FlyQuest Santorin: “For me, ever since TSM, it’s been a very bumpy ride for me.”

At the LCS Arena in Santa Monica, playoffs always have a more finite feeling than the average League of Legends Championship Series weekend. One team’s split, and possibly their chance at representing North America at an international event, is over. Semifinals series are the most bittersweet — stage breakdown occurs immediately as all equipment is boxed up and shipped off to the upcoming finals destination. Seated in the press box above the arena stage, players from both the winning and losing teams look across an empty stage while answering press questions.

In this particular case, a quarterfinals match between 100Thieves and FlyQuest where FlyQuest is the eliminated team, the story begins with an off-handed conversation about jet lag with FlyQuest jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen.

“From America to Denmark…” he trails off with a laugh. “It’s so rough. And the first time when I was on Coast, I was still in high school so I would fly in an hour to go to my exams and stuff and, it hit me— I was like falling asleep while doing my stuff.”

Did you talk to your teachers about that at all? Did they know?

“They kind of knew. They were like, ‘Wow, he’s just gone!’ (laughs) I’m trying!”

Generally what’s the attitude like in Denmark, towards school?

“Really . . . everyone strives to be the best and nobody wants to be second. That’s why there’s so many Danish pros in so many games too because nobody’s happy if they’re not the best. For me, I knew I was going to hopefully play professionally longer so I thought it was worth kind of ruining my grades a bit so I could have more success elsewhere. Normally I was a good student and I would get the higher grades but, I just saw an opportunity and my parents were a little against it in the beginning but now they’re my biggest supporters which is awesome.”

“For Denmark we have free health insurance, we get paid to go to school after 18 so we have a lot of free time, we don’t have to work as many jobs. You might have one part-time job but you just have more time to do what you want to do with your life, whether that’s gaming or another interest in other aspects of life. I think that’s why there are so many Danish pros because we have so much free time.”

It’s such a small country so does the general public know more about competitive gaming?

“Oh yeah. It’s big there, yeah.

FlyQuest jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen backstage at the LCS Arena (courtesy of Riot Games)

Not much was expected of Santorin’s FlyQuest this past season. Santorin was one of the new arrivals to the team for the summer split, along with an LCS starting position for Jang “Keane” Lae-young. Keane had already played on a number of LCS and challenger teams in addition to substituting for FlyQuest in 2018 NA LCS Spring split when then-mid laner Song “Fly” Yong-jun initially had visa issues. Both Santorin and Keane were generally considered known quantities in the NA League of Legends community: good players but not great ones.

Despite the loss, compared to what the community expected prior to the start of the split, FlyQuest exceeded those expectations. How would you evaluate FlyQuest’s split?

“The first few weeks… we were really, really bad. Like really, really bad. And it kind of showed every single game. We just played awful, we wouldn’t play as a team very well it was like… we were just a really bad team. Then when we switched supports, we got JayJ instead of Kwon, I think that just boosted the energy on the team, getting a new player, new face, new individual and it was really easy to work with JayJ. The mixture of the five players, we just meshed really well. It felt like more than just playing on a team, it felt more than just a job, it felt like friendships. Which sometimes can be trouble but for us it was something good.”

“From Week 4 and onwards we were playing really well until Week 8. Then I became really sick. For the entire scrim period up until Week 9 I could barely play any games. I wasn’t playing solo queue, I barely played scrims. We got to use Meteos some games — it was a really rough week. I felt like, that week was the week that we really needed to start getting better and instead we got worse as a team. Then this past week I got sick again, literally yesterday, throwing up and feeling really ill, so it was hard for me to have the same impact that I normally have on the team, whether that is in scrims, onstage, or what I communicate. That’s just a small part of it, but I just think that other teams got better, and we got worse. It didn’t feel like we stayed the same, we actually got worse. So that’s why I’m happy with the overall season but the last two weeks didn’t really show what we were as a team.”

Prior to when they released the all-team votes, there was a lot of talk of you as an all-team jungler or even an MVP candidate. What do you think of this and what have you brought to the team as a jungler?

“I think in the scene right now there’s already a lot of junglers that aren’t that good, so that just already puts me in there. I also think having Saint around has helped me a lot because we’re both junglers and junglers have a pretty good understanding of the game. Sometimes it’s been hard for me on teams to really get through to the players and be like, ‘This is how the game works, this is jungle pathing,’ stuff like that. So here, if I couldn’t get through to them, then Saint could get through to them.”

