TL APA explains how LCS ‘ripped off’ the trend he started & why he’s ok with it

Carver Fisher

Team Liquid’s star mid laner Eain ‘APA’ Stearns has really made a name for himself over the past year with his play and trash talk on the Rift, so much so that the LCS decided to turn his smack-talking tendencies into the league’s identity for Summer 2024.

After bursting onto the scene in 2023, APA has arguably become the new-age poster child of the LCS. As far as domestic talent goes, he’s the biggest reason people still think NA players are worth believing in.

He also talks a lot of smack. Constantly.


This would be a problem for APA if he didn’t have the skill to back it up. But, he’s improved dramatically as a player over the past year, enough to take the LCS title in Spring and compete at MSI 2024.

Somehow, on a loaded Team Liquid roster full of veteran talent like UmTi, Impact, and CoreJJ, APA’s hunger to win and brash attitude have made him stand out.

‘Talk Your Split’, the LCS slogan in Summer 2024, exists in large part because of APA’s influence on the league. His in-game chats often go viral and draw the attention of LCS fans.

He isn’t the only player who’s thrown some shade on stage, but he’s definitely the most known for it. It’s a defining part of his identity as a player that’s impossible to take away from him.

I sat with APA, Team Liquid’s rising star, to discuss how he’s been able to help put Team Liquid back on top of the LCS while having the most impactful debut year of almost any NA pro in LCS history.

Here’s my full interview with APA after Team Liquid’s 2-0 win over 100 Thieves:

How are you, man?

“Good. I mean, I’m not the most happy with the series, but a win’s a win.”

Yeah, Game 2 was pretty one-sided, but Game 1 was a bit risky for a second.

“I’m pretty disappointed in myself from Game 1, and in the team. While I think Game 2 was good, I think we could have played marginally better in certain scenarios. Like, there were a few points where we were checkmated and we just miracle played out of it.”

So, you feel like if you were against a better team, you would have lost in that scenario?

“If we were going up against a top LCK team, top LPL team and we’re not just able to finger check them, there’s a good chance we lose. We had such big leads in both games, but we weren’t the most clean with them. Like I said, a win’s a win, we still get an extra digit on our scoreboard. Just not the happiest with the games.”

Is there any part of you that’s worried you won’t get good enough practice to compete internationally this year if the level of competition isn’t high enough for you to get challenged on stage?

“We’ve been challenged on stage, versus FlyQuest, we were definitely challenged then. It’s just…I think, to be completely honest, we faced two sh*t teams back-to-back. If we were in the LCK, it’s like facing OK BRO, or if we were in the LPL, it’d be like…what’s a really sh*t LPL team? I haven’t been watching LPL.”


“Weibo, sure, I’m sure you understand the reference. Once we face, like, Cloud9 or DIG, I can imagine the series going to three games.”

What do you think helped you figure out the right criticism to take on the path to actually becoming better, even as people were just talking a bunch of sh*t?

“To be honest? I never cared when people were talking sh*t. And I don’t care now when people are hyping me up. Times when I do take criticism are when it’s my teammates or coaches giving me direct feedback. We’re a very blunt team. Like, even I was getting flamed after Game 2. We’re a very blunt team to each other, and we’re very aggressive on changing things.

“I’m sure I’m gonna go back after today, go back to the office, and Impact’s gonna be like, ‘APA, come here…What the f*ck is this?’ He’s gonna flame me and Core’s gonna do the same thing, and then I’ll point out a few things, like, ‘What are you doing?’ and so on.”

Oh man, I love Impact, I’ve talked to him several times over the past few years. UmTi’s a really funny guy, too, I talked to him last split and he was great. Do you think having a jungler that you get along with really well and communicate with well outside of the game has helped you sort of find your path to improvement?

“I think [UmTi’s] just essential to the team itself. To give you a little insight, we’re very angry men on our team. Spawn’s an angry coach, I’m an angry player, Yeon’s an angry man, Core’s normally chill unless something’s really going wrong – but not much has gone wrong this split. Impact is normally an angry man as well.


“So, having UmTi who’s just such a joyful person to be around, he’s just always happy, it brings a good contrast to us just being angry men in scrims.”

I’m going to ask you a very blunt question.

“Go for it.”

Do you think other pro players are boring?


Because – I mean, ok, [the LCS] stole your whole flow this split, let’s be honest.

“(laughs) They did a little bit, yeah.”

Does it feel like you had to put effort into building a brand for yourself, or were you able to just go on stage and be yourself?

“I definitely had a bunch of conversations with other people who are in the scene and conversations with my teammates. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to present myself on camera…. And then the LCS just goes ahead and drops like, ‘Talk Your Split,’ or whatever it’s called.

“It’s kind of annoying, but I’m happy there’s more entertainment within the LCS now. Because, I mean, last split, it was just me typing and Jojo typing when he was having a good week and not a bad one. But… Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of a rip off, but I’m happy there’s more entertainment in the league. People are getting hyped for the Dignitas vs FlyQuest matchup, and I don’t know how often that happens.”

Do you ever picture there being a point where it gets easier for NA talent to access tier 1 leagues?

“I think it actually is getting easier next split. Because the challenger team, I think it’s the best Challenger team gets promoted up into LCS? Before, it was – at least when I was in Academy – it didn’t really matter how much you do or how well you do, you kind of just have to get lucky to get promoted. An LCS scout thinks you have potential or whatever, and you get a chance on a team.

“But now, it’s like, if you do really f*cking well in NACL, then you’ll get a chance in LCS next split. It will get easier.”

Yeah, I mean talking about someone like Srtty who – it’s no secret he was supposed to be in the LCS. It seems really, really tough to be an NA pro right now.

“I do agree that, before that stuff happens, it’s very luck-based. My story is very luck-based. Let’s be real, I was under Haeri for LCS last split. He just had a few bad games. Genuinely, if he had just played a bit better, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the LCS.”

If someone told you a year ago that you’d basically be the face of the LCS in 2024, would you have believed them?

“I’d say it’s possible. I think I was able to be good enough. Knowing myself as a person, I can see that. I don’t think I would have seen it happening this way.”

Are there any points on Team Liquid where you’ve gone, ‘Damn, I have to play better or I’m gonna get kicked off the team,’ or have you always felt like the team has your back?

“I’ve always been given confidence as a player. Always been given confidence that I’m able to make mistakes. As long as those mistakes don’t keep happening and I’m able to learn from them, then I’ve been good.”

Let’s talk general goals for the year because, I mean, I seriously doubt Team Liquid misses Worlds.

“I f*cking hope not.”

(laughs) Let’s assume you make Worlds, ok? What do you think is a realistic goal for Team Liquid?

“Well…I do think we should take a couple steps back, I do want to win LCS again. I don’t wanna skip that stuff. I think making Worlds is an important step, but I also think winning the LCS is important.

“Not many people can say they’ve won LCS, and not many can say they can win the LCS back-to-back. But…I think I’m always very optimistic going into international tournaments. My goal is always to win regardless of how stacked the odds are.”

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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