Player Spotlight: Doublelift – The One Man Dynasty
North America has had its fair share of stars over the years. Players who have had success, sustained that success, and forever made their mark on the LCS. No accomplishments from subsequent players can ever take that away. However, one star stood above them all. A player who first had to overcome adversity before going on to become the winningest player in league history. His name; Doublelift.
Yiliang ‘Peter’ “Doublelift” Peng’s eight LCS titles speak for themselves, but the way in which he won them may be even more impressive. Over six years, three teams, and three departures, Doublelift became the LCS’ one man dynasty.
Doublelift started out like any respectable League of Legends player does — as a one trick. Doublelift’s trick was Blitzcrank, and it was a good one. But to be a pro player, Doublelift would have to drastically expand his champion pool.
Counter Logic Gaming star George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis saw potential in Doublelift, adding him on as a substitute to what was considered the best team in the world at that time. Though Doublelift was not a starter, it was with CLG that he got his first introduction to pro play.
Doublelift was working on his champion pool when he left CLG to join Epik Gamer ahead of the Season 1 World Championship in 2011. In a time when LoL players had less rigidly defined positions, Doublelift was mostly used as a support. Aside from a Lee Sin game, Doublelift was left on Janna duty to support players who were considered bigger carries at that time.
Epik Gamer finished that tournament fourth, losing 2-0 to Fnatic and TSM after going 3-0 in group play. Doublelift’s most memorable moments in the tournament featured him getting caught out alone and face checking into entire enemy teams. Known for his mechanics, Doublelift needed refinement in his map play.
Unfortunately, his parents were not at all supportive of his passion. Despite allowing Doublelift to travel to Sweden for the Season 1 World Championship, his parents did not see gaming as the correct path for him to choose. Though he was still planning to go to college at the time, Doublelift’s parents kicked him out of the house after his 18th birthday, forcing him out on his own. All Doublelift had to his name was his $1,400 winnings from Dreamhack, a bike, and his gaming PC. He posted his situation to the LoL subreddit, looking for advice.
Now popular interviewer Travis Gafford reached out to Doublelift, offering him a place to stay. That union helped to launch two careers: Doublelift was able to turn his passion into a career in a more stable environment, while Doublelift’s access and willingness to come on shows with Travis helped him become the go-to interviewer in North America. Before player salaries, Doublelift earned money by writing guides and other educational content for Team Curse.
With Doublelift’s new residence also came a new position. When Doublelift joined the second team of his career, unRestricted eSports (later bought by Team Curse), he moved to ADC. Doublelift played in various tournaments with the team, learning his new role. Though no noteworthy tournament placings came from the team, Doublelift was now entrenched as a starting caliber player professionally.
THE CLG YEARS
Doublelift’s next career move was a return to CLG. The team could see that he was already one of the top ADCs mechanically, but he needed a mentor to help him better understand lane fundamentals. To that end, CLG swapped Steve “Chau” Chauster from ADC to support and had him mentor Doublelift. While it’s common now for supports to take the lead in bot lane, it was a new way of approaching the lane.
With Chauster in command of the lane, he and Doublelift became the lane dominant duo in 2012. CLG had a number of second-place finishes during this time, notably at the OGN LoL Invitational 2012 and at IPL 4 Las Vegas, but it wasn’t because of the bot lane. A quarterfinals exit at Champions 2012 Spring led to the first of many shakeups during Doublelift’s time at CLG.
The first domino to fall was bringing in Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani while swapping HotshotGG to jungle, but that didn’t last long. After a 9/10th place finish at Worlds Season 2, CLG brought in Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop for support and swapped Chauster to jungle. That, too, was short-lived. Doublelift and Locodoco did not mesh in lane, and the pairing lasted for only a couple months. Lyubomir “BloodWater” Spasov and Nhat “Nhat Nguyen” Nguyen both made brief appearances, but CLG needed a more permanent option.
With the 2013 LCS Spring coming up, CLG signed Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, forming the affectionately named “Rush Hour” duo. Once again, Doublelift formed a lane partnership that became one of the best in North America. The top half of the map was still a mess, but Doublelift was proving that he didn’t need Chauster running his lane to be one of the best.
The only problem: Doublelift wasn’t winning anything. He wasn’t expected to when he debuted in 2011, and 2012 was his first full year as an ADC. In 2013 he found his long-term support, but CLG were transitioning out of the HotshotGG, Chauster, and Michael “bigfatlp” Tang era. But, especially with more third-party tournaments back then, the losses started to mount.
