Santorin reflects on Dignitas 0-9 start: “It was hard to remember how to win”

Robert Paul/Riot Games

Following the first LCS win for Dignitas in 2023, Dexerto sat down with Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen to get his thoughts about their season so far, how his time on Team Liquid affected him after moving on from the team, and whether or not their hopes for a miracle run to playoffs are alive.

To say that the Spring 2023 LCS split has been rough for Dignitas would be an understatement. After coming into the year with a roster that gave LCS fans a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation, they almost broke the record for the biggest loss streak in North America. Not a stellar start.

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But, fortunately for DIG, they managed to pick up a hard-fought victory against EG in Week 5 to finally put their loss streak to rest. This was a much-needed reset for the team, and a glimpse at Dignitas’ potential as a team. Potential that they’ll have to realize quickly if they want any chance at making playoffs.

Following their very first win of the split, Dexerto sat down with Santorin to ask about his feelings after their long-awaited victory. He was just as honest about Dignitas’ weaknesses and the things they need to work on as he was hopeful that the team can bring it back in Summer.

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Santorin is stranded in a jungle meta that doesn’t favor DIG

There has been no shortage of pro players complaining about the Season 13 jungle changes. There’s much more of a focus on ganking lanes than there is on outfarming and outsmarting the enemy jungler. Spica had similar criticisms of the role when we asked him about the current state of jungle, but he’s also winning almost every game.

For someone like Santorin, the role’s current state and its lack of flexibility when it comes to playstyle is frustrating to say the least, and he spoke about how it can feel almost impossible to have influence on the game without a winning lane to play through.

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“When it comes to jungle right now, I just think Riot…You know, they made the role for competitive play very—I don’t want to say weak because you still have a lot of impact on the game when you’re moving around the map, but the fact that taking jungle camps doesn’t really give you an advantage in comparison to the other jungler is a huge issue. I remember in week one, people were literally doing 3 camps and then would just sit in river until Scuttle spawned. That just shouldn’t be a thing.”

“If you have winning lanes, you’ll win the game cause the jungler will just sit there and make sure you don’t get ganked and keep winning. And if you’re losing lane, then it freaking sucks, you have to find a creative way of ganking or you’ll probably lose the game. That playstyle is just really deterring to play. With all these strong bot lane champs like Ashe, Varus, Caitlyn, all these things— If you’re the bot laner and you have a losing matchup with the jungler just sitting there it’s miserable.”

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Santorin remarked that Riot is on “the right path” in relation to nerfs on support items and meta junglers like Maokai, but there’s still a long ways to go when it comes to making jungle a more skill expressive role that allows for playstyles outside of perma-ganking lanes.

Additionally, Santorin revealed in a prior interview with Dexerto that he was more comfortable playing with an engage support during his time on Team Liquid. He preferred to be the follow-up on TL rather than starting the fight, and he still feels similar on DIG. Meanwhile, we’re currently in a meta where almost every jungler is the team’s main source of hard-engage.

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“I think engaging is one of the most challenging aspects of the game. You have to find an angle and pull the trigger instantly. That’s inherently a hard role to have, but if you have a good eye for it, suddenly you’re smurfing every fight and carrying your team. Though it’s not my favorite thing to play, it’s a challenge I’d like to work on.”

“Though I’d like to see IgNar on engage. (laughs)

Winning one game on DIG was like fighting for a title

Outside of in-game issues and gripes with the current meta, we asked Santorin to try and compare what it was like mentally to play on DIG in comparison to being on Team Liquid.

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Being the underdog that isn’t expected to win is certainly different from having the world placed on your shoulders as a roster intended to show off the best of what North America has to offer.

“I was thinking, going into this year, that the pressure is off. I was on Team Liquid, we were supposed to be the super team that was going to win everything. We started off strong winning the lock-in and then we kind of fell off a cliff. That was a lot of pressure, and it felt really bad when we were losing and not doing so well, not even making Worlds. That was something that really… fans aside, that was something that crushed me personally. Going into [2022], I was like ‘This is gonna be the year, I’ll lift another title and we’re gonna go to the world championship!’

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Team Liquid Honda LoL | Twitter

“I just really wanted to lift another trophy, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. But we didn’t make it, so it felt awful.”

However, that pressure to perform only got worse on DIG as they sunk deeper and deeper into their loss streak.

