Core memories are those special moments in our lives that leave a lasting imprint on our hearts and minds, shaping our identities and influencing our futures. These powerful experiences evoke a unique blend of emotions, connecting us to our dreams, aspirations, and the essence of who we are. For Marc "Raafaa" Arrambide, delivering the intro for the Championship Qualifier of the LCS Spring Playoffs has become one such core memory, a defining moment in his journey as a caster.
As he hyped up the arena, basking in the energy and passion of the roaring crowd, Raafaa etched a new chapter in his personal story, and for North American League of Legends. This memorable moment not only solidified his commitment to his craft but also served as a reminder that sometimes, it is in our most cherished memories that we find the strength, inspiration, and courage to continue carving our own paths in the world.
In Inven Global's interview with Raafaa, he discussed his renewed motivation to refine his skills, enhance his storytelling abilities, and connect with players and audiences on a deeper level. Through this, he hopes to create even more indelible memories for others, as he continues to forge his unique identity within the LCS and the broader world of esports.
Thanks for speaking, Raafaa! It must have been exciting for you to announce the teams in front of so many people, especially as such a young caster. Walk me through that experience.
During the rehearsals, the broadcast team and the producers asked me to confidently give them a preview of what it would sound like on Saturday (without damaging my voice). And I was like, "I can do this all day." I come from a rock band background where I love to sing. So anytime I can hit high notes with enough grit and distortion (that doesn't break my voice), it's always been something I've wanted to be a signature quality if I made it to the LCS.
When I hit that high note in practice, everyone in the rehearsal area turned towards me. They told me, "If you can do that for Saturday, we don't need to see anymore. Save your voice, take care of it, and deliver that on Saturday." We did a couple more rehearsals day-of that were more mellow. I was brought out early, then. But I appreciated being in the crowd and feeling the energy — the ambience of everything in that moment.
My first LCS Final in-person was last year in Houston. I remember feeling, "This is where I want to be — but not in the stands. I want to be on that stage." Listening to CaptainFlowers do the first intro that then led into the Danny pentakill, and feeling the crowd energy in that moment — and then listen to Tyler1 crush the intro...I wanted to be able to do that.
I kept thinking about that. And the biggest inspiration for how I wanted to raise my pitch and tones that kept me awake at night — I thought back to one of my core memories of watching early League of Legends: the 2014 World Championship Grand Finals intro with Caster Jun. I was working a Disney College Program internship, and decided to stay up late to watch the finals.
When they did that opening ceremony, and then transitioned to Caster Jun, I wanted to (in my voice) channel that energy and passion. It didn't matter if you spoke Korean or not. Passion and emotion like his transcends languages. The last call he did was my inspiration. I wanted it where if someone were to watch from another region that doesn't necessarily speak English, it wouldn't be a barrier.
What was it like walking up on stage?
When I walked up on stage for real, the roaring crowd just added on to the feedback of energy, and created this positive feedback loop. Every time I did something — even if my voice in some parts wasn't perfect — the roar of the crowd gave me a second wind to continue pushing on. I was like, "We're going to continue pushing. We're not going to drop our energy. We're going to continue going. We need to do this for the players and the teams like every great broadcast talent has done in the past."
The whole experience is now a core memory for me. But it's hard to tell you what it felt like in every second. Because it was timeless for me, and yet it was almost instantaneous. When it got to that last note ("Are you ready?"), I willed every bone in my body. No matter how much sleep I wasn't able to get because I was too excited to go to bed, it didn't matter. I did my best to push it for the moment. When I walked off I couldn't hear anything. Not because I was deaf, but my mind was just racing, like, "Holy sh*t, I got to do that." I'll never forget it.
Sounds like a fantastic finish to your inaugural split! Give me your honest impressions of your work casting this year.
It wasn't perfect — I know that. There were some games that were not as great as others. Some moments in my early game and talking through draft were misses, pure and simple. I sounded lost. Whether it was nerves, or trying not to sound bad, I got in my head a lot. My producer at one point, Kelsey Moser, once told me, "Raafaa, I need you to have more of an ego. When you are confident and only believe in yourself, you are the best talent on the planet. I'm not bullsh*tting you. You can be so fantastic if you don't doubt yourself. Don't let any of the noise or what people say about you get into your head."
I feel that naturally happened every now and then during the Spring Split. And in the moment, when I didn't stop myself from going to see comments about my casting, it was always sad to read. I knew that going into the LCS, it was going to take time for people to get used to me. But it still sucks to read those thing (I know it's best to not read it). So after I did the Golden Guardians versus 100 Thieves series with Raz, and felt really good about it, I was like, "I'm fully aware that there's a lot of things that I did this split that were either pretty good or misses for people."
And that's okay. I'm going to get better. I just have to go through this process in order to do so — I've already talked to many people about doing some reviews about my work this split and receive feedback before MSI. I've also discussed how I can solidify and execute on the content segments I bring. Because that was another thing that I knew wasn't a hit with everyone. Some were executed well, but none of them were a crowd-favorite. So I've talked with the creative director, and we've had very productive conversations about how Summer's going to look. But with that in mind, it's given me a lot of things to think about and work on.
I haven't been called to MSI, and that's okay. That'll give me time to rest and prepare as hard as I can for Summer. Because if I really want what I bring to the LCS to be driven home, we need to ideate much earlier. And we need to set up schedules and timelines to get them done to the level of quality that the LCS wants it to be at, instead of doing so on very short notice.
What's been the biggest surprise this year?
