2020 has been a year of change for Team Liquid. The promising signing of Jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen was dampened by visa issues and the team struggling to find synergy in general. A 9th place finish in the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split after four consecutive domestic LCS championships meant changes were to be made for TL to reclaim its former glory.
Team Liquid Mid Laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen spoke to Inven Global's Nick Geracie about TL's Spring Spilt, his individual performance throughout the season thus far, and Edward "Tactical" Ra starting in place of Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng after the latter joined TSM in the 2020 LCS Summer Split.
I'm joined by Jensen a few days before the start of the Summer Split. How are you feeling about resuming competition?
It feels like a fresh start, in way. It's been a while since we've been the underdog going into a season. Things have been great so far; practice has been going pretty good lately so I'm just excited to get things going again.
This is the first time an LCS split has started online. How are you feeling about competing online this summer?
I don't know, I'm not too concerned about it. This just reminds me of back in season 2 when all the tournaments online and there wasn't an LCS or anything. It feels like a bit of throwback in that regard, but we played online towards the end of the last split, too, so it's nothing too unfamiliar at this point. It just kind of sucks not being able to go on stage, you know? The sh*tty part is not being able to play in front of a crowd and see everyone, but other than that, it's nothing too concerning.
How was making the online adjustment midway through last split?
I don't know, I felt like it was fine. I think that when you play on stage, you do feel a bit more in the zone because it's a completely different environment. Aside from that, I felt comfortable for the most part. It wasn't a very big change for me, but I just miss playing on stage.
Team Liquid had a rocky start to spring due to visa issues, but even after, it was expected for the team to make it to the post-season. Do you think factors from the COVID-19 pandemic played an integral part in TL not being able to turn things around?
I don't think I can blame our Spring Split on playing online. I think we just sucked. We had too many problems as a team, and we weren't playing well enough individually. We just really didn't come together as a team, and I think there are a lot of reasons as to why we couldn't turn things around. We were just not good enough, that's the truth of it. It's a harsh reality.
What was your reaction to being eliminated from post-season contention for the first time since your first LCS split?
I don't know. I had a feeling that there were going to be some changes because Team Liquid has really high standards when it comes to our play and the results of competition. We felt like we were lacking in a lot of areas, and ultimately, changes were made.
I feel like I played fine, so I didn't have too many goals myself in terms of what to change ahead of summer. It was just kind of a waiting game because I didn't have much of a say in what was going to happen. I didn't change anything ahead of summer, so I was just waiting to see what was going to happen.
Were you concerned that your spot might be up for grabs due to TL's 9th place finish, or did you feel like you were safe individually?
I don't think anyone should ever feel too comfortable with their roster spot. That being said, it is hard to get new players between spring and summer, or even just to make changes in general. That's especially true due to the Coronavirus going around; it's pretty much impossible to get imported players. I could be wrong, but I don't even think you can get a new visa right now.
I wasn't really concerned; I thought I was the best player on the team in the Spring Split. I feel pretty confident in my play, so I wasn't too worried myself. I didn't even know if there were going to be changes within the team, but it turned out that there were a few changes.
It sounds like while it was a disappointing split for the team, you felt you were doing well individually and doing what you could given the circumstances.
Yeah. I don't think I ever really got complacent. I feel like a couple of my teammates did, and didn't try hard enough, but it kind of makes sense in a way. I could see it from both sides because when you come from a team that's always been dominant, it's easy to take the losses not as seriously as you should. It's easy to think, 'Oh, it's just a bad game. We'll get back in shape. This isn't a big issue.'
I don't think anyone expected us not to qualify for Spring Playoffs, and usually, people really come together for the post-season. We had a bad start, so it was too little too late. I personally felt like I played fine in spring. I could have done better in some games, for sure, but I'd say overall that I was pretty satisfied with my performance.
Team Liquid started to experience success at the start of 2018 when Doublelift joined the team. You were added before 2019 as a reliable second carry. Now that he has joined TSM, do you feel like this is a new era for TL? Do you feel more pressure now that he is gone?
No, I don't really feel too much pressure. I think it will probably be natural for us to play more around mid lane, but at the same time, I don't think people have as high of expectations for us now that Doublelift is gone. Doublelift is the winningest player in NA, so it's natural for people to think that we will be worse. I don't really know what else there is to say...*laughs*
How has it been integrating Tactical into the team as a full-time starter?
He's been great so far. I think he was playing well before with us in spring, and he's really stable and solid. So far, he's been doing good.
Tactical went 2-1 in the LCS starting for TL in the Spring Split in Doublelift's place. Do you think those 3 games helped the team have confidence in naming him the starter to replace Doublelift once he went to TSM?
It helped, for sure, but I think the biggest selling point was how he was doing in practice. He was really stable, really good in lane, and really good at playing with the team. Overall, our playstyle was executed pretty smoothly when we played and practiced with Tactical last split.
I think that once we stopped playing with Jake "Xmithie" Puchero before this season, our playstyle has a team shifted a lot more towards playing to the top lane. I guess our team kind of fell apart when it came to that because we previously liked to play with resources towards bot lane. With Broxah, we started playing a lot more towards the top side. Things weren't really going too smoothly last split, but I think with Tactical, we are more flexible in that regard. It seems to be a better fit.
Thanks for the interview, Jensen. Is there anything you want to say to the Team Liquid fans before the start of the Summer Split?
Ultimately, I just want to apologize for our performance in the Spring Split. We've been working really hard in the off-season to do what we can to turn things around. This time around everyone is feeling a lot more motivated and everyone is playing a lot better together as a team. We won't disappoint this time around. Thanks for supporting us; I'm looking forward to the start of the Summer Split.
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