When LPL’s #1 seed EDward Gaming defeated LCK’s #1 seed DWG KIA at the World Championship, the 2021 season officially came to an end. But the tango never stops in League of Legends and teams have already started preparing for the next year, initiating a very hot, very spicy, and extra dramatic off-season.
Amidst the hectic hot stove, there was one voice within the community that I really wanted to talk to. During our last interview in August 2020, LCK Global caster Max “Atlus” Anderson shared that it was every commentator’s dream to cast the Worlds finals. This year, the man did it, as part of a tri-cast with Sam "Kobe" Hartman-Kenzler and Andrew “Vedius” Day.
As reggae music livened up the restaurant we sat in and as great Jamaican dishes filled our tables, I had the pleasure to talk with Atlus about his Worlds finals experience and what he’s looking forward to in the 2022 LCK season.
The last time we spoke in an interview, you stated that casting Worlds finals is your dream. Tell us how it all came to be this year.
So before Worlds starts each year, Riot announces the on-air talent for Worlds that year, but they don’t specify which commentator’s casting when. Basically, when we get the news, we’re allowed to talk about it in a public setting. I actually didn’t want to tweet that I was casting the finals until I was officially in Berlin, because there’s always a chance of something going wrong.
Thankfully, because it was in Germany, guys like Medic and Drakos were just sitting there. Drakos was actually on stand-by during the finals in case anything went wrong. He was the biggest bro in the universe.
I landed at 5 p.m. the day before rehearsal, so I went to bed, woke up, and went to rehearsal. I was literally in Germany for 68 hours. It was a swift turnaround.
So there’s also a pretty funny story with regards to the announcement tweet. Kobe, Vedius, and I were trying to figure out how we’re going to announce it. We were going to do it during rehearsal, but it was really busy and intense, so we didn’t get to spend much time together.
We all wanted to take a photo and announce it on Twitter, then Vedi was like, “Just post it for God’s sake!” And I was like “Okay! Okay!” [Laughter] I was talking to Kobe about that time when he took a dig at me for making this old person reference.
It was your first time flying since the pandemic started, correct? Given how short the trip was, I hope you aren’t too jet-lagged.
Actually, there’s a funny story behind when I found out that I was going to cast Worlds. It was around when knockout stages started. I always knew that I was going to be traveling, so they planned to use me for the knockout stages at some point. When I found out I was casting the finals, it was like, “Do we need to organize this dude’s tickets to Germany?”
Prior to this year, I’ve only casted up to the quarterfinals. Nothing further than that, so I assumed the semi-finals. However, Jeesun messaged me and said, “Hey Max, we’re booking your flights for Nov. 4!” I was like, “Wait a second… Wait a second!” And then she was like, “By the way, if you’re an idiot, this means that you’re casting the finals.” [Laughter] I was like, “I’m not an idiot, Jeesun!”
It’s still hard to come to terms that it actually happened, right? I was terrified, because I’ve done two quarterfinals: DWG vs. DRX in 2020 and T1 vs. HLE this year! Let’s just say my best-of-5 experiences have been… very efficient.
In terms of traveling itself… I mean, there really wasn’t a need for me to be in Berlin for any longer than 68 hours. Thankfully, I was traveling back in time to Germany, so the jet lag itself isn’t as bad. Jet lag is awful if you’re going forward in time, so… My apologies to our US brethren, you know? Trying not to lose his mind.
Thankfully, Kobe lost his mind, but it was great [laughter]. You heard the broadcast, right?
I do want to say that while it’s humbling to see so much interest in the casting talent, it should always focus on the players and the teams. The only time when the interest in the casting talent should ever be focused on is before the matches actually start.
I mean, casters deserve the credit for all their hard work as well.
Yeah, we’re there! We cast the games! If a great play is made, then our call is immortalized, right? For me, that’s all the credit I need. This is just my opinion though. Maybe I’m not greedy enough. [laughter]
Tell me about some of the memorable moments from your experience this year.
