The League of Legends Pro League (LPL) is China’s premier LoL competitive circuit, whose teams have won the World Championship in recent years (Invictus in 2018 and FunPlus in 2019).
LPL casters Joe ‘Munchables‘ Fenny (UK, pictured left) and Robert ‘Dagda’ Price (Ireland, right) tell Megalodontus in this interview about LPL teams at Worlds, their groups and how they think all four representatives will do.
Please tell us about your career and how you got to casting in the LPL.
Munchables: I started off doing volunteer casting with The NUEL – shoutout to Josh [Williams, NUEL founder] – while perfecting the role of ‘sandwich artist’.
Through that, I got a job with ESL UK casting full-time with some production bits on the side, mostly revolving around the ESL Premiership. I stayed with ESL for three years with my biggest event being IEM Katowice 2017.
I had a two-year stint in mobile gaming, starting at an event with ESL UK for Vainglory that took me to a six month stay in Los Angeles to work on the Pro League for the game as a host.
This led to a job opening in Las Vegas who were going to produce the future Pro League, so I joined their team primarily as a producer. I stayed there for a year then returned to the UK to pursue LoL casting as a freelancer, and after five months I joined the LPL for my first year in a major region!
Dagda: I was working in finance up until a year and a half ago, using my holidays – and some sick days – to make it to events to cast.
I started off a few years ago with Irish events before doing my first ESL UK gig. From there I moved onto a bunch of other international events, and other esports titles, before winding up on the EU Masters broadcast!
How has your experience been in China and casting in the LPL, in comparison to your time in the UK and Ireland? Any memorable moments in particular so far?
Munchables: China was awesome! The food is super cheap there, and people are generally either very nice or ignore you completely, which is how I like my cities.
Casting the LPL was amazing, but I will say I was not ready at the start for how hard casting LPL teamfights are. Compared with the UK scene, there is just a little bit more aggression, and the players are so willing to try something amazing and will regularly pull it off.
The biggest difference between this and casting back home has been the regularity – I really feel like I was given a platform to improve my cast over time and I’ve grown a lot. My highlight of the year was getting to cast Rookie’s top lane Orianna triple kill and Knight’s Cassiopeia 1v3. I still can’t believe watching those plays is my day job!
Dagda: I loved it! The people are so welcoming and the food is amazing! It was great to be able to dedicate 100% to a broadcast as well, not having to worry about this event now, then the next in two weeks time with an entirely new set of players.
I think the most memorable moment for me was LvMao’s Bard ultimate in game 5 of the spring finals against Top Esports (TES). It was that moment when I knew they would be the spring champions.
How would you evaluate the teams’ performances this season? Are there any that have overperformed or underperformed in your view?
Munchables: The team I’m saddest about – performance wise – is definitely Vici Gaming. kkOma stepped in as head coach and we really did see some glimpses of greatness across the year, but unfortunately it was just glimpses and they missed playoffs for both splits.
Team WE far outdid everyone’s expectations though, with a ‘budget’ roster trying to replace Xiye and Mystic, they managed to get top six both splits. Really impressive stuff.
Dagda: We definitely saw the fall of the old gods: Royal Never Give Up looked lost without Uzi; EDward Gaming weren’t able to make playoffs for the first time. It’s great to see new teams rising up though in JD Gaming (JDG) and TES to start a new era in the LPL.
I’d like to pick your brains for the LPL teams at Worlds. Let’s begin with LGD Gaming (LGD) in the Play-Ins. From what I know, some LGD fans are worried they wouldn’t even make it past Play-Ins! What are your thoughts on LGD and their Play-In group?
Munchables: LGD are going smash Play-Ins, guys! I know you’re all scared, but the competition they’ve beaten to be here alone should show that!
For context, LGD hasn’t made Worlds for five years so a lot of people don’t have much faith, but I think this roster can maybe make it to the quarter-finals – perhaps further with the right matchup – if they can play like they do on a good day. Their inconsistency is their worst enemy.
Dagda: LGD fans have been burned too many times before. However, I’d be very surprised if LGD didn’t make it out of Play-Ins. Individually, their talent is insane and when they get a lead in the early game they are practically unstoppable.
If LGD manages to make it past Play-Ins, they can only slot into group C. What do you make of that group and LGD’s chances of exiting it?
Munchables: Group C doesn’t seem like a hard group, but again we don’t really know if LGD will show up. They crushed Invictus Gaming (IG) twice in playoffs and regionals finals, but in turn got crushed by Suning 3-0 twice as well.
