You know what season it is – it’s the transfer season, the offseason that’s got everybody excited while League of Legends pros take a break from playing on stage by signing contracts for next year. We talked with a veteran of the scene and one of the premier casters that’s on the talent list of LEC, Daniel Drakos, about the offseason, musical content they create, what new casters should do and more.
- Esportimes: Hey, firstly thanks for doing this interview with me. How’s it going, how’s it been with the LEC coming back soon?
Drakos: Ah, it’s been going well, I’ve only had a little bit of a break after Worlds to relax and refresh and now we’re well and truly into preparing for the LEC 2022 Spring Season, which is always exciting, it’s always super fun. Right now we’re still far enough away and without team rosters fully locked it’s hard to do anything super specific like planning broadcast segments so it’s a lot more strategic, big-picture stuff.
It’s still exciting, a lot of brainstorming, this is when you let your mind run wild and think of crazy, cool new ideas or maybe the less immediately exciting workflows that makes life easier for everyone for next year, at least in terms for the broadcast team. It’s definitely an exciting time.
- ET: So it’s not a crazy offseason for just the teams, also for the broadcast teams to prepare new ideas as well.
Drakos: I would say it’s definitely less crazy than it is for teams. Like for a team, you have to scramble to get a roster, there’s so much thinking about stuff. I think for us, it’s like we have worked a lot with the same people year over year and while there are always going to be big changes, I think the big difference is it’s a lot more about refinement for us. Imagine LEC like a team that’s mostly kept the same roster and then imagine that offseason.
G2 2019 Spring to Summer, that’s like our offseason. They know their five players, they get to focus on content strategy and other things. And obviously there will be new faces, it’s not nearly to the same scale of rebuilding a League of Legends roster from scratch. We’re fortunate enough on LEC to have a product we’re happy with so it’s a lot about refinement, new ideas and incorporating new things rather than, you know, completely rebuilding like it might be for some of the teams.
- ET: That is very interesting to hear you say that because I’ve always seen LEC as a place for new talent to shine, to enter the scene like Troubleinc, Excoundrel and other people.
- ET: So it’s like hearing you say that the team is mostly kept the same makes me think about other leagues that don’t have as much newcomers entering the scene.
Drakos: I think that it’s important to specify that I’m talking about the entire broadcast team. Because we have a lot of the same people working on graphics and video but when you just look at new casters and the faces that are rotating it’s always going to look more like that League of Legends team we were discussing earlier. I think you’re completely correct that LEC has, when it comes to on air talent, done a good job of bringing in a lot of new faces.
- ET: Oh definitely. Also while we’re talking about teams having crazy offseasons, it’s been a couple of weeks since the Free Agency Show and the air has calmed down a little bit. Do you prefer those days when everyone was hungry for big moves, exciting news and a little bit of drama? Or do you prefer the calm, testing-the-new-drakes, occasional news from other leagues times that we’re having right now?
Drakos: I think I always love big drama – I mean, who wouldn’t, right? I think it’s one of the most exciting times of the year, it always comes with such highs and lows and I think the privilege of being a caster is that you kind of have a part of it in the sense that these are teams you’re going to be casting next year and you know a lot of these players on a personal level but you don’t have the same stakes.
Because I imagine for teams and for players it has to be one of the most stressful times of the year. Are you going to get the five players you want? If you’re a player, are you going to be picked by a team you’re excited about? Or are you going to have to settle for someone that you’re not as excited about? Casters, like the fans, we just get to sit back and watch the chaos and the madness unfold like a spectator sport, you know? So I think that’s always just a fun time of the year.
- ET: Yeah, I definitely hear that. Not from personal experience but from the people I’ve talked to, it is a crazy stressful time. This year especially was extreme with Perkz and Alphari coming back, reportedly, also other people going abroad, we had one of the craziest offseasons to date in my opinion. What was the most shocking thing to you during this time period? What were you not expecting to happen?
