After his triumphant hard-carry performance against FlyQuest, we sat down with Pyosik to ask about his time in the LCS so far and whether or not there’s any truth to Team Liquid having stage nerves. While he’s confident now, that certainly wasn’t the case when he first came to NA.
Team Liquid has had an unexpectedly turbulent start in the LCS for 2023. After a less-than-stellar 2022, TL traded in their star-studded roster filled with some of the best players in the West for a team made up of top-tier talent from Korea and a few rookies that had room to grow.
Hong ‘Pyosik’ Chang-hyeon headlined the roster as a freshly crowned World Champion jungler, and expectations were sky-high for this team when the LCS started.
They’ve since dipped far below those expectations and haven’t been able to dominate the LCS like many fans expected them to. TL have struggled, and most of their wins have been against low-tier teams. That is, until Pyosik managed to carry his entire squad to victory against FlyQuest, the current best team in the LCS. What changed?
Pyosik and the rest of Team Liquid are still warming up
It’s taken some time for Team Liquid to come together and make themselves look like a roster that can truly contest the top spot in the LCS. Their record isn’t the strongest at 6-8 at the time of writing, but they’ve still got a good chance at hitting the playoffs if they’re able to win every game they’ve got ahead of them.
Pyosik himself didn’t expect Team Liquid to have such a slow start. That paired with his surprise at how high the level of play was in the LCS has led to TL having a rough record so far.
“It was difficult because I didn’t expect for all the LCS players to have really good fundamentals. They’re able to do what they need to do in-game, so it was a lot tougher than I thought. Another factor is that I didn’t think we were going to take this long to mesh together as a team, so that made it more difficult.”
That said, Pyosik’s explosive Lee Sin performance against FlyQuest has instilled confidence in Team Liquid fans that they can have a very real chance at a Playoffs run.
He spent much of the early game putting his bot lane ahead, granting TL’s bot lane (and himself) enough of a lead to run over the entire map. Team Liquid’s objective fights were on point against FlyQuest, and it’s something we asked Pyosik about considering that fighting around objectives is something he’s struggled with in the past.
“Usually, I like to play the game in more of a calculated way. I don’t like to gamble and take risks. I try to play my games through reasoning and logic. But, if I’m really behind, I’ll go for the 50/50 in Smite fights.”
This came along with the admission that he feels like he feels “a little more pressure to carry” in comparison to his time on DRX. As a jungler who’s been on the receiving end of so much criticism in his career, it’s no surprise that he’s looking to prove that he can take another title.
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Is Team Liquid really having problems with stage nerves?
Even in Team Liquid’s victories, they haven’t looked very happy with their wins after the fact. That’s something that’s changed recently, with Pyosik getting crowded by his teammates after a hard-carry match being one of the first times that Team Liquid has really looked happy about taking a big win.
This has led to speculation from fans and analysts that Team Liquid is having some serious stage nerves. We asked Pyosik directly about whether or not he’s feeling the pressure on the LCS stage and, while he was at one point, he’s been able to move past any stage nerves and is performing much better.
“There were definitely nerves. For me, I was actually more nervous than the World Finals match for my first LCS game. Haeri and Yeon coming in as rookies, they also seemed nervous a little bit. It’s not that much different from the scrim setting, so we’re getting used to it. Definitely at the start, but not anymore.”
Only months ago, Pyosik was on the biggest stage in the world with millions of viewers. With the confidence he gained from DRX’s historic Worlds 2022 run, he was a bright and vibrant personality on-stage with an in-game presence to match.
Though it may sound strange to hear him saying he was more nervous to step onto the LCS stage than to face T1 in the World Finals, he was playing with an all-new team and strapping in for a long split in a country he’s never lived in before. TL was clearly having some growing pains.
But have they gotten past those growing pains fast enough to make a flawless run through their next four matches and secure a spot in the Playoffs, no tiebreaker required? When asked about how confident he was on a scale of 1-10 that TL would make the cut, he pondered it for a moment before giving us a number: “7”.
They’ve managed to win one of the most important matches in the coming weeks, but there’s still a long road ahead for Team Liquid to complete their redemption arc.