Team Liquid walked away from the League of Legends LCS Lock In once more with a commanding victory, despite the roster looking very different this year. Due to visa issues preventing the organization showing the prospective roster for the Spring Split, each week of the Lock In acted as a puzzle for Liquid. Yet despite constant roster maneuvers, Liquid found the room to bounce back from their controversial end to 2021, giving fans a first look at what they can expect from the team in the coming months.

During the preseason, Liquid made arguably the biggest changes to its roster out of all 10 teams in the competition. Not only was the org keeping MVP-caliber talent in Santorin and CoreJJ, but they would be bringing ashore two LEC veterans that have long served the region’s best teams: Bwipo and Hans sama. And with their mid lane position empty, they successfully sought one of the biggest acquisitions in recent LCS history, one that was rumored for months. For the first time in his career, Bjergsen would be ditching a TSM jersey for a Liquid one.

With talent entering the team from across the globe, fans were uncertain as to how this team, full of players that have had their fair share of leadership opportunities, would be able to play as a cohesive unit. But for four straight weeks, Liquid found ample room to showcase the pieces of their roster that would perform throughout the regular 2022 season, but never had the chance to show them all together on the Rift due to visa issues. In just a few days, these players will have the opportunity to finally sit on the LCS stage together, potentially bringing about even more dominant performances than what was seen in the Lock In. 

The widest Bwipo

Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games via Getty Images

The former Fnatic top laner, who just came out of a season where he role-swapped to the jungle, was one of the new Liquid players to debut in the Lock In. Liquid is Bwipo’s first venture into the LCS in his illustrious career, and he found little trouble making his way to the top of the leaderboards in North America.

While role-swapping isn’t a common practice in professional League—nor is it an easy feat—Bwipo made his return to the top lane look effortless. Against a field of new faces, many of which he had only previously played in scrims or international events, Bwipo opened his access to a wide champion pool to demonstrate the confidence he has been known to display on the Rift. In just his first game in the Lock In, Bwipo proved himself against LCS veteran FakeGod as Gwen, one of the many champions he would find ample success on throughout the tournament.

Out of the eight champions Bwipo controlled throughout the Lock In, only two had sub 100-percent win rates, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Between infamous picks like Rengar and strange choices like Pantheon, Bwipo took the Lock In tournament as an ideal opportunity to showcase his potential to NA fans that may not have been familiar with his performances as a top laner.

When Bwipo appeared to be struggling, his focus quickly shifted to team-oriented plays rather than solo-carrying—something uncharacteristic of the top laner in his career. In the final series against Evil Geniuses, Bwipo started in the distant top lane island, away from all the action mid and bot, and ultimately had a smaller factor in the game’s outcome. In the following games, his role as the team’s initiator became much more apparent, recognizing Bjergsen and Hans sama’s carry potential and capitalizing on it.

In just one month, we’ve seen a different side to Bwipo than what was ever present in his extensive career in the LEC. With the entire Liquid roster together, there’s a wide-open space that Bwipo can look to conquer here in the LCS.

Return of the G.O.A.T.

Screengrab via Team Liquid

Though the new Liquid roster is complete with renowned talent in every position, there has been particular focus on the mid lane—and for good reason. After returning as a player, Bjergsen stepped onto a new team to mark his resurgence into the LCS.

Fans were very skeptical as to how the Danish mid laner, constantly touted as one of the greatest players in LCS history, would fare upon returning to the stage. In the time he took up the head coach role, the game and competitive scene had changed immensely. Gone were some of the biggest names in the LCS like Doublelift and Sneaky, and in their place were rookies and upstarts that would pave the road for the future of the region. Even the Rift had undergone extensive alterations, between multiple new, mechanically-challenging champions and drakes that would alter what the environment looks like.

Luckily for Bjergsen, the meta he returned into favored gameplay he has long been used to. Picks like Corki, Viktor, and even his patented Zilean served to capitalize on a high-burst damage meta, enabling Bjergsen to thrive on champions he has practiced throughout his entire career. Bjergsen even found room to bring out champions like Orianna and LeBlanc, two staples of the mid lane in pro play but not the highest priority in the meta, and use his almost decade-worth of competitive experience to drive Liquid towards constant success in the mid lane.