Drakos: I mean I was very shocked, like most people, when Rekkles ended up not going to an LEC team or even an LCS team. Or even an LPL team as he had so often discussed in the past about potentially playing in China one day, but instead going to the LFL. I think it’s super, super cool for the LFL and I’m really excited for Karmine Corp and their fans out there that got a chance to have such a prestigious player on their lineup but I think it is a pretty big loss for LEC,
- ET: Of course, of course.
Drakos: It’s hard to look at the upcoming year of talents and say “That guy is going to bring the same level Rekkles did.” and people, not everybody but some people might get there in a few years in their career, some people might hit the ground running, it’s hard to see but I do think that loss of players like Rekkles from the LEC, Hans sama and Bwipo going overseas, I think we’ve lost a lot of players that I think were incredibly talented and while we’re expecting Alphari and Perkz to come back, it’s still hard as an LEC commentator and an LEC fan to watch players that you know are really good not play in your league.
- ET: Yes, it kind of stings, at least we have an eleventh European team called Team Liquid. I’ve always wanted to ask on the scene for a long time like you about this offseason because you’ve seen a lot of offseasons during your time since 2016. How does it feel to be one of the veterans in a relatively young scene?
Drakos: It’s weird because when you’ve been a part of it for so long it doesn’t feel nearly as young as I think it might be in the grand scheme of things, especially if you look at the fact that there are still StarCraft 1 tournaments going on even if they’re not as big as they were in the day. It’s interesting, I mean I’ve seen a lot of offseasons and it never ceases to blow my mind with all the crazy stuff that’ll happen.
But I’ll say that, over time, you grow to understand more and more about how offseasons work and you learn more perspectives because I think it’s always really easy to look at- when fans look at anything they look at the angle that is most interesting for them. So for them it might be getting the best five possible players together, no constraints. Because they’re not thinking about the business or the money side of things.
- ET: Oh yeah, especially on platforms like Twitter or Reddit, some people are like “Just get these five players! Put them all in a team together!”
Drakos: Heh, yeah, and it’s easy to think that way because teams don’t talk about financials, right? Teams don’t share that information and that’s absolutely fair, I probably wouldn’t want to if Iwas a team either, you don’t want people to think your is weaker just because you didn’t have as much money to spend, right?
But I think that, as you go longer and longer in the scene, you learn more and more of these perspectives, these angles and while it’s still crazy and super exciting, you start to understand and say “Okay, this is how this player could’ve ended up on this roster, this is how maybe some of these things happened.” and I think it does temper the excitement a little bit, I still remember when I was getting first into League of Legends and when Doublelift went to TSM it was the craziest stuff, I had no idea how it happened, it was unfathomable to me but now I’m like “Okay, well I can see how these things happen now.”
I think it’s just as exciting as it’s ever been in a lot of ways, but it’s also definitely cool to be on the inside and see some of these things coming, occasionally someone will leak something to me and I’m like “Ooh, I’m special, I get insider information”, you know what I mean? And that’s really nice, that’s really cool to feel ingrained as a part of this scene.
- ET: I hear that, hopefully one day I will feel like that as well, but a lot of new people enter the scene nowadays, as well as the older people who stay in. I wanted to talk about someone who is reportedly, well it’s leaked, not staying in with the casting crew. I don’t want to extensively talk about Caedrel’s departure, maybe I’ll talk about it with him one day, I wanted to ask if you’d ever consider going for a coaching position, if offered.
Drakos: Well, Caedrel tweeted recently, not to burst the bubble too much, that he was going to cast for another year. So I think that the danger of keeping up with the rumours is that there’s always something else, because that was a couple weeks ago.
- ET: Wait, really?
Drakos: He tweeted he was sticking with casting, yeah, so the dreams of the rumoured Caedrel Vitality, I believe, are maybe not a hundred percent dead, but at least reasonably dead.
- ET: Ahh, sorry.
Drakos: That said, I don’t think I would ever move into something like coaching, I think that that is beyond my skill set, I think that there is a world I could lead people but mastery of League of Legends has never been one of my strong suits. I do think I’m pretty good at working with people and I think that I could be a team manager or work in that capacity and I would be happy to do so, I think it’s a super cool job, one that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves I think from working with a lot of team managers.