2014 was another lost year, as CLG finished third in Spring and sixth in Summer, failing again to qualify for the World Championship. 2015 Spring brought more promise as Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero joined the roster, but the third place regular season finish gave way to a first round sweep by Team Liquid in the playoffs. Popularly made into a subreddit, Doublelift’s trophy case was indeed empty.
CLG made one final roster move in the Doublelift era: swapping in Eugene “Pobelter” Park for Austin “Link” Shin between 2015 Spring and Summer. What was already a good team got better, going from 12-6 in the Spring regular season to 13-5 in the Summer. By jumping up to second place in the standings, CLG got the all important first-round bye in the playoffs.
This time, CLG didn’t fall apart when they got there. They swept Team Impulse 3-0 in the semifinals, setting up a showdown against their longtime rivals, TSM. Though TSM were coming off a mediocre 11-7 regular season, they had won the previous two LCS splits and had dethroned Cloud9 as the team to beat in North America.
CLG did just that. And with ease. In stunningly dominant fashion, CLG swept TSM 3-0 to win their first ever LCS title. While ZionSpartan was named MVP, Doublelift and aphromoo dominated the bot lane. Playing Tristana, Jinx, and Ashe, Doublelift combined to go 23/7/31 in the three wins. After five years as a pro player, Doublelift lifted his first trophy.
The glow from that triumph, however important, wore off quickly. Following a quick exit from the group stage at Worlds, CLG dropped Doublelift from their roster heading into 2016. While it was a shocking move at the time, speculation arose that aphromoo no longer wanted to play with Doublelift.
THE NEW ERA
CLG’s biggest rival wasted no time in picking up the star ADC. Doublelift had a chance for revenge immediately, as TSM and CLG met again in the 2016 Spring Finals. CLG and Doublelift’s replacement Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes got the better of TSM in a close 3-2 matchup, but that would be for the first and last time.
Following the heartbreaking loss, TSM went on an absolute tear in the 2016 Summer regular season, finishing 17-1. TSM got their rematch against CLG in the semifinals of the playoffs, this time leaving no doubt who the better team was. TSM swept CLG 3-0 to move onto the finals, where they dominated Cloud9 3-1. After five years of losing, Doublelift had now won two titles with two different teams in the span of a year.
After a disappointing 3-3 exit from the Worlds group stage, Doublelift decided to take the 2017 Spring season off. TSM brought back Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to replace Doublelift, announcing that he would have to fight for his roster spot back in the Summer.
Doublelift didn’t stay idle for long, though, as Team Liquid came calling for his services. They were on the verge of demoting out of the LCS and needed a star to save them. Doublelift, feeling like he owed a lot of his career to the organization and owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet, agreed to help them avoid relegation. Playing a “Protect the Doublelift” strategy throughout, Doublelift helped TL narrowly avoid relegation.
Meanwhile, TSM won the 2017 Spring Split with WildTurtle — perhaps showing that they didn’t need Doublelift at all. Their 4-6 showing at 2017 MSI, however, called that into question. Doublelift returned to the roster for Rift Rivals 2017, helping TSM go 5-1 and 3-0 Unicorns of Love in the Finals.
THE ONE MAN DYNASTY
With Doublelift back in the fold, TSM once again cruised in the LCS, finishing 14-4 in the regular season before beating Immortals 3-1 in the finals. For those keeping track, this was Doublelift’s third LCS title in four tries, not even counting the Rift Rivals win and keeping Team Liquid in the LCS. So, even though TSM once again disappointed with a group stage at Worlds, it was shocking to see Doublelift dropped a second time after winning an LCS title.
TSM didn’t take issue with Doublelift specially like CLG did, instead dropping both he and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang for the EU duo of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. Zven and Mithy were dubbed “The Best in the West” at the time, so though it was obviously infuriating for Doublelift as a competitor, it was not a huge slap in the face. TSM wanted Mithy’s shotcalling, and Zven was the package deal.
Doublelift, as always, landed on his feet. Team Liquid was more than happy to have him, especially after he saved the team from relegation less than a year ago. With an entirely new roster built around him, Team Liquid were an intriguing roster heading into 2018. Doublelift had familiar faces in Xmithie and Pobelter, as well as Korean imports in Jeong “Impact” Eon-young and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung.