Well… It’s interesting. I didn’t know how to react [regarding casting Worlds finals]. It wasn’t until PapaSmithy talked to me about it. Papa has his ways of finding things out early, so he said, “I heard that you might be casting a certain final.” When I was talking to him and realized that I’m joining a list of people that I never expected to join, as in the people I’ve looked up to my whole career, that was when I realized, “Holy crap this is actually happening”.
Getting a tweet from guys like Joe Miller about how I should savor the moment because, from experience, it’s the best that I’ll ever get? It definitely helped to have everything sink in. But even now, I wake up and be like, “I casted the Worlds finals! Holy shit!” It’s mind-boggling, and I just hope that I didn’t fuck it up.
In terms of the finals experience itself… I mean it’s hard, right? It was probably one of the best Worlds finals we’ve ever had, but as an LCK fan, it was also incredibly heartbreaking. There were moments that I loved as a commentator, such as some of the teamfights and just the overall intensity of the series. There was one teamfight that seemed to just go on forever, and every move that players made was so important. Everything was so intense the whole way through, and that was a joy.
To talk about the series itself, game 1 was the game where we got into the swing of things, because Kobe, Vedi, and I have never tri-casted before. So we were trying to make sure that we were giving each other enough space, and it felt like my brain was working on two things at once. We planned for the series, and since game 1 was an upset, we were navigating that scenario and making sure to deliver what we needed to. I think we hit our stride from game 2, and from there it was clockwork. As far as how the cast went, I was really happy with it.
I tweeted that if we get #1 seeds from Korea and China in the finals, we’re going to be happy. The storylines for both DK and EDG were equally rewarding. The fact that I had an opportunity to also dig into my roots because I spent so much time in the LPL was also very rewarding. EDG at that time were huge.
I was the LPL caster when they won their first MSI, so they’ve always been a team that’s been close to my heart. Every player on that roster has a special place in my heart and seeing players like Scout just pop the fuck off was absolutely rewarding. I hope that we did them justice.
For me, a journalist who covers the LCK for a living, what impressed me the most was how DWG KIA handled the loss. They were in a great cheery mood, jokingly flaming Khan for their loss, and were incredibly graceful in defeat. As a long resident of the LCK, how did watching that press conference make you feel?
I was sad until the post-match interview. Afterwards, I was just like, “Nah…” [laughter]. Khan was just… It’s weird, because he’s the combination of a class act and the complete opposite of a class act [laughter]. The guy knows exactly where the line is, and losing Khan is devastating for the league in general. I don’t care how well he plays, because it’s not about LCK winning Worlds, it’s about making the LCK the greatest region to watch. Khan really helped us get there, and I hope that other players realize that they need to step up personality-wise.
You could really see the growth of these players. Especially ShowMaker, right? Interviews with him after MSI, when he was just incredibly devastated, in comparison to what you saw from him after Worlds shows a lot of personal growth. Because you’re not going to win them all. It’s just not going to happen.
Finding that motivation to keep going regardless is what’s really important. ShowMaker’s also very young. He’s got a massive career ahead of him if he wants to, but to see him put himself under a lot of pressure during MSI was very worrying. Especially because unlike BeryL, he doesn’t have Genshin Impact to lean on. [laughter] I just hope that ShowMaker and Canyon stay together next year.
Assuming that you can make a team with any player you’d like, who would you pick as your LCK dream team in 2022?
If it’s my dream team, it’d be Nuguri, Canyon, ShowMaker…
Ghost & BeryL? [laughter]
[laughter] No, it’d be Nuguri, Canyon, ShowMaker, Gumayusi & Keria. Maybe Kiin over Nuguri because we don’t know what kind of form Nuguri’s in at the moment. FPX also didn’t do too well, so maybe for consistency, Kiin would be a better fit.
To be honest, thinking about it now, Kiin, Canyon, and ShowMaker would work so well. Because Kiin doesn’t say anything. Ever. He’s also mechanically phenomenal, but doesn’t actually make the plays, right? Outside of winning every 1v1 ever, but if Canyon’s there to drive the bus… Fuck me, man… God, that team would be amazing.