I think they can exit as first seed though, if Peanut and Xiye get their comfort picks.
Dagda: That’s where things get a little bit uncertain. It will really come down to their performances on the day and if they can get comfort picks for their jungle and mid duo. Peanut and Xiye are the driving forces behind this team, so if they’re on form they could definitely make it out.
For the next three seeds of the LPL, let’s start with group A and Suning. For those who don’t watch LPL, Suning are a bit of a mystery. Tell us about them and which player – or players – we should keep an eye on.
Munchables: This question is way too hard, Dagda can vouch that I absolutely love this team, it’s hard for me to look at them from a proper objective perspective!
Obviously jungler SofM looked amazing during playoffs and regionals, and he will be the lynchpin of the team, but Suning are somewhat of a ‘chameleon team’ – they change styles to fight against each opponent. So who to watch really depends who they’re up against.
However, I think the botlane duo of Huanfeng and Swordart are the guys to keep an eye on at all times. They’re the ones that bodied V5 and PPGod’s chances of making Worlds, and G2’s bot lane of Perkz and Mikyx hasn’t looked so hot this year.
Dagda: It’s hard to bundle Suning down to just one player. Toplaner Bin is insanely aggressive and has the most solo kills in the LPL ahead of TheShy, Rookie and Knight.
SofM and SwordArt link up to take over in the early game. In my eyes, Huanfeng has become the third best botlaner in the LPL just behind JackeyLove and Loken. Midlaner Angel has had insane outplays on champions like Azir. Although they are the slowest team we are sending to Worlds, they definitely should not be underestimated.
Their group looks prime for them to exit it, so I’m going to go for a spicy one: What percentage chance do you think there is for Suning to exit Group A as first seed?
Munchables: 100% boys, ez clap! No Suning bias, I swear.
Dagda: I think they will take first. If we look at them compared to G2, I think the slower style of LEC suits Suning, and Huanfeng and SwordArt should fare well against G2’s bottom lane.
I think Angel may need some help against Caps though, because he is seriously looking on form.
Group B’s been labelled the ‘group of death’, with LPL second seed JDG and LCK’s first seed DAMWON Gaming (DWG) in it.
That being said, JDG may have been potentially overlooked as a tournament contender, thanks to a lot of hype from stemming from TES and DWG. What do you think of their chances and this group?
Munchables: This group is going to be nuts, honestly. Rogue is the underdog for sure because their slow controlled style we got so used to this year -although they changed it up in playoffs a bit – is precisely JDG’s comfort zone, only they’re at their very prime and slowed down some of the fastest teams in the world with said style.
First in spring and second in summer is not something to sniff at, especially with 10 finals games played across the year.
DWG could pose a serious threat, let’s bear in mind that JDG lost the summer finals to a team with exceptionally strong solo-laners that love to skirmish… sound familiar?
I think DWG and JDG make it out, but in what order it’s really hard to say – especially in best-of-ones.
Dagda: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more noise about JDG. This is the team that in both spring and summer went to five insanely close games against TES.
JDG are the best teamfighters in the LPL and the ability of Zoom and LvMao to be game-changing factors has been shown consistently. Even when they are at a deficit they have been able to fight their way back.
Plus, they have King Kanavi. Anyone that doesn’t have this team making at least semi-finals, if not finals, is slightly delusional.
And finally group C, with TES and the ‘Golden Left Hand’ himself, midlaner Knight. As the LPL champions they’ve received a ton of hype, but do you think their group is a straightforward 6-0 for them, or is there a caveat?
Munchables: I’ll be incredibly disappointed if TES don’t top this group, but there’s definite potential for dropped games, no matter what teams are playing.
Realistically though, DRX look pretty good, but disappointed at the Mid-Season Cup 2020 so we’ll see if they can show up for Worlds.
Dagda: I do expect TES to come out ahead in this group. However, I don’t know if it’ll be a 6-0. TES is a team that can play overly aggressive at times and DRX looks real scary.
Also, this first time for three of their players to play on the international stage, so there could definitely be one or two hiccups along the way. I think a 6-0 is possible but it may be a 5-1.
I’m guessing FlyQuest (FLY) and their duo of PowerOfEvil and IgNar should pose no threat to TES then? What about if MAD Lions make it here from Play-Ins?
