“The Year of the LCK” is an accurate description of the 2022 season in LoL Esports. All four LCK teams made it into the knockout stages of Worlds 2022, and the finals of the tournament was a celebration of two hyped storylines converging to crown a single team with the Summoner’s Cup. The world champions, DRX, not only won their first Worlds title, but also became the first team to win the tournament from the play-in stages.
There are a lot more storylines that are nuanced into the finals, which attracted even the non-LCK fans into being captivated by the Worlds finals. If the non-LCK fans were invested into the storylines, then you can imagine what it’s been like for the LCK Global caster, Maurits "Chronicler" Jan Meeusen. It’s no secret that he’s a hardcore LCK fan, so he shared his experience and thoughts on this year’s Worlds, as well as his thoughts on the potential of LCK CL players being called up for the 2023 season.
I remember in one of our first conversations that we had, you said how you can’t wait until an LCK team wins Worlds again. Now that it’s happened, what’s it like for you?
I’m so happy. I’ve been an LCK fanboy for so long, so I was already emotionally invested in LCK winning international tournaments prior to working for the LCK. It’s become way worse [laughter]. Being able to actually watch the LCK the way they did was everything I could hope for.
It was such an incredible Worlds as well, especially with how the tournament was finally in-venue after years of COVID, excluding MSI since the whole 35 ping thing put a big damper on the whole tournament. I think people complaining about the tournament being single-elimination is totally fair; I personally don’t mind it as other people, since DRX making the run that they did was just… Perfect. It was incredible.
The main thing for me was when T1 won their semifinals match against JDG. I said, “Oh, thank f*cking god. I can actually breathe and enjoy the tournament” [laughter]. Everyone in the green room, justifiably so, was making fun of me, because when T1 was 3K gold up, I was like, “Oh no! I’ve seen this before! They [JDG] are going to come back! I’ve seen this way too many times! It’s going to go to game 5 again and lose!” [laughter].
It’s just really cool to see the players you’re so emotionally invested into do well, especially with that team being DRX. That team wasn’t even supposed to be at Worlds. DRX in the regular season weren’t the same team they were at Worlds. They were the heavy underdogs in the regional qualifiers, which was unreal to see them win that alone. Atlus is the biggest Deft fan. He always has been. However, he also knew that it wasn’t going to work out for him this year.
Their run showcased the importance of form and mental fortitude. Even with DRX winning, I don’t think they were the best team at Worlds. I think T1 was. Yet, DRX was unshakeable. They had so many things that were going wrong for them, such as Pyosik getting objectives stolen and inhibitor respawning with a sliver of health left on the Nexus. None of that fazed them. If you keep facing a team that keeps getting away with things like that, you ask yourself, “What’s wrong with these guys?” I think that was especially true with T1 because they had so much pressure on them.
Their run was literally something out of a sports anime, but more importantly, DRX’s run really showcased the mental aspect of LoL, which is often underrated and overlooked. Sometimes, the team that wins is the team that doesn’t get frustrated, having fun, and believes in their team spirit.
Outside of the finals, which match was your favorite?
It’s gotta be the DRX vs EDG match in the quarterfinals. It’s part of DRX’s storyline, so it feels like I’m cheating a little [laughter]. I was on the [analyst] desk for that match, and I cried on the desk. I think it was a special moment for a lot of people, because it was such an iconic moment. I’m starting to choke up even just thinking about it. That specific moment when Deft broke down upon realizing that he went further than he ever did at Worlds since 2014 was unreal. To me, that whole series where the inhibitor respawned and game 5 was just unreal. It was the highlight of the tournament.
I was extremely lucky with the matches I casted. I casted the first DWG KIA vs JDG game, which was one of the best games in groups, then I got TOP Esports vs GAM. The game didn’t age very well for unfortunate reasons, but my brother was in the audience that day. He knows NOTHING about the game, but he was in the middle of it all when the audience went complete apeshit [laughter].
In the online sphere, toxicity brews between Eastern and Western fans, Korean vs Chinese fans; you get the drift. There’s a lot of vitriol on both sides. The Reddit thread from the interview I did with Megalodontus brew a lot of the fan bases fighting against one another on which region’s better and what not. I have very little patience for that.
In-venue however, it was so cool. Every fan was super wholesome, they were all happy to be there, there were fans for every team…
It seemed like there were a lot of TSM fans chanting 'TSM!' as well [laughter].