But it is a super cool role that’s inside my skill set. But honestly I really love casting, I think the only thing that would ever pull me away from casting is something else in the content sphere. Because I really love- the thing that makes me love casting so much is just making content people are excited about, whether that’s on the broadcast or preproduced or something else and I think that if there were cool opportunity spaces to do that somewhere else in League of Legends or esports where I could, you know, work with other people who are similar minded and super passionate about it, then- I’m always open to new ideas, but I think I love the LEC, right? So it would take a lot to pull me out.
- ET: Speaking of managing, from what I have seen, managing a team might be one of the hardest things to do in esports and that’s with all the sides of managing I have not seen yet, but keeping all those people in a team together seems hard. That’s why I respect Grabbz so much for keeping that G2 roster together somehow and all the people behind the scene working on that. Anyone who wants to do that is going to face a challenge and I wish them the very best luck.
Drakos: It’s definitely super hard. Respect to Grabbz as a coach for making that work as long as he did.
- ET: You also have another option that many people in the scene except Vedius don’t have, to follow a career in music. I know this is memed about all the time on YouTube and other platforms, but is it crazy enough to just maybe happen one day?
Drakos: I mean, I think that we have been fortunate to make so much music that makes people excited and I would love to pursue music more, I really love music and it’s something I do more in my free time too. But I think it’s the LEC and the esports fandom that keeps the music dream alive for us. I don’t think we’re suddenly all-star musical talent, I think we’re both getting better and we keep trying to one up ourselves and improve.
If we go down this road long enough and people are still excited about it, maybe it’s there, but I think for us, music and the LEC are tied together in terms of that chance. I don’t think there are many non-LEC fans that are like “Wow, these guys are insane, we should sign them.” but LEC fans are like “Damn, you guys are really good at music!” and that’s awesome, I love that. But if we left the LEC, we would leave all those people behind and that would really suck.
- ET: Maybe one day, then, maybe. Speaking of LEC music, I know they say parents can’t decide between their children and stuff like that but what would you say is your favourite piece of content that you created?
Drakos: Ah, I mean it’s- whew, yeah, you’re right, it’s definitely not as tough as deciding between children because content doesn’t care how I feel about it but I care how I feel about the content. Ahh, yea it’s really hard, I would say that it’s probably Rekkles With My Heart. I think that was one of the best pieces of writing that I’ve ever worked on, in terms of what we were able to do and the reaction it got from the fans. Maybe that one’s my favourite right now because it’s one of the ones that’s more recent, but I also loved the four person rap battle.
- ET: Sure, that one was a banger.
Drakos: Honestly it’s very hard because for any piece of content, the best thing in the world is when fans reference it back to us months after it’s been done. The fact that “Rekkles With My Heart” got spikes in listens after Rekkles went to KCorp is the coolest thing to me and that’s what I really love, making something that lives more than just a week on Reddit. That’s what most content does in the esports scene; it’s there, it’s cool for a second and we never come back to it. So it’s really cool when you can make something that can live longer than that and it gets continuously gets referenced back to you. That’s my favourite thing and I think both the four person rap battle with Mad, Rogue, G2 and Fnatic and Rekkles With My Heart have really done that the most.
- ET: I know that feeling. The content living for only one week, mostly. But I hope to know the other one as well in the future. That seems really cool to have your work referenced to you, because the LEC is like a living story and whatever you create is just going to stay there, a part of its history. Maybe we’ll have Rekkles back on Fnatic in two years and then boom, imagine that song.
Drakos: Who knows? Given his history, it’s very much in the realm of possibility but we’ll have to see what Fnatic and Rekkles think in the years to come. But yeah, it is a dream and I mean it is cool to be something with such a pedigree and a passionate fanbase like LEC, some of the stuff does get to live longer and be more important, it gets to survive the test of time because it is part of a league that has so much history and prestige already. I think that’s really cool.
