Team Liquid have never won a big event in CS:GO. Their silver medals, top fours, and playoff finishes are undeniable, but so to is the lack of a trophy. Many great teams have been blue-balled for long stretches of time before reigning supreme on a large international stage. Exactly two years ago on the same battleground, Na`Vi managed to break a multi-year drought of 250k+ LAN victories, beating Virtus.pro in a tight Bo3 to win ESL One New York 2016. They to had been victims of bridesmaid syndrome, having placed second at two consecutive majors, and three big LANs before winning on American soil. Even the Danish core of Xyp9x, device, and dupreeh had been denied their share of grand final appearances despite impressive playoff consistency before winning their first big event in early 2015.
Liquid are yet to have their release. They are still a team capable of winning a tournament in-theory, but with the unstoppable force of Astralis as an apex predator and new dangerous sides looming on the horizon, their trophies may very well remain that way. In-theory.
If Liquid fail to materialise a championship, and so consistently, can we call them a great team? Within the context of their region and history, I think so.
North America has never lacked a supply of talented, superstar rifling talent. Liquid, with their diverse and dangerous cast of riflers represent the best of this domestic bunch. From the burgeoning prodigy in TwistZz to experienced hand of TACO, Liquid boasts a balanced and elite roster.
While Cloud9’s major-winning roster may be able to match Liquid in-terms of talent, the Liquid system is the most evolved in NA history and is apart of the global trend towards structure. Cloud9 were able to blitz the Boston major with their fast timings, explosive hits, confident CT-sides and insane individual performances across the board. Going back even further to the organisations other big result at the EPL S4 Finals, they were led to a huge tournament win by punishing an over-confident SK Gaming looking to make a statement on home soil. Cloud9’s rosters may be able to post more trophies, but not the same level of consistent results against as elite competition and in such impressive fashion.
Liquid are as Xyp9x of Astralis outlined, taking a more lucid and cutting-edge approach to structuring their side:
“I feel like we are creating the meta. We are creating how a team should function. We are creating how a CS:GO team should be playing right now. Liquid is one of the guys copying our structure and how to do things, and I think that’s why it’s going well for them. I expect to see more copying and seeing how we are structured as a team and how we prepare for games and stuff like that. I think it will come naturally for other teams.”
Rather, Liquid are blending the elements of what is working at the highest levels of professional CS with their own, near two-year long trajectory of working towards a strategic approach. Mixed in with their harmonious roster balance, excellent mid-round calling, and unique approach to viewing the AWP, Liquid are a side unlike North America as ever seen.
They are, in many ways, the historical benchmark for the region. While Cloud9 managed to ride individual form and gimmicks to a major win, only to collapse and fracture immediately afterwards, Liquid have remained resolute in the face of intense disappointment. Their record isn’t perfect, with group-stage bombings at both Cologne and Marseille 2018, but in-general, they have been remarkably consistent. Despite these low-points, lack of gold, and impossible hurdle of Astralis at the top, Liquid have continued to rake in consistently exceptional results.
Liquid aren’t necessarily totally ‘copying’ the structure of Astralis as Xyp9x states, with Zews having alluded to introducing a fundamental, strategic oriented system since the start of 2017:
Since I joined the team, the team was in a completely different position, we were able to now change the way that we play, we went for that fundamental style, after working so much with myself and Peter, we were able to get all the strategy part in. That was never the problem that we were facing, the problem we were facing is just on a simpler level, it's just an emotional problem in how to deal with pressure sometimes and sometimes how to deal with these situations.
It is a very hard point in time to make an elite roster, or re-ignite an elite spark, just ask MIBR, FaZe, G2, and now, Na`Vi. Liquid have been able to maintain their label as an ‘elite’ side for months on end in such an environment, with a rational, well-balanced roster and a highly evolved system. What’s more, all this is being done out of region that has historically rejected the structures of an Astralis-esq team and have struggled immensely to attain the consistent level of international results Liquid flaunts.
At this point in time, it doesn’t appear Liquid will stop making top fours and grand finals either. While the current era can see the displacement of any team but the Danes, given their trajectory, Liquid will likely continue to earn another handful of decent international placings. Even if they don’t win a trophy, is it fair to dismiss such a high-level, cutting-edge and evolved roster within the context of their region and the world rankings? Probably not. For even if Liquid don’t find that elusive championship, their impact in proving what can be done out of NA extends far beyond what the irreplicable form of Cloud9 had validated in the past. Liquid is a side that wears their win conditions on their sleeve and little is stopping others domestically from doing the same.
While their legacy might be painted in silver, it will shine brightly enough for their regional peers to follow. And that may be more important than gold.