The League of Legends Pro League has won the last two World Championships, and looks to be the first hosting region to ever win Worlds this year in Shanghai. This year has seen many new talents rise up the ranks of the LPL ladder, and has felled the old-guard giants, like RNG and EDG, who failed to even make an appearance in the Summer Playoffs. And with four seeds this year, the LPL has the possibility to take a seat in all four groups, and advance to a semifinals made up of entirely LPL teams.
With so much League of Legends around the world, especially in playoffs and amidst the craziness and chaos of COVID-19, we spoke with Jake "Hysterics" Osypenko to get a breakdown of the split, what players to watch, what the LPL meta is, and how he rates their relative strength, in addition to casting in the LPL and developing his own brand and style.
NOTE: We conducted this interview just before the semifinals, but context is provided in each answer to provide a clear representation of his thoughts and predictions. You can read the transcript in full below.
LPL Teams, Players, and Meta
Rank the top three or so players to look out for from the LPL for both playoffs but then also internationally. Players that fans might not know a ton about if they aren't watching a lot of LPL.
Okay so for context, we're up to semifinals, and Top Esports, Suning, JDG, and LGD are still remaining. But IG and FPX are guaranteed in the gauntlet due to their Spring points, and they're lucky - in my opinion - that they're still relevant after the horrible performances we've seen out of both of them. If we want a ranking out of players remaining, it's easy in theory but...
A great example to start with would be from one of our semi-finalist teams in Suning. Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng, the ADC who was once on Invictus Gaming Young, and who plays very much like a JackeyLove-to-be, or one of the top tier AD Carries who has a high ceiling, but who has also built a strong foundation and found consistency.
Huanfeng has been a name on the tip of our tongue for a while but now that he's on Suning in the playoffs - winning quarterfinals vs. V5 which guaranteed them a spot in the regional finals and sent them to the semis against TES - he's someone people need to know. He's the top ADC in the semis, and I'd say that he's over Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo. I'd prefer huanfeng over JackeyLove right now, because of the two ex-IG ADCs, he's actually performing so much better. So there's no doubt in my mind that he's the better AD out of the two.
And then on the same team, the Vietnamese representative, Lê "SofM" Quang Duy - who people will remember from season two or three - played such a good quarterfinals and had one of the most dominating jungle games over Wei "Weiwei" Bo-Han who is such an aggro Jungler on V5. SofM is playing one of his best splits, at least towards the end, and in playoffs so far, he's one of the top tier players. So people need to look towards Suning for those two players alone.
So those are the two players I'd rate the highest at the moment. But then... You look at the other side of the bracket, and - we haven't seen JDG and TES yet in playoffs - but LGD we've seen from Round 1 smacking WE, and then in the Quarterfinals they destroyed Invictus Gaming. Sure, IG looked horrible, but LGD played some of the best League of Legends I think I've seen in playoffs so far. It was super clean, very macro intensive, and outmanning their opponents.
The main core carries were Han "Peanut" Wang-ho and Su "xiye" Han-Wei. Xiye from WE in the past, but then everyone knows Peanut, he won MSI with SKT. He's a legend, and he's actually playing with that status. And against Invictus Gaming he actually outmanned Ning, and it's really good to see Peanut in form in his debut year in the LPL. Xiye, Peanut, huanfeng, and SofM are the ones I'd rate highly at the moment, but again, I haven't seen JDG and TES yet. So they could be absolutely god-tier and be better on an individual level, or they could flop which part of me is expecting.
Who are your predicted teams that make Worlds?
Okay so again, let's have a clarification on the format. If Top Esports and JDG make it to the Finals, they're guaranteed. The LPL gets four seeds, so the third-place match is the two highest seeds of the regular season outside of the team that auto qualifies - which would be JDG and TES if they're in the finals - So third would be LGD and Suning guaranteed, if they lose to these two big dogs.
However, I don't think it is going to go that way I think LGD will win the semis and JDG will get third seed. FPX and IG are going to face off in the lower bracket of the gauntlet, meaning one is eliminated no matter what, then they go up and fight for the fourth Worlds seed. And I think that fourth seed will be IG, because now that they've looked like s***, next they'll look great. That's how IG works.
So you're predicting that the reigning World champs, FPX, won't return?
Yeah, Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang has just looked woeful. Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang is 1v9ing. Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem is inconsistent at best, but Tian is just a shadow of his former self. Lin "Lwx" Wei-Xiang had a really horrible series against V5, he was not impactful. And Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song was constantly getting caught out, it was the worst version of Crisp.
