Team Liquid and Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen left Shanghai after Worlds 2020 disappointed. Now, with a roster primed for international competition, the Danish Mid Laner believes he’s finally got his chance to win a World Championship — and it all starts at LCS Lock In.
Team Liquid’s 2020 campaign failed to live up to standards. Ninth in Spring meant they barely made it to Worlds after a Summer resurgence. Once in Shanghai, they struggled up through Play-Ins, making it to Groups, but not much further.
However, 2021 is a new chapter. In fact, it could be the brightest chapter in the book so far. Liquid are carrying one of the brightest hopes for North America on the international stage for quite some time, and Jensen is at the center of it.
The strongest Team Liquid in LCS history
Liquid made two big roster moves this off-season. They dropped jungler Mads ‘Broxah’ Brock-Pedersen after just one year for Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen. They also imported former Rogue top laner Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris for stalwart Jung ‘Impact’ Eon-young.
It’s given the roster a new dimension. There’s no more memes about Broxah’s champion pool. It’s the most well-rounded Liquid roster in history, and that’s what Jensen believes gives his team the upper hand.
“Last year we were way too one-dimensional. We were pretty much a super predictable team in how we wanted to play the game, but now we’re a team that will be a lot harder to prepare against because we have a lot more flexibility,” he told Dexerto.
Despite being in the same region for years, 2021 marks the first time Jensen has partnered with Danish counterpart Santorin in the jungle. Both went to Worlds 2020, only to be sent home in groups. While their practice has been a bit stunted due to visa issues, the two are building a synergy like never before.
“I talked a lot with him about how mid-jungle should be played, and we’ve had a lot of talks back and forth about that stuff, and we played some duo queue here and there. We talk a lot about what team comps specifically in mid-jungle we want to play, and how we want to play it, so we’re always on the same page when it comes down to the game,” he said.
This Liquid roster has already put on a showing at LCS Lock In, finishing second in their group behind 100 Thieves. Their only loss came without their full strength roster — Armao was subbing in for Santorin. Despite being a pre-season tournament, they’ve got their eyes on winning, although that’s not the ultimate goal.
“Obviously we want to win the whole thing ideally, but we’re seeing this as an opportunity to get to know each other a bit more in game and learning to play different styles. It’s more so a learning experience because we’ve only been practicing with Santorin for one week, so we’re being realistic about it as well. Learning is the most important thing.”
Aiming for international success at Worlds 2021
This Team Liquid roster isn’t built to just win the LCS, though. It’s meant to be a world beater. Jensen hasn’t yet made a Worlds Final. His last two attempts have ended early in groups. He’s made the semifinals once, and quarters twice.
But, with this new Liquid roster, he hopes he can finish his career with at least one Summoner’s Cup in his trophy cabinet to go alongside his two LCS titles.
“This roster was put together to have the best chance at winning an international tournament.” Jensen confidently said. “The past few years haven’t worked out too well for us, but this roster has the most potential out of any roster I’ve been on to have a long shot internationally.”
The only issue facing Liquid is back home. The LCS’ top-heavy nature isn’t conducive to good practice. However, with a more competitive league on the cards in 2021 — filled to the brim with rookies and exciting new talent — NA might not have to play catch-up come October.
“We definitely have the potential,” he said. “But just from my experience, usually how the NA teams become good is by practicing against the other regions more so than internally. Hopefully we will have good competition here, and good teams here, and not just us — if even us.
“It feels like every time we’ve gone to Worlds we’ve been playing catch up with the other regions, so that’s made it a bit harder. I don’t think the players here by any means are individually worse than the other regions, so hopefully this time it’ll be different.”
The LCS is Jensen’s home, not Europe
Although he’s got his NA residency, there was a very real possibility Jensen returned home to Europe in 2021. After all, the region has vastly outperformed NA at all international events — including beating Jensen’s Liquid at MSI 2019.
However, Jensen is too far gone now. As he enters his sixth year in the LCS, he has no intentions of ever moving.
“It’s something I was heavily considering just for this year, but the more I thought about it — I really enjoy living here. It’s not so nice right now because of [the current global situation], but I enjoy living here a lot, and to be honest, I don’t think the gap is that big on the top teams,” he said.
“Unless their roster would have been significantly better in Europe, it wouldn’t have been something I would have considered. The roster we have right now, I think we can beat any of the European teams. I feel more comfortable living here, and I think that’s what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career.”
Liquid play FlyQuest in their LCS Lock In quarterfinal on January 24 at 4PM PT / 7PM ET.