Team Liquid jungler Santorin talks about the Dignitas match, his career over various teams and mentality going into the LCS playoffs.
The LCS Spring Split has come to an end and Team Liquid is now the Number 1 seed going into the playoffs. A dominating performance through the group stage ended with a 3-0 run in the final week. Esports.gg's Devin "PiraTechnics" Younge spoke to Team Liquid's jungler, Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen after their victory over Team Dignitas in the LCS Super Week.
Piratechnics: Congratulations on the win. Dignitas kinda came out swinging early, especially with that Viego pick. Were you a little surprised by how they came out in the early game?
Team Liquid Santorin: I was not too surprised and knew something was going to happen. I just really misplayed the situation. Because there's something teams have been doing a lot recently. They are getting Hecarim which is super OP and in our heads, because nobody really punishes him in the first clear. And then he is really strong in the game.
And now people are kind of finding ways to invade you, take your camps and fight you till death. I knew something was going to happen, I just made a mistake in the way I played the game and then he took advantage..
Q: It does seem like the jungle meta itself is evolving a little bit. For a while it was all about the Bruisers, the Goredrinker nerfs come in and then Champions like Hecarim were the name of the game. Now we're starting to see some of these carries like Viego creep back in. What do you think about the current state of the Jungle?
Santorin: I really enjoy it because I feel like, first, Goredrinkerwas way too strong. So everything you see will be like Xin Zhao, Lee Sin, these kinds of characters. But now because they nerfed this item, and they also gave some small nerfs to all the Champions, now you can play, honestly anything you want.
You have the Chemtank Champions like Volibear, Hecarim and you have the Bruiser style, you can still play Champions like Xin Zhao. You also have the Sunder users like Viego and can play champions like Diana. You know Rocketbelt, it's just so flexible now you can pick to your strengths.
Whereas before you were like ‘Maybe I'm not so good at this champion, but I have to pick it because it's so broken.' So you kind of get forced into his playstyle. So I've really enjoyed it lately.
Q: Do you feel like, as somebody who has so many years of experience in the professional League now, that it gives you an edge over some of the newer junglers?
Santorin: I would say so, because when you have been playing for as long as I have, you have seen every single meta, you have been playing Tank junglers and engage junglers, Carry junglers, AP Junglers, all the different styles. You've just been through everything so it's like 'I just have to pick it up again'.
Whereas for the other players, it's kind of a different way of playing the game, do I stay in the front or flank. What am I doing with my character? Some of the newer players will definitely learn over time, is this how I should be playing with my Champion? Whereas for me, it's just like OK, just back to business. This is what I should do on this character.
"I do think even on some of the teams I got relegated, I feel individually I was playing well" - Santorin
Q: And you've looked really strong in this split. I think 2022 is really shaping up to be the year of Santorin. For yourself, you have had a lot of ups and downs throughout your career. But you are looking very good right now. Would you say this is your best performance or that the team around you is really dominant?
Santorin: This is an interesting question. Because I do think even on some of the teams I got relegated, I feel individually I was playing well. You know, you can definitely argue I am playing better now and I would also agree if someone brought it up.
But looking back even when I was on NRG and other teams, I feel like individually I was performing really well. But now, we just have such a star roster. You know this game I made a lot of mistakes, for example I died with Hecarim level 3. This is one thing that you can't do with this match-up. I felt I really fell behind, River took advantage of me, he also ganked my bot lane. So he was doing more in the early game.
But my team is so strong that it doesn't break the game. They're still winning lanes, they are still doing what they need to do. Which makes my job a lot easier because if that was a NRG game back in 2016, after I made that many mistakes the game is just over. Because we just stop losing everywhere and then the game is just too hard to play out.
Q: Having a good team behind you means those mistakes are not always fatal. Now you guys are heading into playoffs, you are looking potentially at a No. 2 or even a No. 1 seed depending on how the final day shakes out. How confident are you in Team Liquid's performance and their ability to crush it through playoffs?
Santorin: I'm very confident right now. You know early in the Split I was really hesitant, because we were kind of only playing front to back team compositions where it's very easy to play because you just have better players. You're just winning lanes and you move to an objective and you take a fight.
