FalleN: "I was a little bit out of the meta for a while"
In a press conference ahead of the ESL Pro League playoffs, Liquid spoke on many topics about their team, recent performances, and specifically about the in-game leading duties within the squad. The team revealed that FalleN is now the primary IGL for the lineup and that Stewie2K still contributes with mid-round calls quite often.
One of the main topics of the conference was the topic of leadership within the team, and how Liquid has been adapting since adding FalleN and Eric "adreN" Hoag to the lineup. "I think when FalleN first joined, we made the switch initially just to see how it feels, and before, I would still kinda chime in and try to help," said Stewie2K when explaining the team's choice of leader. "Eventually, FalleN kinda wanted to go back, and I felt like it might be better for me to call too."
FalleN went on to explain that after his time playing with MIBR, he was behind on the meta, and hadn't evolved enough to stay successful as an IGL. "From my last two years playing on MIBR and playing different teams, I felt like I was a little bit out of the meta for a while, in a sense where other teams evolved faster than us. That's why I needed some time to catch up."
After a couple months, FalleN and the team decided that he had learned enough about how they play to be able to take the reigns, and chose to bring him back into the leader role beginning at ESL Pro League. "This time around I feel I'm just letting him do everything he can, but we'll do it the way he wants and we'll let it pan out and see how it goes. I also give my two cents here and there and try to help as much as possible" added Stewie2K.
The topic of Liquid's preparation for events as well as the quality of practice within North America was also a topic touched on. "We've been traveling to Europe almost every single month to be honest," FalleN explained regarding Liquid's relative inactivity over the past couple months. Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski also chimed in with some commentary about the North American scene after so many players have left. "It makes it really tough to just practice in NA a lot, because a lot of the players are bad, and they're not going to get a lot better for a long time"
"Pretty much the only way to get better right now is to come to EU to play against these teams and that comes with its own difficulties," EliGE said. Michael "Grim" Wince also commented on his time before joining Liquid, claiming that practice against European teams was essential to his growth as a player. "I feel like practicing against the European teams has helped a lot really, to discover mistakes in my game, compared to NA since the practice isn't as good." He also talked about how he has learned to be more of a team player that works with his teammates. "I'd definitely say [I'm] becoming more of a team player than I was in the past."
The team also had some things to say about Pro League, discussing their group stage performance and what they expect from the playoffs. Many people see their run as unexpected, and Stewie2K somewhat agrees. "I think after playing against Gambit that kinda shows we can compete against the best teams." However, FalleN countered Stewie's confidence by asking "did you expect it though? Before we started." to which Stewie responded "before we started, no. But going into it, yes."
The other notable match during Liquid's group stage run was against FURIA, which saw the American side barely take the victory in a very close series. Stewie2K praised the Brazilian team, saying that they didn't change their game plan just because they had a stand-in. "I think if they had their actual five they would have done a lot more damage here [and] probably even made it into the playoffs, I think they played well. I think they still played the same way they would have with their five."
Looking toward the playoffs, Liquid are confident, and believe that fnatic still have a ways to go before they become consistent. "Their biggest weakness is that they're a new roster and they're not too well practiced," adreN explained, "We're gonna have to be on our game, and have some good prep as well. But I think we're confident in beating them."
After fnatic, Liquid would have to face off Heroic, who made it through Group A without dropping a series. And assuming that Natus Vincere won their quarterfinal, the Russian side would be waiting for Liquid if they managed to take down Heroic. Keith "NAF" Markovic commented on the two teams, saying that both are very strong, and adding that NAVI are one win away from winning the third Intel Grand Slam. "I know the feeling of when you're really close to winning a Grand Slam. It honestly feels like you're unstoppable and you're not gonna let anyone take it away from you."
The Canadian player also added that he would like to face Natus Vincere in the semifinals. "I hope we can [...] play NAVI and deny them the Grand Slam, I think that would be really fun."