Santorin talks Team Liquid’s team style, facing off against Blaber
Team Liquid beat TSM in a convincing 3-1 series to close out the first playoff match of the revamped 2021 LCS Spring Split, sending the regional giants into the losers bracket. While the boys in black and white will have another chance to run the gauntlet, Liquid advances to face the winner of 100 Thieves vs. C9 on April 4th.
We spoke with Team Liquid’s star jungler Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen for the first time since Lock In to talk about the series, his previous head-to-heads with TSM, and the matchup between him and Robert “Blaber” Huang.
Hotspawn: Hey Santorin, congrats on that win! One step closer to the finals. How’re you feeling after that series?
Santorin: I feel good. We finally beat TSM. Last time I played TSM in a best of five, I lost 2-3 in the finals. I’m really happy we beat them this time around. We didn’t play as clean as we probably should’ve, but we got the 3-1 so I’m happy.
Hotspawn: You guys were 0-2 against TSM in the regular season, but this series told a much different story. What changed between then and now that resulted in this convincing victory?
Santorin: I still think we’re the better early game team. Our biggest issues have always been closing out the game, and we kinda showed that last game as well. Game four we made a decent amount of stupid mistakes, but in general I always felt like we had the upper hand and just had to close out the game quickly.
Hotspawn: I’m glad you brought it up— I’d like you to walk me through that fourth game. To me, it seemed like Team Liquid held the reigns for the majority of the game, but it took a couple of tries to finally end it. Was it just a matter of difficulty closing due to team comps?
Santorin: We had a really good draft. It all started downhill when we dove top and just died. That was where it became harder for us to play the game, but when we actually got the leads later in the game and we started sidelaning, we [got] a little too impatient. We just had to take it a little slower, and not give them the same engage angles. I died three or four times in a row, because every single time I went back I was like “ok, this time I’ll be tanky because I have more items,” but I was never tanky [laughs]. We definitely could’ve cleaned it up a lot quicker.
Hotspawn: On the whole, is this about how you expected the series to go? How confident were you confident going in?
Santorin: I was thinking 3-0, 3-1. I feel like we’re just the better team right now, so as long as we show up we’ll do better.
Hotspawn: What about the rest of playoffs? You’ll either face C9 or 100 Thieves next, depending on who wins tomorrow.
Santorin: I assume we’ll be facing C9. I feel pretty good about it. We beat them in the regular season both times, we beat them in Lock In. We basically beat them every time it matters, so hopefully, we’ll just continue that.
Hotspawn: Two weeks into the split, I spoke with CoreJJ about Team Liquid’s developing team style, and he felt it was too early to define it. Do you have a clearer vision of what it might be now that you’ve had a few months to try things out?
Santorin: Yeah, I’d say so. Throughout the split we tried out a lot of different things, which is also why our record isn’t as good as I think we are as a team. We wanted to see what we do best, and now heading into playoffs we 3-0’d the week before playoffs, because we’re playing to our strengths now. We draft the way we want to play the game and the way we play the game the best, so I feel really really good about how we are as a team right now. Hopefully, we can take it all.
Hotspawn: What are the strengths of Team Liquid that set you apart from the other playoff teams?
Santorin: We’re really good around playing around top. Obviously, Alphari is a monster in his 1v1 matchups, and usually giving him a good matchup will always make the game easier. The way we play as a team it feels more natural playing through top, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play through bot and mid. I think we’re pretty good about doing that as well, but the way a lot of our drafts work out it just comes natural.
Hotspawn: Shifting away from the team, how’re you feeling about your individual play?
Santorin: I feel really confident. The first couple weeks when I started playing again, I didn’t feel that I was playing to my own level. In the Lock In tournament I didn’t feel like I played as well as I should’ve, and the first couple weeks of Spring LCS I didn’t feel like I was playing to my level as well. Then I had that whole issue where I couldn’t sleep for a week, I barely got sleep so I was underperforming.
But the last couple weeks I’ve had really good sleep. I feel like I can take anyone down. The only jungler that has been playing better than me this split has been Blaber, but I feel good about playing him every time. I know he’s a really good jungler, but I feel like I can match up to him.
Hotspawn: You feel like you’re not on the same level as Blaber right now?
Santorin: I wouldn’t say I’m not the level of Blaber, but the level of play I’ve shown is not the level of Blaber. Like in the Summer of 2020 I felt like I actually had a better split than him, even though he got all pro number one, I felt like I deserved it more. I feel like I’m normally pretty reasonable with who had the better split—like in Spring, he definitely played way better than me and then Summer I felt like I played better.
And now in Spring I feel like overall he’s been playing better, but if you look at just the last couple weeks, I feel like I’ve been playing at least as well as Blaber. For me, I always take some time to ramp up. I feel like in the beginning I’m not as good, and once I start performing consistently— I would say Blaber is a better carry jungler, he’s better at taking control of a game by himself, and I’m a more supportive jungler, and I help my team a lot.
Hotspawn: I’m looking forward to seeing you two face off again. That’s all I’ve got for you at the moment! Thanks again for joining me Santorin, and good luck in the next few weeks.
Santorin: Thank you!
Team Liquid and Santorin are currently competing in the Mid-Season Showdown. Their next match will take place next Sunday, April 4th, against the winners of tonight’s (March 21st) Cloud9 and 100 Thieves clash. You can catch all the action live on the LCS’s Twitch and YouTube channels.