In the recent month, Team Liquid's League of Legends team has regularly put top laner Eon-yeong "Impact" Jung on carry champions such as Jayce or Vladimir, whose primary job is to win duels, push lanes and/or inflict massive damage to win team fights.
The issue with this is that playing carries is the quickest way to make Impact's name ironic.
Over his career, Impact has resolutely proven himself to be best at playing tanks, bruisers and other champions who epitomize the Top Lane Island style of gameplay: champions who are low economy and whose primary value comes from their ability to waste enemy resources attempting to kill them as well as form frontlines who can engage and peel for teammates later in the game.
And yet, Team Liquid seems insistent on putting Impact on champions with which he cannot perform to his peak.
There are several possible explanations for why Liquid continues to push the tactic. The most reasonable is that in a metagame with several dangerous high-priority top laners, it's difficult to push all of them out in the ban phase and thus picking them robs enemies of valuable champions.
Another explanation, less reasonable but still somewhat logical, is that Team Liquid are training Impact on carries against lesser teams to get him more practice in preparation for harder opponents.
In all honesty, though, no amount of reasoning can explain away that it is fundamentally a poor idea.
Impact cannot influence the game on carries the same way he can on tanks, and Team Liquid's player balance in the team should not require him to do so.
In a team that boasts the brains of Jake "Xmithie" Puchero in the jungle, star talent Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen in the mid lane and internationally top-tier bottom lane Yiliang Peter "Doublelift" Peng and Yong-in "CoreJJ" Jo, it is, bluntly, a poor distribution of resources to put the responsibility of carrying into Impact's hands.
Impact has shown his best performances on champions like Shen, Sion and Urgot, and has a comfortable pool beyond onto champions such as Gangplank and Kennen. There shouldn't be a need to make him play Jayce or Vladimir.
Team Liquid's insistence on subscribing to the metagame and focusing on pushing strong solo laners instead of playing to their strengths in the mid and bot lanes is concerning in its continuing search to emulate other teams' vision in playing the game.
The fact of the matter is that there are too many top-tier threats in the top lane that other, defter hands can pilot that can outplay a hobbled Impact. If Impact has to take Jayce into the hands of a Fiora, Irelia or even Sylas or Hecarim into the likes of Seun-kok "TheShy" Kang, Dong-ha "Khan" Kim or Martin "Wunder" Hansen, then he is going to get outplayed, never mind the strength of the champion.
The best teams are those that focus on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. In the past, it was a weakness of North American teams to try overly-much to play to their strengths and then get smashed when it became apparent that their best strengths couldn't match those of their opponents.
Now NA teams are not miles behind competition but instead seem intent on hampering themselves by trying to minimize their weaknesses instead of building on the strengths that they have earned over the years.
Team Liquid would be best served by not trying to follow the leader and emulate the style of other teams whose player balance is differently distributed. Trying to be the best at everything, worst at nothing, more often than not ends up with a team that is just mediocre everywhere.
Truth be told, even when playing to their peak, Team Liquid are unlikely to be considered favorites against the likes of G2 Esports, SK Telecom T1 or likely champions Invictus Gaming.
But at least Team Liquid could go down fighting on their terms or possibly even pulling off an upset win, instead of collapsing by trying to play the enemy's style against them.
Cover image courtesy of Team Liquid