I mean, it’s an NA staple right? There were EDG fans cheering for Deft and crying because their own team lost, but Deft won. Even though I was really sad because the other LCK Global casters [Wolf/Valdes] couldn’t be there, being in the venue and actually seeing such dedicated League fans made the tournament so much better.
Looking into 2023, the reports point to how the LCK teams are budgeting for the next season. Should that prove to be true, do you think the LCK can maintain similar levels of competition on the international stage?
I personally hate comparing regions. It feels like an excuse for fans to shittalk each other, so I don’t enjoy it. If I do have to make a statement about this I’d say that the LCK was the strongest region at Worlds this year, because LCK had the most teams in the knockout stages. However, I think that it gets in the way of talking about the teams individually. Especially when it comes to individually; do you think T1 was happy that the LCK won Worlds? On a personal level, I wouldn’t think so, because they would’ve rather won the tournament themselves.
When it comes to the individual teams, I think they’ll look slightly worse. A lot of LCK CL players are getting slurped away, like Photon, who’s rumored to be the next top laner for Team Vitality [EMEA]. It might lead to temporary issues for the region, but the key thing that the LCK has shown over the years is the wide & deep pool of individual talent, and the structure of the league is at a very high level. I wouldn’t be worried, especially what I’ve seen over the past two years.
Korea is the main region that exports players, yet the LCK still shows a lot of promise over other regions. Peyz, Gen.G Challengers’ bot laner being promoted to the main roster is one of the rumors for 2023, and to me, he’s one of the most promising prospects since names like Gumayusi and Zeus. LCK always showed that there is an incredible amount of fresh talent to be excited for, and it just goes to show that the LCK has the best development pipeline out of everywhere else, because the average level is just that high.
Earlier, we talked about T1 Challengers’ top laner Photon being rumored to be the next starting top laner for Vitality. From your observation of his matches in LCK CL this season, what kind of a player is he?
Personally, I rated him higher than Berserker when he went to Cloud9. As far as I’m aware, Photon made his name known when he was with Gen.G, back when he still used the name ‘gyuvee’, which is a name he took on after CuVee. Him and T1 Challengers’ [now former] mid laner Toland, was with SANDBOX’s CL team in 2021 and were the best players on that roster. Then T1 picked them both alongside Kabbie, with Forest being promoted from their T1 Academy roster.
Photon was the most exciting player on that roster. Very well-rounded player, got the round robin MVP of round 3, overall split MVP, and is a super well-rounded player and can play multiple styles. I’m always excited to see where CL players are going to end up because the talent pool is so wide and deep. Esports is such a short and volatile career path, so even if they do end up getting exported, I wish nothing but the best for all of them.
I think Korean players being exported into other regions is always a fickle subject. Do the players try to find options that make them as much money as they can? Or do they try to find options that may bring back competitive results?
If your goal is to win Worlds, then you can go to the LPL, but you can’t go anywhere else outside of LCK or LPL. I just don’t see any teams outside of those two regions that will win Worlds any time soon. It might happen eventually, but I think this Worlds really showed how wide the gap is.
However, being able to live in a different country, especially as young players, is a really valuable experience for them. If you get good money while doing so, then I’d say yes, go for it. You never really know what it’s going to be like with esports. Obviously, for my own personal enjoyment, I’d love to see all of the Korean players return to Korea to compete, but if a CL player can get experience overseas and get paid while doing so, then I’m all for it.
While it’s tough to gauge what the 2023 season of the LCK will look like, if the LCK teams actually do end up budgeting, what do you think the rosters will look like if teams actually called up some of their CL players to the main roster?
I hope T1 stays the same, because they’ve shown they’re still very capable of winning Worlds. I also hoped Gen.G stays the same, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Like I said however, if the rumors are true, I’m excited to see Peyz perform. The things I’ve seen him do are pretty unreasonable [laughter]. This year, it was, “Does Peyz carry or not?”: This got Gen.G Challengers to the playoffs, and it’s a good sign.
On Nov 22, Nongshim RedForce announced that they've called up their Challengers team to the main roster for the 2023 season
Nongshim [RedForce] has a really good Jungler from their CL team waiting for them, and while I don’t think DWG KIA’s calling up their CL players, but Lucid, Pullbae, and Thanatos are… Really fucking good. Mechanically, and especially mid-jungle wise, they’re one of the most exciting to watch. There’s also IlllIma from Kwangdong, but he’s playing behind Kiin so it’s a little tough. The support player for Liiv SANDBOX Challengers, Duro, is pretty good as well.
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