I've been genuinely surprised with how welcoming the broadcast team was, and how down to earth they all are. The producing team I've known for a little bit, and they've been so encouraging. One of the producers told me on Discord a long time ago, "Raafaa, I just wanted to let you know that you were not only great, but your attention and care for player narrative and storytelling is not unnoticed. Keep that as you continue in your career." Two years later, and I'm here at the LCS.
They've been very honest and encouraging with me — that they feel I have a lot of potential, but there's a lot for me to work on. And I've done my best to take that advice as much as possible. With the intro to this weekend, it was the exact same thing. When I knew I wasn't going to be casting this weekend and had made peace with it, but heard as the plane touched down in Raleigh that they wanted me to intro the first day, there was no hesitation from me. I knew exactly that I needed it, and I wanted it so badly.
What about the casters? Have they been welcoming?
After I moved to LA, we got our casting assignments. I was considering sending a request to cast with Raz or Kobe since I've worked with them in the past. I thought that would set me up for success the best. However, I got paired with Azael — I didn't think negatively, but I was just like, "Okay, it's not what I was expecting. But I should probably reach out and talk with him before we work together." And before I even process that thought, Azael DMs me on Twitter and goes, "Yo! We're casting together for your first day!"
I was not expecting him to go out of his way to do that. I had never really talked to Azael before that — I had only played ARAMs and games with him. I didn't know what to expect, and I still hadn't met him in person for the first time. But he was telling me he was super excited to work together. He was like, "Let me know whatever I can do to make you feel comfortable and accommodated. I'm all yours, man."
It was just genuine surprise. He didn't have to do that. But, once I met him, it was wonderful. I originally suggested that we could do a practice test together, to try and get a feel for each other's styles. All we ended up needing to do was going to a conference room, talk about the game, talk about each other, and get to know one another. And I could feel that Azael was very relaxed, very down to earth, very comfortable, and genuinely wanting to get to know me as a person.
For the most part, I've had similar moments in different ways, with every single broadcast talent this year so far. I thought that being the new guy, coming in after there have been so many changes of talent for so long, that they'd be like, "Okay, well I guess we got this new guy. Sucks that we don't have Phreak, Dash, or Pastrytime anymore."
I was prepared for that. Maybe they wouldn't say that to my face or anything, but I thought they would be like, "Yeah, cool. Let's get to work." But everyone has treated me like I matter, and they take my ideas seriously. And I know that they don't bullsh*t me either when I give opinions in meetings and whatnot, because they'll take time to critically think about it, and then either elevate it or challenge it. If it's something that they don't generally agree with, it's not like, "Yeah, that's cool and all, but we're going to do this instead." They'll be like, "Why do you think that way?" And it's not in a condescending tone. They generally want to know what my angle is.
And so I'll talk about it, and then they'll give their opposing argument. Sometimes, there's some challenges that I have that it ends up being that they tell me there's a better way to do it. And there are times that they're like, "You know what? That makes sense." And the fact that they take the time to do that, instead of just brushing it off and ignoring it is so validating. I just didn't think that they would do that for me. But every single one of them has done that, at least once, in their own way this split.
And even after the intro, Jatt — someone who inspired me when he casted WildTurtle's debut pentakill (the very first game of League I watched) — was so enthusiastic when I stepped of the stage from my intro. "That was f*cking good Raafaa!" Even Dash — someone I unfortunately did not get to work with much this year — getting to know him briefly, he's treated me like a person too, and was also hyping me up before the intro. After the intro, he goes up to me and says, "That's what I'm f*cking talking about!" When there's intent and genuineness in their body language, it's just so meaningful.
What are the biggest aspects of your casting you'll work on in this split?
As I said, it's overall confidence. I need to act like I know I belong here, and as Kelsey said, I need to grow an ego a bit. I know a lot of people like me, but when they meet me outside of the broadcast, they come to know that I'm an extroverted introvert. I have a lot of social energy ready to give, but I run out of battery. And so I'm very reserved when it comes to outside social situations.
I grew up being very humble. Because when I was trying to make friends as a kid, I had so much energy, and I just pushed people away because it was too much for people to handle. So by negative feedback loop, I learned to be more reserved, and not share as much of myself as I wanted. And sometimes that has made me think innately I'm not someone that people want to be around or that people want to see.
Over time, as I've been building confidence through casting an amateur and then getting this opportunity in the LCS, I know there are moments when I can for a split-second believe that I am great, and can do great things for the LCS. When I don't believe in that, and when I can't shut out the noise, I doubt myself. I succumb to imposter syndrome.
But going into Summer, that's what I need to work on. Because I know that when I don't believe in that noise, and even if I'm still improving, I can still believe that in this very moment, I'm going to give the best that I have. And my best is going to be loved. That my best is going to do justice for the broadcast, and it's going to serve the players well, as I've always wanted it to.
If I can do that every single time, or even the majority of the time, it's gonna be a hell of a bounce back. And I don't even want to say bounce back, because it will make spring be like I failed. I didn't fail. I learned my first split. I was never going to be able to replace Phreak, and I will never replace Phreak. I was never going to be able to fill in the hole for Dash, and I never want to fill in the hole for Dash. I was never going to add what Pastrytime adds, and I never want to add what Pastrytime adds. I'm not them, I'm Raafaa. I'm going to stand on my own two feet, and help give the LCS something that's been missing.
What's been missing?
A new way to tell stories. The vision that I have for that is in my music, and in the way that I can be an emotional conduit for players' greatest moments. I want to be able to channel what the players are feeling in their greatest triumphs and in their most crushing defeats. If I can make the audience feel in tune with the players, I will have done my job.
The interview was edited for brevity.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.