Having been a League of Legends support player for Excel Esports in the past, Dan ‘Aux’ Harrison he has since swapped his mouse and keyboard to work as a full-time caster. He has cast in the UKLC finals in Twickenham, the EU Masters Summer finals in Katowice and more.
In this interview, Aux sits down with Esports News UK’s Megalodontus to talk about his past, the present state of UK League of Legends and its potential future as the UKLC tournament switches management from LVP to DreamHack, all in time to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.
Please can you give a brief introduction for those who might not be familiar with your background?
Sure, I’m Aux, used to play competitive for Excel within the UK scene culminating in a win in winter 2017.
I then stepped down as a player to cast and have been covering the UK scene ever since, most recently I had the opportunity to cast at the summer 2019 EU Masters.
I enjoyed your casting, especially at the EU Masters. What made you choose to commit to casting long-term instead of pursuing a pro gaming career? How does it compare to when you were playing support for Excel Esports?
Initially, I stopped playing because of the stress in the environment, as much as I loved playing there were some definite low moments and I stopped competing to focus on university.
Casting was just something I initially started to keep me involved but I really enjoyed it and it was much less stressful, so in the end I left university to focus on it full-time.
Playing competitively was definitely great, what with the competitive drive and putting everything out there to try and win, but I’ve carried that over to casting and it’s definitely not as tense as being a player.
Speaking of your playing time, you also had a bit of a rivalry with fellow UK support player Prosfair back when you were playing and still banter with him. What’s the story behind that?
So when I initially joined Excel, they were trialing me and Prosfair and I got the role over him. At the time he was the better support on paper, but due to some commitments he had to another roster, Excel didn’t want to cause issues between teams and went with me, a completely free agent.
I think since then we’ve always looked to outperform each other in trials and the split. It definitely didn’t help when, after his Xenex run, I started working with his ADC and top laner, Innaxe and Shikari, respectively.
However, now we’re pretty close friends and there’s no bad blood for the rivalry, it was just both of us wanting to prove ourselves.
What was your first full year of casting in the UKLC like?
A lot of fun, we got quite a few opportunities to mess around and show personality on broadcast. It was the first time I’ve really felt like the most senior colour caster on a broadcast, so it was a challenge to ensure that my points were always representing the teams best and on point, but I also liked the opportunity to prove myself.
It’s given me a lot of space and time to grow and I appreciate LVP UK giving me that chance.
The UKLC broadcast was certainly a very different experience indeed. Did you prefer that style of being able to mess around when the team wanted to, or do you prefer doing more serious, professional casts?
I think there is a time and place for both, and honestly a balance is best. LEC have smashed it this year by being able to have fun with their broadcast without undermining the talent and competition in the league, when seriousness is needed.
We definitely pushed it a bit further with the UKLC broadcast, but the key thing is distinguishing ourselves as being an English-speaking broadcast since we have a ton of competition. Finding a way to separate ourselves from trying to simply copy the bigger leagues – like LEC – was pivotal.
For me personally, I do like being able to be serious and highlight key moments, but at the end of the day casters are here to entertain and that’s always my end goal: to be entertaining.
On that note, were there any particularly memorable moments for you? (here’s one of my favourite bits of commentary)
The live finals at Twickenham was a sick one, being able to fill out the venue was amazing. Kicking Excoundrel was also a hilarious moment that always manages to put a smile on my face.
Lastly it’s gotta be Phelan’s miracle playoff run, throughout the split everyone had this fixed tier of where the teams stood but Phelan just completely annihilated that and dodged relegations to decimate half the league.
Which players or teams have impressed you the most, and who would you say have room for improvement?
There’s a few players who have really shone and exceeded expectations, I think Beartree, Sof and Chemera all were instrumental in Phelan’s run through the gauntlet and considering it was Sof’s 2nd split and the other two were debuting, it was amazing to see.
Beeley was brought on last second for the Enclave roster and managed to go toe-to-toe with the strong imports in the league, and Noltey, who I always criticize, managed to really show a solid performance and in his early game looked like a force to be reckoned with.
All the organisations have really stepped up in terms of delivering content which is great to see, I think everyone always has room for improvement but seeing them put the effort in is a solid start.
What are your thoughts on the local talent pool, such as those who competed recently in the UK Proving Grounds and In-houses?
I think it’s always a surprise how many talents we have that get showcased. For the last few years there was always this impression that the UK was lacking in talent, but the amount of rookies we’ve had show up is pretty insane.
I think there are always fresh faces willing to come in, who are eager to learn and it just takes a bit of time and effort to nurture them.
