When Team Liquid’s all-star post-franchising LCS roster was assembled, the crown jewel and centerpiece was one Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. The greatest – or, at least, most accomplished – North American player to ever participate in competitive League of Legends, TL securing the marksman meant that they had the strongest foundation imaginable to build upon. With TL upgrading in almost every role between seasons, only two constants remained – Doublelift, and steady rock in the top lane Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong.
In fact, you could consider 2020 Team Liquid a team built specifically around Doublelift. A tank top laner, a utility-focused jungler, and a world champion support player to boot – the stars had all but aligned for TL’s success this split with Doublelift at the helm.
An irritating amount of visa issues marred the chances of any immediate success in TL’s Spring Split, and even with a complete line-up, the star marksman looked mentally checked out. One weekend off for sickness later, and North America’s longest-standing professional finds himself benched indefinitely due to lacking the hunger necessary to win – Doublelift has been removed in favor of rookie Edward “Tactical” Ra.
This decision can’t have come lightly to Team Liquid, and community responses have ranged from fan outrage to complete understanding. After all, competing at a top level only comes down to one thing: drive. But why has Doublelift’s seemingly suddenly disappeared?
Spring Split down the middle
With LoL Esports’ announcement that Spring wouldn’t count for all that much in regards to World Championship qualification from this season onwards, professionals and community members alike were quick to take the changes at face value. Spring essentially counts purely for Mid-Season Invitational qualification now, a chance at international competition that is often derided for simply being a mild inconvenience for all involved.
Summer is instead where teams are exclusively looking now, with Spring no longer carrying points over towards the elusive World Championship berth that every player competing in the North American LCS craves.
“Everyone has stopped playing their best. For me personally, I should have put myself at a higher standard. But pretty much I didn’t care,” Doublelift had said. While he went on to say that Team Liquid “not being a team team anymore” was a “stress in life” that he needed to feel motivated again, most in the League of Legends community, including Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera – a TL streamer – were not fans of his lack luster attitude about the Spring Split.
In a vacuum, Doublelift’s sentiment – echoed throughout an interview he gave that essentially deemed Spring worthless – actually holds some truth to it. Even when the marksman was a part of then-championship contenders TSM, he took a step back and a short break for Spring 2017, apparently souring his relationship with his teammates but still garnering empathy due to the rigorous demands of a professional gamer’s career. Considering that this was at a time when the Spring Split still gave teams a head start in their journey towards the World Championship, Doublelift’s skeptical view of the new format does ring true at times.
However, not every professional sees this situation from the same point of view. Take Cloud9, Team Liquid’s rival as of recent, who match them blow for blow whenever the two giants do clash, and whom are currently undefeated in the LCS, proudly bearing a 12-0 record that leaves TL fans envious.
Notably derided marksman Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, who stepped in to fill Doublelift’s vacant shoes on TSM, has entered his redemption arc in full-swing. The Danish AD carry is finally living up to the fanfare that came with him during his first foray into North America in 2018, but it wasn’t without the requisite hard work. Zven and C9 support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme spent pre-season 2020 in Korea, playing 250 games of duo queue in less than a month – showcasing a determination that you could only expect from someone who truly loves the game.
Zven and the rest of Cloud9 have their eyes set on Spring’s trophy, and Doublelift’s removal from the TL starting roster suggests his team aren’t comfortable just giving it to them. The rest of the squad clearly don’t share Doublelift’s sentiment, and the additional practice and stress requirement of a Spring title is clearly worth the trade-in to guarantee peak form come Summer and eventually Worlds.
Wake up call? Maybe when September ends
Riot caster Isaac “Azael” Cummings Bentley had this to say later in the Split: “It’s so egotistical to think that you can not work hard, not try, not grind at it to constantly improve and still be the best.”
While it may not be about Doublelift directly, many in the League of Legends community felt he was the biggest offender. Many even said he had a big ego he may not necessarily deserve compared to the other guys on the roster.
In response to his seemingly overnight benching – a decision presumably influenced by Tactical’s immediate 2-0 week with the Team Liquid main line-up – Doublelift immediately took to Twitter, apologizing to his fanbase and teammates alike.
I’m benched because I had no motivation until very recently. Being sick and unable to compete gave me my passion back, but too late. I’m sorry towards every one of my teammates and I’ll be working from now on to regain their trust.— Yiliang Peng (@TLDoublelift) March 4, 2020
His declaration that the benching immediately cured his underlying issues could be questionable, but for a player like Doublelift that has always had an untouchable aura around him, this could very well be the decision necessary to push him to achieve the level of greatness he set everyone’s standards to. Many fans and people within the LoL community appreciated his sentiment, reassuring him that he’ll be back in top form soon. Some even called him the NA GOAT.
It could also very well be that the star marksman’s absence was what the rest of the Team Liquid squad needed to regain some of their own form, too. Without Doublelift to rely – or, rather, depend – on, everyone on the roster had to step up. Each player looks more comfortable, though that admittedly could be due to Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen just now building significant synergy with his teammates.
Meanwhile, TL have already taken appropriate action in order to integrate Tactical into the roster on a longer term basis. With Doublelift apparently being unfit for Academy play, the reigning champions have signed former 100 Thieves marksman and World Championship participant Samuel “Rikara” Oh to fill Tactical’s vacant spot on a relatively mediocre Team Liquid Academy.
Doublelift will have at least the rest of this week, if not the remainder of the regular Spring split, to reflect on his personal motivations and just how determined he is to see this roster – built around him – succeed. Perhaps this is the swift kick in the behind North America’s forever beloved prodigal son needed, or perhaps this is the start of the slow burnout of one of League’s most storied decade-long careers.