On Mar. 23, Inven Global had a chance to sit down with the leader of the Church, Nicholas "LS" De Cesare for a 70+ minute conversation. Due to the volume of the conversation (and for your sanity), we decided to split this interview into two parts.
In part 2 of Inven Global's conversation with LS, he gave us an in-depth insight into how he views draft, his take on the current meta, and responded to the recent sentiment that was being thrown around in the recent community.
One thing I learned while working with you in the past is that you like to incorporate elements of TCG (e.g. Magic: The Gathering) into the draft. Can you give us a more in-depth view on how you approach competitive draft?
There’s pre-2018 LS and post-2018 LS. When it comes to the draft, I would say that 2019 had a really big impact on me as well. You’re absolutely right in the sense that draft is ultimately a skillset that’s carried over from trading card games. I think it’s irrational to think that MOBA players/coaching staff should have awareness of how the draft actually goes, when it’s such a difficult skill to master, even in TCG. Because otherwise, everyone else would be Mythic in MTG, or super high on Hearthstone Arena, where everyone would get 7,8,9 wins after watching a couple of Youtube videos. Even people who play those modes all the time and watch streams and tournaments, it doesn’t mean they ever get good at them.
The fact of the matter is that drafting is very hard because you have to comprehensively know a lot of things. How does the lane matchups go? How do they intertwine with one another? What are the different breakpoints in the game? What is the respective gold accumulation that certain champions need to hit certain breakpoints? Are they mislayered with other champions in the game? How do various matchups go at different stages of the game? Are there different item breakpoints? Are there different swings that can end up happening, which can affect different spots?
"Anyone who ever says I expect players to be robots, instantly reveals that they don't even watch my content. They just invent my viewpoints and then attack that."
What kind of a fine line is balanceable when you factor in things like human elements and whatnot? Where’s the limit that you can say, “Okay, this is reasonable?” Before someone says that I expect inhuman things, it's like the people who say I expect players to be robots. Anyone who ever says I expect players to be robots, instantly reveals that they don't even watch my content. They just invent my viewpoints and then attack that.
What I try to do when I look at drafting is I try to make the onus and the responsibility to be much less on the team that’s trying to win. I try to get as big of an edge as possible so that you can simultaneously win the laning phase, have better scaling and upsides. Maybe you can cede some early parts of the game, but when you come from StarCraft, you would understand that just because someone has more “bases” than you, or more gold or minerals, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually winning. Same thing in TCG, where a control player might seem like they’re behind against an aggro player, but it doesn’t mean that the aggro player is winning. It’s the same thing in League of Legends.
In 2018, I got really into Magic the Gathering. I flew out one of the best Magic the Gathering players in the world, Valentin Mackl. I got really intensive training from him for two and a half months, and I actually qualified for a tour. That point in time reshaped everything I ever viewed when it comes to drafting. Ultimately, champions are just like cards, and the whole process is identical.
"The reason why I have so much problem with pro teams drafting is because everything’s face up. So when you lose the draft, it’s… embarrassing. I think it’s really silly when you lose a draft."
The reason why I have so much problem with pro teams drafting is because everything’s face up. So when you lose the draft, it’s… embarrassing. I think it’s really silly when you lose a draft. I do acknowledge that there are some drafts that are losing from a theory optimal standpoint, but actually winning in the context of the game. For instance, you draft champions that you can get away with because you know your opponents cannot play certain champions; they don’t have the right “cards” in their “deck”.
It’s not an easy skill set. A lot of people are asking me to make content about it; I’m going to make another Draft Dystopia video about it. A lot of people think that the coaching staff should be really good at this. They shouldn’t, and it’s ridiculous to assume that they should be. The other thing I would say when people think the players are good at it… I mean, it’s ridiculous. Just listen to their mic checks, when they’re asking each other how certain matchups go. It’s preposterous to assume that players and coaching staff should be good at drafting, because it’s not a skill set that’s found in League of Legends, and it’s only recently been getting talked about with a lot of emphasis.
"Drafting is like baking a cake. The moment that the opponent locks themselves into a certain flavor, or a certain theme/identity, you just try to layer that. You layer it step by step, and they just fall into you."
What are some common mistakes that you see teams doing a lot in draft?
I think a lot of people misread which picks are actually blind-able. In the LEC EUphoria segment, I remember talking about how drafting is like baking a cake. The moment that the opponent locks themselves into a certain flavor, or a certain theme/identity, you just try to layer that. You layer it step by step, and they just fall into you. What a lot of teams incorrectly do, is that they draft champions that cannot pivot. They’re not malleable in the draft phase. They’re very forthcoming with what they’re going to try to do.
The thing is, they can’t draft champions that couple with them without compromising the champions’ strengths and abilities, or hindering the following champions. It’s a fine line to walk in LoL. A lot of teams pick whatever the hell they want. They don’t care what actually happens in terms of the context of the game; if a player in the top lane goes 0/0/0 with a really bad champion, the player will think that he did fine during reviews. However, the reality is, that champion should never have been picked in the first place, so they didn’t actually do fine. I can go on for days about drafting problems, but everyone blunders.