- ET: It definitely sounds cool. While we’re on this subject, I, of course, had to ask about “Fists to a Gunfight” – your newest single that is on Spotify, Youtube and other music platforms. What was the creative process behind it like? Because this is your first song that is not about LEC or EU, so it raises a lot of questions like “Will you do songs after the other characters?”, “Is the secret Armut single still in the works?”, “Will you have a cameo in Arcane’s second season?” et cetera.
Drakos: I think, wow, that’s a lot of questions. Okay, Armut song, maybe as he definitely deserves a song, don’t know when it’s happening, I haven’t gotten that approved yet but I’ll work on that. Season 2 Arcane, that’s a dream, let’s be clear. That’s a big dream, but that is definitely a dream I can get behind.
- ET: I mean it happened for Imagine Dragons, it could happen to you, why not?
Drakos: Yeah, I appreciate that those things are close enough for you and hopefully for other people too but like, I’m trying to get in the same room as someone on the same level as JID, Denzel Curry, Imagine Dragons, you know what I mean? That’s like one of my dreams, let alone in the same product or the same song. So you should temper your expectations, one step at a time, you know,
I’m still a fan of so many of those people before I can even be a colleague or anything else. We’ll see what happens in that regard. About other pieces in Arcane, I mean this was a collaborative piece between us and the Arcane team and their marketing portion reached out and said “Hey, we would love to do a rap battle about Arcane.” and the timing worked out so that Vedi and I had to write during Worlds and it was a really high pressure schedule. We got to watch Arcane a little early so we could write this rap battle.
- ET: Oh wow.
Drakos: Making this piece of content, it was really cool and fun but it was definitely a matter of time because we wrote it pretty much right before Groups were even finished. I wish we have lived in a world where we could’ve also seen all the fan reactions because I think that would’ve given us so much more material, because I think we were very set on Jinx versus Vi and now that everyone’s seen the show, when we were watching it and being like “Whoa, oh wow, how are we going to write about this after episode 3? Oh no, what are they talking about?” And by episode 9 we were like “Oh okay, now we see how we can do a rap battle.” so it was really just this process of discovery and it definitely pushed our boundaries.
Because the thing about rap battles, like in Mad Lions versus G2, the most recent one we had, is that they’re rivals. They fight, that’s what they have to do, they literally have to go through each other to get the trophy. So there’s this very clear battle line. They are opposing sides, you got blue team, you got red team and they are going to fight each other. Whereas Vi and Jinx have a super complicated relationship.
This is the first time we had to write about a relationship that had any kind of nuance. Because even if Carzzy and Perkz are best friends and hang out all the time, when they are playing against each other, they are always going to have to fight each other. Vi and Jinx, their relationship is just not that simple. So it was really hard to find an angle to write about, to make something that felt good and we took this angle where we’re both fans of the respective champions, arguing about this “Who would win, Goku or Superman?” type of thing.
I think that worked out well and it was definitely a cool piece of content to be a part of but it was definitely one of the bigger writing challenges we’ve ever had. Before this, we’ve always been writing about things that we’ve been a part of all the time.
We’ve always been a part of LEC, we understand all the memes, we understand the latest jokes. We know when we’re insulting someone for missing smites, we remember the games where that guy missed the smite whereas in this project, we’ve got a couple episodes of Arcane to work off of, we’re trying to figure out how to write that stories and talk about the write things and it was just very different and a super super cool experience.
- ET: Yeah, the closest thing to that vague relationship I can imagine is the EU versus NA rap battle from 2019, but even they were rivals then. It is super interesting and cool to me that you got to watch Arcane early. How was that like, seeing this piece of content unravel when you’ve seen it beforehand? Especially when it’s an amazing show like Arcane that got a lot of dramatic reactions and points?
Drakos: It was really interesting for a couple of reasons. When you watch stuff early, everyone is worried about stuff getting leaked so one of the preventative measures people take is stamping all over it, you know what I mean?
- ET: I’m sorry, stamping?
Drakos: So imagine a watermark on YouTube, right?
- ET: Oh, an actual stamp on the video, got it.
