2 weeks have flown by in the 2019 LCS Spring Split, but a clear favorite has already emerged. Team Liquid stands a head taller than the rest of the teams in the LCS. The reigning champion of North America is 4-0, and had little issue decimating the top competition in 100 Thieves and Cloud9. The additions of Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in have made all the difference thus far.
Following Team Liquid's dominant Week 2, Day 1 victory over 100 Thieves, TL Jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero joined Inven Global for a post-game interview.
We're joined by Team Liquid Jungler Xmithie. How was your off-season?
Off-season was great. It was pretty relaxing, refreshing, and it got me ready to play another split.
So far your team looks more than just ready. Are your particularly confident in TL's ability to dominate the LCS, or is it too early to tell?
I think it's a mix of both. I'm pretty confident that my team can win the split and prepare internationally, but we're not getting ahead of ourselves. We're just trying to take it game by game, and hopefully, we will make less mistakes. Even though we're good now, we still can improve a whole lot.
That's true, but at the same time, you guys had no issue beating Cloud9 or 100 Thieves. How do you manage to keep improving if you're a step above the rest in North America?
It might sound cheesy, but our biggest opponent is ourselves. Even if we win games, scrims, or LCS, there's always a 'but' at the end i.e. we made a mistake; we could have done something cleaner; etc.
The biggest thing that I think has changed is our coaching staff. They're the reason why we're still improving. Even though we're playing really well, there the ones who tell us 'You guys still made this mistake. Clean it up, and then do better next time.'
How did you feel about your performance at the 2018 World Championship, and in hindsight, is there anything that you think you could have done better?
Leading up to Worlds, I put the most effort I ever have into practicing and trying to strategize and planning throughout the game. Worlds was probably the time I practiced the most in my career, but obviously we didn't really perform that well. I think we just got outclassed, and didn't play up to our standards at all. That was probably the saddest time for me in that era last year because of that.
You guys wasted no time re-loading for 2019 and upgrading your roster at the Mid and Support positions. How does Jensen compare to other Mid Laners that you have played with previously?
I thought Jensen would be more demanding, but he's pretty flexible on what role he plays in the team. He can be carrying the game, he can be winning lane, or he can play for roams in a supportive style for the side lanes. His flexibility is what I like the most about him, because then teams can't predict our playstyle as easily.
TL also added CoreJJ, whom like yourself, is an experienced veteran player with a lot of macro knowledge. What does he bring to the team that you guys didn't have before?
CoreJJ is a really big voice on our team. He and I usually have the same ideas and the same macro style, so we fit together really well. Usually I call from early to mid game, and then mid game we both talk together, and then late game is pretty much everyone talking. It's been pretty good so far with how our team is working together. Everyone is playing around one another.
It was really fun to watch you play Lee Sin, harkening back to the Vulcun days. Was this meta an adjustment for Team Liquid?
I think aggression is just what suits the meta right now. It depends on what the best strategy is for the game for us. I can play pretty much any jungler I need to, but last year, we played very slow, methodical, and calculated. Now, as Impact says, it's like 'Whoever has the better finger wins.' And that's pretty much at all states of the game, so I've been focusing on aggressive junglers so far.
Team Liquid didn't perform well at Worlds, but overall, had a very good year domestically. Would you say you're the best Jungler in North America?
It's hard to say, because we're at the beginning of the split, but yeah, I guess I can be up there.
Are there any other junglers who have impressed you thus far?
There aren't really any surprises, but there's a lot of consistent junglers. I can learn some things from what other junglers do and how I can play around them, so it's pretty much just a mind game for now.
Your Head Coach Cain emphasized how important Team Liquid's mindset was, and Jensen agreed. What is your mental approach when coming into a game, and how has that changed as you've gotten more experience.
I usually listen to music an hour before the game. That's my only consistent routine before every LCS match.
What are you listening to right now?
It can vary from EDM, to rap, or even lo-fi, just anything that suits my mood. Something to make me neutral.
So it just kinda chills you out?
I woudn't call it chill. There's 3 levels: chill, neutral, and hype. I want to be in the middle, so I don't get excited or titled.
Finding that balance before a match is important. Are there any personal goals you have for this season?
I don't have much going on outside of playing League this year, but I have some goals fitness-wise since I've been going to the gym.
Congratulations on your progress. Have you always worked out during your career, and now that you do, do you think it makes a big difference for a professional player?
I think there's a big correlation between physical health and mental health. If you're not really feeling well physically, you're not gonna think clearly. I have phases where I don't work out, and I can see the difference mentality-wise.
Thanks so much for the interview, Xmithie. Is there anything you'd like to say to the TL fans?
As always, thank you. There's a few more months until MSI, and we're looking forward to that so we can try and prove ourselves again.