TL APA on His Undefeated Debut to LCS Summer, the Unique Ziggs Pick and the Resurgence of NA mid Laners

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TL APA on His Undefeated Debut to LCS Summer, the Unique Ziggs Pick and the Resurgence of NA mid Laners

“If I get Ziggs, I am going to win every LCS game.”

Team Liquid had a much better start to the LCS Summer Split record-wise after missing the playoffs in Spring. But some of the worrying gameplay trends they had last split still reared their heads from time to time, even in their wins.

Aiming to give themselves the best chance for success during the postseason, TL made a drastic change in the middle of last week, subbing in their NACL mid laner Eain “APA” Stearns, giving up on their full Korean-speaking roster in the meantime. The looks like the right one so far after three games as Liquid won three of their games with the APA in the mid lane. The young player won the Player of the Game award in all three of these games with 18/2/18 KDA.

We caught up with TL APA after his team’s most recent victory against Cloud9 and chat about his LCS debut so far, his successful pocket pick and what he thinks about his competition in the mid lane.

TL APA is the only Ziggs mid player in the major leagues

Welcome APA, how does it feel to still be undefeated in the LCS, even after getting your first couple of deaths?

“It’s definitely a surreal experience. I’m super happy to be here under these circumstances.”

In our first three games, you played Ziggs twice now, and in neither of these games, the counter picks looked that good (Akali and Lissandra). Were these bad champs to counter Ziggs with?

“Honestly, the Ziggs champion is just OP. If I get it, I am going to win every LCS game. So just don’t give me Ziggs—regardless of what your counter pick is.”

Then why do you think it’s not being played that much in the mid lane? He sees some bot lane play in LPL or PCS, but you are the only tier-one league player playing it mid.

“I couldn’t tell you why. If you look at the Leaguepedia for Ziggs, his numbers are just insane, and what the champion can do. The honest answer is, I don’t know. People just haven’t tried it I guess.”

But you’ve been practicing it. Talking about that, how are the scrims? You said you had less than a day before subbing in last week, but how are doing now that you had a full week of scrims?

“This week's scrims went pretty well. We are focusing more on gameplay stuff like macro and rotations but also learning about what words we should or shouldn’t say—because there is obviously a language barrier still.”

Did the language barrier was a part of today’s struggles? You had a good win but the game was harder to close than you probably hoped it would be.

“Personally I wouldn’t the reason the game was close is because of our communication or the language gap. I think it was just some small gameplay mistakes like when I died top lane—that was pretty bad. I know Summit got TP’d on couple of times, that was unfortunate. But I wouldn’t say these were because of the language barrier, we are all playing the same game we know what is happening. We just played a little forward.”

Your record is 8-5 and you can lock playoffs if you win tomorrow. You just defeated arguably the best team in the league. Are you starting to look ahead toward playoffs, or are you still taking it day by day?

“Definitely still taking it day by day. Before today we were only focused on Cloud9, now we will focus on TSM for tomorrow and the same for FlyQuest after that.”

NA mid laners and the collegiate path to pro play

Tomorrow, you will go up against Insanity, two of the biggest stories of the Summer so far with the NA mids taking over the LCS again. What are your thoughts on the native mid laners?

“It’s definitely really cool. It shows there is still NA talent.”

This might be hard to answer since you didn’t scrim or play against every mid laner yet, but where would you rate yourself among the mid lane pool if you can give a confidence-based guess?

“I don’t have an actual answer to that since I haven’t played everyoıne yet, but if I need to give a confident answer it would be top half. Everyone said EMENES was like top three mid laner but he wasn’t that hard to play against, he was pretty easy. Based on that, I would rank myself top three.”

tl apa and corejj
TL APA and his teammate performing a pregame skit during Week 4 of the 2023 LCS Summer Split (Photo by Shannon Cottrell/Riot Games)

Who are the other two guys in your top three?

“Jojopyun and Gori.”

Before we finish a quick question about collegiate. You aren’t the only former collegiate player getting subbed in this split. With two former Maryville mid laners starting in the LCS this week, is collegiate becoming a legitimate option for aspiring pros? Especially with the recent NACL developments.

“I definitely think it’s about passion. If you are good at League and think you can go pro, with how the scene looks right now, I would say go collegiate path. Because then you can also get a college degree while you are working on going pro. That’s the path I took, and Spirax took, and a bunch of others got into Academy like that as well. If you have enough passion for the game [then] you should do it.”

TL APA and the rest of Team Liquid will take on TSM and FlyQuest in their remaining two games of LCS Summer Split Week 5. Liquid only needs one more win to guarantee themselves a playoff spot, or alternatively, for FlyQuest to lose against Evil Geniuses today.

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TL APA on His Undefeated Debut to LCS Summer, the Unique Ziggs Pick and the Resurgence of NA mid Laners
Rohat Dicle Kılınç
Rohat is a writer mainly focused on the League of Legends esports scene, and an LCS hopeful.