Drakos: It’ll say “This is for Daniel Drakos”, so if I leak that, everyone knows that came from me. So there was this fear that I had that I would unconsciously get hacked and leak Arcane and that was always in the back of my head, which was super super scary. Because one, obviously I don’t want to leak it and two, I assume I would lose my job if I leaked Arcane. I don’t know but that was really spooky.
But I have mixed feelings, you know, because one of the coolest part about Arcane releasing was watching how everyone got to experience everything together and I think that while it was really cool to see it ahead of time, it made it hard to talk to people and speculate about Arcane because I couldn’t participate. I couldn’t jump in and be like “Oh, wow, I wonder what’s gonna happen?”.
I wouldn’t give it up because I loved the product but it was so, so cool to watch the way that everyone came together and started having their favourite characters, for a lot of people it was Viktor etc. The best part about watching it early and getting to say “Wow, this is something that’s going to be so cool, let’s see how people are going to react.” and the worst part was not being able to react alongside them.
- ET: So it was like a blessing and a curse, wow.
Drakos: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.
- ET: Now I think it’s more normal because before I was like “Wow!” and now I’m like “Yeah, it’s okay, I can see it’s plusses and minuses.” Still pretty cool though. Since this is an interview for a Turkish website, I legally have to ask this – do you follow TCL or players from the Turkish scene?
Drakos: I mean I follow and generally watch TCL a couple times for MSI and Worlds and then any time any TCL player comes anywhere near the LEC, I’m always checking up to see where they’ve been, who they’ve played with, you know? Because as LEC, we have such a close connection to TCL so often we have a lot of our players like Bwipo, Caps that played in TCL, non-Turkish players and Turkish players like Armut and Blue and I think that TCL and LEC are very close when it comes to players playing in both, especially with the rise of the ERL, I feel like TCL is always a league that’s worth watching and keeping an eye on if you’re an LEC fan, because the next great player in LEC could very well come from TCL.
- ET: Oh for sure, there are a lot of players with potential – do you have any candidates from TCL in mind that may appear in LEC in future?
Drakos: Hmm, I can’t say for this season, I can say that generally I’ve liked how TCL has gotten more and more about creating domestic talent. TCL went through that weird period of time where you’ve had SnowFlower and Frozen and other Korean imports.
- ET: Definitely, I remember the Korean exodus.
Drakos: Yeah, exactly, all those Korean players did super super well domestically, right? But I always liked to watch players come up in their own region and I always feel when a talent pool feels like it’s strong enough to support itself without needing to rely on imports to find more individually skilled players or players that make up for something that the region might be missing. I think Brazil went through a lot of the same stuff a while ago with all the imports they had. I’m just frankly excited for TCL but I can’t tell you right now if there is any single player that stands out in my mind. It was definitely Armut for a long time, it was Broken Blade before that, Caps and Bwipo, I got pleasure from watching these guys when they were young.
- ET: From the Dark Passage days, wow.
Drakos: Dark Passage days, yeah, here’s the thing: When you’re starting out as a caster, Play-ins are like Worlds finals for you. Because that’s usually what you get when you’re a young caster. So like any caster who’s working on Play-ins’ I was sweating. They wanna learn everything, as I’ve tried to learn everything I possibly could about the TCL, about Dark Passage, about all the players who may or may not have had a name change over the years.
- ET: Is that something you’d recommend to new casters, to watch a lot from the smaller regions? Or at least know about them?
Drakos: I think that, generally you know if you’re gonna cast Play-ins and the best thing you can do any time you work on any tournament or product is to put the amount of work in that is necessary to tell the right and best stories. I also think that it would be really bad if new casters came in and they went “Oh, I want to cast LEC so I’m not going to worry about TCL or LCL” or any of the regions that they maybe aren’t as close to and that’s just not good for them and it’s certainly not good for the fans either.
Because the best thing that you can do is to tell the story of a team with the weight and the authority of an expert and to do that you have to watch all the regions games. You have to be able to go back and look at this team and you certainly can’t do it by just watching, you also need to talk to the regional experts.
I’ve had a lot of years where I’ve reached out to people who’ve either watched more TCL than I had, people who’ve worked in TCL, people who’ve casted TCL and I encourage anyone and everyone, no matter what tournament or what game their casting to do that. If you do not have the expertise to the knowledge of a region because it’s not the region that you normally work in, there are experts out in the world and people in this community are generally happy to offer that support.
