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Peter Dun: “A player’s ability to be recognized is often tied to their ability to control the narrative around them”

Dan Smyth-Temple

Six weeks into the season, and the clarity of the LCS standings is even less comprehensible than it was at the start of the Spring Split. Evil Geniuses scored a crucial win against TSM a week before playoffs, outmaneuvering their opponents in the early game thanks to strong roams from Daniele “Jiizuke” Di Mauro, and a standout performance from Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, resulting in a one-sided match. 

Peter Dun

Peter Dun highly values that Evil Geniuses is an exciting team to watch. (Photo via Riot Games.)

We caught up with Evil Geniuses’ head coach Peter Dun after the game to chat about playoffs, the best-of-one format, and the importance of players controlling their own narrative. 

Hotspawn: First of all, congrats on that win! With playoffs on the horizon, how are you feeling about Evil Geniuses’ chances right now?

Peter Dun: It’s very hard to judge, because the Evil Geniuses that you see on stage is the Evil Geniuses that I see in scrims every single day [laughs]. This is a team that can beat anybody, and we’re more than capable of losing to anybody as well. We put ourselves into quite a difficult situation because we’re 0-2 against Immortals and 0-2 against Dignitas, who are teams that are around us in the standings. Dignitas for first-round seeding and first-round bye in playoffs, and Immortals for missing playoffs at all—fingers crossed that won’t happen.

We have even or positive records against all of the teams ahead of us except for Dignitas, and I think that we can definitely be a dangerous team. What matters is how well we’re prepared for each opponent, and how strong our team comes in on the day, because on ‘our day’ we can beat anyone in NA and many other teams outside NA. But we just have to show that on stage. 

Hotspawn: You mentioned that EG can beat anyone and anyone can beat you. That’s something I feel could be said of any team in NA right now—are there specific aspects of Evil Geniuses that lead to that level of uncertainty, or is it just a result of the state of the league?

Peter Dun: I think it’s a result of the league as a whole. NA got a lot better this year compared to what I was seeing last year. Golden Guardians maybe not so much, but all the other teams in the league are competitive and they all have ways that they can win. They all have their cheese picks, they all have their cheese mid game or early game strategies that they pull out—we just pulled out Ekko today.

It’s hard to prepare, and there’s not that much time during the week to scrim. There’s only three scrim days, cause you have to give your players a day off after you have three game days in a row, because those are high-stress, high-intensity days. That makes it quite difficult for teams to build any kind of consistency, because you only have three days to prepare for three matches in the weekend which are best-of-ones. In playoffs we’ll begin to [have] a bit more clarity in where the teams stand, but definitely it makes the league incredibly exciting for the fans, so I think it’s a good thing overall. 

Hotspawn: What’s your opinion on the best-of-one format, in terms of contributing to regional strength? The conversation around best-of-one versus best-of-three in the regular season pops up almost every year. 

Peter Dun: I’m personally a fan of best-of-twos [laughs]. If you’re choosing between best-of-one and best-of-three, I think best-of-one is better. Playoffs are for competitive integrity—playoffs are for making sure the best teams progress to represent North America in international competitions, and the format of your playoffs is very very important.

Different regions have experimented with different kinds of double elimination, different rounds of byes, but provided the playoff system allows the strongest teams to rise to the top, I’m actually a big fan of best-of-one during the regular seasons. It gives you nice storylines, it gives you the chance for surprises, it’s entertaining for the fans. At the end of the day the fans are the people that matter the most. My job as a coach is to help turn EG into a team that will be entertaining to watch. 

Hotspawn: That’s a great segue into something else I wanted to ask you about. A week or two ago you tweeted about Carl Felix “MagiFelix” Boström, and the importance of players controlling the narrative around them. Could you expand on that for me? 

Peter Dun

Peter Dun coached for INTZ, Splyce, and MAD Lions before coming to NA.

Peter Dun: There are a number of people out there in the scene who I think are good scouts, who are good at recognizing player talent. If I went and said to them “rate a player for me, rate these five players in order, and describe to me with ten minutes on each player why you rated them in the order that you have,” they’d be able to give me a coherent, complex, and rational argument for why they would rank players in this way in a way that’s useful to me as a coach. Not useful in terms of narrative, but useful to me as a coach.

However, I don’t think that all teams and all coaches have access to this kind of network, and sometimes it can be very hard for individual teams to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of individual players. Especially because a lot of the focus is often on how players perform in-game, whereas League of Legends is not just about what goes on in the rift. It’s about communication, it’s about preparation, it’s about work ethic—all kinds of things. 

The problem is a player’s ability to be recognized is often tied to their ability to control the narrative around them. I wish things were not like this, but at the end of the day what matters to me is that the best players who are out there have the opportunity to be recognized and have the ability to rise to the top, and not miss out on years that they should otherwise be there at the top. I don’t think the narrative is everything, but sometimes if you’re good at controlling the narrative around yourself as player, maybe you get recognized a year or two earlier. 

