With Worlds 2022 concluding, the LCK offseason has been brought into full swing. Several of the biggest teams in the region have already made major changes to their team, with more no doubt on the way. More than that, there have been format changes that will alter matters even further. LCK color commentator Wolf "Wolf" Schröder is eager to find out how it all comes together.
Inven Global had the privilege of speaking with Wolf, to discuss his thoughts on the LCK format changes, the offseason moves Korean teams have made, and his thoughts on the future of the GSL.
What are your thoughts on the playoff changes for LCK?
I have mixed feelings about the double-elimination format. Most people are very excited about it, and I'm very excited about more best-of-fives with high-level teams — that's always my favorite thing to watch, so I'm very happy about that. But it's somewhat of a controversial decision because we only have six teams in our playoffs. And the first round is not double elimination, it's only the second round.
So I find it to be weird — it hurts the gravity of what a semifinal normally looks like. It's supposed to be a matchup there are two teams on one side and two teams on the other. How that bracket looks, the hype around both who a team chose, and if they beat them in that best-of-five the fact that they don't get to face each other in the finals — there are a lot of storylines that happen there.
But with the double-elimination format, you get to see everything no matter what. Which is what people want — in that way, it's very good. But for me, the extra chances hurt the gravity of what the top four used to be like, where it's so cutthroat, and if you mess up that one best-of-five, or if you get that one bad matchup, then you're not going to go forward. But I'm the type of commentator who loves sad and tragic stories. I'm glad for more best-of-fives, but I would have rather (and I'm not the one who decides the format) waited until we had a larger amount of teams like the LPL has before we added double elimination. But we'll see how it goes.
There’s still a lot of offseason left, but what are your thoughts on the big teams in the LCK going into 2023?
It's really interesting. Ruler leaving Gen.G is the biggest one that shocked a lot of people. We had known about his plans to explore his options — he had told the team about it months in advance. So it wasn't a shock to the team or anything like that. But considering the team knew that their Summer MVP Ruler was going to leave the team, and still played as well as they did, it's pretty incredible. Because you're always having to think in the back of your mind, "I'm not playing with this player next year, necessarily." They still played as well as they did all through summer — I thought that was really impressive.
The team's identity will change massively because of Ruler being out of the team. It's very likely Peyz will replace him from the Challengers squad, and he's a really great up-and-coming player. He's very talented — the opposite of Ruler, in that he's extremely talented but unproven. He doesn't have an amazing list of achievements behind him. He's not a World Champion, and he hasn't traveled the world. So Peyz could be the new Ruler if he steps into those shoes.
The other big AD carry move that we're seeing is deokdam leaving DWG KIA. DWG KIA didn't feel like a good fit for deokdam, because they don't play around the bot lane as much as other teams do. And deokdam is a player who absolutely will play extremely well if he's given resources. And it was such a weird fit for deokdam. Because DWG KIA had Ghost in that AD carry role before, and Ghost is a player who doesn't need resources, whereas deokdam is the exact opposite.
As a result, deokdam didn't feel like he gelled with the team very much. So I think deokdam will be happier somewhere else, and DWG KIA will be happier with a different AD carry in that position. Who knows? Maybe it's Ruler [laughs]. You never know. But I'm very excited to see those two AD carry roles filled. Those are the two biggest moves we've seen so far that I think people have their eyes on and are very excited about.
[Editor's note: The interview was conducted on November 18, 2022.]
As far as the Worlds finalists are considered, give me your impressions of how T1 and DRX will look next year.
T1 has proven that this roster is really strong together. It's a bunch of young players, and then Faker seems to be an incredible leader for that team. And most people don't realize that part of the reason why they have this revolving door of coaches with Daeny, Polt, and now Bengi — Faker has been doing a great job himself being a leader. So it's good if Bengi keeps facilitating Faker and allowing him to help train up these younger players and keep realizing their full potential — because I think we haven't even really seen what Oner or Zeus' final form is.
My point is, T1 doesn't need any big changes. No one player on that team underperformed or isn't fitting in — it really does feel like a five-man family. And so hopefully T1 continues to allow Bengi to give advice and let Faker run the team as he has been all of 2022, and they'll do incredibly well next year.
The coolest thing about a team like T1 if they stay together, is when everyone else around you is changing and breaking up and splitting up and rebuilding, and you all stay the same and you're already an elite team, you'll have an insane advantage. If I had to predict who wins Spring 2023, I would 100% predict T1. Because they're probably (at least at the time of this interview) staying together. So having that pre-existing synergy is going to put them at the top right away, and the rest of the teams will have to catch up.
