season.
Most Played Heroes in the 2017-2018 DPC Season (from 7.07 till now)
Team Liquid’s most played heroes in the 2017-2018 DPC season
Team Liquid’s most successful combos in the 2017-2018 DPC season
The season did start with the 7.06 patch still in progress, but that was the one used at TI 7 and the heroes are quite similar as well. To see what Liquid did differently, the heroes considered here have been from 7.07 to their last game of the season, which was the final game at the Supermajor.
Earth Spirit and Sand King were Liquid’s most played heroes of the season. Any surprises here? GH is an absolute beast on these two and Mind Control can chip in with the Sand King duties as well. There are quite few heroes with a very high win rate, but the thing is, a lot of those heroes are now out of meta. Earth Spirit is nowhere to be seen (after the nerf to roaming heroes), Sand King has been heavily nerfed and Io, well, there has been a giant nerf but it is hard to say if the hero is still viable or not. A special mention does go to Terrorblade, on whom Liquid (Miracle) had 14 games and won 13 of them. The only loss was against Complexity Gaming at the Bucharest Major. News flash: Terrorblade has been nerfed into oblivion as well! Even when it comes to the combos, their most successful combo is Tiny-Io, which is a thing of the past for now. Heroes like Tiny, Viper, Ancient Apparition and Venomancer are ones that haven’t been played too much in the last few tournaments of the season.
Problem? I wouldn’t think so. Team Liquid has been a trend setting team and they adapt to change in patches quite well. They were the ones to actually bring back Venomancer into the meta. Veno was considered to be done and dusted once 7.07 was released. But Liquid used it to good effect to show it was still viable. They were also the ones who made Nature’s Prophet first ban material when Amer ‘Miracle’ Barqawi played a position one NP. In the Supermajor, Liquid was the only team who played Visage, and how! The Tinker-Visage strat worked wonders in Shanghai.
Another thing Liquid changed in the latter part of the season was to make sure Miracle had the mid lane in most games. With the lanes being more 2-1-2 thanks to the changes that made roaming supports obsolete, the mid lane nowadays is pretty much 1 v 1. And in a scenario like that, you want your most skilled player to be in the mid lane, which, no prizes for guessing, is Miracle. Liquid admitted to that as well in the post Supermajor interview. Miracle played a lot of safe lane heroes at DAC 2018 and it didn’t work out too well. At the Supermajor, he played the mid hero in most of their games. Case in point, for the five games of the Supermajor grand finals, Miracle played the mid hero in four of them (Templar Assasin, Monkey King, Mirana, Tinker, Templar Assasin). Lasse ‘Matumbaman’ Urpalainen finds himself more in the side lanes now. But guess what? It’s working. That is what makes Liquid a great team. They are constantly adapting to the scenario to make sure they end up better.
So there we have it. The team that did not take the foot off the gas pedal even after winning TI 7 and are now just as much a threat to teams as last year, if not more. Staying together for two years and adapting to situations as they come makes Team Liquid one of the top contenders for TI 8. Will they do a repeat of last year and create history, only time will tell.