Jatt - 'I think we have huge potential, I think it's important that we don't get too arrogant.'
The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Lock In tournament began this past week with all ten teams in attendance.
We talked with Team Liquid’s Head Coach, Joshua "Jatt” Leesman multiple times throughout the weekend. We went over how he and his coaching staff plan to approach this brand new season and format, the solid performance of Jonathan “Armao” Armao (previously known as Grig) — who subbed in for Lucas “Santorin” Larsen — and the team’s overall play.
The first time we interviewed Jatt was fresh off a dominant Team Liquid victory over Counter Logic Gaming, where newly acquired top laner, Barney “Alphari” Morris, began his LCS debut with a stellar performance. Armao also had a solid performance of his own on the Nidalee.
Obviously, the elephant in the room is that Santorin couldn’t play this week - but Armao did great. How much did it affect the general team practice and mentality going into this weekend? You and the rest of your coaching staff were speaking very highly of Armao. Did you have a good enough amount of time to practice with him?
Yeah, I am really impressed by how [...] collaborative everyone on this team is. And then also just not only Armao’s play but also Jenkins’ play. Because I think you may have heard that Alphari has only been scrimming with the team for two days, which means all of the other scrims are with Jenkins, and I think both those guys stepped in and played at a really high level. So scrims felt very natural, it was like scrimming with a full LCS team. And then we just had kind of a plethora of extra voices and coaches if we needed it, because Alphari and Santorin, were either messaging teammates directly for small things they noticed in-game, or if there was a disagreement on a macro point during one of the games, we were able to discuss it then.
This team has a very high ceiling and we just have to work hard to make sure we reach it.
So we've been doing everything super remote. You know, Alphari and Santorin have been on there in the European timezone. But they're staying up late to match the NA scrim schedule, Kold (strategic coach) as well has been doing that, you know, that grind where he's going to sleep at three or four in the morning from Denmark because he's still not over here. But overall, I would say that [...] it didn't hinder us as much as you might think it would not having Alphari and Santorin here, and instead, having Jenkins and Armao. Because I think both of them have played very well. And the transition to Alphari has been pretty seamless so far in the two days.
Barring the visa issues with Santorin, you’ve got a top laner that was arguably at the top of Europe in Alphari, a great jungler in Santorin that has improved leaps and bounds, while also keeping Jensen and keeping the bottom lane. How do you feel about this roster overall?
I think we have huge potential; I think it's important that we don't get too arrogant, or think that the split is won because it's still a lot of work to win. And it's a lot of work to stay good. But early indications, I think the public can see that there's super high player skill on this team. And I can see that there's a really high level of effort and collaboration and people being open-minded. It's also a honeymoon effect, right? Because it's January 15 and everything has gone well for us so far in practice. But I think this team has a very high ceiling and we just have to work hard to make sure we reach it.
You mentioned previously about how backup players stepped up and were very collaborative. Did you expect that at all?
I did, actually, I collaborated a lot with Spawn in the offseason to also try and really improve our Academy team and also just our whole Academy ecosystem. And we looked at the performance of Armao and Jenkins from last year even though the Academy team had a really poor showing; we thought that these two players still had a lot of potential. So those were the two holdovers from last year in 2020. So we had a pretty high confidence level in their skill. And I was just happy with how they played.
You were hired to coach for Team Liquid back in the Summer Split of last year; your team made playoffs and qualified for Worlds. At Worlds, you smashed play-ins and eventually were only a few games from getting past groups. Now that this is your first time coaching for the Spring Split, do you plan to go about things differently seeing as not only does the Spring Split have importance as opposed to last year, but there’s now a chance to think of long-term, not just short-term?