Munchables: If MAD make it to this group things get a little more interesting, I believe they could kick DRX out of the second place spot on a good day. Humanoid vs. Chovy is an insane matchup… come to think of it, the midlaners across this group are nuts.
Unfortunately for FLY, I think they might be doomed. If it’s MAD as the final team, I don’t think FLY will take a single game and TES certainly isn’t going to lose sleep over NA’s second seed.
Dagda: If MAD Lions make it to the group I think it’ll be a toss up between DRX and MAD as to who makes it out. It’ll certainly make the group a hell of a lot more interesting.
Even though I have a special place in my heart for IgNar and his Leona, I just don’t really see FLY having a chance. It’ll be DRX and TES advancing.
A lot of people have mentioned the current meta as very ‘formulaic’ where most teams just plan around securing drakes. Do you think this will hinder or benefit the LPL teams?
Munchables: The thing is, drakes are really popular in the LPL, but it’s mostly because a fight happened and a drake was nearby at the time.
I’m being a little facetious there, but I want to emphasize that the LPL teams won’t necessarily play to the same tempo that teams from other regions are used to. It won’t be a question of waiting for drakes, it’ll be a question of keeping up.
Dagda: The LPL is entirely different to any other region. LPL doesn’t care about your formula. They are going to come in and crack you over the head with it and leave you wondering where you went wrong.
Of the non-LPL teams, which team or teams from other regions do you think could potentially cause a big upset?
Munchables: I was really hyped for midlaner Larssen coming into the tournament (UK scene represent!), but that group is rough.
What I will say though, is no one is going to be underestimating Rogue anymore if that do make it out. If they leave group B, they do so as a favourite of their side of the bracket.
Dagda: I’m super excited to see what MAD Lions can do. Botlaner Carzzy on form is terrifying and I think some people are underestimating them because they are coming through Play-Ins.
How well do you think the LEC teams will do at Worlds this year? Can a team from the LEC bring home the Summoner’s Cup?
Munchables: G2 Esports are the hope for LEC I think, with that said though Fnatic’s jungler Selfmade looks insane and carry junglers are in fashion, so there’s potential there too.
The form the LEC teams showed in playoffs though is nowhere close to what TES displayed. We need to see a level up for the LEC to truly compete beyond semi-finals.
Dagda: I’m sure they can pick up a few wins, but the LPL is bringing home the cup. I’m hoping for an LPL vs LEC finals, as is now tradition, so we can keep rubbing it in the LEC casters faces.
So we reach the spiciest point of the interview: Your predictions! How many LPL teams will make it to playoffs and who will win Worlds 2020?
Munchables: All four LPL teams will make it to playoffs, TES vs JDG final, TES wins 3-2. You heard it here first folks!
Dagda: I think three teams will make it to playoffs, LGD are going to have a really rough time if they make it to Group C. That being said, I think it’ll be TES or JDG who win Worlds this year. Looking at the other regions, they are just head and shoulders above.
Before we end, I’d like to give the floor to both of you to sell the LPL to the audience. Tell us, what makes the LPL different from every other league and why should we be tuning in whenever it’s on?
Munchables: Mate, I don’t even know where to begin! The LPL seems daunting with so many teams and names you don’t know, but if you give it a chance you’ll very quickly discover that the gameplay at the core of this league is like no other.
The region has the nickname of the ‘skill check’ region for a reason, these players go ham and it’s bloody magnificent to see.
Also, the casters are really handsome!
Dagda: The LPL is the best region in the world. We have the best mechanical players in every role: TheShy, Kanavi, Knight, Rookie, JackeyLove, LvMao etc. We have the best macro with TES and JDG.
You only have to look at V5 to know that we have the best scriptwriters around as well! You just can’t beat the LPL.
Any closing thoughts?
Munchables: Follow me on social media (@HeyMunchables) and I promise you I’ll give you spicy memes, solid bants, and occasional pictures of my parent’s dog. Worlds is gonna be sick, I’ll see you in Twitch chat!
Dagda: Thanks to all the fans for your support this year. I’m looking forward to watching an awesome World Championship with you guys!
You can also follow @Dagda on Twitter here, and see content more from both LPL casters below!
Worlds 2020 starts on September 25th and you can watch it live at twitch.tv/riotgames
Megalodontus is a miraculous survivor 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 either independently or for various websites such as this one. When not writing, he usually runs it down mid in real life and is fascinated with watching paint dry.