I have talked to so many people in Latin America about LLA teams and they have always been super super helpful, the same is true for TCL. I would be super sad if any caster working on Play-ins weren’t putting their 100% in to learn those players names and stories so they can do the best job possible.
- ET: It’s definitely better to know and not cast than to not know and cast.
- ET: Also from my experience as well, people are really helpful in the esports scene if you’re nice to them.
Drakos: Yeah, I agree. It’s cool that there are a lot of people who have just put in a lot of time to become experts or the closest thing to an expert on regions and teams and they are very happy to share their knowledge and that’s always been my experience, even when I was very little baby caster casting random collegiate games, I was reaching out to college teams and asking them “Hey, who’s your star player?” and they were always super happy to tell me.
- ET: Wow, that sounds nice. Before I forget, is there anything trivial you’d like to say about yourself? Because the only information under “Trivia” in your wiki page is “Good friends with both Froskurinn and Pulse.” and that’s it.
Drakos: Wow, let me see is there anything that’s wiki page worthy. Loves hip hop music, writes a lot of content, I don’t know what else I would add. Is also good friends with Vedius and Caedrel? If I think I work with you, we’re gonna get along. I always try to be good to people. Yeah, I guess I need to expand my wiki page. Although I don’t know if you’re supposed to expand your own wiki page?
- ET: Don’t worry, I’ll do it for you.
Drakos: Okay, cool, yeah. I mean, maybe I’m not the most public person about all the things I do in my free time but I take pride in the work portion of it and just feel very lucky to support me to do it. So I guess I don’t have nothing in particular.
- ET: Don’t worry, the work portion really shows itself so you don’t need something trivial to yourself to be known out there. I came into this interview, planning to not go all fanboy on you by the way.
Drakos: It’s all good, I think you’ve done a good job because I didn’t get that vibe at all.
- ET: Thank you. Lastly, what can we expect this year in your opinion from LEC, from EU as a whole, from the League of Legends scene, what are your expectations and hopes in 2022?
Drakos: Wow, to be honest there are a lot of things on my mind when it comes to Europe. I think from an LEC and content perspective, I’m hoping that we can keep pushing boundaries, not just in terms of music but in terms of content overall. I think it’s really easy when things are going well to not keep the pressure on and innovate. I’m really hoping we could continue to make world class content and continue to push the envelope on what good esports content looks like.
There’s a lot of people out there making good stuff right now. There were definitely not as many when we started in 2019. I think we wanna keep up so people look at us as the best content producers in the world. Sometimes it’s also tough because we’re also competing against other Riot Games people who are making Arcane and making music performances in Worlds openings but I think that’s one of the big goals.
- ET: So it’s also like working with your enemy- not like enemy, more like competition in a content sense.
Drakos: Yeah, I mean definitely not enemy, in my opinion-
- ET: That was a strong word, I agree.
Drakos: I think we are, as Riot Games, one company and it’s always going to be a collaborative effort. A little bit of healthy internal competition is always a good motivator and I think, for me and Vedius, we want to- people joke about it but one day we do want to make a Worlds song. I think that’s a big dream for us. One day we do want it to be an epic anthem featuring Drakos and Vedius. That may be a bit of a long shot but I think it’s good to have dreams and it’s good to have ambitions like that.
I think LEC has similar ambitions that we want to be the best at what we do. That does mean we want to be better than LCS, LPL and LCK but those are also our teammates, our sister broadcasts. We want to support them and help them grow too but that doesn’t mean we still don’t want to be the best. There’s always going to be that level of healthy competition that’s going to help us push for more.
- ET: That’s all the questions I had for this time, thank you once again for this interview, it was a pleasure talking to you.
Drakos: No problem, I enjoyed it as well.
- ET: I hope to see you happy and healthy when the LEC returns on January 14 – wow, that’s really close actually.
Drakos: Yeah, it’s very close. I will be hopefully both of those things.