As one of the veteran casters for the LEC, one of the hosts of EUphoria, and grinding Elden Ring as much as possible — Daniel "Drakos" Drakos has been as busy as ever. He’s been one of the driving forces in the LEC’s success as one of the top esports broadcasts in the world. Inven Global spoke with Drakos, to discuss his thoughts on the Spring Split, what other regions can learn from CBLoL, and the LEC broadcast team’s favorite rapper.
You were someone that was unsure of the EU's level this year after the offseason. Now that we have a whole split done, how much has your opinion changed?
It's tough, because a lot of the validation of how good your region is does not come so much from internal competition, but from how well you do internationally. I was pleasantly surprised by the level in early playoffs, and while G2's incredible 12-0 run through the later half of playoffs was great and fantastic to watch, I worry that it was two factors: both G2's marked improvement week-to-week, and also Rogue and Fnatic each individually feeling a bit of a collapse that led to that moment.
So I'm still skeptical as to how high our level is and if we can reach the heights of 2019. But this G2 roster has a lot of promise, and I'm excited to see how they do MSI. And I'm feeling significantly more optimistic for Worlds, based on the highs we saw from Fnatic and Rogue as the two other teams alongside G2 that are probably front-runners to make it to Worlds right now. So very optimistic long-term, and cautiously-optimistic short-term when it comes to G2 and their success at MSI.
What do you think of this version of G2 versus past iterations of the team?
I think one of the coolest understated things about this G2 roster is how incredibly prepared they have been across playoffs in terms of drafting. You saw some of these things not work out so well in the first series versus Fnatic where they had all these answers for Leblanc, but ultimately were able to stop Humanoid. But then the consistent high-level drafting that they were able to pull off across the entirety of the second series, as well as the Rogue series was honestly a pleasure to watch — and really big credit to the G2 support staff behind the scenes for making that happen.
And not to discredit GrabbZ or any of the previous G2 teams, because they were meta geniuses back in 2018. But that level of preparation is really cool to see, and it feels like a really strong backbone alongside rocks like Jankos and caPs to help make sure that players like Targamas and Flakked can shine. Across the board, I've been impressed by this roster. I was skeptical about the bottom lane, but it did really well in playoffs. I was even skeptical of Broken Blade — especially his champion pool, because it has been kind of a meme for a long time about how he's just kind of the counter-pick top laner. And we saw a lot of that in the regular season where he was getting a million different counter picks — Yone, Corki, etc. That's a fine identity, but you always want to know that a team you're sending internationally can do anything — can do whatever it takes and play whatever meta is needed to go as far as possible.
We saw a lot of that in playoffs. The fact that Broken Blade can be a meta player when he needs to be, and a counter pick monster when he needs to be is so massive for him. G2 exceeded my expectations, and they have a lot of different things going for them. But I'm very excited about the development in the bot lane, and the support that the coaching staff seems to be giving them in the draft.
I talked with Vedius about what the LCS broadcast can do to get to the level of LEC, viewership-wise. You hear a lot of different thoughts on that. Some think it’s the lack of longtime personalities in NA, others think it’s that Europe has had a lot more international success. What do you think? If the LEC continues to do only decent at international tournaments, would that be a problem, or is the league strong enough to keep people watching in spite of that?
As much as I would love to say that international successes aren't super important and it's all just domestic... I think in every regional league, except for probably LCK and the LPL where that success is so consistent, it would make their lives easier. But no, international success is a huge part of it. Because it is incredibly validating as a fan of a region to see your region succeed internationally. And for people who aren't really high-level League of Legends analysts, the line between great games and clown-fiestas is sometimes the really simple surface-level things when it comes to fan perception. If you are absolutely sprinting it or playing a great game, it can often be decided by how the fans feel about that region.
Because the LEC isn't perfect, but I think that we've done well enough internationally that when there are games that might look a little sloppy, people give our teams the benefit of the doubt. People look at it as good League of Legends, whereas because NA has failed a lot internationally, and the region is also pretty top-heavy and has been for a while, people are not going to give them the benefit of doubt. They are so quick to just be like, "Oh, that's a fiesta." And sometimes it's fair — every region has fiestas. But that trust and that fan perception is a big thing, and a lot of that is won at international events.
In terms of what the broadcasts are doing, I think the LCS is doing a super good job. Disclaimer: I'm a full-time Riot employee. So I would never come in here and sh*t on my colleagues. That's not what I'm about. I would never do that. But from a — as much as I can be — unbiased perspective, the content they've been doing with the caster questions is super solid and very much a step in the direction that we took while we were building our casters more as brands.
Some of the more casual vibes that we've been getting from the analyst desk: the set that's full of props, everybody's sitting on these little couch-chair things, and you had Jatt kind of hosting for a while — that was honestly really great content. And it's debatable how high the level of competition is. The top of NA is really good, but the bottom is lagging behind. The broadcast is doing a fantastic job these days and has been really stepping it up in terms of the kind of content they've been putting out.
