Liquid jungler Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen is getting used to a new presence in the top lane with Thomas ‘Jenkins’ Tran over Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris. While he admits the British import is still the best in NA, he’s excited to “prove himself” in the new structure.
It was the “not a spur of the moment” decision that sent shockwaves through the LCS. Alphari’s benching from Team Liquid was a surprising move, given the top laner’s dominance in Spring.
After just one game, the squad promoted Academy top laner Jenkins to fill the void, and have since gone 2-1 with the rookie in the star’s place in LCS Summer 2021. Liquid are creeping up on that first place position with Cloud9 faltering early, but they’ve still got the training wheels on.
Outside of Jenkins being thrown into the fray, jungler Santorin has also had his game plan thrown into disarray. Going from playing with the lane king of NA to a rookie with an entirely different champion pool has forced Larsen, and Liquid, to adapt their entire strategy.
“It’s not weird, but it’s interesting playing with a different top laner. Jenkins and Alphari are completely different players,” he explained in the post-game press conference after Liquid’s win over Dignitas.
“Although Alphari is a great laner and he’s a great player, I do feel like Jenkins has a lot of strengths himself.”
Liquid have had to trade out Alphari’s Renekton and Jayce for Jenkins’ Lulu and Gangplank. There’s less lane kingdom, and more buffing and helping out the team from the weakside.
However, it worked against Dignitas in the battle for third on Friday. Jenkins’ Gangplank played a perfect second fiddle to the carries of Santorin’s Rumble and Edward ‘Tactical’ Ra’s Kalista as Liquid outplayed Dignitas across the map to take home the 32-minute win.
It’s a polar opposite strategy, but the “unpredictability” in the short-term could make them a real threat.
“My role has changed, but that’s an opportunity to prove myself as a jungler. Jenkins’ style is a lot more about the jungler, whereas for Alphari, it’s jungle helping top lane and he will carry the game. I don’t see it as a negative or a positive, but a new way for us to play the game,” Santorin said.
The Liquid jungler did admit Alphari is still “the best top laner in NA,” but he didn’t want to downplay just how good Jenkins is. With a bit more time, Santorin believes he can build an unstoppable synergy with the LCS rookie and push the team back towards the top.
“I feel like usually I’m pretty good with building up with someone else, and Jenkins is really natural at just being open minded and friendly. I don’t see us having big issues, but right now, we’re tweaking some communication,” he said.
“With one to three weeks it’ll be a lot more natural, and I’ll feel a lot more comfortable playing with Jenkins.”
It’s also the best time to test out these changes. There’s still 23 more games to play in LCS Summer 2021 — the longest split in some time. The rest of the league is still figuring out how to navigate the meta with champions like Viego and Gwen.
Liquid are aware of their new-found weaknesses with Jenkins in the roster too, but they still see themselves, along with Cloud9, as the “two powerhouses” of the LCS. It’s now just converting scrims into stage performances, and setting up for a run to Worlds.
“If I’m looking at all the teams, I think we can beat them all, but I feel like a lot of teams can beat us. I’m excited to prove myself week-to-week, and hopefully at the end of the split we will be the best,” he said.
“When it comes to international play, that’s always going to be the end goal, but right now I’m focusing on first becoming the team I want to be in NA and hopefully winning. I haven’t won an LCS championship since 2015 so that’s my biggest goal right now.
“Once we win, then I’ll start looking internationally, but we have so much more to work on like all the NA teams. Looking at Worlds already now, I don’t think we’re as good as the other teams in the other regions.”
Liquid faces off against Evil Geniuses next in LCS Summer 2021 on Saturday, June 12.