In League of legends where careers are getting longer now as time progresses, but often in the past 25—I’m laughing at that, because I have Impact on my team who’s crushing the league.

But 25 was considered the time you would retire, and if players were missing out on multiple years that’s a shame. Especially if there’s deserving talent out there that deserves to be recognized. I would say that the strongest teams with the best scouting network will always recognize these players, but on EG I can only have three toplaners, right? [Laughs] I can only have three midlaners. I think there’s tons of deserving midlane talent out there.

5fire is a very good example, someone who’s smashing amateur and academy right now, but wasn’t considered to be worth even an academy place last offseason. Sure, I’d love to have somebody like that on EG, but we already have three midlaners [laughs]. That’s why I think this kind of thing is important—it’s important for recognition. Lets be clear—if you don’t have the skills, it doesn’t matter how much you work on narrative, you’re just never gonna make it. 

But if you have the skills, you could spend the 99th-hour where you’re grinding soloqueue, and instead of spending the 99th-hour grinding soloqueue you spend one-hour helping people understand who you are. Both scouts, teams, and the fanbase can be beneficial. I would recommend that to all players.

Hotspawn: What are some of the specific things players can do to better control the narrative around them? Or even that team organizations and the media can do, if we want to move beyond personal responsibility.

Peter Dun: I think as a player it’s always important to be able to recognize what you are and what you’re not. If you look at somebody like LIDER. LIDER is a rookie in Europe, and he’s famous for playing melee assassin champions. He had one-half a split in LEC, but there were things going on that ended up with him not being extended.

He’s somebody who’s unashamedly an assassin player, he’s going to pick assassins into bad matchups and he’s going to beat you. That’s what he stands for. He’s not ashamed of it, he [says] why would I play control mages? That’s not who I am. I’m just gonna play my style, this is what I am, this is what you’re going to get, this is how I’m going to beat you, and I don’t care if you know. 

I’m not saying all players have to go as aggressive as that, but there’s a lot of players out there, hundreds of players out there, all many of whom have many strong skills. Sometimes it just helps if people can know what you stand for. Are you a fantastic teamfighter, are you a 1v1 laning prodigy who’s going to destroy the other person, are you somebody’s who’s going to outthink the other player? Sometimes just being able to recognize where you fit in and what you are can be valuable just so players can identify with you and follow you. 

Again, refining skills is the most important thing, but spending that extra half an hour just to let people know who you are. Streaming, there’s so many different ways we can’t cover them all here, but just finding ways that people can recognize you for what you are instead of relying on narratives for what you’re not. 

MagiFelix is perhaps one of the most egregious examples that I’ve seen in the history of esports. This is a guy who gave an interview once—Magifelix never gives interviews, but he gave an interview once [that said] this guy struggles sometimes from stress, and for the rest of his career this guy is a massive choker who can’t deal with stress. This is why these things are important. I wouldn’t say all players will go through the dangers of a MagiFelix situation, but avoid putting yourself in a situation [where] you could be the next Magifelix.

Hotspawn: Is this something that players have to worry about once they’re more well established, or is this only for rookies and up-and-comers? 

Peter Dun: From my perspective as a coach, players who are at the top—I mean, fans love that narrative. Fans love it when Doublelift used to call people trash, they love it when Bjergsen and Jensen used to argue with each other, or make snide comments. Fans love that. For me as a coach, it doesn’t really matter. I love the banter, I love the trash-talk, I love Wunder especially. Wunder is one of the best trash-talkers that I’ve ever seen, holy moly that guy [laughs]. Back in Europe, Wunder and Carzzy in the pre-match chat would have the best trash-talk between MAD Lions and G2. I wish some of that was public. 

So when you’re already established some amount of that is good, but often it’s better to let your play do the talking. But definitely when you’re coming up. If a scout has 100 player profiles on the desk, right, sometimes you miss somebody. You can only pick five people that you want to shortlist out of these hundred players that’ve been scouted from various minor regions, and it’s good to say “I remember I saw this interview with this guy where he said something really really smart.” 

That kind of thing can make a difference. It’s never going to be the most important factor, but if you’re number five versus number six, why not spend that extra half-hour? 

Hotspawn: I think that’s all I have time for! Before I go, do you have any parting words for the Evil Genius fans out there? Maybe what to expect in the coming playoffs?

Peter Dun: Yeah, thank you for your support! We really appreciate your support across all teams, both the main team and academy and amateur who receive tons of nice and supportive messages that help them through some of the rough times this season. Hopefully we can show the performance that you as a fanbase deserve, and thank you for your ongoing support. 

Peter Dun and Evil Geniuses continue their run towards the LCS playoffs during the ongoing Super Week. You can catch them live on Saturday, March 13th, and Sunday, March 14th on the official LCS Twitch and YouTube streams.