“Overall, I wouldn’t call myself a leader because I think we’re very democratic as a team. There’s not one person making all the calls. But I do think I bring a lot of value in terms of pathing, early game, what we should do on the map, a little bit of macro, not fully because again, it’s very democratic. We talk as a team and then make plans. But I think I just brought mainly the early game. I tried to make sure that we had a lead early in almost every game so my carries can then do the work, because the thing is that we have very good carries on FlyQuest so as long as I got them through to where they can fight with their item builds it would get a lot easier for us. So I was playing a lot of champions to make sure that my team could play well.”

A lot of people laughed at Saint (strategic coach Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco) when he was interviewed in Week 1 or 2 and promised that even though FlyQuest looked really bad then, the team’s basics and development would eventually make you a good team. Then you all proved that. What did Saint bring to the team as a strategic coach?

“What Saint has that a lot of coaches don’t have is that he’s really forward so he’s good at being like, ‘No. We’re doing this.’ Or, ‘No, you’re wrong, this is how we’re going to do it.’ I think a lot of the coaches I’ve worked with sometimes if they work with big players, for example Flame, he’s a big icon to work with, or Bjergsen, anyone like that. Some coaches will just get defeated or be like, ‘Okay, we’ll just do it your way.’ Saint keeps going at it and if someone keeps making the same mistakes he’ll keep telling them. If you’re playing bad he’ll tell you directly. Some players can’t handle that but I think we’re pretty good on the team at handling that.

“And then I think, from Week 3 to Week 8, our drafts were way better than the other teams’ and I felt like, every single game we should be winning as long as we play well. Then these last two weeks, it’s not really his fault that the drafts weren’t as good, that’s on us as the players, we weren’t really picking up the right champions, we weren’t practicing the right stuff. Saint is really easy to work with and he’s always calling people out if they’re doing something wrong. He always makes sure we keep track of what we have to improve on. Him being a former pro also helps for sure.”

So, before you came to FlyQuest you had a bit of a competitive break—

“Oh, yeah…” (sighs)

What was going through your head during that time?

“For me, ever since TSM, it’s been a very bumpy ride for me. I’ve been on a new team every split and maybe two teams in the same split. I felt that I was really really bad. I was good individually, but I couldn’t do anything as a team. I couldn’t bring people up if they were down. If someone was making mistakes I couldn’t make sure of what I was missing. Let’s say that someone forgot to communicate something. I couldn’t pick up on that. Then there was just nobody talking. I was just trying to work on improving in those aspects. I felt that I was really bad at engaging. I was really bad at doing team stuff. I was really bad at knowing how to play as a team.”

“On H2K, I felt like that was a new beginning for me to prove myself. But it didn’t really— the saddest part for me was that I was playing a lot of carries in scrims, like actually carrying games, but whenever I was onstage I would pick a tank. In that meta, that was when Tracker’s Knife was still a thing so we would lose lanes, they would get full vision of my jungle, and it was hard for me to do anything. And then the week I got thrown off, that was the week that they got rid of Tracker’s Knife and then suddenly the jungle doesn’t look as bad. Beforehand, you just get pushed in, but then, you don’t have as much vision so you can still make more plays. It just felt really bad for me. I think this split I kind of showed that, and I’m not flaming H2K or anything, but I think the way that it was working on that team was just not functional. It just never felt like we were a team. It just felt like we were five players playing together. So I was kind of happy when I was kicked off actually since I didn’t feel like I could improve myself or enjoy playing on that team and I’m sure that someone else would fit that spot a lot better.”

You mentioned how FlyQuest really feels like a team, or a group of friends. What is it that’s different about FlyQuest as a team and as an organization?

“First of all, just having Jason [Jason “WildTurtle” Tran] around me again, when we were on TSM, both of us had our deficiencies and I think both of us in the last two, two and a half years now, we’ve both improved. We’re both better players. I always like playing with Jason. I like being around Jason. I think he’s a great player. So that was the first part.

The other part was that FlyQuest as an organization, they’ve always seemed really kind and seemed like they actually do care about their players. They do stuff for us that I haven’t had for other teams like teaching me how to spend my money or what to look for in the future. They even got us, for the offseason, we can take different university studies online. They’re doing stuff that I really like. I always want to be on an organization that cares and hopefully build something. That never came my way because every single season I would lose or get relegated — I think I’ve lost like five relegation series or something. With GCU I had an opportunity to go to LCS teams but I decided to stay because I liked Gold Coin United. I liked the organization. I’ve always just wanted to play for an organization that I want to stand by and like what they do, so FlyQuest was a really obvious one for me.