Five days after Team Liquid was crowned champion of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Lock In, the 2021 LCS Spring Split began. Team Liquid entered the tournament as the obvious team to beat, but through the first round robin of play, the LCS competition has gotten the better of TL more than expected.
After a clinical dismembering of Golden Guardians to kick off week 3 of the LCS Spring Split, Team Liquid stumbles in a loss to Evil Geniuses, but finished the weekend strong with a trouncing of Cloud9. TL is currently 5-4, and sits tied for 5th place in the standings with EG. Mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen spoke to Inven Global about defeating Golden Guardians, Team Liquid's up-and-down start to the Spring Split, and the current state of the competitive mid lane meta.
Congratulations on your win against Golden Guardians, Jensen. Is this win indicative of Team Liquid's return to form?
We went in with a different and clearer game plan on how to draft and play the game, and I think we actually played pretty well. We made a couple of mistakes, but it was nothing too big this time around. In addition, Golden Guardians didn't really play well in lanes and didn't do anything to play to its composition's win condition, so it was pretty straightforward for us.
When you mention "a couple of mistakes" does that include your last-minute swan dive into the GG fountain?
[laughs] I wouldn't consider that a mistake. I mean, it was a mistake, but I don't think it impacted the game at all. [laughs] That was unfortunate.
Jokes aside, the casters were thrown for a loop when Golden Guardians made the last minute flex to put Pantheon in top lane and Gragas in the support position. Was this expected from the side of Team Liquid, and did you have to do anything to adjust the way you played your composition based on the last-minute swap by GG?
No, we didn't expect it at all. GG's draft looked pretty confusing, we didn't really know where any of their first four champions would go at first. There were a lot of flex picks, but they ended up picking Pantheon into Camille.
To be honest, I don't know that matchup too well, but I think it sounds okay for Pantheon because he wants to snowball the early game against Camille. However, if he falls behind, he's bound to die over and over, so it's kind of a coin flip. It could go really well, but it could also go really bad. Golden Guardians took a risk with the Pantheon top lane, and it didn't work out for them.
Team Liquid was expected to continue its dominance from the 2021 LCS Lock In, but that hasn't been the case so far. Is this due to your team faltering, or have the other LCS teams improved?
I don't think the other teams got much better in such a short period of time, though it's definitely possible that the teams got a bit better. We also have tried out a lot of different stuff, and overall, we aren't performing as well as we did in the LCS Lock In. People are feeling a bit exhausted, but I think we are slowly getting back on track.
Is the exhaustion due to the short amount of time between the end of the LCS Lock In and the start of the Spring Split?
I'm not really sure, I know a lot of teams took two days off after the Lock In. We went the distance and won the whole thing, so we essentially had no off days, which is when I think the exhaustion set in.
Normally, when you win a tournament, you have some time to relax. Unfortunately, that wasn't really the case. We all felt a bit tired after winning the Lock In. We were able to get some rest in the next week, but overall, it just feels weird winning a tournament and then heading right back into practice the next day. It's definitely not something I'm familiar with, and I think that was why we as a team felt a bit tired.
C9 has talked about its initial read on the competitive meta being suboptimal and holding the team back early on in the season. Has Team Liquid struggled in any similar ways?
I don't think the meta has changed much, at least for me in the mid lane. I honestly don't even remember how big of a change the most recent patches have been because they've changed more for other roles. I don't think we had too big of an issue adapting to the new meta during our losses this split, we've just played badly.
The mid lane meta has been pretty consistent for a few patches. Azir, Syndra and Orianna are the premiere picks, and also, your three most played champions of 2021. Would you say that control mages are simply the best choice for competitive play when it comes to mid laners in the current meta?
I think all of these champions, and maybe including Viktor, are the best if they can be stable. You can play other champions, but the problem with that is if the opposing control mage is stable and goes unpunished, it will be way more impactful than the side that needs to snowball. Control mages are not particularly strong in the mid game, but if they can scale without making mistakes, they will be the best mid lane champions for the game state, in my opinion.
All images by: David Lee for Riot Games