After 10 games in the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split, Team Liquid currently sits in a four-way tie for 6th place alongside 100 Thieves, Golden Guardians, and Evil Geniuses with a record of 4-6. The reigning four-time LCS champion was hamstrung by visa issues with new Jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen, who was signed in an effort to bring a level of mid/jungle synergy that Team Liquid did not possess at the 2019 World Championship.
Through all of TL's struggles, Mid Laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen has played admirably on an individual level. However, even after Team Liquid's cleanest win of the season over Dignitas last Monday evening, Jensen, like his teammate Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, is left wanting more from the team's performance on both an individual and team-wide level.
Jensen spoke to Inven Global's Nick Geracie after TL's win over DIG to provide insight on the team's early-split issues, improvements in play since Broxah's arrival, and the team's current form relative to its floor and its ceiling.
Jensen, your win tonight against Dignitas was probably Team Liquid's cleanest of the split. How are you feeling about your team's current form?
It feels good. This past week, I think we've been playing a lot better, and we've had a lot of talks about how to play the game properly, especially after our loss yesterday. It's really only a matter of time until we turn things around, and I think we showed today that we can play a lot better than we have been.
However, we still made some mistakes today, so I'm not completely satisfied with the win. Some of the mistakes we showed were due to bad habits from practice, but overall, it was a pretty good game for us. We played a lot better than previously, and while I still think we could have played better than we did, we have to be happy with the win. It was still a win, and we need a lot of those right now, and we played better overall, so it was good.
Team Liquid has had to identify mistakes in wins through several dominant splits in recent history, but this split, you guys need every win you can get. Does that change how post-game feedback is approached compared to previously dominant splits?
Since we're in this situation, every win is super important. We're definitely not in panic mode yet, but it's super important for us to get those wins so we can actually get to playoffs. Seeding matters a lot more now than it did before, so we're approaching every game trying to draft our comfort picks and not trying out too many new things. It's just really important right now that we get those wins.
It still feels weird to me because I think the games we are losing are due to mistakes. I feel like we're just forgetting how to play the game properly and forgetting everything we've learned over the past year. To me, it still feels a bit bittersweet after our victories because the mistakes we make are so obvious to me.
What did TL change between yesterday's loss to Evil Geniuses and today's win against DIG?
The biggest issue for us this entire season, with or without Broxah, is that we've been too passive. It feels like as a team, we're almost scared to contest the enemy. Today, we tried to just fight objectives and not be scared. We need to stop running and be better at setting up for objectives because this is all stuff we could do in the past, but this season, we've been really bad at it. That's why you've seen us give up multiple Dragons and multiple Rift Heralds.
I think we've been playing too selfishly and have not been focusing on the team aspect as much as before. Everyone is trying to be super efficient with how they play the game, but that's not how it works in League of Legends. You can't have the perfect condition for every fight.
I think we tried to take a much more aggressive approach today, and we got a lot of good fights early on. We got some good ganks off and stuff, so moving forward, I think it's important that we keep that aggressiveness. Right now, there is a lot of fighting over the early objectives in this meta, and if you win one of those fights, you take control of the game. We've been trying to scale for late game and give up a lot of stuff early on, but that's the wrong approach.
It sounds like you feel there have been other problems with your play independent of any Jungler-related specifics. Are there things you think you could have done better as a team regardless of Broxah being restricted from playing due to visa issues for the first 3 weeks of the split?
Yeah, I personally had the feeling, even before Broxah got here, that our problems were not related to the jungle position at all. We've been playing badly as a team. We are individually making a lot of mistakes and our play was just different before.
I think we tried to pinpoint the crux of our issues on the jungle position, but I don't think that was ever really the case. There is always stuff you have to learn when playing with a different Jungler, but it does feel like us four returning players from last season have played very differently than we did previously.
Broxah not being able to start at first certainly affected the team. Doublelift talked to us last week about his struggles with motivation earlier on in the split. Was having that external factor afflict your team's ability to compete damaging to your motivation as well? If so, has that lessened now that you've had more time to play together as a starting five?
The whole visa issue sucked, but I don't think that should be a reason to slack off by any means. I realized early on that a lot of the mistakes we were making were not related to our Jungler. We needed to work on fixing ourselves instead of just auto-piloting the split because our Jungler wasn't here yet. I think that's the wrong attitude to have.
I hate losing. I don't ever want to lose, so while I did feel that it sucked not having Broxah here at first, especially after boot-camping with him in the off-season and practicing with him so much. Not being able to play with him sucked, but we have to look past that and try to keep pushing forward.
All of the problems we had are pretty clear to us now. Some of them are problems completely unrelated to the Jungle position that were reoccurring issues that we did not fix. Also, we were not on the same page as a team, and so we had different approaches on how to play the game. Now, I think we are all much more on the same page, so we know what to do in situations much better than before.
Moving forward, we can't have any excuses anymore. *laughs* I don't think we should have had any in the first place, but we just need to keep working on our play and I feel like we will become a really great team.
Upon joining Team Liquid last season, you talked about the pressure of potentially losing the team's LCS title to your former team Cloud9. Has Broxah's visa issues changed the pressure of expectations due to certain factors being out of your team's control?
I wouldn't say so...*laughs* with the way C9 is playing, we're the underdog right now. Even though we have a stacked roster, C9 is looking extremely good.
I don't think any amount of pressure will compete with the pressure I felt in joining Team Liquid for my first split with the team. That was the most pressure I've felt because I joined a roster that dominantly won the previous two splits, so I felt that if I joined the team and it became worse, there would have to be something wrong with me, right?
That was the pressure I had on me in the beginning, but now, I think I'm really good at identifying the plays I do correctly and incorrectly, so I don't really feel any extra pressure on myself. That being said, Broxah probably feels the way I felt in my first split on TL.
I still want to win, but I don't think we are going to be miles better than the other teams. I think C9 is looking really strong right now, but obviously, it's important that we win. We want to keep up our tradition of winning, but I think it's going to be tough this time around.
Has there anything you've been able to do given your understanding of Broxah's position to help him acclimate? Mid/Jungle synergy is more important than ever before in terms of roaming plays, and I can't imagine it was easy to rebuild your bootcamp chemistry right away.
I hope Broxah doesn't feel any sort of pressure and kind of just goes with the flow. Some kinds of pressure can be good, I guess, but we've been playing a lot together lately and there has been some slight rebuilding to our previous synergy. The main reason we brought Broxah on was because we saw how dominant teams with strong mid/jungle synergy were at the 2019 World Championship.
With Xmithie, we did not really play mid/jungle at all, and the reason we wanted Broxah to come into the team was to put an increased priority on that. That's something we are working on, because like I said, Worlds was all about mid/jungle, so it's super important that we get that synergy going.
When we spoke to Broxah, he said he did not feel pressure because his last season with Fnatic started out with a 1-5 record, so hopefully, he'll be able to weather the storm with you guys just fine as you turn things around. Thanks for the interview, Jensen, I appreciate your time and all of your insights into the team. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Thank you guys for supporting us. Hopefully, we can keep improving, and hopefully, I'll see you guys in Texas.