Phreak on P1, Mike Yeung and homegrown NA players: “We’ve definitely seen a resurgence of NA junglers.”

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

On the second day of Rift Rivals, we had the chance to sit down with NA LCS caster Phreak to talk about NA’s performance, Mike Yeung and the development of the homegrown North American scene. Enjoy!

Congratulations on NA currently being 7-3! Are you happy with NA’s performance so far?

The important thing is that we win the non-important matches and then hopefully not blow it in the finals right? We can theoretically win all our remaining matches and it wouldn’t matter because we lose anyway if we lose the finals (laughs). I just want a hyped final really. At the end of the day, I want there to be good games.

P1 has been very surprising to a lot of people!

Yeah, for sure! I’m always a big fan of using the record of a current lineup rather than the team’s record for measuring their standings and it shows here. They are currently 3-7 in the NA LCS, but with Mike Yeung they’re 3-3 and with Xpecial they’re 3-2. And those two losses were to two top-end team. That’s what I tried to say beforehand, they were doing well with their current lineup and people shouldn’t have counted them out so quickly. But because the old lineup had such a horrible record, everyone was expecting the worst from them.

Mike Yeung has been very explosive as a player obviously. I’ve seen a lot of very aggressive rookie Junglers to extremely well, the best examples of this would be Akaadian and Dardoch who, right off the bat, were playing very very well. Some of them fall off, some of them stay sharp and I’m hoping that Mike Yeung won’t slump. For us NA fans I want P1 to do well because they’re fun to follow.

Don’t you think that this kind of explosive entry could damage the mindset and career of a young rookie coming in?

Sure. I mean there’s always a risk of either ego or complacency. And I’ll bring up Akaadian again because he said in his DRIVE interview that he got complacent. He thought “I’m the best Jungler, I win everything I want, I don’t have to practice, I’m just going to smash everybody”. And even though these weren’t his exact words, that was his general idea of things. He subsequently fell off a cliff and it took him a long time to get back up. He’s kind of back in form, but that took him six months as well. That’s a major issue.

So this was exactly what I asked Mike Yeung when I interviewed him last week at NA LCS after their win against Immortals: “How are you going to make sure that you’re going to stay on this form?” And he said something like that he’s going to keep practicing, that he has the right surroundings for this to happen. Clearly he’s a really good player. But what if the meta severely shifts, something that hits Junglers specifically? That’s a question that is yet unanswered, but as long as this meta stays the same, he should see a good amount of success.

Do you think the fact that P1 is currently tied for second to last place is saying something about the overall quality of the NA LCS being very high?

As far as the quality of the NA LCS goes, going into this tournament there was this following idea: There is this Top 4, consisting of Cloud9, TSM, CLG and Immortals and that there was a Bottom 6, who might take a game off of the Top 4 teams in a while but not being a real threat. But in reality it’s a mix. I think every NA fan is surprised at how poorly EU is doing, and I’m not sure whether it’s them slumping or everyone underrating NA as a region. I do think that P1 have figured out their team though, that the 3-2 record isn’t a fluke and that they’ll reach playoffs. They should keep going being a fairly strong team and I think that this experience should improve their abilities. If every player on that team plays as well as they can, they are a potential finalist team.

In this Rift Rivals tournament, five out of six Midlaners are from Europe. But in NA we’ve seen the resurgence of many talented NA Junglers, like Dardoch, Contractz, Akaadian, Moon and now Mike Yeung as well. Do you think that EU has their Midlaners and NA has their Junglers as standout players in these respective roles?

It’s very interesting because a few years ago I remember that NA had no good Junglers. The best Jungler had was maybe SaintVicious and-

Meteos maybe?

This might’ve been before Meteos came in. I’m thinking like early 2013 or 2012 even. Meteos was of course very good, that was a good example. But it felt like it was a weak role for NA for a very long time. In recent history though a lot of talent came up, Xmithie is back in form as well. We’ve definitely seen a resurgence of NA Junglers.

As far as contrasting that to Midlaners, it doesn’t seem that there aren’t quite a lot of great Midlane talents. Maybe it’s due to teams not giving them a chance, but I’m not too sure to be honest. It’s nice to see that our homegrown talents are improving in certain roles though and can even keep up with imports at times. There’s always that joke going around that NA just imports all the good players who carry them, but now we’ve seen players like Hauntzer and Darshan who are holding up to greats like Ssumday or Impact. Look, those guys are world class players for sure, but it’s nice to see that Hauntzer for example is playing as good as them. It’s good to see that we’re not catastrophically bad at all these roles.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and the NA LCS-fans?

Honestly, just thank you for being part of all the awesomeness. I’m living the dream life, I get to cast the NA LCS, I get to work on video games for a living. I never expected things to be this amazing and I’m very grateful for everyone who’s watching and who’s a part of it for making this happen. Nothing but my deepest thanks to everyone who has been a part of esports so far.

Thank you very much for your time!

Darius Matuschak
Darius is an esports journalist trying to nurture esports culture whenever possible. He got into esports while finishing his Bachelor in Journalism, and has been a regular EU LCS attendee since January 2017.