"People also don’t realize that drafting well and having a good draft aren’t the same thing. To draft well is a process. It means that you did everything really well. You can have a winning draft in the game, but not have drafted well."
It’s very rare to see a draft phase that goes very smoothly, with little vulnerability. The word, “vulnerability” is a word that I use a lot recently, because I think it accurately depicts what I mean when I say someone is drafting poorly. Vulnerability in draft means that if the opponent COULD play these champions — in reality, these champions are simple to play and should be in the person’s champion pool — but they don’t pick them, so their draft was vulnerable. They made a massive blunder, and they really exposed themselves. It’s like going all-in with 2 7 in Poker, and all the opponent has to do is call. It’s just way too high risk and high variance.
People also don’t realize that drafting well and having a good draft aren’t the same thing. To draft well is a process. It means that you did everything really well. You can have a winning draft in the game, but not have drafted well. The opponent could have drafted worse, or it’s just dumb luck that your composition destroys your opponents’, but the order in which you created it is really poor. It’s the same as people who have insane Hearthstone Arena decks, or MTG Arena decks, but they don’t know why the hell they got it. Understanding the formation of it is far more important than the end result.
Recently in the community, there’s been this sentiment that you don’t even think you’re wrong about things like itemization. How do you respond to such a sentiment?
I pointed out various comments on Reddit that people just make stuff up, type it, and hit enter. And it’s really weird. They take things out of context, and I can link the parts on my Youtube videos to prove them wrong. This happens quite often. A lot of people that don’t watch me whatsoever watch clips of me and form entire opinions.
"I think this is what stupid people do. I never watch an isolated clip of someone and form an entire idea about that person’s entire personality. Especially without lacking context."
I think this is what stupid people do. I never watch an isolated clip of someone and form an entire idea about that person’s entire personality. Especially without lacking context. How deep are they maybe into a stream? Why are they so agitated? Was there something that was built up to make something like that?
In terms of itemization, I’m always asking, “Why?” “Am I incorrect here?” I talked about this recently with Viego. In my Patch Notes video, I said that Viego is going to be awful, super terrible solo queue win rate, etc. Two patch notes later, I’m talking about how something’s clearly wrong in my perception of how I predicted he’d perform. So I get into the nitty gritty of the math of the itemization. Practicality is a really difficult argument to engage in, because it’s really difficult to have those arguments with people who might not entertain all the same variables. Or, even if they get one variable, they don’t have all the rest, so it doesn’t necessarily matter.
I’ve been wrong about itemization quite a few times, but the error rate is much lower than people think it is. The math is hard to get wrong in a lot of spots, but practicality is definitely something you can get wrong.
Yesterday, there was a spot in the LCS co-streams about Moonstone vs. Liandry’s on Lillia, in a game that Cloud9 played. The consensus in the call was 2 vs. 2, and after the co-stream, I thought, “Okay. Actually Liandry’s makes more sense”. It’s really hard to get into some of these arguments, because you have to really juggle a lot of variables with what’s likely to happen and what’s unlikely to happen, alongside other things. It’s hard.
"In competitive, if I were to list the strengths of the various roles, I think… Mid is probably the worst right now, then top lane, support, jungle, then ADC."
Over the course of multiple interviews/chats with various experts in the scene, they all agreed that the jungle role is currently insanely broken in the current meta. Do you agree/disagree? What are your thoughts on the jungle role in the competitive meta?
Jungle has more influence in the game when people are playing poorly. It’s just a given. It’s not as broken in solo queue, because jungle’s the only role that can actually decide to impact all lanes, since poor gameplay is so prevalent. However, in competitive, if I were to list the strengths of the various roles, I think… Mid is probably the worst right now, then top lane, support, jungle, then ADC.
Different metas can change the level of impact that these roles have, so is there a meta that you’re particularly fond of and would even like to see it return?
People are going to hate me for this, but I was very fond of the Ardent Censer meta. I was a huge fan of that meta, because I thought it was the most honest form of gameplay, where both teams were gravitating towards the endgame, like in Monopoly, and they were going to battle. I felt like that was a forced macro towards something, and it came down to, “Who can execute it better?” Of course, there were attempts to break and violate it, and I think those attempts were really refreshing as well.
I think that the meta that we’ve been in now for the last couple of years — it doesn’t have to be the way that it is, it’s just that pro teams are so… lacking innovation and the ability to realize that the meta is never what the meta is right now; it’s always about what’s next. No one realizes that it’s a constant phase of what’s next, and that goes back to drafting.
What are your overall thoughts on patch 11.6? Are there any notable changes that you predict will impact the meta on a large scale?
I think the only change on 11.6 is Xin Zhao, but other than that, the patch was one of the less substantial patches. I saw Mark Yetter’s tweet the changelist for the 11.7 patch, and I’m actually pretty excited about that one. I think there are a lot of champions on the cusp of being picked but just needed that extra push to make them be picked up. I’m very excited for 11.7 and 11.8, because I think patch 11.8 is the MSI patch.
"When it comes to balance changes, this year’s been pretty good. In the past, I was very aggressive towards Riot’s patch notes; I almost quit the game in 2018. I was getting so fed up."