Whereas now we're starting to play different Champions, we are playing a lot of Ahri-Hecarim, all these different things that it's kind of a different style of playing. Usually if you go into playoffs with one style, you're just going to lose for yourself. These are key factors for your compositions. Now I feel really good and I feel like we should be able to beat anyone.
Q: Excellent. Basically apart from Cloud9, you pretty much have been crushing everyone. For Team Liquid, how important is it to get that 1 or 2 seed and not have to face off against another No. 1 team, for instance.
Santorin: So this is the interesting thing, cause I think this time around in the playoffs, even if we are first or second, we would play them all in a week already. Before, I'm pretty sure, the first and second seed would have a week off. They have more time to practice what you want to build up for the playoffs. So I feel like the advantage kind of faded a little bit.
Usually, we have two weeks to figure out exactly how we want to play. Whereas the other team has to play instantly that week and then play again next week. So I think that's going to be interesting to see and on top of that, I mean, I would obviously prefer not playing Cloud9 in the first round. I don't think that's the way to make it all the way.
For us, I think Cloud9 is the biggest opponent. I would say teams like 100T and EG, they are probably going to be one of our opponents potentially, I also think those are really strong teams. I would like to dodge C9 to begin with, I'm sure they're the same, and kind of see where that takes us.
Q: We could potentially see that happen in the finals. Speaking off, you did get to play in the Summer finals and make it to Worlds. But around this time, last year, you were starting to experience some health issues. How big would it be for you, Santorin, to get a title in the LCS for the first time since your TSM days and make it to MSI?
Santorin: It would mean the world for me. For me, I only won LCS 2015 Spring. So it's literally been 7 years and yes, I have two Lock-in tournament victories, but it doesn't feel the same at all. I won the Lock-in tournament. It just doesn't give me the same happiness. My entire career has always been about making it back to Worlds, doing well at Worlds and obviously win a title in NA. Because this is what every single player is here for. You want to win the whole thing.
Being second place is kind of becoming a meme for me now. I've been in so many second places in a row, where I'm just... God I just want to win. Second place, for me, is also a loser. For me, it doesn't achieve anything. Because nobody remembers second place. Everyone remembers the winners.
Q: So going into the playoffs, is that weighing heavily on your mind or are you taking it a week at a time, until you get to that stage?
Santorin: I take it day by day. It's the same for Worlds. I hate talking about Worlds, because I don't know how we're going to do this year. Because for me, it's like tomorrow we play TSM and then after, we have playoffs. I always take it one step at a time, because I don't like getting ahead of myself. I think back on TSM, I got very ahead of myself. We were always thinking further. So when we won Spring, I didn't even have this joy that I feel like I should have.
Because I wasn't even thinking about 'Oh yea! We won'. It's just 'OK we won. Now we're moving forward because Worlds is what really matters'. But every single step matters and winning a title back then should have mattered a lot more to me than it did. And now looking back at it, I'm kind of disappointed because I feel I want to enjoy my time so much more cause if I saw that as a big victory.
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Q: Fair enough. Finally going to get fans back in the Studio starting next week for playoffs. How excited are you to hear the fans for the first time in two years.
Santorin: I'm very very excited. For me, when I was playing the finals from my bedroom , I was kind of like, this just doesn't feel right. The whole thing is about being at a venue, there are a bunch of fans, you're getting really excited, hyped up, you're just ready to go.
If you make a really good play, you can hear the crowd screaming, being really loud and to some degree, obnoxious. That's something that I really really enjoy. Because now I'm finally in the finals (the last two years) and I'm playing from my bedroom. So it's like 'I finally made it here, but we don't have the fans' which is a very big part of being an athlete.
The fans matter so much to us. Even though you have some people say that oh fans are like.. they don't matter. But for us, it really matters. We really enjoy when fans are there, cheering for us, like these things matter a lot more than people might think.
Q: Certainly. And Liquid has a lot of them. Do you want to say anything to the fans as you get ready for your last game of Superweek?
Santorin: I'm very very excited to see you guys again. I know I won't be able to have conversations with you guys or whatever, but just seeing you guys in the crowd, it's going to mean the world for me.
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