You mentioned it a bit before, but what are your overall impressions of DRX?
It's a really tough question to answer because we don't know what the roster is going to look like next year. They haven't really, at this time, announced any big changes or anything like that. We don't know if the team is going to stay together. Unfortunately, my feeling is that the team will split up as the ROX Tigers did. Back in the day, when they had their incredible run, that team, unfortunately, didn't have the funding to keep those players who are extremely talented. So they all split off into five different directions.
I don't know if it'll be the whole team leaving, but we are definitely going to see several players on that roster leave. Because they're going to have too many opportunities elsewhere, and they want to realize their potential somewhere else. Even if you're a DRX player, you have to know that this was a miracle. And it's not necessarily that this is going to be the next SK Telecom T1. I don't think anybody thinks that this is going to be a team that starts a dynasty.
It's going to be a team that leaves its mark on Worlds history, the same way the Taipei Assassins left their mark on Worlds history. In five years, people will not say, "Wow, DRX won that tournament, then they became the new face of the LCK." People will say that it was a miracle when they won — that's my prediction for what people say about DRX. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope they do stay together. It'd be incredible to see if they could actually bring the consistency we saw at the Worlds tournament and the finals to the LCK. But it's pretty hard to predict that right now.
You recently discussed on social media how you’re prepping for a new casting style heading into 2023. What are some changes and goals you have in mind for this?
I had a lot of feedback from the LCK fans, in particular, at the end of the year. It was mostly about how, from their perspective, my casting style was very negative. When I was commentating, I have been pretty critical of players and teams, and have often been seeking perfection in terms of what teams are doing and what players are doing. And I'm still a very new League of Legends commentator (obviously, not the same for esports). I've only done two years of LCK now.
The fan feedback I got really opened my eyes to the fact that the way I've been commentating has been a style that someone who's perhaps an ex-pro gamer would have. Not someone who's relatively new to League of Legends. So what I want to do for next year in changing my casting style, is to have a more open-minded approach to players and plays, and have a more player-focused commentary instead of game-focused in terms of the highest and most elite level of play.
Because even though I understand the game at a very high level — I study it every day and research it a lot — I'm still relatively new. As a result, I want to make my commentary more player-focused, and less about the specific mistakes or ways I think players should play the game. At the end of 2022, because the game had been pretty solved in that meta, I was often very critical of players and wasn't as open-minded as I could be.
So I'll be really trying to focus on being more positive and figuring out different options and understanding why a player might make a mistake. Instead of saying that a player made a huge mistake, I'll try to explain why the player made the mistake, or what he was thinking — what was going on in his mind. Rather than saying he shouldn't have done this, why he probably did this because of what he knew at the time, etc. That might be the best way to sum up how I want to change my style: not saying a player should do something, but why they maybe did.
I really have taken a lot of the feedback to heart, and I'm hoping that the style I'm coming in next year with will be more like some of the casts I've done in other games in the past too. So I'm really excited about next year.
Speaking of past games you've cast, a huge piece of news for GSL and StarCraft was the exit of Artosis. How do you reflect on this news, and what do you think it means for the future of the game?
Artosis has been very vocal about wanting to have a bigger house for his family. It's very difficult to have an apartment in Korea with that big of a family. So I totally understand his desire to move elsewhere. Some people incorrectly think that this means the GSL is dead, or that Artosis doesn't want to be a caster anymore. I don't think that's true. But without him, the GSL will never be the same.
I hope the GSL continues next year. Every year we wonder, "Will the GSL happen the following year?" And every year so far, it has been true. But I wonder if without Artosis (Tastosis, the casting Archon, as they call themselves) if the GSL will ever be the same. A lot of people watch the GSL because they love those casters so much, and the game is almost a bonus for some people. So if there's a way for Artosis to cast remotely online — like what they're doing with their Patreon — that would probably be what the fans want the most.
I don't know what happens if Artosis can't commentate and if Tasteless will cast with someone else. But it will never be the same again. And while that's sad, it marks the end of an era. It's something that a lot of people will always have fond memories of, and there is over a decade of footage to go back and watch. So if the GSL does go away, I hope those people who miss it will go back and watch the old seasons and relive their memories, because there's just so much of it to experience. And for those who've never watched the GSL, I hope they also go back and watch some old VODs.
Perhaps we'll have a Wolf and Tasteless duo?
[laughs] A lot of people asked me about that — I'm always open to guest appearances on the GSL, but obviously, my main focus is on League of Legends right now. So I don't think I'll ever be the mainstay of the GSL, even if they offered it to me. Even though it'd be really fun. I would love to guest appear, but not as my main gig.
The article was edited for brevity.
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