If they also find international success: that's the silver bullet. Then you've got everything that you need for NA to really rise up. But I think that LEC is in a similar position where if we pop off and win MSI, that's always going to be fantastic for us — for viewership and fan engagement. Because it brings back a lot of people when they know that they're supporting a top region in the world. And right now I still think we're there — EU's a top three region. But as we've learned, watching the LCS fandom suffer every international event — big difference between third and fourth. Nobody wants to be fourth. So we'll have to see what happens.
Why is it, though, that CBLoL garners such a great audience relative to the size of the region, when they haven't seen much success internationally?
That's an awesome question, and I don't really have great answers. I will say that the team at CBLoL does a fantastic job — some of their opening ceremonies are awesome. It was a couple years ago when they had a giant Galio and they were playing on top of a building. And you know it's good because Worlds hella ripped that off. [laughs] And they have a lot of really cool player personalities, and a lot of the orgs do a good job marketing things.
But to be honest, a lot of Brazil's trajectories are very comparable to EU and NA. Whether it's that they've had their years where they may be overly reliant on imports like EU and NA, or they've had years where they've gone back to a lot more domestic talent. It's a region whose history domestically — at least from an outside perspective — seems very comparable. They've got their dynasties and different eras.
But I could not tell you exactly what it is. It would be the kind of simple, "I don't know what I'm talking about" answer that would be like, "Oh, maybe it's a cultural difference." But to be honest, I just don't know. It's a damn good question, though. And it's something that I want to look into more and probably could talk to the team at the CBLoL about more, because the passion of Brazilian fans is something that's difficult to match despite their relative lack of international success.
You think that there's something the LCS could learn from CBLoL?
I mean, not just the LCS. It's easy to look at LCS and think that they're the ones that are maybe lagging behind a little bit. And while I get sometimes when people feel that way, as I've highlighted earlier, that perspective should be changed, because I do think they're doing well.
But I think that it's all of us. CBLoL's undying success and seemingly ever-growing viewership is something that every region can look at. And certainly — at least the ones that I have worked with, I can't speak to the strategies of every team in the world — but their success is awesome. And it's something that everybody can learn from.
What are your impressions so far of the storylines going into MSI?
T1 and G2 rematch is hype — same for caPs and Faker's rematch. Gumayusi is the coolest player storyline in a very long time. Seemingly, the Faker bloodline is just unstoppable. We have almost a familial dynasty at this point between Faker, InNoVation, and Gumayusi. And that's so, so cool. When we talk about League becoming as big or as everlasting as something like football, one of the proponents of that is those family lines. Obviously not in a way that's nepotistic, but in this case, Gumayusi's insane.
There are some old storylines, like the revenge match of caPs and Faker, but also potentially the rising of new Korean legends. And we'll see in this tournament and this year and the years to come if Gumayusi can be the new GOAT. Imagine a world where the next truly great LCK player after Faker is the brother of InNoVation!
Additionally, the other thing which was just announced is that LPL is now playing remotely (again, I'm not on this team, so I can't say the specifics). But that seems to be a big deal, and I think will affect a lot of people's perspectives of the tournament. If that is a good clean setup, or if there are a lot of close exchanges, people are gonna wonder if it was the ping from Busan to wherever the LPL players are competing from. That affects a lot of people's perspective of the validity of the tournament, and what it actually means when we look at international power rankings. Because no doubt not playing on LAN, more often than not, would be looked at as a disadvantage for the vast majority of teams.
Your duo Caedrel is one of the most beloved in esports. How would you compare and contrast working on a game with Caedrel compared to say, Froskurinn, who was one of your main partners in the past?
Caedrel and Froskurinn come from two very different backgrounds. And while Frosk did have some semi-pro experience early on in her career in the earlier days of League of Legends, she was very much an expert in her craft from the broadcast perspective: delivery, storytelling, etc. She was an excellent analyst as well, but she didn't come from that pro player background in the way that Caedrel did. So it was just two people coming from opposite sides of the spectrum. Frosk had learned behind the scenes as an analyst and as a coach, and a little bit as a pro player — the analysis and expertise of the game.
Whereas Caedrel came in with all the expertise in the game in the world and then learned the broadcast skills. They're two very different growth trajectories. They're both really fun to work with in a wide variety of ways. What made them both very easy to work with is I just get along very well with both of them. You can't really force friendship. And while it is ultimately — at least in a work capacity — a professional relationship, and should be, we're also friends outside. That's always going to make a big difference.
Frosk was also very much more veteran than I was, so I learned a lot from her. Whereas Caedrel was a baby caster when we started working together. Don't get me wrong, that man was very good out the gate. Very good. But it was much more of a, "Hey, let's work on this week. Let's work on that this week." That was how our first year went together, where I was showing him my goals, and I was helping him set his goals in terms of what he wanted to grow. And now that we've been doing it for a while, it's much more equal, where it's not about him setting his goals and me setting my goals. We're both pretty happy with where we're at.
It's about, "What are we going to do together as a duo and as equals", rather than me trying to teach him concepts and ideas. Now he's mirroring and teaching me some stuff like analytical concepts.
What about some of the newer talent? Who has stood out to you?