So I don't think FPX can play like they did in 2019. And it depends on meta, I know there are analysts out there that could give it a better breakdown, but the way they played - 4v2 diving bot - was very possible at the start of the split, but through all the adaptations, FPX hasn't been able to keep up. I don't think they're as three dimensional as some people thought they were.
I'm not sure how MVP voting works in the LPL, but who would you personally select for MVP of the regular season?
So the Chinese casters vote on MVP, but the English casters don't get to. The official MVP was Zhuo "knight" Ding - which is in a way deserved - but I actually would've given it to Song "Rookie" Eui-jin. The reason they got the third seed in playoffs is because of Rookie. Like Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning kind of found his form, Wang "Baolan" Liu-Yi came back in if you're not aware, like finally back into the roster. So we got championship form IG without JackeyLove - of course, Ding "Puff" Wang is on the roster - and Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok started playing better, but it all started from the forward momentum driven by Rookie.
Rookie played so many great games and his laning phase is just so huge. His laning phase is just individually the best in the LPL one of the best in the world. Like people are comparing him to Heo "ShowMaker" Su and Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, and I think it's a very valid argument. But at the moment, if you look through the whole split of Rookie, you just say, "Well, this guy has it hands down." Of the top ten players that I set up for the end of the split, two of them are just Rookie on Syndra and Orianna.
So Rookie deserves MVP. I think it's a close second and third for people like Weiwei and maybe Li "Mole" Hao-Yan from V5 just because of the split and the surprise that they were. But yeah, it's easy to say Rookie. Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok got spring regular season MVP, and he deserved it. And even this split his performance was really good towards the end. And in playoffs, I'm expecting him to be a pretty big wrecking force going up against Peanut.
What was the LPL like this summer? How do you feel like their relative strength is? I don't know how much of other regions you've watched, but what can you say based on what you know?
We’re strong. We're getting new players in from 2019. Like huanfeng who I talked about earlier on is a great example who was the LDL Champion on IG Young. I think that development's really impacted the LPL once again. It's so much more challenging if you are not adapting. If you're not developing as a player, you kind of get left behind. I think the old guard is kind of being shifted out by this new rising talent, but it looks even stronger than what people have seen in recent years.
It's very easy as a biased LPL caster to say we got four Worlds seeds because we deserve it. But it's going to be an LPL semifinals - LPL vs LPL - and LPL Grand Finals. But from what I've seen of LCK, I see the adaptation there, I see a lot more skirmishing, a lot more willingness to take risks. Also, it's just fun to watch, which I think is something that's long overdue for that region. I think the LEC overall feels a little bit weaker, though there are a lot more narratives. But I just feel like there's a shift in dynamic there that pushes them to the side. And LCS, unfortunately, I just... Honestly, I haven't watched enough LCS to have an opinion.
But look, I mean, each region has its faults, each region has its falling down. I think the LPL has just continued to grow. And it's evident by seeing teams like LGD and Suning. We will have LGD or Suning at Worlds and 50% of our organizations going to Worlds are going for the first time. IG and FPX are the only old guards left. So it just kind of shows you that talent development, and in this meta shift towards summer, everyone's either adapting or getting forced out.
It's so easy for me to say that that LPL is going to win Worlds again this year. But genuinely, I think the depth of talent left on our four teams is gonna be so much stronger than any other region. Imagine putting someone like IG in Play-Ins. The 2018 World Champions! Facing Rookie in Play-Ins? I just think it's pretty unfair; four LPL seeds is going to be insane.
Do you feel like there's anything that's LPL meta-specific that other regions are going to struggle with, have to adapt to, or that might end up leading to a Worlds meta? Every region has its own bubble. Do you feel like there's something they do that's really going to push the narrative?
I know at the very least we see things like our Jayce lanes that are still popping up, and we've got a lot of Renekton first pick which has become very much centered around some of our top tier teams. Like V5 was a great example of a team that would just first pick Renekton and know that the enemy Top Laner really wouldn't punish. But the Worlds meta is always shaped by how the scrims set up before and all the interactions within teams.
I think LPL specifically will still look at these priority Mid Laners of Zoe and Syndra. I know that LCS still has their thought on Twisted Fate - which teams like LGD will first pick - but overall the meta is not as LPL-esque as people remember. We won't get those pure lane matchups to win lane like IG would do. We're very much fighting around the importance of dragons and these early Rift Heralds. I think something like the Jhin, which is being seen in other regions but not as much as LPL, will be a trend that might flow into worlds just because of the weakness of AD Carries.
