The 23-year-old has found his spark once more heading into 2021.
If you ask any League of Legends pro, they’ll tell you that nothing could have prepared them for the twists and turns that they’ve gone through in their careers thus far. Esports is all about the unexpected and every player has gone through many triumphs and struggles, no matter what point they’re at in their journey.
Team Liquid’s newest player Santorin, for example, is all too acquainted with how fickle the game can be. Before rising to become one of North America’s best junglers again, he had to persevere through some rough times in his professional life.
Before his comeback year with FlyQuest, the 23-year-old veteran was most-known for his time with TSM in 2015. He played alongside NA legends like Dyrus, Bjergsen, WildTurtle, and Lustboy. With that team, he captured his first and only LCS championship during the 2015 Spring Split.
That success was short-lived, however, with TSM falling short of the trophy the following split. They finished in fifth place during the 2015 Summer Split and lost to Cloud9 in the grand finals. At the World Championship, TSM were bounced out of the group stage with a 1-5 record. Afterward, he became a bit of a journeyman in the Western League scene between 2016 to 2018, with stints on five teams across Europe and NA.
He wasn’t able to find any lasting homes, though, going from Huma, Ember, NRG Esports, Gold Coin United, and H2K Gaming. He shifted from roster to roster until he landed in the starting lineup for FlyQuest, where he believes they were constantly underrated—even though they were one of the best teams in the region.
The 2020 iteration of FlyQuest kept proving people wrong, reaching two LCS finals in a row and going 3-3 in arguably the hardest group at Worlds. This year was also a reawakening for Santorin after a couple of unlucky years on unfortunate teams—and it helped him show off his newfound confidence on the biggest stages.
“To me, [this year with FlyQuest] proved that I’m a good player, and that’s something I couldn’t say for the past five years,” Santorin told Dot Esports. “I felt like no matter what team I was on, we weren’t winning. There were definitely times where I wasn’t sure if this is what I wanted to continue doing, but with the success on FlyQuest and going to Team Liquid, I’m really, really excited.”
A real challenge
Next year, Santorin is also being presented with a new sense of pressure that he hasn’t gotten since his days with TSM—the pressure of expectation.
“I feel like now there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders,” he said. “It feels like we’re expected to win, which is something that I had missed for a very long time. The last time I actually [felt this] was with 2015 TSM. I finally feel like people are starting to value me as a player. I do think [fans have] really high expectations, and I hope I can keep exceeding those expectations.”
This isn’t to say that Santorin didn’t have any pressure as an undervalued player, but at this point in his career, he wants to be valued as “someone that’s good at the game, and someone that people would look up to.” This past season was a testament to his growth, and with Liquid, things are only looking better and better.
Santorin also talked about the bittersweet feelings he got from this past year and how he and his teammates came so close to a championship in both the 2020 Spring and Summer Splits. Even though he enjoyed his time with FlyQuest, he believes that Liquid is “the best possible team that [he] could join” in his quest to winning a championship next year.
His immediate goals for 2021 are hefty but realistic. He wants to win the LCS, make it to the Worlds, and qualify for the tournament’s knockout stage. It’s a feat that has eluded many great LCS teams before them, but this squad is raring to go.
May the fastest horse win
This past offseason was a whirlwind for many teams since multiple LCS rosters were overhauled throughout October. For Santorin, however, there were only two possible options for him: Liquid or FlyQuest. But the former was simply too good to pass up since they provided him the best chance at success.
“Team Liquid just looked like a way better option,” Santorin said. “For me, it’s always roster first. I want to succeed and I want to have the best roster possible. After that, [I look at the] organization, like what they can do for me and what I can do for them. Liquid seems like one of the best—if not the best—organizations in NA now.”
Santorin praised Liquid’s growth over the past few years, evolving from its early days as Team Curse and the perpetual fourth-place memes to becoming one of the most respected and successful teams in North American history.
There isn’t even one particular player that he’s excited to play with since there are so many great players to choose from. He did mention Jensen, who was recently re-signed to a reported three-year, $4.2 million extension. The connection between a mid laner and his jungler has become key for any great roster—and it also helps that they’re both Danish.
A delicate balancing act
Even though Santorin is only 23-years-old, he has an impressive amount of years under his professional belt. He started his career when he was 18 and has had to put in many hours of practice to reach the level he’s at today. But many players struggle to maintain themselves at a mental and physical level to keep up with the long, grueling days of play.
As a veteran of the scene, Santorin stressed that there needs to be a balance found between work, play, and maintaining one’s health. He said, for example, that he keeps a consistent schedule for working out, eating well, and taking necessary breaks during the offseason to “reset and get a new perspective of things.”
Santorin added that it’s important to step away from League and enjoy other things in life to avoid burnout—he likes to visit family and friends, for example, and loves to play World of Warcraft. Every player needs something that can make them happy away from success in League. If someone invests all their energy into the game and continuously fails, it’d be easy to get burnt out and lose motivation.
“I think it’s very important that you have something that you can always fall back on,” Santorin said. “For me, it’s always been having a lovely girlfriend and family, and also having all the things in life that I’m working on. Going to the gym, running—all the things that you feel like you’re achieving something in, and something that makes you feel good.”
Ultimately, Santorin has worked hard, worked smart, and has earned everything that he has today. Next year, he’ll look to return to his past peak and surpass it with Liquid. He’s ready to face the bright lights that come with being on a top team and he’s welcoming every challenge with open arms.
You can watch him and the rest of Liquid in action when the LCS kicks off its year with the Lock-In tournament on Friday, Jan. 15.
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