All-Star 2018 is not only a great show for fans of League of Legends esports, it is also a chance for the professional players to mingle in a less competitive setting. It's a fitting bookend to a format where the top LoL teams in the world play for 10 months of the year. Players are given a chance to relax and enjoy one another's company without the pressure of competition.
Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng has been doing his best to relax after an incredibly strenuous 2018 season. While Team Liquid came up short internationally, its domestic dominance cannot be denied. In addition, Doublelift's international performances in 2018 were the best international games of his career thus far.
Looking back on the end of the year, Doublelift feels like he's overcome a hurdle personally and finally checked off the box of a strong international performance. Team Liquid was the best team in the NA LCS for the majority of the year, and is only getting stronger with the additions of Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in.
I had the opportunity to speak with Doublelift after his 2v2 victory to discuss his experience at All-Star 2018 and look ahead towards the 2019 NA LCS.
Doublelift, congratulations on beating Captain Jack and Faker in the 2v2. Can you take us through the prep for that match? Were you expecting to win?
Yeah, it was really strange. They asked if we were going to do the Alistar/Thresh mirror match, and Voy says, "I don't play either of those champions." And I only really play Alistar once a month when I'm off-role and want to win.
It was really random, but at the very last moment I was like, "Dude, I don't want to try hard in the finals. It might be boring if we try hard, and I think it'd be more fun for me personally and for the viewers if we did this." So I asked the referee if I could run over so we could accept Faker and Captain Jack's challenge after all.
I was pretty worried. I didn't expect to win because they were the ones who proposed the mirror match challenge, and we were just off-role on both of these champions. But we ended up managing to win. I think the main reason was that I called for a lot of back timings and how to play for a CS lead. Even though we were losing in CS mechanically, you can win in CS by outsmarting them in base timings and wave control.
We got a lead and it forced a fight, which is exactly what I wanted. I didn't want to win by CS; I only wanted to win by fighting, so it was really cool and fun to play that fight out.
You also played in the NA vs. EU 5v5 that kicked off the All-Star event featuring both professional players and streamers. Was that difficult to integrate?
It's actually extremely easy for NA influencers to play with the pros. Shiphtur, Voyboy, and Imaqtpie are all former professional players. Nightblu3 was kind of the question mark for me, but when I played with him, I was really surprised by how good he was communication-wise. He very clearly called what he was doing and where he thought the enemy jungler was, and when the lanes should move and what path they should take.
Nightblue3 was actually one of the biggest surprises in terms of his skill and communication. He's definitely at a professional player's level, but he just chooses to stream and make youtube money. That's his career path. Overall, playing with everyone has been really easy.
You also won your 1v1 match against brTT! You mentioned that you really wanted to focus on beating him, are you able to relax now that you've bested him?
I just didn't want the meme to continue for another three years. I've been getting flooded everywhere with "brTT > Doublelift" since Season 5 when I played against him, so I was very, very grateful that I was able to win. We were sh*t-talking each other for fun, but he's actually a really cool guy and we've always respected each other and supported each other.
Now that this match is done, I'm just going to try to have fun. I got 2nd place last year in the 1v1 tournament by just kind of not stressing at all about it, and it just worked out.
Well it's good that you'll be able to enjoy yourself now that you've set the record straight with brTT. I want to talk about you and Team Liquid for a bit. Have you had a chance to practice since signing Jensen and CoreJJ?
No, we haven't been able to practice yet, but we will the day after All-Stars. It's been a lot of fun this off-season; I'm a bit sad that it's ending so quickly. It's only less than two months, and I went to both All-Stars and the Mid-Season Invitational this year. Those were both breaks that I missed out on.
I know other teams are envious of me, but I'm kind of jealous of the bad players and teams in a way. If you don't make playoffs, you get like four or five months off to do whatever you want. Obviously, I've gotten to play in great tournaments. My life is very good and I'm really happy with how things have gone this year...except Worlds. I guess the grass is always greener.
Now that we've assembled this roster, I feel very motivated. I'm going to try and give it 110% like I do every year, but I also feel like I'm getting to the point where I don't have to stress out about anything anymore. There's pressure, and I'm trying my absolute best, but I think I play best when I'm not in my own head.
The thing I really enjoyed about 2018 and our roster this past year was that we won both NA LCS splits and went to MSI. I think the team's composure was really bad at the beginning of the event, but after we went down 0-4 I was able to just breathe and play like myself.
I think I was able to play at a really high level throughout MSI. Having checked the box of playing well at an international tournament - a very important one, as well - I think I can use that as leverage in 2019.
You guys really bounced back in that week 2 of MSI, and you individually had a great performance at Worlds as well. Looking at the domestic picture, are there any teams that you think can challenge you at the top? You were already the best team in NA before adding Jensen and CoreJJ.
I think the mentality 'because we were already the best, an upgrade will make us significantly better than the rest' is shallow. As a pro player, I always feel like our team is at a 70 or 80 out of 100, and other NA teams are just so bad that they're like 60 or 50.
Coming into next season, I think we're going to be at about a 70 or 80 at the start, just like this past year. We'll try to grind our way up and improve, with "100/100" being an absolutely perfect, robotic, amazing team. Other teams have leveled up their rosters and I'm expecting them to elevate from a 50-60 to a 70-80 like us.
I don't think the past seasons ever really carry over into the next. A great example of that is Gen.G Esports winning the World Championship last year, and then having a really terrible performance this year. Also, SKT has had situations where they win Worlds and don't even manage to qualify for the next one at all. I never try to get too cocky in the off-season. I just try to recognize that other teams might be very strong as well.
That's a change of speed for you, Doublelift! You're right thought, we're not entirely sure what the NA LCS will look like yet. Thank you so much for the interview, is there any one you'd like to thank as we close out the 2018 season?
Thanks to InvenGlobal for some great interviews.