After casting PUBG: Mobile across the past few years, play-by-play shoutcaster Devin "PiraTechnics" Younge made a return to League of Legends esports by joining the Pacific Championship Series to cast the 2021 PCS Summer Spit and Summer Playoffs alongside color caster Frank "Nit3Star" Peng and Chu "Clement Chu" Kai-Hsin, the latter of whom fulfilled the flex role depending on whether he was casting with Nite3Star or PiraTechnics.
PiraTechnics' work in the 2021 PCS over the past few months is his most recnet LoL esports gig, but it's far from his first. To date, PiraTechnics has casted China's League of Legends Pro League, the League of Legends European Championship [EU LCS at the time], EU Masters, and the Oceanic Pro League. His most recent LoL gig before his recent PCS stint was with Twitch Rivals in 2020, and now that the 2021 PCS season has concluded, PiraTechnics is looking ahead towards new horizons.
PiraTechnics sat down with Inven Global to discuss returning in casting the PCS this summer and went in-depth on PSG Talon and Beyond Gaming as the region's two representatives at the 2021 World Championship next month in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Were there any new challenges you faced in returning to casting League of Legends esports for the 2021 PCS Summer Split?
The biggest thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that it was remote. It was a little bit different than being in a studio and having a significant prep portion. I think that was the technical difference. It's not like I haven't done a remote cast in a while, but it was certainly the highest-profile one I have done.
It was kind of interesting not having a lot of face-to-face interaction. A lot of the actual production was obfuscated from me. I only ever talked to my technical director and the guy who hired me, for the most part. The informality of it was kind of refreshing, but at the same time, you miss interacting with people on the regular. I didn't do a whole lot of VoD review, by comparison. There wasn't a whole lot of downtime during the week, but it did also mean you could be a little bit looser and a little less formal.
In that way, the process was kind of fun. I got to work with two very different co-casters: Clement, who was flexing between play-by-play and color caster, has a wealth of knowledge and is one of the old hands of League esports; and Nite3Star, who is an up-and-comer with a very different personality. It was really refreshing for me to work with those two different styles of people because it helped me discover what I needed to work on in terms of my own shortcomings and where I could flex muscles of my own.
Were there any unique challenges to doing an entire split and post-season remotely? That's a lot longer than your average tournament.
[laughs] In terms of technical hiccups, we had the worst possible lag-out on stream at the end of game 5 in the grand finals of the PCS Summer Playoffs. We didn't see the nexus explode. I had to ad-lib what was happening because I was sure the game was ending but I wasn't sure if I was just lagging or if the stream was lagging. I think it was the weirdest situation I've ever been in as a shoutcaster. The little beach ball thing was spinning, and I had to pretend it wasn't. `
Aside from technical issues, what about developing synergy with two different casters in a completely remote dynamic?
It was a challenge. While you can still talk to someone, there are a lot of things you miss remotely. You only have the audio aspect, you don't see facial cues or little hand movements. A lot of the time, casters will have little hand movements to imply that they want to talk next or something, so you kind of have to judge when it's going to be fine to cut in when casting remotely. You also want to be actively listening, but at the same time, you need to be keeping an eye on the screen.
It's a lot easier when you're in person and you're face to face to be able to glance at your commentary partner and work out those differences in a microsecond or less. When you're doing it remotely, it's a lot of guesswork. It's a huge challenge for anybody.
Since the establishment of the PCS, no team has matched the domestic success of PSG Talon. What sets PSG Talon apart from the rest of the region?
The PCS itself as a league is only a couple of years old and PSG Talon have been a part of every single final since the league's formation. They lost the final of the 2020 PCS Summer Playoffs against Machi Esports, but for the most part, they've been untouchable. They've just been really, really dominant in the same way a lot of the top League of Legends Master Series was. Flash Wolves; ahq eSports Club — that sort of top-heaviness comes to mind when one thinks of the SEA region, which goes all the way back to the Garena Pro League days.
For PSG in particular, I think what makes them so strong is that they are a team that can fully dominate with their individual abilities. The weak point on the team is probably Hanabi and one of the reasons isn't really his fault, he just traditionally plays weak side top laners.
PSG Talon are kind of a team that lane kingdom their way to victory. I guess that's kind of a given for any squad with Maple, who has been so great domestically over time. Unified hasn't been seen as much internationally because of his health issues, and while he doesn't always smash his opponent in lane, he will outplay, out-farm and out-rotate them. He also plays incredibly well on his own; Kaiwing is probably the best roaming support in the region. The fact that Unified can play solo 1v2 in the bot lane and still hold an even lane against most of the region is the disparity we see, so it makes sense that PSG are able to usually win the game in the laning phase. Even Hanabi will sometimes crush his opponent by skill-gapping half the league, and he's the weakest player on the team.
River is an absolute god and got the first Pentakill of the year in the PCS. He's insane on Xin Zhao and Olaf, and his Nidalee and Diana are well-known for a reason. If someone actually lets River get Viego, the game is over.
The thing about PSG is that they have a weapon in pretty much every role. The one weak point is Hanabi, but he's not even bad, he's just very streaky. If you go back and watch the last two series PSG Talon played against Beyond Gaming, we saw the best and the worst of Hanabi. This is why PSG has been so dominant traditionally, but they did get challenged more this summer.
PSG was pushed to the limit by Beyond Gaming twice, like you said. How do you think BYG will do at Worlds?
This is a squad that didn't exist last year. They were formed out of thin air — former Taipei Assassins player DinTer is the owner and he put the squad together by buying up the old AHQ spot. In their first split, they come completely out of nowhere and make the finals of the 2021 Spring Playoffs by upsetting the previous 2nd best team in the league, which was Machi. They got crushed in the finals, and when spring wrapped up, they simply looked like the best of the non-PSG teams.
