While Liquid now look to be in an all-time top form, the road here has been rocky since the addition of their young fifth. When Twistzz first joined, the team’s results stayed more or less the same. And then they got worse. Only after missing the Major and reshuffling some roles did the team really begin to click. It’s been a few months since then and our journey starts at CS_Summit.
"It was a pretty crazy turnaround since I signed the deal in Australia, flew back home to pack, and was gone the next day. […] Our performance at cs_summit was decent but could have been better. We were very close to forcing a third game against Gambit and we shouldn't have lost to Optic."
This quote from Twistzz sums up how the team’s first event as a squad went down — only being together for a short time was certainly a factor but not so big a factor that the result wasn’t disappointing. For a young team, beating Ninjas In Pyjamas in their opener was an accomplishment but there are some important caveats to note contextually about this event. CS_Summit was at the beginning of NiP’s collapse which led to the removal of Friberg. While on paper the win looks good, it carries less weight in hindsight. Granted, their loss to Gambit came at the beginning of that team’s run which would eventually crown them world champions.
Moving on from CS_Summit, the team had a few days off before another appearance at Dreamhack Austin. Given the quick turnaround between events, the results were unsurprisingly similar. Liquid first played Immortals in a close 16-11 loss to the admittedly more practiced team. Then, in a stroke of bad luck, Cloud9 upset the G2 superteam in a best-of-one forcing Liquid to play the French powerhouse in the elimination match. While ultimately disappointing, the team continued to grow and become familiar with one another.
"Our performance wasn't bad but with a couple breaks it could have been better. These first LANs with the team, while not amazing, really accelerated our growth as a team because of all the time spent together."
Just under two months later Liquid was back in Texas for the EPL Season 5 finals. There, the run of “exactly as expected” results continued. In group play Liquid was able to beat NRG, Optic, and North to make the quarterfinals. Then in what could be called an upset, Liquid took out Team EnVyUs and claimed a best-of-three win over a notable European team. This would be the only major win for Liquid at this event, however, as they were summarily dismissed in the semi-finals by North.
Now if you were on a team that always beat the teams worse than you and never bested better squads, then you could not really be too unhappy. However, for a group of players at the calibre of Team Liquid, these results were not good enough. So they launched a European tour with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Krakow Major.
The first stop on this trip was ECS London and it was there that the true potential of this roster started to break through. The event started with yet another predictable loss. Paired against the undisputed — at the time — best team in the world of Astralis, Liquid fell 16-11 but put up more rounds against the Danes than any Liquid roster had managed to in the past. With their backs against the wall, Liquid now would need to beat Fnatic and the defending Major Champions in best-of-three series. The series against Fnatic was close but once again continued the trend of Liquid being able to upset the Swedish giants when it counts.
In the end, the miracle run was cut short. Liquid forced a game three against Astralis but were ultimately dispatched. The ECS run ended early but Liquid demonstrated their potential to at least threaten the world’s top teams.
Now it was time for the event that really mattered: the Krakow Major Qualifier. This was the one that really mattered and it was the one where the “beating teams worse than you” narrative came to a halt.
The details of this event are frankly not great. In the Swiss system you have three loses to give before being eliminated and Liquid received losses from the unassuming group of PENTA, BIG, and Flipsid3. For a team with aspirations of competing on the biggest stages and against the top teams this was not an acceptable result. It was even made worse when compared to the promise shown at ECS.
With their hearts recently broken, Liquid travelled to Cologne for what would now have to be their proxy-major. The Group Stage was a success and the team had a favorable bracket to be sure, but you can only beat the teams in front of you and that’s precisely what they did. The run was ultimately ended by Faze, however a 3-0 Group Stage and quarterfinals birth was not the worst way to head into the player break.
"The change has been pretty smooth, Nick has been doing a great job in-game leading and for me I think lurking is my best role and I am pretty comfortable doing it. The transition has been smooth but I've still got a lot to learn. We do split the calling, but whenever Nick has good ideas we'll roll with it and when he's reading the game well we will go with that but when I have ideas I will step up and say them. That goes for everyone else, if they have good ideas they will say them."
One player break and some role reassignments later and Liquid was back to competing and taking best-of-3 series off SK Gaming. That is not a typo and the resurgent form of Team Liquid came as an equally big surprise to the Counter-Strike world. After five months of middling success since the addition of Twistzz the potential once imagined for this lineup was no longer taking shape. It was here.
ESG Mykonos was a shocker of a tournament but could it have been a one-off? Liquid were playing strong fundamental Counter-Strike sure, but could it have been one of those events where the shots just simply lined up well?
ESL ONE New York proved their success was no fluke. On home turf Liquid defeated not only Virtus.pro, not only the Danes of Astralis — who had ended so many of Liquid’s past tournaments — but also the older brothers of SK Gaming in series play, yet again. The finals were, just like ESG Mykonos, somewhat underwhelming but the takeaway from ESL One NYC was the same. Liquid have arrived.
Here is where this chapter of the Team Liquid story ends. The post-shuffle bumps have been ironed out and the squad has proven itself against the toughest of competition. Now we must wait. The bar has been raised for this squad and they will have to continue to deliver at this level; but if they do, the sky is the limit.