“I actually felt so much pressure today and going into this week cause it was like, “S*** guys, if we lose to EG and FLY we will actually have the record for the worst at 0-11.’ That pressure… It felt similar to trying to win the split for me. Today I felt really, really pressured and wanted to make sure I did well. I’m one of those players— I feel like I usually do better under pressure. Sometimes I’ll crack, I remember a couple series where the pressure got to me too much, but I generally play better when there’s something on the line.”

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In other words, DIG’s in their 0-9 comfort zone. Joking aside, this win was a massive relief for the team, and it’s finally a step in the right direction for a team that, in the eyes of many, looked like the worst in the LCS.

“I think I’m more relieved than anything. It’s been a very rough split. People coming in late because of VISA issues, roster changes, all these kind of things. Obviously that doesn’t equal 0-9, but it’s a part of it. Generally speaking, I didn’t want to have the record for longest loss streak. Getting that first W matters a lot. It’s not depression, but you kind of hit a point where it’s like… ‘Can we win?’ That feeling isn’t something you want as a professional player.”

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Santorin and the rest of DIG have their minds on Summer

Santorin isn’t one to mince words. He was fully transparent about their incredibly low chances of making it to playoffs, and the team is at the point where they’ve accepted that their chances of making playoffs are slim to none. And that’s ok!

Upon asking him about whether or not DIG still had their eyes on playoffs, Santorin was able to pinpoint the exact moment that his mindset shifted toward looking to the future rather than getting caught up on their performance this split.

“After our game against C9 last week where we lost with a big lead, that’s where I kind of shifted my mindset. I felt like I didn’t perform well for the next two games after the Elise game and I felt really bad about that. Those games were definitely winnable. I felt like I was aiming to make playoffs so much that every single mistake was… not ruining my mood, but it’d build up over time. I was like, ‘This really sucks, we really need to win these games. If we don’t we’re not gonna make playoffs.'”

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“I shifted my mindset more to, ‘If I make playoffs, great. But let’s focus on improving as a team and learn from our mistakes. If we get a win, that’s great. If we don’t, we’ll keep working hard and eventually it’ll come’. There’s this great quote saying that ‘Spring doesn’t matter’. Obviously that doesn’t mean we should go 0-9 (laughs) But I just… You know, I’m already looking at the future and toward Summer. The team we have, we can be a contender and can be a really strong team. It’s shown in some of our games that, early game, we can do very well.”

Though Santorin’s been able to remain optimistic about DIG’s chances in the future, he was definitely frustrated about where they are now and how they got there in the first place.

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“We just had these stupid throws. You know, there are a lot of issues right now we’re trying to fix over time. I think we can. We’re already into week 5 and it already feels like you can’t make playoffs. As a competitor, that feels really bad that the only way we can do it 100% is to win every game. I kind of just wanted to shift my mindset to be okay with not making playoffs, but to make sure that, when Summer hits, that we will be a strong team.”

That’s why this first win was so important for Dignitas. It certainly wasn’t easy to get that win on the board, and they almost threw. But, thanks to a hero play from Jensen that brought their match against EG back from the brink, they were able to take home their first W.

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For being on a team that’s at the bottom of the standings, Santorin still had an unshakeable sense of optimism and faith that they’d be able to improve. He compared this split to some of his other experiences on other unsuccessful teams, and he had tangible faith in his ability to succeed on DIG despite their rocky start.

“Having a loss once in a while is good to remind you that you have so much to work on. But I think, when you lose every game over and over again… it was hard to remember how to win because we just kept losing. That’s why I think it’s huge that we won today. Over time, you start losing confidence in yourself and your teammates. I don’t think we’ve hit that point yet as a team, but if we kept losing? You’re kind of like, ‘Guys, what are we doing? We can’t win. We’re super unsuccessful. Do we need to change something?’ But I feel like we have a pretty good atmosphere and all the guys are really nice to work with.”

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“I’ve been on a good chunk of really poor performing teams in the past. Some of them, I felt like it’d never work because people started being annoyed by each other. The way they play, the way they talk, whatever it may be. You start getting agitated by your teammates. That feeling… When I had that feeling, there was no hope. Whereas on a team like this, everyone’s trying to work hard. Everyone is working to help each other, people are nice to each other. It’s an atmosphere where I feel like we can get better; I just don’t think we can get better fast enough to win every single game going into the second part of the split. That’s why I’m looking at Summer.”