As the main stage of the League of Legends World Championship gets under way, 2019 Mamoon "TeaTime" Sabri profiles Team Liquid's Jensen
“It’s hard to shine when your team is performing well.”
Jensen’s words seem logical, as it always will be difficult to be the dominant star when the face of the LCS is in your bot lane. Unfortunately, even if you look at the history of LCS teams, this hasn’t been true.
TSM of 2017 rings in your ear where you saw Doublelift and Bjergsen going neck to neck in competition to be the best player in America.
The statement seems to ring even more hollow when you take a look across a number of the other dominant teams at this Worlds, where every single contending mid-laner has the potential to take on the best of the best.
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The 2018 World Championships saw Jensen start off Cloud9’s quarterfinals with a Leblanc performance that decimated anything that Afreeca had to bring to the table.
Ending the game with six kills and no deaths, this was a Jensen ready to come into the World playoffs with sleeves rolled up. It was the performance that prefaced North America eliminating Korea from the World championships, ending a seven year long dynasty.
Liquid make their move
Soon after, he was recruited into Team Liquid - the team that had destroyed the regional split only to crumble at Worlds - as a replacement for Pobelter. The world watched with bated breath.
It seemed as though the 2017 duo of Bjergsen and Doublelift that had crafted a legacy was back, but this time with a mid that could perform at the highest level even on the World stage. This was finally going to be the tag team lethal duo that Doublelift needed to elevate to a point where Liquid had a legitimate double carry threat.
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CoreJJ’s addition meant that Doublelift was secured a good lane, and Jensen combined with North America’s finest Xmithie, would be the second lane that you’d be relying on to crush even international competition.
Doublelift’s stardom eclipsed anything Jensen had to bring to the table. Despite one of the weakest years North America has had as far as mid lane performers go, with Bjergsen dipping out of form towards the Summer split as well, Jensen was still considered a divisive choice if you went for him as being the best mid laner in the region.
Internationally, things were not much better. Despite having an iconic finish at MSI, Jensen had not shown the assassins that he would once dominate with, and the finals saw him being a sore point of weakness as Caps went on to destroy him as though he were absolutely nothing. Consecutive games where Caps had only one death in totality, on incredibly impactful heroes, showed that TL wasn’t quite there yet.
Time to step up
Jensen has been an upgrade for Pobelter, but not the kind that you’d expect. It’s been a like-for-like upgrade, with Jensen fulfilling the same role of not losing his lane too hard, landing his abilities in most scenarios, and doing his job. The expectations of a transcendent midlaner who could exploit even a hint of an opportunity have not been met.
At Worlds, with Caps, Chovy, Faker, Rookie, and other such midlaners gracing the fold, expectations for Jensen seem to hover around the “We hope he can do his job and not die” level, rather than hoping for him to take over a game.
Jensen at Worlds however, can be a whole other ball-game.
This is the same Jensen who has taken Cloud9 to playoff after playoff at the World championship. It is the same Jensen who Europe will be quick to claim as an EU mid every time he performs. Performances within a region are deceptive and unreliable, especially for one where the field is as weak as NA has it.
Liquid has so far seemingly not needed a second star to activate, when their opponents have close to defeated themselves in most cases anyhow.
There’s a reason that Liquid was able to go as far as they did at MSI - because they played to a specific style which Jensen enabled.
While the current Jensen may not be as much of a mid-dominating player the way the global meta asks, he is absolutely one who can push Liquid over the brink even without needing to trash the enemy mid hero.
The game is very much not played around a win-lane, win-game style anymore. With this being the first ever World Championship where Eastern and Western teams did not bootcamp together in Korea, we will get to witness a true clash of styles between each region.
Gone will be the days where Korea and China have already figured out the strengths of specific Western metas. However, with their MSI results and local domination kept in mind, expectations for Jensen are no longer the same as what they were in Cloud9, to just get out of groups.
Expectations are high
Anything short of a top-four finish at Worlds is falling short of expectations for the current Team Liquid, but the stage is set for them to go even further.
Not only does Jensen, manage to hide playstyles and strengths from the East, he doesn’t suffer greatly for mechanical matchups when his regular scrim partners have European mids - famous for being mechanical beasts.
Liquid’s style of play has to be unique to them if they want to find success with it. We may not see Jensen break the game the same way we would in a Caps or a Faker, but after beating the reigning champions at MSI, no-one can take away his ability to deliver exactly what is needed to an already well-oiled machine.
The global meta has been crumbling for years, this could be the year where Jensen shows us its downfall.
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Picture: LoL Esports / Flickr