Summit was in talks with many teams during the most recent offseason, but a return to the LCS with Liquid was his No. 1 choice.
After missing the World Championship for the first time in four years last fall, Team Liquid reconfigured its entire approach to League of Legends esports.
Opting to go with a 2023 LCS roster that would prioritize communication in Korean over English, Liquid doubled the number of world champions on its roster by pairing star support Jo CoreJJ Yong-in with newly acquired jungler Hong “Pyosik” Chang-hyeon, the latter of whom had just won Worlds 2022 with DRX. A pair of talents from Team Liquid Academy, mid laner Harry Haeri Kang and AD carry Sean Yeon Sung, were promoted to the LCS roster as well.
The final piece of the puzzle was top laner Park Summit Woo-tae. After showing flashes of brilliance on a struggling Liiv SANDBOX in the LCK for the first few seasons of his pro career, Summit crossed the Pacific Ocean to play for Cloud9 in the 2022 LCS Spring Split. C9 played around the unrelenting aggression of Summit to great success, with the top laner earning MVP honors in his first competitive venture in North America.
But Summit was heavily focused in the Spring Split playoffs. His over-aggression left him exposed and C9, unhappy with a fourth-place finish, parted ways with the top laner in May despite his MVP performance from the previous month. It wasnt really my choice to leave, Summit told Dot Esports with a chuckle after Liquids most recent win in the 2023 LCS Spring Split (a shellacking of last-place Dignitas).Photo via Riot Games
Despite being offered to teams with no buyout, Summit was unable to find a squad in the LCS for the summer. So, he found a new opportunity in China. FunPlus Phoenix was certainly improved with Summit in the lineup, and while the team finished outside of the top six in the 2022 LPL Summer Split playoffs, the change of scenery lent itself to tougher, more aggressive competition than he was used to on C9.
Going into FPX and playing in the LPL was a new experience because there are like 10 other players who play like me, so some of my matchups were really spicy, Summit recalled. I improved a lot as a player on the mechanical side of my personal skills.
Summit was in talks with many teams during the most recent offseason, but a return to the LCS with Liquid was his No. 1 choice. They were the team I wanted to join due to the players and members of the team, the top laner said. As for coming back to LCS, I enjoyed my time here before, so I wanted to come back.
“I had a lot of good expectations for CoreJJ and Pyosik, and they are living up to them. Summit continued. Even though I’ve been a player for a long time, there are a lot of things to learn from people who have won a World Championship, so it’s really good to have players that I can lean on and trust.Photo by Colin Young-Wolff via Riot Games
Between his individual dominance displayed on C9, potential learnings from his support and jungler, and a team that communicates in his native tongue, its not preposterous to suggest that Summit could reach new heights on Liquid in 2023.
Six games into the Spring Split, however, that could not be further from the truth. Summit has been unable to even come close to replicating his C9 form. In the 2022 LCS Spring Split, Summit led all top laners in gold differential at 10 minutes, experience differential at 10 minutes, CS differential at 10 minutes (+12.7), damage per minute, and percentage of team damage, according to League stats site Oracle’s Elixir.
Summit is leading all top laners in the 2023 LCS Spring Split in all three “at 10 minutes” stats, according to Oracles Elixir, and hes still in the top three for DPM576, good for second behind C9 top laner Ibrahim Fudge Allamiand percentage of team damage23 percent, good for third behind Dignitas top laner İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek and Fudge. But hes also tied with Golden Guardians Eric Licorice Ritchie for most deaths among top laners at 24. For all his continued early-game dominance, his KDA is a paltry 1.7. Summit has, thus far, failed to protect his leads and been at the center of multiple mid-game collapses for Liquid with decision-making that could, at best, be considered misinformed.
This isnt news to Summit. Hes aware that his approach to competition is being exploited far more than it was on C9 and FPX. Whichever team I join, I always try to have a strong start and play a similar playstyle,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not really showing that right now. I’m still a bit shaky personally, but also, our performance as a team is shaky. I’m still not really satisfied right now.
It hasnt been all bad for Liquid, of course. One-third of the way through the 2023 LCS Spring Split, the squad sits tied for sixth place with TSM at a record of 3-3. If the regular season concluded today, Liquid would be in the Spring Split playoffs.
Still, its a slower start for what was expected to be one of the strongest LCS rosters this year. The general expectation was that Liquid and FlyQuest, another NA team that reconfigured its approach around a core of South Korean talent, were expected to battle atop the standings along with C9 while EG and 100 Thieves took time to gel and become title contenders. FlyQuest havent lost a game and currently sit atop the standings in sole possession of first place.
Liquid, on the other hand, are still finding themselves. Summit clearly has some things he needs to fix, but Yeons debut LCS campaign has been quiet at best and Haeri hasnt acclimated to the new level of competition the way EGs Joseph Joon jojopyun Pyun did so quickly last season.
Liquids slow start hasnt affected Summits confidence, however. His goals and his perspective on those goals since joining Liquid have remained unchanged. In terms of team performance, the goal is always to win the championship, Summit said matter-of-factly. Last time I was in the LCS, my team didn’t even go to the finals. That’s why I wanted to come back.
“I think a lot of people have high expectations for me and my teammates and I’m not really meeting those expectations. I really want to show that I can.
In the upcoming super week of the LCS Spring Split, Liquid are set to weather the scheduling storm of back-to-back-to-back matches against CLG, EG, and C9. A 3-0 week is a tall order and will require a higher level of play from Summit for it to be possible, but it would be hard to imagine Liquid outside of the Spring Split playoffs if they can bring that level of play to the LCS arena this week.