Team Liquid has decided mid laner Austin “Link” will be reprising his role as a live-in substitute and will no longer be splitting scrim time with Greyson “GoldenGlue” Gilmer. The announcement comes barely a month after it was first announced by Team Liquid that Link would rotate with GoldenGlue and compete for the starting position. With heavy criticism being levied at GoldenGlue lately, what may seem to be a strangely timed move is actually the best decision the team could have made for their season’s success.
This was a relationship doomed to fail from the beginning. When Team Liquid first announced the signing of Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin Team Liquid fans began salivating at the potential star-studded lineup that seemed inevitable after an influx of investor capital acquired in the off-season. Yet this glittering roster failed to materialize, and as the roster was announced no choice came under more scrutiny than that of Mid laner GoldenGlue.
GoldenGlue was not an unfamiliar name to fans of the NA LCS, having spent time on both Team Dignitas, Echo Fox, and Team 8. Most fans did not have impressive memories of GoldenGlue, a player who seemed to be nothing more than a role player in his LCS performances.
Rarely standing out, GoldenGlue found himself on Team Liquid Academy’s (TLA) roster at the end of last season, where they failed to secure an LCS spot after a 3-2 series defeat to Echo Fox in the Promotion Tournament. Still, it was on TLA that GoldenGlue formed a relationship wth current Team Liquid Head Coach David “Dlim” Lim, an aspect that may have given him an edge over other candidates.
While many fans were dismayed over the pick of GoldenGlue, the reality of the current state of NA talent is that there are limited options available at multiple positions. When Team Liquid signed Reignover, they limited themselves to being able to use their final import slot on likely either the mid or ADC position, neither of which had a surplus of unsigned NA talent. For the ADC position, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck would have provided a reasonable option, but early on in the off-season, he signed with Team Dignitas.
When Team Liquid made the decision to bring back Korean ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-Jin, they were left with limited mid lane options. Alongside Reignover, Piglet filled the two available import slots for Team Liquid and forced them to look for native talent to fill the position. Mid lane talent from NA is very limited, exemplified by the fact only four other NA LCS teams having non-import mid laners (Team SoloMid, Immortals, Dignitas, and FlyQuest) and only two of those players were actually born in North America. With most of the available talent already committed to their teams, Team Liquid had limited options available to them… leaving GoldenGlue as the best choice.
GoldenGlue was never intended to have to carry Team Liquid. Armed with some of the NA LCS’s best talents in Reignover and Piglet, GoldenGlue had a very clearly defined role as a player who only needed go even in the lane and let the team’s carries pull the team to victory. But after struggling to get out of the gate at IEM Gyeonggi, a very different GoldenGlue showed up as the tournament progressed. Boasting the title of “GoldenGod” he dominated Giants Gaming’s Night in the mid lane in their decider series, providing solo kills and impressive score lines as he cruised to a KDA over 7 for the entire tournament.
This was a flash of a different GoldenGlue, the GoldenGlue he could be for Team Liquid. In a meta that favored many of his comfort picks, GoldenGlue could be the extra dimension on a team that already gave opponents a lot to think about. But as flashes go, it was there and then it was gone when Team Liquid announced the arrival of former CLG Mid laner Link.
By signing Link, Team Liquid put GoldenGlue in a position to fail. Team Liquid took a player who had just had the best performance of his career and essentially told him it wasn’t good enough, to the point where they needed to bring in another player. “Oh, and by the way, he’s going to be taking half of your scrim time” – if there were any hints of self-doubt or confidence issues for GoldenGlue, the arrival of Link would have exacerbated them.
The loss of scrim time would have been very detrimental to GoldenGlue’s development and building synergy with the new members of the team. There is no other team in the NA LCS scrimming with this arrangement, in essence leaving GoldenGlue with half of the live practice time as his LCS opponents. That is also half as much time to develop shot-calling within the team and synergy with teammates such as Reignover, a critical loss as we see the importance of Mid and Jungle synergy continue to rise.
With the departure of Link, GoldenGlue is finally getting his first true chance to succeed on Team Liquid. Reinforced as the true number one player, there is no longer that player lurking just behind him in the shadows. TL made the right decision by demoting link, removing the shackles they placed upon GoldenGlue. Given a few weeks time, you may once again see the GoldenGod we had a glimpse of in Korea.