But then, everyone saw Doggo's performance at MSI 2021 as a sub for PSG and everyone started to tilt their heads.
Doggo is certainly the team's standout star, but the reason Beyond Gaming works so well is because they're a team that has built this incredible synergy from scratch throughout this year. You can definitely credit Doggo for bringing back some of the PSG style and teamplay after MSI. The entire league has leveled up, but among the teams below PSG, Beyond is leading the charge.
Beyond Gaming is a very different team stylistically when compared to PSG Talon. They aren't a fast-start, lane kingdom type of a team. Doggo is the flashy player who can beat you down, but he's more of a young Doublelift or Uzi where he will simply create his own lead via mechanical outplay. He's one of the few players who can do that against the likes of Unified, though Doggo did not look as good against Unified this summer compared to previous matchups.
BYG as a whole is a lot more about coordination around side lanes. They're kind of the PCS' quintessential 1-3-1 team. After splitting time with PK, Liang has settled in as the starting top laner. Liang is an incredible split-push carry. He'll play Camille, he'll play Jax, he'll play pretty much anything that beats the opponent down, and you have to respect him. The starting mid laner, Maoan, prefers champions like Ryze and Azir. He is similar to J Team mid laner Chen "Mission" Hsiao-Hsien, except that Maoan is more willing to be aggressive when contesting side lanes. Beyond's strength comes from the fact that they coordinate well even when they're not all fighting together. They have something as a team that, usually, only PSG can match.
That being said, they still lost a number of games in the Summer Split, so they're not infallible. Their strategy sometimes falls apart; they tend to fall behind in the early game. I wouldn't be surprised if they get written off early in the Play-In if they start off with a couple of bad losses, but weirdly enough, I think I have more confidence in BYG's ability to escape the Play-In than PSG's ability to escape the Group Stage. However, PSG do have a Pool 1 seed, so hallelujah. If anything, I think Beyond could be one of those wildcard dark-horse type of squads.
At the very least, it will be fun to see a different style out of the PCS at Worlds.
Absolutely, and I think that this is a team that could win the hearts and minds of many people with some fun results early on in the event. Everyone is excited to see Doggo, but I'm not sure what his Worlds form is going to be like. What we saw from Doggo by the end of the summer was not as good as what we saw at MSI.
Admittedly, he had a different squad around him at that event who plays a different playstyle, and for most of the Summer Split, AD carries were not very important. There's only so much you can see when you have a guy that you put on Aphelios and you just have him wait #200years and he's going to be fine. That doesn't look very impressive because it's just Aphelios things… Aphelios is such a weird champion.
Total aside, but as a caster, I hate casting Aphelios. It's so stupid. All he does is swap his guns and I never remember which is which. I just wait for Moonlight Vigil and say, "Oh, he did the thing." So for any aspiring casters out there reading this, don't even bother casting Aphelios. [laughs] Jokes aside, Doggo will pull out the Draven sometimes, so I'd hope to see that. It'd be fantastic.
So the PCS is, at the least, more than a one-team league at this point.
Beyond Gaming is the absolute #2 until proven otherwise. The fact that they were able to beat PSG in the semifinals of the Summer Playoffs was massive. That was possibly the biggest upset that happened all season just because of how dominant PSG has been.
There are some thoughts that PSG Talon only finished top 4 at MSI 2021 because Cloud9 massively underperformed. What problems do you think they will have at Worlds that doesn't make you as confident in PSG Talon getting out of the Group Stage even though they were able to at MSI?
Before I answer your question, to any Cloud9 fans who think that: maybe your team should try getting good.
Going into the semifinals of the PCS Summer Playoffs, I wouldn't have felt this way about PSG Talon. However, PSG didn't get challenged for the longest time domestically, and when it happens for the first time like it did in the semifinals, you start to get a little nervous. This is a team that has basically been playing the same style of beating opponents down in lane and snowballing the game. It was probably going to happen eventually, but I think Beyond Gaming exposed some of PSG's weaknesses.
Part of those weaknesses come from the draft. PSG did some weird stuff in both post-season series' against BYG. Particularly, putting Maple on utility picks like Karma and Lissandra was very strange. He just did absolutely nothing all game. Sometimes, PSG try to experiment and play outside of what they're good. Maple is a legendary player — give the man something he can carry on. At any point, he's probably got five or six champions that he can excel on, but this year it's been assassins like Akali.
PSG also has to give River a carry champion, and the problem is that they struggle to adapt outside of this style of composition. I worry that if the Worlds 2021 meta doesn't suit what PSG wants to do by default, they're going to have some trouble. The reason I have more hope for Beyond Gaming is that they seem a bit more flexible and versatile, and I think that comes from the youthfulness of some of their players. The other reasons are that no one is expecting them to do well, and of course, the difference in competition in their respective stages.
I'm not saying Beyond is going to do better than PSG, I'm saying that Beyond will have an easier time in the Play-In than PSG will have in the Group Stage.
That being said, I will be hoping for PSG to make it out of groups. I think having a Pool 1 seed is huge for them because it means they get to dodge some of the tougher opponents. I think they have the talent in skill in them to push forward and potentially make quarterfinals. Semifinals would be huge, but there are so many strong teams, it's hard to say.
I'm not super worried about NA, but they are looking better than they have previously. The EU teams this year are crazy, the Korean representatives are insane, and the LPL teams are always huge. PSG could have an advantage since they could scrim some of those teams before Worlds, but when a team doesn't get challenged domestically, they can struggle internationally.
My hope is that PSG Talon got a wake-up call against Beyond Gaming and have realized they need to make some changes, especially in the draft. Individual skill is great, but it will only take you so far. If PSG have learned those lessons, they can go far.