New Coach, New Team Liquid?
Every team has its trials and tribulations, and Team Liquid is no exception. This is my first time since the Western Clash seeing Dennis ‘HasuObs’ Schneider and the rest of the longest-running five-man roster in the HGC. They’ve stumbled since then, and narrowly missed out on qualification to the Mid-Season Brawl. The aftermath of that failure sparked the need for a mental reset, which comes to Liquid in the form of a new coach. With a new perspective, they are out to prove themselves against the best teams that the west has to offer here in Kiev.
What was the mood like when you didn’t qualify for the Mid-Season Brawl?
Markus ‘Blumbi’ Hanke: “Obviously, we were very disappointed. The main goal is always BlizzCon, but we wanted to go to Mid-Season Brawl as well. The mood was very bad on the team at the time. It was the way we didn’t qualify, losing 2-3 twice in one weekend against Team Dignitas and Fnatic. Honestly, we just had issues in the atmosphere overall. We were in a slump for weeks after that weekend. Afterwards we took a break, which reset us a bit. Then we brought on our coach, [who] helped us a lot to get back to the right mindset.”
What did it mean to you guys to qualify for the Western Clash after that?
HasuObs: “As a team our plan was to reach every offline event possible, which is a realistic goal for us given the amount of practice we put into it. Not qualifying for Mid-Season brawl was very disappointing for us, especially after starting out the Phase without losing a single set online. Qualifying for Kiev felt very good. It was very close and came down to the last play day where we beat Team expert 3-2. I think we are very happy to be here again and to have a chance to play in front of the fans.”
Since the HGC Playoffs in Phase 1, your team has enlisted the help of a coach – how has that changed things?
Lyubomir ‘Splendour’ Kozlovski: “It was kind of our darkest times after we didn’t qualify; everyone was very depressed and no one was really trying in scrims. It was the small change we needed for everyone to kind of reset and start playing better. Practice instantly improved. He worked with us to make sure the atmosphere is better. He helped us to pick each other up when someone makes a mistake and tell them that, ‘It’s okay, we will do it better next time.’ He also helps us with strategy and our positioning, drafting etc. It’s a huge help to the team. Compared to where we were when we missed out on attending the Mid-Season Brawl, I think we are a lot better right now.”
Before the event you boot camped together, how did that go?
Nils ‘Nurok’ Gebhardt: “The boot camp itself was a very good experience. It was personally for me the best boot camp we ever had. It was really a great help for us. Basically, we woke up at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and some of the guys were doing sports and others would already be practicing. We started with two or three scrim blocks each day, and we practiced until around 11:00 in the night and even played afterwards. We pretty much played around 10 to 11 hours of Heroes of the Storm every day. I feel like we are well prepared for this tournament after the boot camp.”
Someone plays real sports here?
Hasuobs: (laughs) “Blumbi and Darkmok do, only at the boot camp though.”
Blumbi: “When I’m home I go running in the morning. It just balances me out so I’m not as grumpy in scrims and stuff.”
Did you mostly practice against Team Dignitas at the boot camp, since they are the only tier one European team that isn’t here?
Nurok: “No, not at all. Team Dignitas is having a vacation right now, so we were mostly practicing with Team expert and Fnatic, and also Team Freedom who were boot camping days before this event. So yeah, we scrimmed against a North American team as well.”
How did that go against Team Freedom?
Nurok: “They learned quite fast. In the beginning, we stomped them a bit, but they are fast learners and adapted to our meta very fast. So, it was actually 50/50 about.”
Hasuobs: “It was actually very interesting playing against them because they have a unique style compared to the other American teams. They love D.Va, they play a lot of Stitches. They have a lot of their own ideas, and it’s oftentimes picks that are not highly contested. If it’s not highly contested, they’ll still pick it very early and end up with the draft they want. It was a nice experience to see how they draft, and I think it probably helps us more than them. If we face them in the tournament we know what they really like, assuming they showed us what they really play.”
It's not often you hear a European team say that practicing against a North American team was helpful.
Hasuobs: “It was, at least I think it was. They play well as well. It’s not only the drafts. I felt they played very well in HGC North America, but it was hard to judge if it was just against other North American teams or if they actually play well. I think we found out that they do.”
What do you expect to see at this tournament in terms of the meta?
Splendour: “I think the game is in a very good state where a team can have their own style and their own priority for different Heroes. Teams can show what they are the strongest with and what they’ve been practicing with. You’ll probably see some Lost Vikings from us, very mobile Heroes from Fnatic and so on. Some teams have very specific compositions that require very specific picks, so it’s hard to pin down a single meta right now. I think it’s been like this the whole year. Last year there was a pretty set meta you know, at BlizzCon everyone was picking one of the stun tanks very early. The first few picks were all the same. Since then I think it’s been a lot more variety.”
If this all goes to plan and boils down how you expect it you you’ll probably end up facing Fnatic down the road in this tournament. Are you prepared for that matchup?
Simon ‘Darkmok’ Tabin: “Kind of. We practiced against them at the boot camp, but when we faced Fnatic the last couple of times it was always very close. Unfortunately, we lost most of the series — I think maybe all of them. But it was always 2-3. I would expect at least a very close match. I hope it goes in our favor, but you never know.”
Team Liquid are still fighting for first at the Western Clash. Make sure to tune in right here for all the action at playheroes.com/esports and check out Twitch.tv/blizzheroes to cheer for Team Liquid and unlock their in-game swag.