So many players started as these unknown quantities and they were given a chance to develop and did wonders: Innaxe was a Diamond 1 ADC who didn’t make playoffs in his first split and most recently he just played at Worlds 2019, where he and Unicorns of Love nearly managed to beat Splyce in a Bo5.
Organisations have definitely done better at looking at new talent, but I’ve been pleased to see the UK Proving Grounds and In-houses promoting it. Having this huge pool of rookies who have the drive to improve will not only allow us to constantly have talent within the league, but it will also challenge the existing players.
Speaking of the UK circuit lacking in talent, what do you think the UK/Irish scenes can do to be able to compete with the bigger regional leagues, like the Spanish Superliga or the French LFL?
Funding is always going to be a massive difference, the success of the league and viewership directly improves that which allows higher player salaries to keep our talent wanting to compete in the UK.
We have a ton of talented UK players who end up moving elsewhere because of the higher salaries and overall competition of the league.
Also, there’s the issue that many players are unwilling to invest time as they have other commitments like work or university. It’s always going to be a gradual thing, but having Fnatic and Excel with the current teams in the league, and this push on content, we are going in the right direction.
On a more recent topic, what do you think about LVP withdrawing from the UKLC as organiser, and DreamHack coming in?
I think it’s hard to put it really into words. There was a lot of talented people who worked in that office who are now looking for work, and it’s put them in difficult positions. LVP was also my employer for the last year and they gave me a huge chance to improve as a caster, so it’s definitely rough seeing them go.
However, I’m keen to see what DreamHack can do with the UK, I’m always open to different interpretations of what will bring success to the region.
Now DreamHack have two regions (UK/Ireland & Nordics) with a lot of potential, that haven’t yet hit the mark, to work on.
I trust the decision that Riot UK have made. There’s a lot of good people working in that office and I have no doubt they will have thought carefully before making this move, so I’m definitely looking forwards to 2020.
For 2020, Riot announced it will be ‘elevating four of its European Regional Leagues (ERLs) to a new tier of professional play’ and one of the leagues included is the UKLC. How big of an impact do you think this will have on the UK scene?
I think it’s definitely going to help the development of the scene, similar to introducing Fnatic and Excel to the league, it’s given more motivation for players to compete and get themselves noticed and brought more viewership.
A lot of rookies are already starting to show up to compete in the league and I feel like that’s only going to increase once as things keep getting elevated.
Let’s move on to your former team: Excel Esports. Have you been keeping up with their transfers? Where do you think their team will place in the LEC 2020 Spring Split?
Absolutely, Excel haven’t had the best results since joining the LEC but clearly this split they’ve invested heavily, particularly the addition of Youngbuck is a huge one. Someone with his experience and track record is a massive sign and I’m keen to see how he develops the team.
Mystiques and Jeskla definitely had good performance on the previous roster and I’m hoping they get their chance to shine on other teams, but Patrick and Tore are definitely strong replacements. I think they absolutely can make playoffs, and who knows? Maybe even more.
What advice would you give to aspiring casters looking to get into the scene? Do you personally have any role models you look up to?
In regards to getting in the scene, just practice, practice, practice. Any opportunity to cast, no matter the pay or the prestige, just go for it to get hours in and get your name around.
It’s a skill like anything else and you won’t get where you want to be without putting the hard work in.
Be open to opportunities, my first chance to cast the UK scene was because another caster was ill and I was messaged 11pm the day before asking if I could get to Leicester tomorrow. It may seem like luck, but luck is just opportunity meeting preparation.
As for myself, I’m a huge fan of PapaSmithy, I think he defined the LCK for a lot of people after Monte and Doa left. Also, I think Kobe always brings so much personality to a broadcast and it’s a joy just to listen to him regardless of what’s happening in game.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Cheers for the interview! And also if you’re an up and coming player, coach or caster from the UK scene or otherwise, my Twitter DMs are always open. Feel free to drop a message if you need a hand getting in touch with the right people to make your debut.
DreamHack’s UKLC begins on February 4th 2020 and concludes with a live finals in Stockholm, Sweden on March 29th in the DreamHack studio. You can watch the action over at twitch.tv/dreamhacklol.
Megalodontus is a miraculous survivour from the mass extinction and somehow learnt how to use his stubby fins to operate complicated mechanical equipment and drink tea. Worryingly for cryptozoologists, he’s been writing League of Legends articles too.
A self-taught writer who’s had the privilege to work with good editors who aren’t terrified of his pearly whites, Megalodontus is often seen writing with his partner-in-crime Clockwork (https://twitter.com/Clockwoork) either independently or for lolesports or liquidlegends. When not writing, he usually runs it down mid in real life and is fascinated with watching paint dry.