Within a month of the Lock In, Bjergsen secured a 15.6 KDA, the highest of all the competitors in the tournament, despite this being his first test on stage in his return to professional play. Through a combination of team-focused play and successful solo-carrying, the Bjergsen showcased in the Lock In appeared to be the same as the one that left professional play just a few short years ago, and one that players can again expect to shine throughout the year.

France’s second gift

Photo via Riot Games

Liquid’s long-time passion for bringing together capable talent from around the world resulted in two huge acquisitions from the LEC heading into the 2022 LCS Spring split. Alongside Bwipo in the top lane, Liquid secured Hans sama, the French ADC that spent years in Europe as a part of Misfits and, more recently, Rogue.

In the past two years, Hans sama consistently helped Rogue venture to the top of the LEC standings, as well as qualify for Worlds both times. At Worlds 2021, Hans sama acted as one of the biggest pieces in successfully stopping FunPlus Phoenix, the 2019 world champions, from advancing out of the group stage—though at the cost of Rogue also not advancing.

Due to the visa issues Liquid faced during the Lock In, Hans sama was forced to not only switch his spot with Eyla from Liquid’s Academy roster, but he also had to play with the rotation of CoreJJ and Yeon. In the games that Hans sama stepped in, however, Liquid lost only a single time. Out of all of those games, he secured a 6.4-percent KDA ratio with a 44/16/58 KDA, the second highest KDA of all ADCs that participated in the tournament, trailing only EG’s Danny.

On champions like Jinx, who out of all five games played he maintained a 100-percent win rate, Hans sama found ample opportunity to stand out among the other veteran talent gracing the same team as himself. The potential Hans sama and CoreJJ have as a bot lane duo has already been shown in a few of the matches during Lock In, but it’ll be the Spring Split where they’ll truly be able to demonstrate their years of international talent together. 

In one of the first metas in recent history where ADCs have had the room to truly shine as a class of champions in League, Hans sama showed the entire landscape of the LCS in the first month of 2021 that his experience in the LEC has prepared him for this massive change. Together with a completed Liquid roster, Hans sama will likely continue to give fans the high-quality gameplay many are now expecting from him, aided by the years of collective competitive experience built around him.

Retaining stability

Photo by Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

Though much has changed in the Liquid roster heading into the start of the 2022 Spring Split, two pieces of the puzzle that were vital to the team maintaining its stability in 2021 are returning in both Santorin and CoreJJ. These two players, both with numerous championship victories as a part of the organization, welcome multiple fresh faces to the team, likely continuing to act as dominant voices to help lead the new talent from the LEC to further success in NA.

Last year, the Liquid organization faced numerous issues at the start of the Summer Split that plagued that iteration of the team for weeks, ultimately impacting them at the 2021 LCS Championship, where coming together as a team mattered the most. In the opening weeks of the split, former top laner Alphari was benched without explanation, resulting in then-Academy top laner Jenkins joining the main roster. The remaining members of the roster attempted to keep the team afloat, yet internal struggles continued to break apart the synergy that had afforded them a third-place finish in the Spring Split, including the sudden resignation of head coach Jatt, and Santorin’s need for time off for health-related issues.

Santorin and CoreJJ returned as potent members of this new iteration of Liquid in the second-annual LCS Lock In. While Santorin had access to participating in each game, CoreJJ was relegated to only three due to outstanding visa issues. Despite the game differences between the two, both players maintained an over 66-percent average kill participation throughout the Lock In, opting for their usual team-oriented champion picks to support the carries that would thrive with their initiation. These two pivotal members of the Liquid roster helped them secure their second consecutive Lock In win, dropping only two games throughout the entire tournament.

While many eyes focused on the new pieces of the Liquid roster during the Lock In, Santorin and CoreJJ remain invaluable parts of the team’s success. Though there seems to still be some confusion at who exactly on the team is calling the shots thanks to all of the voices that now decorate the roster, the trials and tribulations these two players endured on their journey together undoubtedly has readied them for the tests to come this year, headlined by new faces in all corners of the LCS.

Liquid enter the start of the 2022 Spring Split as one of the favorites to win yet another split. It is expected that the entire prospective roster, consisting of Bwipo, Santorin, Bjergsen, Hans sama, and CoreJJ, fields the competition from day one, though Liquid has yet to officially confirm all of the visa issues have been remedied. They will play their first match of the Spring Split tomorrow against 100 Thieves, the defending LCS champions that defeated Liquid to win that title but did not have the opportunity to play against them once more in the Lock In.