Basically, you know, I'd say three quarters of a year of experience, because Worlds is such a huge part of the year from an important standpoint and then being here for summer. Yeah, I mean, I'm just naturally going to change the way that I do things to try and make improvements. I think one thing that we're going to start out the year with is just having a much more aggressive mindset, not only in the way we play but also the way we practice, the way we draft, we're going to be willing to take a lot more risks, because that's just very clear that that's what's needed to be there on the international stage. And we also know that the regular season is really long. So yes, Spring Split matters more, because the record carries over into summer, but also, the top eight teams make playoffs in 54 games are played in that total regular season. So we really have just a huge focus on flexibility, aggression and improvement. So those are probably three of the things that we're going to be maybe improved or a little bit different from last year.
We were able to catch up with Jatt once again after the third day of matches. By this point, Team Liquid ended 2-1 after Week 1 of the LCS Lock In with the only loss being to an already mostly synergised 100 Thieves.
You finished 2-1 in the first week of Lock In and then ended with a victory in super-strong fashion. Are you pleased with the performance the team put up knowing that Santorin was unable to play?
I think our expectations were to 3-0, so I think everyone's a little bit disappointed. But overall, I do think that we played okay. And the more important thing is that we identify the ways that we can find more opportunities to excel in-game, I think there were — you know after we got to level one kill bot lane against 100 Thieves — there's a lot of ways we can win that game [...] So you know, we've already done our reviews, we already know the things that we're going to be trying to work on going into next week. But I think every week we're just going to kind of preach how we can make more happen in games, how we can make the most of all our advantages because we don't want to be the team that just goes even with better scaling for the first 15 minutes, we want to be the team that really takes every possible advantage you can in the game. And that's what we're going to be trying to do.
After Santorin arrived in North America on Saturday, Team Liquid tweeted that he wasn’t going to play. Were the Lock In rosters locked beforehand? Or did they give a special ruling for them?
To be completely honest, we never even considered playing Santorin this weekend, Armao was always going to be the starter for these three games because of how he's been practising with the team. He put two weeks of practice in and also, Santorin did just get here on Saturday. I — we didn't even look into it. Some people online said that “Hey, maybe it's because of some roster lock thing”. I can't confirm or deny that. But I think overall, he, you know, he played well and he deserved to have the two more games of experience or rather two more games of exposure on Sunday here.
You tweeted out that he Santorin would play SoloQ and that would be it. Did you practice with Santorin at all?
Exactly. So as I think I told you in our last interview, we had Santorin switch over his sleep schedule while he was in Europe. And he was participating in our reviews. And then, because he just got here yesterday, we're letting him adjust to jetlag, and practice SoloQ. And we'll be going hard after one off day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - is all going to be the Santorin and then he'll be our starter for the rest of Lock In.
You previously mentioned that after Worlds, you decided you were going to have a more aggressive mindset. Can you expand a little bit on that?
Yeah, I definitely think that [...] with all of the roster moves we made with how we want to not only win NA again but then also have higher aspirations internationally. We just need to realise how many opportunities were missing in-game and find ways to be more aggressive. So like, if it's a [...] if it's a flip play (50/50 play) we're more likely to try it rather than just not take the flip because “Oh, it'll be fine”. So that's — it comes to the whole mindset and like how you're preparing for draft, how you're planning for level ones, how you're approaching team fights like we have, we're just going to have a higher risk tolerance this year. And I think that'll manifest itself with more aggressive play over time.
I am glad that the league is shaking things up and always trying to make the format better.
As a coach, do you like this new format for the season?
Yeah, I mean, I think it's interesting, I think I won't have full thoughts until after everything is done. But I am glad that the league is shaking things up and always trying to make the format better. Having an essentially, like, the shell of the season is still the same, where we play for about nine weeks and then have playoffs and then break for MSI. And then Summer Split will be nine weeks, and then playoffs and then worlds. So like all that stayed the same, they've just changed the rules around a little bit. So having a more condensed Spring Split in the sense of having like six weeks of games, I think it's going to be really interesting because that means a whole regular season is decided on like three patches. So what we'll see, and it just means we have to be super ready at the start of the season.
With Santorin back in North America and the roster officially in place, Team Liquid look to continue their 2-1 momentum versus Team SoloMid next week on Friday, January 22.
Images via Riot Games