Casting in the LPL
Switching gears a little bit. How's it casting in the LPL right now? And how is it kind of adapting to COVID for you guys?
It's been really difficult getting into the run of things. Spring was put together where we had three series a day, seven days a week, and the English broadcast only casted five of those - but doing three best of threes five days a week, and then having to watch three best of threes the other two days of the week meant there was just never time off. So spring was really difficult and there was a lot of burnout.
Then we came back into summer and I think it's just lag from spring that has really just built up - and I don't speak for the rest of the team, but with four of us still casting five days a week and now getting into playoffs doing best of fives - it's just been really intense. The League of Legends has been great - and I think that's what carries us across the line. The League of Legends here is just so entertaining to watch and there's never really a dull moment. So, yeah, it's just been a really, really intense year. But again, I'm lucky to be here all things considered, and I'm glad everything's calmed down and that we're kind of almost back to a state of normality.
How do you focus on growth with all of that? It's been such a hectic schedule and it seems like everyone else on the team is a little newer. What is it like trying to get feedback and work on some of the technical things and make sure that you're still growing?
I think this year the casting team has been really, really great and you wouldn't expect that these people haven't casted the LPL before. Of course, Robert "Dagda" Price and Joseph "Munchables" Fenny came from the European scene; they've done EU Masters plenty of times. So they've got a lot of experience under their belt. And then Jordan "Lyric" Corby was a coach for Flamengo and actually went to Worlds.
It's a newer casting team to the LPL. And there's been a lot of - not really growing pains - but there's been a lot of learning towards a new League for them. But the other guys quickly got on top of the ball with things like history and how the teams did in the past, etc. It hasn't felt like there's been a gap in information at any point. With Barento "Razleplasm" Mohammed, the bonus was that he was in the scene for a lot longer. He was more like a mentor to me just because it was my first year in the LPL even though it wasn't my first year in casting.
I think in 2020, our development has shifted to, "Well, here's a bit of feedback. You can work on this. Yada, yada, yada," just in passing, rather than us being having the time to sit down for sessions like we used to, because if we did that, there'd just never be any time off. So it hasn't been as efficient as a natural schedule without COVID in the way. It's just something we had to adapt to, and I still think development has been amazing for the team we have.
For people who haven't been watching you/the LPL who are tuning in now/at Worlds and want to know more about you, how would you describe yourself? What is your style? Who are your inspirations?
Since I've been casting for like five, six years, it's been a rocky road of like you have to try and find yourself and find what you want to be. But the biggest tip - and again from Raz - was, "Don't force it. Don't force your personality. Just be who you are. And it'll show on camera," which is always great advice. I think some of the best I've received in my career.
I'm crazy, energetic, and I'm cheeky as hell. Sometimes I go over the line and sometimes I should be in trouble. But I know I'm just someone who enjoys the crazy. Like that's the easiest way to say it. And my Twitter bio, it's like a first thing I say is "cheeky and energetic," because I have a lot of tongue and cheek in my casts.
I've got a background in a little bit of music, I'm not talking singing, but things like voice-overs, things that have used my voice in the past. And I think that gives me a bit of a bonus to really use my diaphragm properly and like, hit those tens, to hit levels of like Clayton "CaptainFlowers" Raines. And much like David "Phreak" Turley, at times I've broken my voice and I respect that because, you know, that's giving it 150%.
Max "Atlus" Anderson is another good example - he can really hit that high, high level in the way where his voice changes. But I think my biggest inspiration for this has been Trevor "Quickshot" Henry. And how he makes his color casters look exceptional, too. Even if they are, he puts them on a pedestal; he gives you so much information. And I think Quickshot has so much jazz and pizzaz or whatever would you want to say. He was always like that real unique caster that could weave his way in fights and you could tell he was always having fun and he was so interested in the game.
But, of course, finding your own unique ways is the most important part. So, yeah, I enjoy the games a hell of a lot, and I'm very realistic with what people are seeing on screen. I don't say anything that's false. I'm not going to say a play's great if it looks like crap. I've become very realistic, very cheeky, and very energetic.
Do you have a future plan or hope or career goal.
I want to stick around in the LPL for quite a while. Life here is good and I think the League is the most entertaining in the world. But for a future goal... I mean, casting Worlds Finals is definitely up there. Like that is the ambition! And being in a Worlds song is the next ambition, and being James Bond is the ultimate goal. Hahaha.
Is there anything else that you would like to touch on for those getting into the league?
All the fans out there need to make sure they watch semifinals and finals of the LPL. Especially when we're talking about the resurgence of LGD and all the new teams going to Worlds.