Licorice Is Ready for a Finals Rematch Against Cloud9: “I Think We Can Win”

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Licorice Is Ready for a Finals Rematch Against Cloud9: “I Think We Can Win”

Both fell out of favor with fans some time ago, Licorice and Golden Guardians are a match made in heaven as they make their way up to the top of the LCS.

Golden Guardians were one of four new teams awarded a slot in the newly franchised LCS back in 2018. Despite being backed by the NBA giants Golden State Warriors, GG was an org that never spent big and tried to exist in the league with more modest rosters. They almost struck gold with a promising young core in 2020, but they parted ways with that roster due to the budget cuts during the pandemic, and then they had to stand there and watch as that core won the LCS under the 100 Thieves banner.

Tired of four years full of mid-table finishes, Golden Guardians opened up a new chapter with their former head coach Nick “Inero” Smith at the helm as the new GM and started building a usual contender with Eric “Licorice” Ritchie as the unlikely centerpiece since the former LCS champion has been struggling since he left Cloud9.

Despite the usual low expectations, Golden Guardians surprised everyone watching during the 2023 LCS Spring by reaching all the way to the Finals, earning the right to represent the region at MSI 2023.

Licorice and Golden Guardians kept defying expectations at MSI

MSI itself was another opportunity for the Guardians to show what they are capable of, breezing through the Play-ins and giving the two LPL teams a lot of trouble despite the eventual defeats. The event itself was rough for not only LCS but West as a whole. Only G2 and GG were able to take games off from LCK/LPL teams, and that was one game each, which then led to the community sentiment of the gap between East and West getting worse and worse.

“I don't know. I think it's hard to say if it's getting worse or not because I think that the Eastern teams have always just been a lot stronger and generally it's been really hard for teams from the West to compete, especially against the top seed from the LCK and LPL. But I don't think we've gotten closer than we used to, I would say,” Licorice commented on the state of the competition level.

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But even with the overall unsuccessful results, there were some positive takeaways from the event with Licorice’s individual performance being one of them. The veteran player proved himself as someone who can compete on the biggest stage, which was a big confidence boost for him coming into the Summer.

“I had a good showing at MSI, I think that it just helped me feel a lot more confident about my skill level. I had a really good first few years of my career and then I struggled a little bit after that. I wasn't so sure if I was going to be a top player again. So it was really nice to be able to go to MSI and be like, oh, no, I can compete with the best of the best in the world. So I'm just feeling really confident about my play and my skill.”

msi golden guardians
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 06: (L-R) Kim “Gori” Tae-woo, Kim “River” Dong-woo and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie of Golden Guardians pose at the League of Legends – Mid-Season Invitational Play-Ins Stage on May 6 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

With their Spring and MSI performances combined, Golden Guardians were at the top of nearly everyone’s rankings as we got ready for Summer Split. “It definitely feels nice. As pro players, I think everyone's really competitive, I know I am. When you don't feel like you have a good chance of winning, I find it harder to stay motivated. So I think that it's just really exciting to be a title contender right off the bat and to know that we can be at the very top,” was Licorice’s sentiment about GG being considered a challenger for the title, first time ever in the Golden Guardians history.

Looking to go a step further in the Summer Split

The start of the Summer Split was very slow for the Guardians as they lost their first two games. But neither Licorice nor the Guardians were worried about it, ”Obviously, we wouldn't have liked to start 0-2, but I think that we've recovered pretty well and that we're starting to play better as a team again,” as they turned it around very quickly with a four-game win streak to close out Week 2.

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Similar to the Spring Playoffs and MSI, Licorice has been a very big win condition for GG during this win streak. In a meta without much variety, Licorice also isn’t afraid to pull out something new, whether it is Rumble or the Hullbreaker Yone. “I've always just enjoyed playing a lot of different champions. A lot of pro players specialize in a handful of champions, and they mostly play those. But I always like pulling out the surprise picks. It's also helpful that my coaching staff has a lot of confidence in me, based on playoffs and MSI especially. They just have a lot of confidence in me that if I think something is going to be good, it'll probably go well. I have a lot of room to experiment right now.”

With the third team at the Spring Finals Weekend, FlyQuest, starting the split 0-6, there are not many roadblocks in front of Golden Guardians as they look for a rematch against Cloud9. Although Licorice thinks FlyQuest can still turn their season around, “As soon as you get to the point where playoffs are threatened when you lose one or two games, the pressure gets really high. But I think that at the point they're at, they can definitely still turn it around,” he still believes they will meet Cloud9 at the Finals once again.

“I think we can win. It'd be nice to win. There's only so much in our control. I have no idea what the meta is going to be like or anything. Cloud9 is a strong team, especially in North America, so we just have to do our best.”

Licorice and Golden Guardians’ journey in the 2023 LCS Summer will continue in Week 3 as they take on NRG, 100 Thieves and Team Liquid.

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Licorice Is Ready for a Finals Rematch Against Cloud9: “I Think We Can Win”
Rohat Dicle Kılınç
Rohat is a writer mainly focused on the League of Legends esports scene, and an LCS hopeful.