After back-to-back 3-0 victories from Evil Geniuses last weekend, it’s hard to think of a player that stands out more than Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki as the driving force behind their historic championship run in the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs. From his incredible debut last year all the way to this Spring Playoffs, Danny has consistently been in the conversation for best ADC in North America.
Inven Global had the opportunity to sit down with Danny for an interview after Evil Geniuses' 3-0 victory over 100 Thieves to ask about EG’s rough regular season, their 6-0 weekend, his thoughts on the bot lane meta going into the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational, and much more.
Danny, did you think you’d be this dominant going into the weekend? Is there any particular factor in EG’s play or drafting that gave you a massive edge over the competition?
Coming into the tournament this weekend, I think that me and Vulcan were not known for being so lane dominant as like, let’s say, Hans sama or CoreJJ. So, I didn’t really think much of it. But I definitely think that we, as a team, are better than any of the other teams. And I knew that coming into the weekend that we’d be able to do really well as long as we played our own style.
EG often drafts and plays around you, with Vulcan often picking Champions like Tahm Kench, and Inspired building [support items] on Nocturne. How did this evolution within EG come about?
I think it was just us trying to find our style of play. Because I think they trust me a lot to be this mid-game/late-game hypercarry monster, and they trust me a lot to carry the game solo 1v9ing as long as they support me.
Speaking of early laning phase, I noticed EG was consistently banning Lucian away, which I’m assuming was because of the potency of 100 Thieves’ Lucian/Nami combo. Did you have a backup plan in case you needed to use that ban for a different Champion later in the series if you needed to adapt? Or was keeping Lucian off the table always a priority for you?
I think Lucian as a champion is definitely strong right now. I think he’s very underrated, actually. Not many teams are picking him, including us. I think we don’t really have that confidence yet. Either way, we would ban him most of the time. I think we talked a lot about the bans, and we definitely had no problem with any other champion being open.
Do you think EG’s more passive laning phase is a playstyle choice, or do you view it as a weakness you want to improve upon?
I definitely think that it’s a playstyle choice for this region. Internationally, I think it’s a weakness because I know that the Asian teams definitely like to make early game plays, especially China. I think trying to cover up that weakness and fix it eventually will be very good for us.
What would you say your biggest weakness was in the regular season, or for EG as a team? And how did you manage to iron out those weaknesses coming into the playoffs?
I definitely think it was our early game. Mid game and late game, we’re definitely one of the best teams at controlling the game. But, in the early game, everything’s evened out. 500 gold, everyone starts at level 1. So, it’s like an even playing field, except not really, because we — or I, rather, am not that strong in the early game. So teams could often capitalize on my weaknesses, and I felt kinda bad for that. But, I think we’ve definitely come very far not to let that happen.
Zeri has some serious nerfs coming through. They weren’t applied yet on this patch, and she was still very strong, but, come MSI, she won’t be nearly as strong as she was. But, her crit build path got buffed a little bit, and you’re one of the only players that has actually built crit on the character. Do you think she’ll still be first pick/first ban, and do you think you’ll be better at her because of your flexibility with her build?
I think Zeri, as a Champion, is really… volatile. If you let her get ahead, or just stay even, and you don’t do anything to punish her weak early game, she can scale really well into this unkillable thing with the bruiser build. But I think crit also has some opportunities because bloodline got the 100 HP buff, Shieldbow’s HP got buffed, and I think you take Overgrowth, which is more HP. So, even though it’s less tanky, it’s still really strong because Shieldbow is a strong item.
I think she’ll be fine, but definitely weaker early game.
What keeps you humble despite, on paper, having the best performance out of any ADC player in North America? Does all this hype behind your strong weekend feel strange, and do you think your teammates are perhaps a little underappreciated?
I think, as a whole, EG is definitely underappreciated. There’s a lot of fans of 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, C9, TSM, all these other teams not named EG. But I think, when we win — or, when we did win this Championship, I hope that a lot of people stop thinking we’re this team that’s just lucky. We 3-0ed three teams.
It’s crazy, you could feel the— or, at least, me sitting in the audience, I could feel the audience’s opinion shifting as the weekend went on. People were like, “EG’s not gonna win”, but, by the time you guys were 2-0 in the final series, the audience was all in on EG. Did you feel that change from the audience, or were you just focused on your own play?
I think I definitely took note of it, of the audience. Because, I mean they’re there. *laughs* I think it’s really hard to keep it away from your thoughts. But, I was definitely 80% focused on my own play.
You seem to often get asked how it feels to be a young prodigy in the scene along with mid laner Joseph "jojopyun" Joon Pyun, and the future of North American League of Legends. But you just won. Seems like the future is now. I mean, we’re sitting here doing the winner’s interview after you swept playoffs. What is your plan for cementing your legacy and holding onto your title come the next split?
I think cementing my legacy would be, like… Just being the best AD carry in the region. Because I think there’s some competition that rose this season like Hans sama and Berserker, they’ve obviously been touted as the best AD carries. And I agree with it, kind of. They came out strong, they still are strong. But I think their teammates, as a whole, didn’t look out for them. So that’s kind of sad. I definitely want to get to their level and even beyond them. I think that’s how I’ll do it.
When jojopyun was asked about G2 Esports, he was of the opinion that, “we’re going to s*** on them”, which seemed to be the common sentiment for most of your teammates. *laughs* I’m interested in your perspective on how you think Evil Geniuses will stack up to G2 in that group stage, and maybe any opponents you’re really excited to fight going into MSI.
I think G2, as a team, is kind of similar to us given the way we’ve won the lower bracket, they’ve won the lower bracket. I mean… we’ve done it in a similar fashion.
A lot of 3-0s!
*laughs* Yeah! So we’re definitely kind of similar as teams. I think a lot of their team also resembles our team, kind of. Jojo’s this really aggressive, good laner. And caPs is known for his strong laning and dominant plays. I think their bot lane is kind of on the more passive side, which I think is ok because their team is just so good. I think it’ll be fun. I’m not sure how the matchup will go.
All images by: Carver Fisher for Inven Global
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.