With Peter Dun leaving Evil Geniuses and the North American region, a new era of the LCS has arrived. There are new coaches, teams, and young players to be excited about. Developing the region was one of the guiding forces of Dun's career in NA, and the results show it: an LCS Championship, a Worlds appearance, and the development of some of the brightest young stars the region has seen.
Though his work in the LCS is over, for now, his observation and opinions on the region are as active as ever. Inven Global had the privilege of speaking with Dun, to discuss his thoughts on the future of EG, how the region can continue to improve, and what LCS teams excite him the most coming into 2023.
Thanks so much for talking, Peter! What are your thoughts on Kelsey Moser filling in the position you had with EG?
There's no one that I would trust more in North America to have the interests of regional development than Kelsey — developing both the ecosystem and young talent in general. Kelsey has obviously had a large role in building 100 Next. And although EG already had EG Prodigies in place before she joined, she was a big part in training up the original roster.
She spends a huge amount of time devoting herself to the development of the region. There's almost no player coming up through Amateur or Academy that I've spoken to who hasn't spoken to Kelsey, reached out to her for advice, or gotten coaching sessions from her. She has a lot of pride in NA and has put more work in than probably anyone else in the scene to develop the region to its greatest extent.
So I can't think of anyone I could be happier to see replace me on EG. Also worth saying: they brought in two very talented coaches. Freeze, of course, was one of my players back in the day on Splyce Vipers — his game knowledge is fantastic. The rumors are that he was doing a lot of work with 100 Thieves as well. Reapered is a very good coach, but Freeze was also contributing a very large amount behind the scenes — maybe more than people realize. So he's in a good place to do great things with Evil Geniuses.
Kelsey has a very unique skill set that nobody else has. Although EG has fewer NA players on their roster now than they did last year, we should wait until the new plans for EG Amatuer are announced (none of which I know, to be clear) before making snap judgments in that area. Because I saw that there were a lot of fans who were upset that FBI had been brought in, and that there were two more OCE players. But, again, I'm sure that when the plans for whatever it is to replace EGP are announced, fans will be very satisfied with the results — especially if Kelsey is the Head of Coaching Staff.
It certainly sounds like you have a lot of respect for her work. I asked a similar question of her, but I was curious about your take as well: what do you believe will be the primary differences in the team between your two tenures?
I read the interview, and Kelsey is right in that my approach as a Head of Coaching Staff is more hands-on — I like to do a lot of position coaching for Academy and Amateur players. I like to get my hands dirty. Also what she says about me maybe not being the most organized person is also a little bit fair.
It'll be interesting to see. But what I anticipate you'll see is a lot more work on coach development. And I'm sure that she will continue the excellent work that EG has been doing developing young players. When Kelsey wasn't even working as a coach on EG, she was still doing a lot of coaching with the players in EGA and EGP, in addition to her other responsibilities in 2021. Now she's going to have a larger say over the project.
It will be interesting to see which direction she takes it. I've expressed a lot of frustration with the ecosystem as a whole in NA on my way out, but there are a lot of good people there behind the scenes. People like Greg Adler, Jackie Felling, etc. There are a lot of very prominent names that maybe the average fan doesn't know who do a lot of work to revamp the ecosystem in NA.
We're going to see the outcomes of those developments in the coming years. But like I said, I can't think of anyone better than Kelsey to help EG take advantage of those changes to the ecosystem. Because I can guarantee you that in Kelsey and Empyre (the organization's head scout), EG has the two people that watch the most NA solo queue, Amateur, and Academy gameplay in the entire region. I cannot imagine that there are scouts from other teams that spend as much time watching as many amateur games as they do. They both will have a very good read of the talent coming up, and it will be very interesting. There have been suggestions that there will be an announcement of how EG is going to approach amateurs in the coming weeks, and fans should pay very close attention to what that announcement says.
When it comes to Empyre, a lot of people give me credit for discovering certain NA talents, but I can assure you that the way that it was done was that he already had a stack of people on the shortlist. In some cases, it was literally me rubber-stamping people that were presented. He's one of the most talented scouts in the west. I cannot believe that he manages to keep finding all these gold nuggets in NA — a region where talent isn't supposed to exist. As long as he's on EG, and as long as Kelsey is overseeing the project, there are a lot of positives that can be drawn in the long term. And of course, the GM Andrew Barton will give them the room they need to be able to work on those areas.
Speaking of NA talent, I wanted to discuss a point I had with Crumbz last year — something I've wanted to ask you about since developing amateur talent in NA has been a big part of your tenure in the region, and you expressed appreciation for a lot of the good work some people are doing to help the ecosystem. Crumbz talked about how though all these efforts are great, they ignore the greater issue of NA's ecosystem being the lack of interest in the game compared to other regions. How would you respond to that notion?
So, if Riot's figures are to be believed, the NA player base is the highest it's ever been right now. That doesn't mean the ranked player base is as high as it's ever been, but there are a lot of new players that have been brought on, and the issue that they have in North America is converting some of those ARAM and Normal game players into ranked players and/or esports fans.