While it's unfair to call him new after his pretty long stint now in the LPL: Dagda. I've been very impressed by him — fantastic delivery, makes really good points, and despite being on a broadcast that is not the primary feed (the secondary broadcasts like LPL and LCK) you don't always get access to the same kind of broadcast tools. Things like telestrators and analyst desks.
He has had some of that experience, but when he came in with absolute comfort in his first weeks as a guest on our show, and just seemed instantly natural and comfortable in a broadcast environment with that level of technology, and picked these things up so quickly — it's super impressive. Most people the first time they set foot in front of a telestrator suck. It's really hard. It's one of those things where it's like public speaking, plus trying to get this piece of technology that's super finicky. But he came in with full confidence and nailed it.
I'm excited to see how all of the younger casters grow — especially the people who came in from the ERL and EU Masters who hadn't necessarily had as much LPL experience as a guy like Dagda. But they've all got their own strengths. And I think they've all got things that they're working on, and I just want to see what that looks like.
One of the casters you did work with was Guldborg. He said that you put in a lot of work behind the scenes to set him up. What did he mean by that? What does that work in entail?
When you're coming into cast, it's very easy when you have cast for a long time to assume that everyone is on the same page, and just roll with whatever you both got. And you've got to both have a general understanding of what you want to talk about, what the meta is, and what's important to hit. And one of the most important things you can do anytime you're casting with someone new (not new in the sense that Guldborg is a younger caster, but in that we haven't casted together) is to sit down and explicitly have those conversations up-front.
So like, "Who do you think is the most important player in this game? Why do you think that? What can we do? How can we phrase this? How can we set this up? Here's what I want to talk about." Rather than letting some of these things feel super-natural flowy, like it's either gonna click or it's not gonna click, you make sure it's gonna click. Because you go through all this stuff you want to talk about as much as you can ahead of time, so that you have this basis to work with.
So if I make a joke and it doesn't land with him, or vice-versa, it's not gonna be the end of the world. Because it's not like we're just sitting in a void there — we can always go back on this thing that we prepped and built together before the cast. This shared basis of knowledge, or shared assessment of the game or teams or matchup. We always have that foundation to come back to make our cast easier. I know what he's comfortable talking about, and he knows what I'm talking about. We both know what the other person cares about.
It's a little thing, but when you cast a lot — and most casters who cast for a living have to cast a lot — it's easy to let the little things like prepping with other people slide. But when you really want to set a cast up to succeed, it's not the super fancy, "Let's spend the next five hours finding this really niche point that three people are gonna appreciate" things that matter. It's the, "Let's really remind ourselves of basics. Let's hammer out a good foundation, and go from there."
I wanted to touch on something you tweeted earlier this year. You stated that every day Sjokz wasn’t a part of the LEC product, it suffers. Considering how long the LEC has been around now, and how you’ve stated the importance someone like Sjokz brings to every LEC broadcast, is it at all weird to you that things like that still happen?
Yeah, I mean, it's tough. Because again, I'm a full-time employee of the company, and it's hard because I think that when I tweeted that it was because a lot of people were... I saw a lot of sentiment that was like, "Oh, you know, maybe Sjokz will come back, it's gonna be fine." And that felt really bad to me, because this is someone I've worked with for a long time, and someone who puts so much work in behind the scenes and constantly is one of the big factors for why the product has been constantly pushed forward.
But ultimately, you know, I guess the easiest way to say it, is that there's always going to be a business reality to anything getting made. And I'm ultimately not the person who makes decisions. And my perspective isn't ultimately the only perspective that matters. But to me, she is the person that has built this product up. And very often, when other people working are content with keeping the status quo, she was the person that pushed us forward and demanded more. And she continues to do that on most products she works on, and I would assume any products she works on. But I'm not there, so I can't say.
And I think that's the big thing to me. It was just about calling that out and really trying to make it clear to people how valuable this person was, especially to the LEC. But also, again, any product and team she chooses to work with, or that used to work with her. But I know, and I'm aware that there's always gonna be factors that I don't know, because I have one perspective in a sea of perspectives in what is a very complicated product. And while I am sad any time that there's a delay in bringing back people that I love working with and I think are truly fantastic at their jobs, I know that I have blind spots. So I can't say with confidence like, "Oh, it's ridiculous!" every time. Because I don't really know what's happening. And I'm only looking at the side of the story that affects me most.
To conclude: obviously rap is really popular with the LEC team. If you had to guess what would you say is the team's favorite rapper?
That's tough. Damn, that's tough. I could say Kendrick and then every person would agree with me, but I low key think that's because it's rap blasphemy to not have Kendrick top three. I don't know, everyone like's very different stuff than I would. Caedrel like the really agro-sh*t. Whereas I like people like Denzel Curry and JID who aren't quite as big in the limelight as like J Coles and the Kendricks of the world.
I think A$AP Rocky. A$AP Rocky is a very safe bet. But only because every caster I have ever worked with — every current and former including definitely YamatoCannon — loves the song Praise the Lord. Also because that's got a sample from an old video game. So I think A$AP Rocky is a safe bet, but I don't think there is one clear favorite. I'd say A$AP Rocky and Kendrick are universally loved. Past that, I'm not sure.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.