During the 2022 LCS Lock In tournament, Evil Geniuses mid laner Joseph "jojopyun" Joon Pyun made an early statement. Despite being a rookie, jojopyun helped to lead EG to the Lock-In finals, with his team dropping zero games on the way. EG looked like a well-oiled machine, rather than a collection of young players — jojopyun and ADC Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki — along with veterans who had not played together, in no small part because of jojopyun's immediate success in the LCS.
In the 12 games he played during the Lock In tournament, jojopyun posted a 4.88 KDA, 431 gold per minute, and 496 damage per minute. Comparing him to the other LCS mids in the tournament, jojopyun ranked second in KDA, first in gold per minute, and fourth in damage per minute.
Even more impressive, jojopyun put up these impressive numbers while showing off a wide and diverse champion pool, playing eight unique champions from multiple classes like fighters (Tryndamere, Sylas, and Yasuo), mages (Twisted Fate, Viktor, and Ryze), and marksmen (Corki and Lucian).
Jojopyun looked every bit the hyped-up rookie mid laner that LCS fans have been hearing about, giving hope to EG fans that, even if their team got swept by Team Liquid in the Lock In finals, they could be on the track to grow into a dominant LCS team.
Which means it’s time for me to eat some crow.
Before the Lock-In tournament, I cautioned optimism about jojopyun, comparing his performance in Academy to that of other hyped young mid laners entering the LCS for the first time.
Jojopyun did not compare favorably to those players based off their Academy performances, so I expressed concern if he would be able to make a successful leap to the LCS.
And then Lock-In happened.
After watching and reviewing jojopyun’s play in Lock-In, the needle is definitely pointing up in terms of his projection. Even though the 12-game sample size is quite small, especially in comparison to his 94 games in Academy in 2021, jojopyun outperformed his statistical output in Lock-In by a considerable margin.
As a young player, there is also an expectation that jojopyun should continue to improve as he gets more stage experience, coaching, and play against stronger mids. And, speaking of the stronger mids, it’s all the more impressive that more than half of his 12 games of production came with him facing off against mids like Team Liquid's Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, Cloud9's Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami, and Immortals' Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage, so it’s not like he was putting up cheap numbers against Academy mids.
What was most impressive about jojopyun was his patience, even in bad matchups. A big problem among younger pro players is a tendency to play either too hesitant or too aggressively. Either one can lead to bad deaths and set their team behind, but jojopyun remained cool under pressure.
For instance, in the above clip jojopyun is facing Dignitas mid laner Ersin "Blue" Gören in a Tryndamere versus Leblanc matchup. As expected, the matchup is going poorly for jojopyun early, as Leblanc uses her superior range and high burst to chip away at jojopyun’s health bar when he goes to CS, pushing the wave under his tower with him at a low health bar. With a strong early duo of Lee Sin and Leblanc, jungler Kim "River"Dong-woo and Blue believe they have an opportunity for an early dive and easy first blood.
With jojopyun at ⅓ health, no potions, and his jungler just coming out of base, it would seem to be an easy dive even though Blue is rather low health and mana because River has red buff and flash. Once jojopyun goes up to hit a creep under tower, Blue lands the Ethereal Chains, setting up River to hit his Sonic Wave/Resonating Strike.
This should be a kill, but jojopyun plays the situation correctly by waiting for the Resonating Strike to finish before doing a combo Flash and Spinning Slash while also using his Mocking Shout. He survives the burst with single-digit health and immediately uses Tryndamere’s Bloodlust to consume his fury and heal enough that he can survive, reach under his second tower, and evade River long enough for his own jungler to arrive and secure first blood for himself, gifting a nice assist to jojopyun.
Now there were certainly some misplays from Dignitas’s side that made this play possible (Blue shouldn’t have been in a position to be at such low health and mana that he couldn’t distort in to help secure the kill, especially with a corrupting potion charge still in his pocket and River probably could have executed the dive with slightly cleaner mechanics), but the fact that jojopyun remained calm and played the situation perfectly so that he could escape showcased not only his exceptional mechanics and game knowledge, but also his incredible mentality.
It is just one play and the Lock-In was just one tournament, but it is certainly encouraging for EG and its fans that jojopyun has shown these signs early. It is important to remember that, just like was said with his Academy performance, his LCS performance will still depend on how he learns, grows, and develops.
The Lock-In tournament only constitutes a small sample size to go off of compared to the grueling season ahead. And, although jojopyun has made these plays against LCS-caliber opponents, he also got to face several Academy level players. In his first full LCS split, jojopyun will have to show that he can handle the ups-and-downs of changing metas, growing pains, and just plain exhaustion.
It’s still far too early to say that jojopyun will turn out to be a top five, three, two, or one mid laner in the LCS. It has yet to be written if he will be an All-Pro or win Rookie of the Split. The lofty expectations put on jojopyun before he ever plays an LCS match are incredibly high. All that can be said after his performance in the Lock-In tournament is that the smart money might be to bet that jojopyun will be what so many believe he can be.
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.