Team Liquid’s jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen is one of the standout junglers in the LCS. As a player who’s been part of the league on four different teams and has gone to Worlds with all of them, he was one of the main facilitators and carries in each and this year will be no different.
As the jungler of one of the two most looked at teams in the 2021 LCS season, Santorin and the rest of his squad were destined for North American greatness. Champions of the first-ever LCS Lock In tournament, two back-to-back second-place finishes in the subsequent spring and summer split finals and yet another Worlds qualification for the organization and Team Liquid could have been considered a success, at least domestically. And this was all with a Santorin that was missing in key parts throughout the season.
Hit by unsuspected health complications, Team Liquid had to play without their starting jungler in the spring split semifinals and finals.
His absence also continued about three weeks into the summer split in which he once again had to step down — he wouldn’t return until week nine.
Once he returned, his presence was immediately felt in both the LCS post-season and Worlds. But with a new year comes a new Santorin, one that has been able to manage his health situation and is looking towards the positives going into the 2022 season.
“I haven't been very public about my health situation just because it's ongoing but what I can always say is I have not had any health issues that actually affected me since summer finals. I've been feeling really good the last over half a year now," Santorin told Inven Global.
"That's also why at Worlds I felt better and feel more ready to play because I could actually play the game to the extent I wanted to, whereas like in spring and summer there are so many times where I just had to rest and couldn't really play solo Q [and] couldn't really practice what I needed to practice. I felt kind of hindered in terms of performance. I've been feeling really good so far this year because I feel like I finally am able to do what I used to do."
Coinciding with Santorin’s health improvements, superstar mid-laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg came out of retirement and joined Team Liquid after he surprised the North American landscape by leaving Team SoloMid after eight years.
Both Santorin and Bjergsen teamed together on Team SoloMid back in 2015 and when Santorin heard about the possibility of getting to play alongside him once again it got him “excited” all the while reiterating that his time with former Team Liquid mid-laner, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen was much appreciated.
“I was really excited. So I mean, first of all, I really like playing with Jensen as well. It's not like I was like, oh my god, I finally have a mid laner. It's like, okay, this is another really really good mid laner who also happens to be Danish. And I think the most exciting part about it was that back in 2015 when I played with Bjerg I felt like he was really really good and I had so much to learn," Santorin said.
"I've said this many times, I didn't feel like I was ready to play for TSM, I kind of wished that my career had started a little slower and [I] learned a little more before I had that opportunity because I think it could have been so much better in some sense.”
“I'm really happy I get to play with Bjerg now seven to eight years later because I feel like I'm a completely new player and I can tell he is as well. We're just way more well-rounded and we're just overall better people and players. It's really exciting to kind of like reuniting with them.” Although a crucial part of Team Liquid’s offseason moves, Bjergsen’s joining of the team was one of many that helped create North America’s new superteam.
After adding European top-laner Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau, who role swapped back to top-lane after his half-year stint in the jungle and adding superstar AD Carry from the LEC Steven “Hans Sama” Liv to go alongside multiple time MVP winning support, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, the team is set up for a different type of play that in Santorin’s eyes not only allows for the team to be more flexible but allows him to carry as well.
“I think this year will be a little less about facilitating [for the] team because I think we're more flexible as a team," Santorin explained. "I think last year we had a very kind of one-sided play style where we really liked to play through top and kind of get top lane a lead.
This year, I feel like we're more flexible in the sense that people are okay playing strong side weak side. It's not that we weren't okay, playing weak side last year we were just really good at playing strong side top. So it just makes sense if you ever play like Alphari to just go ham in the top lane.
But now we have a very flexible top laner in Bwipo. He likes to play some tanks as well which will also put me in a spot to play carry junglers. So I'm looking forward to this year. Also, Bjerg is one of those players that can pretty much play any champion and any style, which is kind of again, where it also allows me to play carry junglers. So I think we’ll be super flexible as a team. It's just whether or not we will be starting with the actual roster. That's what I'm really looking forward to.”
However, all of these positives don’t get Santorin hyper-fixated in the team’s success, as he understands that even though he’s currently the starting jungler of what many would consider a superteam, there are plenty of other junglers in the league that will also give him and his team a run for their money.
“I think In a jungle pool is super stacked right now, I'm not going to lie. I feel like all these players are really really good. And I also see a world where every single one of these players would be the strongest jungler — I think that's what's so exciting.”
He remains confident yet humble, knowing fully well that all of these junglers like the reigning summer split MVP Mingyi “Spica” Lu, spring split MVP, Robert “Blaber” Huang, as well as the likes of
Can "Closer" Çelik and Kacper "Inspired" Słoma could all take the number one spot in the role.
“I could see myself being number one, I could also see any of the other ones being number one. Which, is like, who gets the edge on the other team? That usually comes down to what's the meta? How does the team gel? How are you individually performing? All these kinds of things, so I could see myself being number one, two, three, probably like top three at least. And I could also see myself being the best one, but it really just comes down to who steps up the most.”
Health improvements, a reuniting with Bjergsen, and what he deems to be a more flexible Team Liquid this year has Santorin stating that fans can expect the “best version of me”, not only that but fans can also expect a happier Santorin as well. I think last year was really, really emotionally hard for me not to the point where we're talking about depression or anything like that," said Santorin.
"It was just like, you know, there's a lot of times throughout the year where I wasn't sure if I could continue competing, and that obviously, mentally is straining, because I was worried that these health issues would kind of take over. So always having that in the back of your mind is not something you want.
This year, I feel a lot healthier, I feel more motivated because now I can actually do what I want to do when I want to play solo can play solo queue there's not anything hindering me from becoming the player I want to be.
If I fail this year, it's completely on me. and there's nothing that has been impacting it. Whereas last year there were so many things that I could use as excuses, I don't want to but there were just things that made it harder for me. It will be the best version of me and I'll do everything to make sure we succeed.”
After what was less than an ideal year for Santorin with no fault of his own, it’s a sight for sore eyes not just for a Team Liquid fan, but for any LCS fan, in general, to see Santorin with a clean bill of health. With a roster as star-studded as this year’s Team Liquid, Santorin is poised to potentially have one of his best seasons yet.