Maybe instead of Gumayusi… It’s probably deokdam and Keria. I think deokdam looked better than Gumayusi this year. He was also playing with a lot of bot lane pressure on him as well, which makes it more amazing. NS actively play around their jungler and their bot lane, and you can’t reliably carry from the jungle, so it makes the bot lane’s job more difficult.
Now that you’ve achieved your dream of casting the finals, how does that change your mindset?
So for players, they put everything on the line. They make massive sacrifices to be the best, right? But for me, I just have the greatest job I’ve ever had in my entire life, and couldn’t be more grateful for what I have, and the opportunities that I get.
I love commentary. Every time I turn up to work, I’m like, “Wow, they’re paying me to do the thing I love doing? This is bullshit!” [Laughter] And that’s not to say that Riot pays me zero. I’m still valuable. I just want to keep doing it. Forever.
How many finals has Kobe casted? Like six out of the last seven? You can always see his passion for this, which is really important and is also one of the reasons why he’s so good at it. I think I can fit in that category because I feel like I’m good at it, which helps, but also, I just love everything to do with it.
A lot of us do suffer from League. I don’t play as much as I used to, of course, but I can now play, and it’s fun. I go to work, and it’s just great. I couldn’t be more thankful for what I have.
The thing I was most grateful for was the fact that there was someone in my profession that thought I was pretty good at what I do. Having that show of faith from Riot Central, who doesn’t have as much contact with me these days as they used to was huge. They understood all the hard work I’ve put into being a better commentator in Korea, which is valuable.
Not to mention the fact that this series was an absolute joy to cast, of course. They gave me the final that had the #1 LCK seed playing against the one team I knew the most about out of any other team in the world. I feel that the training wheels were on for this finals, so if I ever get the opportunity again, I hope to put in a little bit more time into researching the teams, because I knew both of the finalists very well this year.
What excites you the most about LCK’s 2022 season?
For now, who the hell’s going to be in what roster. [laughter] I think everything about 2022 excites me, because the 2021 LCK season was such a success. The best part about this year is that we didn’t even win, yet the LCK almost got all its pride back. Isn’t that insane? We didn’t even win the finals!
Going into that finals, LCK was the best region again. It’s probably not the case now, because people will remember it as an LPL win, of course. But the fact that the LCK went from having their downfall in 2018 to having four of our teams make it to the knockout stages looking far above their competition on their way there makes me hopeful.
When I talked to Jeesun in my last interview, she talked about wanting a separate LCK Global analyst desk with different talent joining the desk remotely for the regular season. What can you tell us about some of the content that you and the rest of the LCK team have planned for 2022?
We’ve been talking about our own analyst desk for years, right? We definitely want one, but it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s feasible. We’ll have to cross that bridge when push comes to shove. We were even talking about it amongst the guys on how we’d have to work every LCK day if it means having an analyst desk. [laughter]
During the LCK finals analyst desk, I put up with wearing that ridiculous outfit just because Nemesis and Wadid were so much fun to talk to. Can we just have Wadid on every analyst desk ever? I told him he’s perfect many times, but it’s really hard with ex-players, especially Korean ex-players. I’d imagine there’s always that thought in the back of their heads saying, “I want to play again”.
But for now, nothing’s been finalized just yet. We’ll figure it out though, but our goal will always be, “How can we keep doing it, but better?”
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers, family and friends?
I want to thank Jeesun for working extremely hard this year. We had a few shuffles when it came to work; she picked up her new position as if she’s been working in that position forever, and in a way, I guess she was. But the fact that she helped orchestrate my trip to Germany while interviewing like a god in Iceland is just amazing
Also, I just want to say that I’m incredibly proud of my team of LCK Global commentators. Wolf and Chronicler starting this year… It was definitely hard in the beginning, right? But to see their growth over the year and see what we’ve turned into in the end… The last few tri-casts, like the Summer finals, for example, the boys absolutely killed it. And Worlds was just amazing, you know? Even though this year was Chronicler’s first year in Korea, and Wolf’s first year casting League of Legends, and Brendan always being so good all the time… It’s astounding to look back to see what we’ve all achieved. I’m very proud of my team, and hope we can do even more next year!
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports