No other team was as dominant as Team Liquid in the first week of the 2022 LCS Summer Split. TL started off their summer by perfect gaming Immortals and followed up with two convincing wins against Dignitas and Cloud9. After the perfect game against Immortals, Team Liquid jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen spoke about his team's improvements, his matchup against Immortals jungler Shane Kenneth "Kenvi" Espinoza, and his thoughts on the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs.
You just perfect game'd Immortals!
In the comms I was screaming like "Guys, please, we have the perfect game at this point! I don't care how we win the game, just don't die. Please don't die or fountain dive!" [laughs] I really wanted the perfect game.
Was there a certain point where you realized it was possible?
I think it was when we were up 13 kills to zero and we had the first Baron. We were sieging and got the mid lane inhibitor, but it felt hard to break more than that. I was like, "Guys, let's just farm and try to get a perfect game" because I was looking at our turrets — they were all up. I was looking at our dragons — we had them all and we had all the Rift Heralds. Because of that, I was like, "Guys, please... We have to perfect game them." I don't know if I've ever had one before.
It was quite the slaughter on your end, but it was also Kenvi's first game as an LCS starter. It felt like he couldn't do much given the laning gaps your team established. What are your thoughts on his first time as an LCS starter?
After the game, I went up to him because I felt really bad for him. When I think of Kenvi, I think of Kindred and Graves as his main champions that he's really f*****g good at, and I don't know how good his Taliyah is because it was very hard for him to play this game. This is where it becomes painful as a jungler — you first pick Taliyah and you need setup, but then you're playing Taliyah/Viktor as your mid/jungle combo which doesn't really do anything.
It just felt really hard for him to play, so when I put myself in his shoes, I felt really, really bad, especially considering that this is his first game as an LCS starter. I don't even know if that was the champion he wanted to play on; he wasn't as comfortable as he could have been. In addition, he wasn't set up for success. I felt really bad for him because I don't think I really got to see Kenvi as a player.
I feel like you could put any player in this position and I don't think they would succeed. That's why I felt pretty bad for him.
Was that just a matter of how behind his lanes were or do you think he was doomed compositionally?
I think that it would be very hard to play that game no matter what. You can argue that they could win the game but I felt like our draft was better and I felt that, as a jungler, I would be very upset in getting Taliyah first pick and getting that out of the rest of your team composition.
I feel this especially because Taliyah/Viktor jungle/mid is something I don't think anyone should use. Taliyah and Viktor are both really good scaling champions but have a hard time doing something by themselves. They need someone else to begin the fight and start something, and you don't really have that when you're playing them as a mid/jungle combo.
We were playing Twisted Fate/Wukong and we had so much starting power. As a Taliyah, you can't really walk anywhere without getting one-shotted. It just feels really hard to play, which is why this was the first time I went to a player in this fashion.
What did you say to Kenvi at that moment after you won?
I just told him that I felt bad for him because I didn't think he could play that game in a way that we won. When you first pick Taliyah and that's what you end up with as a composition... I just felt really bad for him. You want to shine and show yourself as a player in your first game as a starter and I just felt he was set up for failure.
I know Team Liquid had a Korean bootcamp. Did you have time to go home this at all in this mid-season?
After we got 3rd place in Houston, I flew to Canada and stayed there for two or three weeks. I was visiting my girlfriend and then I came back to LA, and then I went from LA to Korea. We flew back to LA on June 9. I'm really bad with jetlag. I know it's already been a week, but I'm still not feeling too well. I mean, I'm feeling fine, I'm just very tired and exhausted. However, I can feel it getting more normal day-to-day so it's looking up.
You mentioned your 3rd place finish in the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs which was obviously not the desired result.
I have to ask this because they changed the Baron Nashor level-up mechanic after it messed with your Smite timing. Does that make you feel vindicated or give you closure?
This is one of the harder things for me. On one hand, I'm really happy they changed it because it was a really stupid mechanic that really screwed me over. At the same time, though, because it screwed me over, I will always think of it. Therefore, by that logic, it will never happen to me again but it could happen to my opponent or those kinds of things, right? The change is almost nerfing me as a player because this is a thing I would always be thinking about.
Right, no one is going to think about it if it hasn't happened to them like it happened to you.
Exactly! However, I'm really happy it was removed because it was really stupid... but it could have been a small edge for me, you know? [laughs]
Fair enough! [laughs] Outside of the Smite shenanigans, was there anything else in the form of tough lessons that you learned from that series against Evil Geniuses, especially considering that EG was considered the least likely team to lift the trophy heading into that weekend?
I was really bummed out when we lost to 100 Thieves in the previous round because I genuinely felt like EG was a better team than 100 Thieves. In my head, the final would have been us versus EG, but then, we didn't really show up when we played EG in Houston. It kind of felt like we were failing as a team. There were a lot of built-up issues throughout the split which is why we made sure to have a team bonding experience before the Summer Split.
