It's do or die for Evil Geniuses at MSI 2022.
After four days in the Rumble Stage, the North American League of Legends team has racked up a 4-4 record, including an impressive win over LCK champions T1. EG are dead even with LEC counterparts G2 Esports and just one win ahead of PCS champions PSG Talon. These are the two teams that EG will be competing with for a spot in the semifinals, as RNG and T1 are ahead in the standings. And, to make it interesting, it is G2 and PSG Talon whom EG will face on the final day of the Rumble Stage tomorrow.
Ahead of the all-important day, EG's Head of Coaching Staff Peter Dun spoke to Inven Global. He assessed his team's victory over T1 and what his team's day-to-day progression has looked like in Busan to reach this point. Peter also reflected on the development of celebrated rookies Joseph Joon "jojopyun" Pyun and Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki and what he expects them to take away from MSI.
Welcome, Peter! A win and a loss today, but let's start with the positive. You upset T1 in a very close game — how do you feel about that one?
Yeah, it was a very close game. The comp that they drafted had to get a very large lead early, so I think the players were just telling themselves that, even after the dive bot, when they had a 2,000 gold lead, we were still in the game. T1 still had to continue to make plays. I think the game was basically over when the first Baron didn't work out for them. They flipped the second Baron, but they had to take a risk like that, or we were just gonna outscale them.
T1 are not an opponent to underestimate moving forward. They had some really good plays. [Oner] had an insane kick on Danny, where he was just straight kicked back into their team, which was a really impressive mechanical play. I'm obviously happy with the result, but there are a lot of things that we need to look after. So, it's a win, but it's a learning win.
"We know what we're good at and we should keep playing to that kind of playstyle"
T1 had shown weaknesses, but so had you. How did you try to balance those in your preparation, and find a strategy to tackle them?
Hmm, I think it's been more about comfort and making sure that we don't need to play the same game that everyone else in this tournament is playing. We know what we're good at and we should keep playing to that kind of playstyle. It's the thing that won us North America and it would be bad to leave this tournament wondering how things would've been if we had only played when we were at our best. There are some positives to this: obviously, we pulled out the Danny Jinx today. [Laughs] There is some power to Danny's Jinx, everyone should know that by now.
But it's also things like Ryze, Twisted Fate... these are picks that EG has been criticized very heavily for by certain people on social media. These are the things EG won with in North America. That's our style of play. I think it's important that we play to our style of play, for both the good side and the bad side. That's what makes us a good team, and that's what makes us a successful team.
You mention specifically Jinx, Ryze, and TF, which are picks for your younger players Jojopyun and Danny. Is that "pick comfort" style specifically for them, as it's their first international event?
Yes, of course. [Laughs] I love Jojo, but I'm not going to come here and stand here, saying that Jojo can play 50 champions, right? He can play more champions than he has shown, you know? Maybe we're going into the PSG game tomorrow and we need to win, or maybe we'll show some of the really big stuff that we've been keeping back. But at the end of the day, we're in the Group Stage and in the Rumble Stage. Provided you progress past these rounds, that's what really matters. We have things that we will show — hopefully — at some point in the future. But for now, pick what we're comfortable with and make other teams show that they know how to beat it.
"I think we're adapting slowly. We're slowly getting there, but we're not 100% there yet, as witnessed by our second game against RNG."
If I look at the team overall, it seems like there has been steady progress in the tournament. Especially from Jojo and Danny. Can you tell me a bit about the team environment heading into the tournament, and compare it to now? Especially in the beginning, it seemed like Impact and Inspired... I don't want to call it "dragging across the finish line," but they took the lead.
[Laughs] Yeah, I would say leading the charge is fair. In North America, Jojo and Danny were hyped to the moon. Then there was the counter-hype, where people said 'Oh, Jojo and Danny didn't actually do anything, it was all Inspired, Impact, and Vulcan.' I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The five of them work very well as a unit and that's what makes them an effective team.
Coming into the tournament, I think there were two things that were pretty brutal for us. The first was — it's a bit of a meme at this point — the ping issue. The first three days were not played on 35 ping, but they were played on something like 70 or 80 ping. When you come to your first international tournament and you expect there to be a little bit of ping, but then you step on the stage and it's so far out of that, you think 'Is it me? Am I struggling to adapt?' So, I think that put us off a little bit. And then obviously, when [G2] picked Anivia in the first game... [Laughs] Anivia/Pyke, I mean nobody in North America plays Anivia/Pyke. I'm pretty sure Jojo has never even seen an Anivia in solo queue. So, that was a bit of a blow and it took us a bit of time to adapt. I think there was a lot of soul-searching. That's definitely something we need to adapt to, and hopefully something we'll adapt to moving on in the tournament.
We've been very lucky here in Korea. We've scrimmed against a [wide] variety from all kinds of different regions. We've seen some of the Korean meta, we've seen some of the Chinese meta, we've seen the other metas around the world. There is a lot of weird stuff. That's something you can only experience at an international tournament because in North America you're generally scrimming the same three or four teams every week. People have new ideas, but those innovations are generally tweaks, slow things.
No drastic overhaul of the concepts you thought you knew.
Exactly, exactly. You're not challenged to the same extent. I think that was the biggest learning curve that we had to go through. I think we're adapting slowly. We're slowly getting there, but we're not 100% there yet, as witnessed by our second game against RNG. Hopefully, we'll fix it moving on this week.
I don't know if there's too much to discuss about that RNG game, actually. Similar to how G2 got the crap beaten out of them by T1, you guys got kind of crushed by RNG. But tomorrow you have two important games, as you play against your direct opponents for a semifinal spot: G2 and PSG Talon. We have seen EG flourish under pressure, in the lower bracket of the LCS playoffs. Do you feel this is a similar situation?
Hmm, yeah, I think so. This is a team that sometimes needs to be under pressure to perform at its best. There is a certain type of player that shies away from pressure, and there's a certain type of player that needs a bit of pressure to get themselves going. I think we have a few of [the latter] in EG. It will be a fun one. I'm sure G2 has been hiding some stuff as well. They'll probably have to show it against us, so that should be a banger. We'll see how it goes. Obviously, we're 0-5 against G2, but I think some of those games were a lot closer than maybe people were giving credit for. It should lead to a hype game coming into tomorrow.
"Coming into an international tournament with that amount of scrutiny and that kind of target on your back is something [Jojopyun and Danny] will have to learn to adjust to"
You have a long coaching career already, working with veterans and with rookies. If you take a moment to pause and look at where you're at with EG, having won LCS and now competing at MSI, how do you feel about your journey with the team so far?
It's been a really big learning experience. Rookies doing well in America is such a rarity and such a novelty. EG aren't the first people that have won with rookies — C9 have won with rookies, other teams have won with rookies — but I feel that, because it's been a rarity in recent years, people maybe overcompensate and overhype Jojo and Danny. Maybe it's something they're not used to.
Let's be clear, Jojo and Danny are really talented players. They'd be talented players even in EU. But coming into an international tournament with that amount of scrutiny and that kind of target on your back is something they'll have to learn to adjust to. I think it's going pretty well, so we'll just have to see. But in the first couple of days, they definitely had to get used to the environment. Being at an international tournament, and living in quarantine, is not the easiest thing. You can't go outside, you live your days between your room, the studio, and the practice room, and that's not the easiest thing for everybody. So that's something they'll learn and hopefully, it will help them in the future.
For this tournament, we're mainly focused on our next game right now, which will be against G2 and PSG. As you said, those are two massive games tomorrow. We will treat those games with the respect they deserve.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.