I think that the retention rate of fans is going down. And obviously, that's a concern. Although we'll see if that changes with things like Doublelift coming back into the league and Bjergsen still being there — a lot of the legacy fans might be enticed back. There are a lot of changes. But the problem that Riot faces is how they can turn casual fans of League of Legends in NA into followers of the personalities and players around the LCS. And I don't have the answer to this.
There are some smart plans— I think it's public knowledge that Jackie Felling (LCS Commissioner) came around to all the teams and presented a lot of data for some of the changes that they were introducing next season which were very interesting. I can't go into too much of the details, but the one that's public is moving the game days onto weekday evenings. That's something some fans seem to oppose quite vehemently, but I've been to Korea, and I'll tell you that those games sell out really quickly. Pretty much as soon as the tickets come out, they're sold immediately (even lower-tier team games).
So that shouldn't be too much of a concern, provided the product is something that people would want to go and see. What I will say, though, is that there is a lot that orgs and players can do. And it shouldn't just be on the broadcast to sell the product to fans. There are more players can do: stream and be more public in their personas.
I understand why NA players don't want to do it that much, as NA is incredibly negative compared to other regions. Anyone that tries to stand out or show more of their personality on social media — people will often dislike that a lot and try to knock them back in their place. Which is a shame. But if this league is to survive long-term, more people have to be willing to tank it.
So we'll see how things go next year. But everything that we've been told from Riot is that the player base is growing. And if the player base is growing: how do you turn those people into esports fans? How do you turn them into ranked fans? Maybe a better tutorial, maybe some more basic content around getting people into the LCS would be interesting. But I couldn't tell you the economics of that. All I can tell you is that is what it looks like from one side of the aisle — the organization side as a coach in the region.
The LCS certainly looks like it will be in an interesting place next year! Before we discuss some of the rosters — since you already elaborated on it with EG, what are your thoughts on some of the big coaching changes we've seen in the LCS?
It's interesting — there's definitely an influx of coaches who have never been head coaches before, so I'm interested to see how that plays out. I'm fortunate to have worked with two of the new head coaches: Freeze on EG and Kaas on 100 Thieves — Freeze on Splyce Vipers and Kaas on MAD Lions. So I have a pretty good idea of how those guys will do as head coaches. Both have fantastic game knowledge, with a good temperament to be head coaches.
Both of them have very, very challenging tasks ahead, given the amount of experience on their rosters. As good of a coach as Freeze is, Inspired is the MVP of the LCS and the LEC — when you have players like Inspired, it's not as simple as coming in and saying, "You will do this." It's more challenging than that, because obviously Inspired is a jungler that many eastern junglers look to for pathing ideas, which is rare for an LCS player. That's not an easy task.
Kaas has Doublelift and Bjergsen in his first step in a head coaching role. That will also be exciting. There are many players that Kaas has coached over his time on MAD Lions, who for whatever reason behind the scenes have reputations of maybe not being the easiest to work with. Whether or not I agree with that, I couldn't possibly call it because I've never found it hard to work with any of the players on MAD Lions. But reputation precedes many of these guys, and I can't see any reason why he would struggle to work with a lot of the people that are on the new 100 Thieves roster.
So it's definitely an exciting time. However, it's worth saying that nobody comes in as a head coach and is immediately comfortable. Making that transition from strategic coach or from assistant coach into head coach is one of the hardest steps that anyone has to take in an esports context, because your role goes from a gameplay-focused one to a leadership-focused one. That's a challenge that people have to overcome. But like I said, I think that they have the opportunities to do it.
It was natural that some amount of reshuffling would be happening this offseason. Because obviously, the fact from when it was announced that Worlds was going to be in NA, every LCS org has been focused on Worlds, and not really thinking about what would happen after it. Many different orgs have come up with different solutions for what a new NA ecosystem would look like.
Some orgs like Team Liquid and FlyQuest have looked primarily to Korea. Some orgs like 100 Thieves have looked to promote their Academy talent like Busio and Tenacity. So it'd be interesting to see what the solution is.
I'm excited to see how players like Diplex and EMENES will do against Jojo in Champions Queue. Both of those guys are insane players. Although he has a reputation for toxicity wherever he goes, there is no doubt the talent of EMENES. He's incredibly talented. He's mechanically skilled enough that he would be good enough to play in LCK. I'm not saying he's replacing ShowMaker any time soon, but his talent is incredible. It's everything else that he'll have to develop. But I can't think of any org better than Cloud9 for that kind of development. So it's exciting to see, but we'll have to see what the implications of all that will be next year.
Do you believe these dramatic rosters shake ups and new players are one of the things holding the LCS back? Some figures in the community have pointed out how it might not beneficial for fans' attachment to players to have teams change their identity so often. Are you concerned about that at all?
Yes, I am. Obviously, we should wait to see how the orgs do content. But compared to previous seasons, there's something to be excited about on every single org in this league going into next year. Obviously, the orgs themselves have to tell the narratives that will get people hooked. But all I can say is there were rumors of budget cuts around the LCS this offseason, and the LCS looks stronger than it was ever in the two years that I was in NA.