We tried to get to know each other a little bit and get to know how we communicated with each other. We wanted to get more open in terms of feedback and criticism to make the team gel better. It didn't feel like we really were a team, whereas now, after our team bonding experience and helping to hold each other more accountable in addition to our Korean bootcamp, we feel more like a team now. It's easier to give feedback to each other and talk about games with each other.
These are the things you need to do to become a successful team, so we took it very seriously. Losing the way we did made us better as a team than we might have become if we won the whole thing. We might not have seen this as big of an issue as it actually was.
It's often harder to see your flaws when you're winning almost every game.
Yeah, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" or however the phrase goes. [laughs]
Do you think not having your star support CoreJJ for the entirety of spring ultimately hindered you from winning the title despite a strong individual performance from TL Academy support Eyla in his place?
I think it made us grow slower as a team, for sure. We had a lot of different rosters and I'm personally not a fan of... even like six-man rosters because I find it very hard to change how you want to play as a team and your identity if you keep changing people within the roster.
I would agree that there were things that could have been smoother if we just had the full roster to begin with, but at the same time, I don't want to make excuses. We should have just been better as individual players but also as a team. When we played EG, I feel like we were mechanically outplayed a lot of the time. They were just playing better in teamfights and doing things better individually as well.
Even though I'm talking about all this team camaraderie stuff, I still feel like we were also outplayed on an individual level. That's part of why our Korean bootcamp was really helpful for us — you're playing against the best players in the world, you're practicing on low ping, and also, queue times are faster than in North America so you get to play more games.
I feel like we came back to NA as better players because of that. We tried to look at all the things we were doing wrong and tried to do as much as we could about them in the off-season.
Every starter on Team Liquid is a veteran with a deep champion pool and a wealth of international experience. Are there unique challenges to balancing a roster composed entirely of these types of players?
I believe so, and that's also some of the team bonding, communication, and criticism things that came about. I have a very strong view of the game and sometimes, if someone can't explain exactly how things should be done instead in a way that makes sense to me, it's hard for me to step back and be like, "Okay, let's try this next time."
In terms of that kind of thing, we are now more open to listening to the comms and ideas of each other. We will at least test things out and see if they work, whereas before, we would just deny some things in scrims because someone would say, "No, I think this is better." and then we wouldn't even try. We tried to go through trial by error rather than just referencing our experience in the past.
We're all really talented players and all of us have great ideas and whatever anyone says to me or vice-versa has a lot of success based on what's been done. They might be right and I might be wrong, or vice-versa, so we can only know by trying. I think that's where we failed a times because everyone has their opinions and sometimes things kind of get pushed away in a sense, I guess.
It's kind of a double-edged sword that we're just now understanding how to use, in a sense. Before, it felt like we'd be everywhere as team, but now, it feels like we're finally understanding how we want to approach practice and how we want to change the way we're playing the game.
Team Liquid have also had an on-stage coaching change with assistant coach H4xDefender Ong in place of assistant coach Kold alongside head coach Guilhoto. You're still working with both assistant coaches, of course, but is that change a part of your team's revamped approach this split?
Honestly, I don't know the full story behind it. I think we're just trying different things because, obviously, H4xDefender is a really intelligent individual, so I'm happy to try I'm out. On the other hand, I also think Kold is a very smart individual and I'm also very happy with him. You can only have two people on stage, but regardless of who's up there, all three of them are talking for hours before our draft and going through every single possible situation.
I'm sure even if he's not on stage, Kold is still very much involved in the same way as last season.
Exactly. We're just trying something new and seeing if it works. I don't really know how it's going to end up, but I'm really happy regardless because I think they're both really solid.
When Team Liquid's 2022 LCS roster was announced, it felt that anything other than a domestic championship would be a disappointment. Is that still the case?
I think it's definitely 1st or nothing, especially for me. I really want to win another split. I've been chasing it since 2015... please, just one more, at least! [laughs] For me, obviously, the bigger goal is still doing well at Worlds, but individually, I really want to win another split.
For Team Liquid, nothing but winning it all is success in our eyes. We were built to win, not to be the first loser. I have some hopium — or copium, whatever you want to call it — that because we went 2nd place back-to-back last year, which equals four, we will get 1st place this summer to equal four with our 3rd place finish in spring. They both equal for, so we can still keep the Team Liquid fourth thing alive. That's our whole thing coming in so I'll make sure it happens. [laughs]
All according to the script then, right? Congrats on the 3-0 start to the LCS Summer Split. Is there anything you want to say to the Team Liquid fans?
This is a new look. We're not Team Liquid Honda and we started our split with a perfect game. It's the Honda buff!