When it comes to balance changes, this year’s been pretty good. In the past, I was very aggressive towards Riot’s patch notes; I almost quit the game in 2018. I was getting so fed up. Patch notes should be like opening up a fresh pack of TCG. They should’ve been like going through new cards and discovering what kind of new toys you have, but they weren’t. They were about the same champions every patch, with minor changes to them, and you’d only find those same champions in solo queue.
It was like that for so long, until... This year, actually. Item changes, coupled with the fact that Riot is seemingly more aggressive with balance changes is very nice.
Are there any solo queue exclusive champions that you believe have what it takes to break into the competitive meta?
This is going to sound weird, but I think Zed with Serpent’s Fang, Lord Dominik’s can sort of do this hybrid, tanky, penetration build, and be viable in competitive. I think Aurelion Sol is viable, but the problem with him is that he needs so much time to get really good at him to just have him be viable. Outside of that, Malzahar’s definitely viable, but no one plays him.
You were recently added into the game as an easter egg, where if you type “last shadow” into the shop, you can find Liandry’s Anguish and Morellonomicon. From pursuing a career in League of Legends with practically zero cash in your wallet to now being essentially immortalized into the game, how does that make you feel?
The fact that you can type “last shadow", my old alias, into the in-game shop really defines it. I don’t know why they chose my old alias, but that was what made me. I don’t know how deep things actually went. A lot of people said that this was the first time Riot officially referenced a content creator since TotalBiscuit. That’s iconic in itself, because Riot doesn’t do this anymore. It’s unprecedented. You can’t get into the game outside of winning Worlds (through Worlds skins).
"Riot saved my life with this game. I was homeless, I was struggling, I didn’t have anywhere to go back to."
When I realized what happened, I was really trying to hold myself together on stream. Riot saved my life with this game. I was homeless, I was struggling, I didn’t have anywhere to go back to, and when I had given up on League and thought about switching to Heroes of the Storm, the coaching session with that Nidalee player went viral. It changed my life forever.
From all the relationships I made along the way to being part of T1. It is inconceivable how much gratitude I have towards Riot, as a company as well as how much I care about the game, so being immortalized in it, it… If I ever had to wonder, “Did I mean something to the game and the community?” I don’t have to wonder anymore because of this. I’m not just a random anymore. I’m looking to talk about it a lot further in the “Origins” video I mentioned earlier.
It’s definitely a huge reward for what you’ve accomplished so far in your journey. So what’s next? What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?
Maybe get into Riot’s MMO? Maybe Boris and I can share the shop or something [laughter]. For the remainder of this year, I want to continue to grow and set up networks. I want to set up viable paths for bootcampers in Korea. I want to continue to interact with all the pro players. When I was slated to join T1 during the off-season, a lot of people in the Korean community was like, “Who’s LS? Why is he joining T1?” I can understand that, because if you don’t follow the western scene, this person is random; there’s nothing that stands out.
I’m talking with a lot more pro players now, which is really cool. I feel like I’m helping a lot more now than I was able to in the past, and I want to keep reinforcing that and growing that aspect bigger. I also want to start investing in my own physical and mental health more, because that’s something that I never did. I was grinding so hard, that my bone was showing with everything that I was doing. I need to take steps back and figure out ways to better support myself in that regard. In doing so, I’ll be able to expand on content like the podcast, EDU, the website — I have a lot of plans. And I think it’ll all start later this year.
Have you ever thought about which career path you envision yourself pursuing after your time with League of Legends?
I’m a collector, so collecting is really big; I like collecting Twitch Primes [laughter]. Realistically, I’m looking towards stocks, crypto, and a clothing line. I always loved designer brands, especially Louis Vuitton, so I want to work with fashion that’s not esports related.
Right now, my goal is to get enough net worth and capital to ensure that everyone that’s important in my life and close to me is always going to be okay. That’s what I want to give to people who I consider family, even if we aren’t blood related. It’s not like I don’t have an actual family; I have “Woman” [LS calls his grandma “Woman” — Ed.], my stepmother, etc. I struggled a lot, and I don’t want people to struggle and go through hardships, so if everyone can just know that I take care of everything, things will be fine.
Lastly, are there any special messages that you’d like to send to your loved ones, and of course, your fans? Maybe a special message to Nemesis as well?
I’m really bad with these special messages, but there’s just so many people that helped me out over the years. If you ask me who I immediately think of those that I’m grateful for, I immediately think of Max Waldo, Sanchovies, Macailya, Kooriboh, Tuvshno, Dmitry, my Korean housemates; they all immediately stand out.
I think of people that helped me get started in esports. I think of Skew, Nyoken; names that many people won’t immediately recognize, so I won’t name everyone. It meant a lot to me as well during this past Winter with what Joe, John, and Tucker [of T1] helped me with on an emotional level.
I didn’t mention Nemesis earlier, because you told me to send a special message to him. I can’t really think of a special message though, because I don’t think he’s really that special. He’s on Gen.G, and we don’t really talk about the Generation Gaming folks at T1 [laughter].
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports