How Santorin’s reinvention made him a difference-maker on Team Liquid

Santorin is back at Worlds, and he'll keep proving himself as to why he's there.

Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT

With this year’s League of Legends World Championship, Team Liquid’s jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen will have represented North America at the international tournament three times with three different teams. Santorin and Liquid are at the group stage of Worlds this year—and they’re aiming for the crown.

As a part of Liquid, Santorin and the rest of his team garnered quite the accolades this year. The team secured first place in the first LCS Lock In tournament and two second-place finishes in the following LCS finals. 

Prior to Santorin’s joining, Liquid were already one of the better teams in the league with their dynasty-setting four LCS championships in a row and MSI finals appearance in 2019. Apart from his first big shot in pro League when he signed with TSM in season five, this was perhaps Santorin’s biggest break yet. Not only did he get to be part of an organization that had built a dynasty for itself, but he also joined a top roster that could only be compared to their now-rivals, Cloud9. 

Prior to joining Liquid, however, Santorin had to first go through a discovery and a reinvention. 

Santorin’s discovery 

Santorin started out his career with a plethora of lower-level teams. His performances caught the eyes of the North American scene, which led to him landing on NACS’ Team Coast. 

At Team Coast, he continued to gain attention until he finally joined one of the domestic LCS powerhouses, TSM. Although TSM showed a strong performance before even beginning the LCS season, winning IEM Katowice 2015, Santorin received criticism for a playstyle the community deemed too passive. Nonetheless, TSM continued winning, starting with the 2015 LCS Spring Split and finishing second in the summer, which qualified them for Worlds.

At the 2015 World Championship, TSM were drawn into what was famously touted as the “Group of Death” with China’s LGD Gaming, Korea’s KT Rolster, and Europe’s Origen to boot. After a poor showing from TSM, they finished with a 1-5 record, failing to make it past the group stage.

Following Worlds, Santorin left TSM. At the time, the 18-year-old was seemingly done with professional play.

Santorin’s reinvention

Even though Santorin seemed to have moved on from pro play, he returned to competition, stating in an interview with TheScore that he still had a “competitive drive” and it was “just a bad split.” He went back to his roots and joined European Challenger team, Huma.

After qualifying for the EUCS, Huma ceased operations following allegations of mismanagement and an eventual ban from Riot-sanctioned events. The instability at Huma prompted Santorin to bounce around from team to team over the next couple of years, joining the likes of the NACS’ Ember, the LCS’ NRG Esports, Gold Coin United, and the EU LCS’ H2k-Gaming. The jungler would later refer to his time on H2k as a “really bad experience” in a post with Liquid because of the European team’s numerous losses. 

It was a constant upward battle for Santorin after his TSM woes. But that battle finally began to bear fruit, ending with Santorin joining FlyQuest. His career could’ve faltered, but he never gave up. And on FlyQuest, he had yet another breakout moment.

Photo by Tina Jo via Riot Games

During the 2019 Spring Split, expectations about FlyQuest weren’t particularly high, but Santorin began to show himself to be a true difference-maker. Aggressive play-making, smart pathing, and a role-leading 4.6 KDA helped elevate a team that lacked expectations. This split also marked his first LCS playoff appearance in over two years—one that overcame the jungler with tears of joy during a post-match interview. But FlyQuest’s run was cut short in the semifinals with an 0-3 loss to TSM. And in the following summer, they fell 3-1 to Clutch Gaming in the regional finals.

His journey back to the top of the LCS began to reach its apex with the 2020 season. FlyQuest only made changes to their top lane, putting Santorin back in two LCS finals appearances in a row. This play, in turn, allowed him to participate in the World Championship once again, after five years. But like the rest of their NA brethren, FlyQuest failed to make it past the group stage.

Once Worlds ended and the offseason started, the Danish jungler found himself on one of the most esteemed teams in the region, Team Liquid, thanks to his performances on FlyQuest.

Santorin on Team Liquid

Up to this point, Santorin had struggled throughout his career. Once he had climbed his way to the top, however, Santorin couldn’t stop there. First was the LCS Lock In, in which he helped Liquid earn the first Lock In tournament trophy. He did so while not being able to participate in team scrims or the first week of the tournament due to visa issues. 

In the spring, Santorin sat among the top of the tables in most stats, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Of all NA junglers, he had the highest KDA at 5.5, the highest gold difference at 10 minutes at 257, and the highest experience difference at 10 minutes at 213. Santorin was also almost at the top for first-blood percentage at 56 percent and CS difference at 10 minutes at 1.8, overshadowed only by that split’s MVP, Robert “Blaber” Huang. This performance helped a team that became inconsistent in the regular season following their Lock In success finish in third place. 

Liquid’s inconsistencies quickly became a thing of the past in the Mid-Season Showdown. They completely dismantled TSM in round one, reminding the community of how good Liquid can be. It was put to a halt, though, once they had their first rematch against Cloud9. No aggression around the map, a lack of objective control, and overall poor laning phase play plagued Liquid. They quickly rectified that performance in their round three match against TSM, qualifying for the finals in which they fell 3-2 to C9 in the rematch. Even though Liquid gave themselves a chance to win the MSS when they faced off against both TSM and Cloud9, Santorin wasn’t there. 

Santorin had to step down due to what would be the beginnings of waves of migraines that were impeding him from practicing and playing. Once again in his career thus far, Santorin had to persevere. This time, though, he had to fight against something out of his control. 

About three weeks into the Summer Split, Santorin once again had to take a break from competing due to health issues. This break was also made public at the same time Liquid announced the resignation of head coach Joshua “Jatt” Leesman from the team. Parallel to this decision, the team also battled attitude issues with starting top laner, Barney “Alphari” Morris, which led to his benching. Liquid was experiencing inner turmoil just after having finished second at the MSS.

Santorin wouldn’t return to the starting roster until week nine and immediately made an impact on the team again. He helped Liquid win two of their last three games of the 2021 LCS Summer Split regular season off of the back of his 7.3 KDA, according to Games of Legends—the highest for any starting jungler that week—while providing consistent vision control that led to objective takes and map pressure.

And once in the LCS Championship, all bets were off as the Liquid of Lock In, the roster that had the potential to dominate, was back. Liquid and Santorin demolished their way through to the finals—and earned themselves a spot at Worlds. 

Photo by Tina Jo via ESPAT/Riot Games

Once in the finals, things crumbled in an uncharacteristic but familiar way. Similar to the MSS’ round two, Liquid failed to show up, and in an even worse fashion. Although 100 Thieves were completely dominant, Liquid showed no signs of coordination, were outclassed in the laning phase, and demonstrated poor play overall. After almost being swept in record time in the finals, Liquid and Santorin have had a month to reset their mindset between the Summer Finals and Worlds.

Liquid without Santorin aren’t at their full strength, and this was showcased in their MSS finals performance. Although substitute jungler Jonathan “Armao” Armao held his own, they still were missing one piece to get over the hump.

Santorin and Liquid at Worlds

Worlds 2021 is Santorin’s third appearance at the international tournament with his third team. Neither he or his teammates made it past the group stage in his first two appearances. This year is his chance to continue the persevering story he’s made for himself. 

Going into this year’s Worlds, Liquid have the potential to get past the group stage. The team was placed in Group D with the LEC’s MAD Lions, the LCK’s Gen.G, and the LPL’s LNG Esports and can certainly stack up against them. The same can be said for Santorin.

Although he’s in a group that has two of the better junglers of the tournament in MAD’s Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla and LNG’s Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong—as well as GEN’s Kim “Clid” Tae-min, who is certainly no slouch—Santorin has what he needs to compete against them. The experience and caliber of play he’s portrayed in North America will be more than enough to help him keep up. 


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