Team Liquid Trades Taco for Stewie2k


Liquid have been Astralis’ number one competitor for months. The two teams have met time and time again in grand finals, and Liquid has continued to fall short. With less than a month less till the Major roster lock, Liquid has made an ambitious move that could give them the edge.

Liquid traded Taco and their coach Zews for Stewie2k. Zews coached the MIBR core while they made their dominant run as Luminosity. TACO is one of the best support players of the last couple years, and a two-time Major winner. Stewie2k is a star hybrid for North America, a one-time Major winner, and a bona fide star. This is a blockbuster trade by any metric, although it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

The biggest of which is, how does Stewie make this team any better. Liquid traded a rock-solid support player for one of the biggest stars to come out of NA in the last 3 years, which seems like a great swap. But how Stewie fits into this system is up for debate.

The biggest problem for Liquid now is they have too many stars. Twistzz and EliGE are obviously all-star caliber players and have been for a while. But over the last couple months, NAF has taken another step up, and is just as valuable of a playmaker as EliGE. Adding Stewie to this team is going to throw off the balance on this team, and someone will have to change the way they play.

The way I see it, there are a couple of things that could happen to make this team functional, and maybe even good enough to give Astralis trouble.

Option 1: NAF takes a step back

Someone is going to have to give a little now that TACO isn’t on the team, and NAF seems to be the most likely candidate. He already acts as the tertiary playmaker for the team and has been on the AWP more often as of late. Stewie has been picking up the AWP less frequently since he’s been on MIBR, which may lead to NAF AWPing more frequently. (Although Stew may have been rifling more due to MIBR’s glut of top-tier AWPers)

NAF is one of the only players on this team who has proven he can be effective as the third or even fourth option, like he was on the OpTic team that won ELEAGUE Season 2. Even though he has hit a new level in the back half of this year, it may behoove the team for him to cede some space to Stewie.

Option 2: EliGE cedes room

This option feels a little less likely than NAF, especially with EliGE’s performance at the EPL Finals this year. But it isn’t unthinkable. EliGE hasn’t had a great year, he’s been playing worse that NAF for the most part. He plays with a little more consistency than Twistzz, but Twistzz’s high are a little higher. So, it would make sense to move EliGE down a bit in the hierarchy of this team.

The question is if he would be willing to give a little, and if he could still be effective while playing a more supportive role. EliGE has been on Liquid since 2015, and he’s been one of the marquee names since the beginning. He also isn’t known for being the most positive guy. So, I’m not sure if he would want to, or if he could.

Option 3: Twistzz moves to support

This is, I think, the least likely of the three role changes. Twistzz has blossomed this year, and he is definitely top ten in the world this year, if not top five. Switching up his role within the team while he’s playing this hot would be an interesting move (and by interesting I mean potentially catastrophic)

He may benefit from Stewie taking a central role in the team, instead of Twistzz shouldering this team like he has been this year. It’s easy to forget Twistzz is only recently 19, and he has been taking a big role in the second-best team in the world. He may thrive if he has less pressure on. Focusing on backing up his teammates and playing more in the late round, rather than being Liquid’s primary playmaker, might allow him to elevate his game even more.

Option 4: Another roster move

This certainly isn’t out of the question. This roster has been constructed a little haphazardly, and the roles don’t exactly make perfect sense. Nitr0 was never supposed to be an IGL, and now they have one too many star players. An additional trade or pickup wouldn’t surprise me, the question is who they would get and who would they drop.

They’d have to drop one or both of Nitr0 and EliGE I think. They certainly aren’t going to drop Twistzz or Stewie, and I think NAF fits this team no matter who else they get. Dropping either of those players would be tough, seeing as how EliGE is still playing pretty well, and they’ve been competitive against Astralis with this core.

Option 5: They change the way that they play

Liquid could also switch their style up. They could play even more puggy, roaming the map in small units looking for trades, trying to play off their skill. They’d look more like the Cloud9 team that won the Major.

This isn’t the worst idea, as it worked for Cloud9 at the Eleague Boston Major. The question is will it work against Astralis. My gut says no, but then again, what will work against Astralis. I also don’t know if Twistzz would thrive in a system like that. He is playing well right now, drastic changes to their playstyle may impede his development.

Is nitr0 a real IGL?

Nitr0 picked up the IGL role in 2016, after the in-game coaching ban came through from Valve. He called for a couple weeks before ceding the responsibilities to Hiko. He took the job back during stanislaw’s tenure on the team and has been IGLing ever since. Stanislaw said that nitr0 “likes to micromanage more” and that the team “(has) a bit more structure to what (they’re) doing”.

The fact that nitr0 has been leading the team for this long is pretty impressive. The word being floated around the scene is that he is undervalued as a leader, and Zews didn’t have as much to do with the success of Liquid as some people thought.

Obviously, I can’t speak to whether this is true or not. But nitr0’s IGLing skills are paramount to him staying on this roster. Whether he can call without the coach and whether his system makes sense with the players now on the team are yet to be seen.

What does this all mean?

If you are looking to evaluate this team in the coming months, which you should be if you claim to be a CS bettor, it would behoove you to watch how these role conflicts play out, and how organized they look. Figuring out which of the players step back, and who their stars are is going to tell a lot about this team and how they should be valued. I’m personally optimistic, and I think that they have the pieces to be a really good team if they can get all the roles set.

Does this put them up on Astralis? No, not likely. But it could certainly close the gap leading up to the Major. So, we’ll see.

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