TL Santorin: “I missed [winning] so much”
On January 31, Team Liquid became the first-ever champions of the League of Legends Championship Series Lock In tournament after a nail-biting five-game series against Cloud9. With this win, the org established itself as the clear team to beat going into the 2021 Regular Season.
After the victory, we caught up with Lucas “Santorin” Larsen, who’s now won his first LCS tournament since 2015, to hear his thoughts on the day, his new teammates, and the jungle meta.
Hotspawn: Congrats on the win, Santorin! This is your first time winning anything in NA since your TSM days, no?
Santorin: Yeah, anything that’s what I would consider to be big. I won Challenger Series and stuff, but that doesn’t really count for anything, you know? So definitely, this is the first one since 2015.
Hotspawn: How does that feel? Over recent years you’ve been talking about how you’re just really trying to start winning again and now you have.
Santorin: I feel amazing. Honestly, after game four, I was getting really nervous because last time in the finals I lost to TSM 3-2 so I was getting a little anxious. Once we finally won, wow, it’s just such a good feeling. I missed it so much.
Hotspawn: Does it equate to a championship title in terms of levels of excitement?
Santorin: Honestly, I think so. Especially considering what we went through as Team Liquid, like me not getting my visa on time. We were going through a lot of different things and it was like training weights almost; it felt like it was harder than it should be. I really enjoy the format of the Lock In tournament. We’re playing best of fives against the best teams; I’d consider it to be just as important as Spring and Summer except it doesn’t count towards Worlds. I’m really really happy.
Hotspawn: That’s great! I know you got there with only a week of practice before quarters. What was it like slotting in and playing with two powerhouse solo laners in Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Barney “Alphari” Morris?
Santorin: It’s really nice. I feel like they’re really versatile players that can play any style and that’s something that I really enjoy. I always felt like if you want to play the game properly, you have to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown at you. Especially in draft, you need to be able to play all different styles and have different counterpicks. These guys have insane champion pools and are really great players so I’m happy playing with them.
Hotspawn: Yeah, we saw how dominant Alphari looked this series and Jensen was a rock as well. Has playing with such consistent solo laners forced you to change your playstyle or adapt to them in any major way?
Santorin: I’m definitely adapting to how my laners are playing and it’s definitely a different playstyle. Alphari is a good example because I actually don’t give him a lot of attention because he’s just naturally beating the shit out of the other guy. He’s always winning and it actually doesn’t make sense for me to go top because he’s just destroying them 1v1. For Jensen, honestly, he’s been playing really well. This series, he was kind of clapping Luka “Perkz” Perković. There were a lot of times, especially in the Azir vs. LeBlanc game, where Jensen was just taking over.
My solo laners are really good, but I let me talk about my bot lane. I’ve never seen a bot lane solo-kill enemy bot lane so many times within a month. They’re insane.
Hotspawn: [Laughs] How is it playing with someone like Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in who is always making creative plays and looking for weird angles? Does he just say stuff in comms that makes you go “woah, we can do that?”
Santorin: Oh yeah, when it comes to Core, he’s such a smart player and such a good engager. When he goes for an engage, I always feel confident that what he’s going for and what he sees is gonna work out which is an amazing feeling to have. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t, but I feel like nine out of ten times it does; he’ll carry the game just through his engaging. He has really good communication and he’s such a well-versed player. I’m stoked to play with him more.
Hotspawn: Switching gears a bit, you made a tweet about Udyr after the match. Is it surprising for someone like you, who’s been around for a while now, to see such an unorthodox champ slot into the meta? Do you think it’s actually good or are people just copying what they saw in LCK?
Santorin: I think Udyr is really strong right now. When preseason hit, they buffed tank items and a lot of people, including myself, were playing a lot of Udyr jungle. Then they nerfed tank items and he kind of disappeared and people stopped thinking about him. I think it was Pyosik from LCK that played Udyr again and everyone kind of got a reminder that he’s still a champion. I actually really love playing the champion because there’s almost no bad sides to playing it; I think the only bad side is that mechanically it’s so goddamn easy [laughs]. You have insane clear speed, incredible ganks, you win almost all 1v1s. The champ is just super strong right now and honestly, in this series, I should’ve picked Udyr in game four instead of Taliyah, but I was like “there’s no way Udyr’s THAT strong, right?” Then after game four, I was like “yeah, we’re picking Udyr.”
Hotspawn: Most of the junglers I’ve spoken with really like that aggressive picks are back right now, but do you think some teams or players will struggle as the meta shifts from that?
Santorin: It very much depends on the players. I’m confident that we won’t have issues on Team Liquid because we are all good players that can play any specific playstyle. There’ll definitely be players struggling if the meta goes from a carries to supportive style junglers that have to engage. I think that’s something that I had issues with in the past back on TSM. In Spring, it was a super heavy carry meta with Nidalee and champs like that, but then in Summer it was engage champs like Gragas and tank Ekko. I just didn’t know how to play those playstyles yet. I’m sure some teams will struggle if there are changes, but the top teams should be fine.
Hotspawn: On the topic of inexperienced junglers, what are your thoughts on the newer talent starting to make names for themselves in the league like Ethan “Iconic” Wilkinson, Lu “Spica” Ming-yi, and even Xin “Nxi” Dinh, who subbed for FlyQuest?
Santorin: I did think Iconic has been playing better than expected for someone just coming out of nowhere. I think he was the one person that stood out to me; I was watching the games from home and he was playing really well. I didn’t think that he was going to join [the LCS] and just do well. There’s usually a lot of pressure on rookies and you’re not really sure what you’re getting into when you sign a new player and don’t have much data on the player. I was really excited to see some NA talent do well; I think that’s good for the region and I hope they continue to do well.
Hotspawn: Awesome to hear! I don’t want to keep you from celebrating your victory much longer, so do you mind giving us some parting words on what people can expect from Team Liquid this year?
Santorin: Hopefully they can expect more winning, especially in NA. I really wanna lift the Spring and Summer trophies. I haven’t really won a trophy that counts since towards Worlds 2015 and I really wanna get back. I think Alphari and Edward “Tactical” Ra haven’t won either, so it’d be awesome to lift the trophy as a team. In the long term, I want to make it out of groups at Worlds and kind of take it from there. That’s where our heads are at right now: winning NA and going to Worlds and doing well.