After an up-and-down 11-7 regular season, Team Liquid turned it on in the playoffs. Doublelift didn’t get a chance to take revenge on TSM, who exited in the first round, but he did have the last laugh as TL ripped off three straight series wins to take the title. Doublelift now had four titles in his past five splits on three different teams.
Team Liquid didn’t stop there at one title. Or at two. Or at three. Instead, Team Liquid won an incredible four consecutive splits with Doublelift, a nod to their famed history of fours.
Team Liquid became THE dynasty in the LCS over this time period, just like TSM had been with Doublelift in the years prior. As it turned out, Doublelift himself was the dynasty.
THE FINAL YEAR
Despite this unprecedented domestic success, the only knock left on Doublelift’s career continued to plague him: underperformance at Worlds. Even with his 2019 super team on Team Liquid, they finished 3-3 in the group stage to fail to advance to the quarterfinals. For all of his domestic success, Doublelift had never made it past the group stage of Worlds. His best international success had been getting blown out of the finals by G2 Esports at MSI 2019.
So, like in 2017, Doublelift’s motivation to open 2020 Spring was not there. Unlike the break he took from the team in 2017, Doublelift tried to play through it with Team Liquid. The results were not pretty, as Team Liquid finished in ninth place in 2020 Spring, missing the playoffs. Doublelift was benched for Edward “Tactical” Ra for two weeks after openly admitting that he had lost motivation.
Doublelift wanted to take one more shot to rekindle things with TL in the Summer, but the team decided to move forward with Tactical instead. Somehow, the winner of seven of the past 10 LCS championships was once again available. Needing an ADC, TSM came calling again. Doublelift jumped at the opportunity, reuniting with Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.
TSM improved their regular season record from 9-9 in Spring to 12-6 in the Summer, good for fourth. However, the playoffs got off to a terrible start. TSM were swept by the Golden Guardians in round one, and ordinarily would have been eliminated. Fortunately, they got a second chance thanks to the new double elimination rules.
TSM took full advantage. They swept Dignitas first, then avenged their previous loss to the Golden Guardians with a 3-2 win. TSM took on the Spring champions Cloud9 and tossed them aside 3-1, setting up a showdown between Doublelift and Team Liquid in the semifinals. Doublelift, like he always seems to do, got revenge. TSM beat TL 3-2 to reach the Finals, where they ultimately dispatched FlyQuest 3-2 to win the Summer Split. Doublelift proved, once and for all, that LCS titles follow him no matter where he goes.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for international success. Doublelift helped the team reclaim the LCS and qualify for Worlds, but the results were a disaster. TSM went 0-6, becoming the first ever one seed to fail to win a game at Worlds. The Summer magic disappeared, one disappointing loss at a time.
THE ABRUPT END
With that reality, Doublelift had to decide what to do in the offseason. He had achieved everything he could ever hope to domestically, but the international opportunities only come so often. Was it worth the grind of an entire year for one more chance at Worlds?
The answer came in the form of two separate events. First, the retirement of Bjergsen. There was no way that TSM could build a roster as strong without him, lowering Doublelift’s odds of finding international success. The second was TSM’s inability to quickly find him a suitable support. Doublelift was intrigued by the idea of playing with Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, but was ultimately told by TSM that the deal had fallen through.
With an uncertain roster around him, Doublelift retired at the end of 2020. Though TSM have since announced the signing of SwordArt, Doublelift has remained retired and TSM have announced Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui as their new starting ADC.
Doublelift will always have to hear about his lack of international success, but nobody was more successful than him domestically. He won eight of the past 11 LCS splits, one of which he didn’t even compete in. This all coming after the drought to start his career. Once labeled as the best to never win in NA, he became the ultimate winner in NA. And, even with that success, Doublelift was benched three separate times from teams that he won titles on. The amount of perseverance that he has had in his career has been incredible.
We will always remember Doublelift’s dominant laning, as evidenced by his success on his two most played champions: Lucian and Caitlyn. We will always remember Doublelift’s trash talk, especially in an era where it ran so stark in contrast to his competitors. But, most importantly, we will always remember Doublelift as a winner.
Over the last several years, there have been multiple teams to sit atop the throne. But only one player did so consistently: Doublelift, the one man dynasty.