Teams like Dignitas are pulling out rosters with Jensen. You see top-tier talent such as Prince on FlyQuest, and VicLa was one of the most highly-touted up-and-coming young players in LCK. It's also worth saying that Gori is on Golden Guardians.
There were arguably two or three teams last year who clearly just didn't care about going to Worlds — they've been happy to grab playoff places and things like that, but when I look at the LCS this year (with the possible exception of TSM) I see something to be excited about. And even TSM has players that I rate extremely highly, so we have to see how that will go. But yeah, there's so much to be excited about with every team.
What roster excites you the most?
Let's leave aside EG, because obviously I'll always be excited to watch a roster that has Inspired, Jojo, and Vulcan on it — because of how crazy those guys play the game. But there are three things that interest me the most going into LCS besides EG.
The first is how Tenacity and Busio will do coming into this year. Make no mistake: there is no player in the LCS that is under more pressure this year than Tenacity. He is coming into his rookie split in the LCS on a team with two veterans with the most hyped rookie — I think Busio is even more hyped than Jojo was when he was coming up. Busio is probably the most hyped rookie that I've seen in the last three years coming into NA. Obviously, Jojo was hyped, but after the first split. And he has Sniper sitting behind him in Academy who is maybe the second most hyped rookie [laughs] in NA, maybe even more hyped than Busio.
He's going to have to be on a team with Closer, Bjergsen, and Doublelift, with an even more hyped rookie than him with Busio, knowing that if he has a rough year that Sniper is coming for his spot next year. That's not an enviable position for anyone, but from my limited interactions with him, Tenacity has always been somebody that seemed very mentally tough. So I'm really interested. He's done a lot to diversify his game from being basically a carry-only player to somebody who's actually pretty competent on tanks. I was almost a little bit sad not to see Tenacity on EG.
The second storyline I'm interested in is to see how the Diplex experiment works. Many fans may not know who Diplex was. But he's the same age as Vetheo, and when he was at the age of 17, he was hyped far more than Vetheo was. If you'd asked most analysts around the League who was going to be the star player in the LEC between the two, most people would have chosen Diplex. But basically, he's been sitting on Vitality Bee kind of wasting away. So it'll be interesting to see what a fresh start can bring. He's an incredibly mechanically talented player, and also a player that has EMENES in his Academy looking at his spot, so he's under a lot of pressure to perform right off the bat. That will be a very interesting thing to follow.
And then obviously, you have the TL experiment with Summit, Haeri, and CoreJJ. Obviously, most people thought that would be where Impact would go, but things worked out a little bit different. We need to see how that works.
Actually, as weird as this may sound, I'm really excited for Dignitas' roster. Because the idea that Jensen, Santorin, and IgNar would all be playing for Dignitas two years ago would be completely unthinkable. Regarding Armut, the one thing he has been criticized the most for is his laning phase without his main champions. With his main champions, he has an immaculate laning phase, but off his main champions sometimes he has struggled.
What I would say is that in NA, there are very few people who can punish that weak laning phase. I look at the league, and it's not full of people that can punish him. And even off his main champions, he has always been a fantastic teamfight player — NA is all about who has the best team fighting. If your team has Santorin, Jensen, and Armut on it, you can teamfight. So that's gonna be a really, really fun one to watch.
LCS, despite the downgrades in budget, has upgraded in terms of rosters. I've also heard all kinds of crazy things about coaching staffs — there have been a lot of European coaches who were making the transition to NA. And you'll be seeing a lot of European ex-players being involved in a lot of these coaching staffs. We have Nukeduck, Kaas, etc. I've also heard crazy things about what CLG are planning to do on their coaching staff. side. And obviously, TL have gotten MaRin. So there's a lot of interesting things about the coaching staff recruitment.
What were your thoughts of MaRin joining TL?
My reaction to that: I was somewhat surprised [laughs]. It's good that they have an all-Korean-speaking roster. But, this is an ex-pro player that, as I understand it, has basically no coaching experience. So the fact that TL has decided to put him in immediately — rather than having him in more of a strategic coach role — when he doesn't have any frontline coaching experience is surprising. Maybe he's done positional and strategic coaching for a long time behind the scenes, but I just haven't seen any news about that.
To be frank, I knew that he was playing until 2017-2018, but I've seen nothing about MaRin for the last three or four years. If he's been doing anything with League — I'm not aware of it. But I assume that TL have done their proper due diligence on this. They're going to be relying a lot on him to provide the strategic knowledge (unless they announce a new Head Coach and they're moving him to Strategic Coach). I'm sure they've consulted the veteran influences on the team like CoreJJ before making this decision, though.
I like to assume competence on the side of orgs, and that they've done their due diligence. So I"m excited to see what this means. Obviously — having never spoken to him personally — I don't know how he is about the game.
But what I would say is that he's maybe under more pressure than people realize. He's under more pressure to make a good impact immediately. Because obviously, TL is putting a lot of faith in him with this little experience. And to be clear, a roster that has CoreJJ and Summit is not going to be cheap. So we'll see how he does.
It caught me off guard, to be honest. But I'm excited to see how it works out. He's definitely a top laner who's one of the few top laners who has things to teach Summit. I think that's definitely a plus.