Peter Dun is almost a universal name in the League of Legends world. With stints in Europe, Brazil, and, more recently, North America, the Brit is returning to his roots to coach Team Heretics in the League of Legends European Championship.
With the reshaping of every roster in the league, the LEC debutants, which acquired Misfits Gaming’s spot, will be looking to assert its dominance on the main stage, bringing innovative and entertaining gameplay to the table in the process.
To understand exactly how Heretics is going to achieve that, The Loadout spoke with Dun to get his thoughts on the LoL esports ecosystem, his coaching ethos, and the importance of his new roster.
The Loadout: Congratulations on your return to the LEC! Why did you decide to come back to Europe?
Peter Dun: I like to go to different regions and see how the environment works there, how teams are built, and how the culture functions. I think with the two years in North America, I’ve seen everything that I needed to understand the ecosystem well.
Also, my family, friends, and home are in Europe. I’ve been away for two years, and it’s good to be back around the people that are the most important to my life.
What about Evil Geniuses? You spent two years on the team and the improvement of the team was visible. What were your core principles which helped the team improve?
I wasn’t there for the first year of Evil Geniuses, I was there for the second and the third year. During the first year that the team existed, they bought the best roster they could. The MVP of the league, some very high-profile names, and tried to fit it together.
They had Bae ‘Bang’ Jun-sik, Daniele ‘Jizuke’ do Mauro, Dennis ‘Svenskeren’ Johnsen, who was the MVP of the LCS at the time, Tristan ‘Zeyzal’ Stidaml, who has been to Worlds multiple times, and Colin ‘Kumo’ Zhao, who was an up-and-coming toplaner. They didn’t do badly, but they didn’t function as a unit very well.
In the first year, the first person that I wanted to bring was Jeong ‘Impact’ Eon-young. Why? Because, I heard a lot of rumours about the culture fit in North America, and if I had a veteran on the team, I wanted him to embody the culture I respected. If you have a veteran on the team, who lives a certain type of culture, other people have to fall in line.
Impact is someone that can sometimes be abrasive and strong in his points of view, but he is also someone with an incredible work ethic and someone who you can argue with in a non-pointless way. Sometimes, when you argue with people, you know they will not change their opinion and it’s a waste of time.
The thing I appreciate the most about him is that he was always willing to be convinced and always willing to make an effort to convince you. You never felt it was a pointless discussion and he put expectations on the rest of the team in a way that I think few veterans that I worked with have.
Andrew Barton, the Evil Geniuses GM at the time, told me that their idea was to combine veteran, youth, and develop NA talent. But you can’t develop domestic talent unless you have the infrastructure around it.
The infrastructure isn’t just coaching staff, it’s having veterans, systems, culture. Our first year wasn’t the most successful, though: we had to make some last-minute changes and that put our plans into a complete mess during Spring. We had some AD carry options, but Matthew ‘Deftly’ Chen was in the Academy team and had worked hard. This was the first promotion that we made, and although Deftly wasn’t that successful in Spring, it showed what EG were going to do moving forward, which is; we would look internally first and then we look externally afterward.
Obviously, it didn’t work out, and we brought in Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki in summer, which made the team a lot more balanced. Danny provided something that the team was missing and we were one game away from Worlds. We lost 2-3 in the upper bracket finals in a game I still feel bad about today.
We were very close in the first year and in the second year, it was about tweaking. We understood how we wanted our team to function. We had Danny and Impact as our two core pieces and it was just about filling in the pieces afterward.
Joseph Joon ‘Jojopyun’ Pyun was somebody who was a hyped prospect. He was the second person that I ever saw in the scouting reports from NA solo queue and I remember looking at the sky and thinking: ‘holy moly, if everyone is as good as this guy…’ Jojo and Inspired were signed early on in the season. Philippe ‘Vulcan’ Laflamme came later and we didn’t expect him to be a free agent. When we saw that Vulcan would be available, it was a very easy decision. I didn’t even do a scouting report of him.
The team fit together well; we had a very good spring split. Unfortunate events toward the end of summer [happened], but I think this team represented NA in a fair way. We made the Worlds group stage by winning in our qualifying game with a substitution. Sure, at Worlds we went 1-5, but we were competitive in almost all of the games – we were just outsmarted by teams with more experience.
I wanted to touch the topic of the coaching role in League compared to football, especially since you comment on different matches on Twitter. What would you say are some comparable points between the two and do you think they share similarities or differences?
I think there are more similarities than differences.
Basically, everything about my coaching philosophy and team building can be connected to football and people like Marcelo Bielsa and Jock Stein. You know, when some people were hearing bedtime stories, these are the kind of things that I was reading or discussing with my parents.
I loved coaching from a young age. Maybe I wouldn’t be a sports coach if I wasn’t in esports but I would have been teaching or something in this area. Ever since I was eight, I remember having conversations about coaching philosophy.
I was thinking this the other day; my team philosophy in League can be related to why England was so bad in the 2002-2008 period as a national football team because they had Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes. [They had] some of the best midfielders in the world and they could never build a winning team because they tried to put the best names out all the time. They were not thinking about how it would work without star players because of the fear that dropping one of those players would cause a backlash.
England had a player called Owen Hargreaves, who wasn’t a flashy player, but he was a good holding defensive midfielder. When he got injured, England never really looked good again.
If you look at the Real Madrid team – the Galacticos era – the most important person for me on that team wasn’t a star player, but Claude Makélélé. He was the guy who did all the dirty work while the stars created their fantastic plays and goals. When Makélélé was sold, the team never looked as strong again. I think those are the two big influences on my team building in League of Legends. You always need somebody who’s going to do the dirty work. You need somebody who will play weak side, who will play low resource, and in football terms not hog the ball so his teammates can thrive.
When I look in League of Legends, I always look for my Owen Hargreaves and Claude Makélélé. They are the first person that I sign on a team and I think that’s a similarity that you sometimes see between football and esports.
Let’s talk about the roster of Team Heretics. To some, it’s questionable, but there is a veteran presence and rookie talent, which are core parts of your roster building. How does this team connect in your point of view?
To be honest, when I was looking at my options in Europe, it was Alvar ‘Araneae’ Martin Aleñar who came up to me and said: ‘this is a new team coming into the league and we want to have a fresh start and try to do things in a new way’.
This was a team that was very successful at the ERL level; they wanted to promote Jakob ‘Jackspektra’ Gullvag Kepple and from having interacted with him, I think he has an incredible work ethic and really great mind for the game. He already exhibits many qualities that you would find in a top coach already. He does coaching on his stream and is very methodical, so he was a good start.
You look across this team and you have Mertai ‘Mersa’ Sari, who is coming into his second year. By definition, he is not a rookie, but he is somebody who basically came from nowhere, with respect to the Balkan League. This is a player that I followed when he was on ŠAIM SE SuppUp and I knew about him when I was in NA. We talked to him at some point to come over, but he wanted to stay in Europe, and he’s done a good job. He had a rough first split, but he got promoted very early in his career. Normally, you wouldn’t be promoted that quickly, and it’s quite a difficult transition.
With these two, they have a lot of room to learn and I can’t think of better veterans to have in the team than Shunsuke ‘Evi’ Murase and Marcin ‘Jankos’ Jankowski.
People who don’t know who Evi is might come and say ‘who is this guy?’ Firstly, he is a fantastic player, always helping his team at the international level. He is the one who is arguably the most responsible for DFM going to groups in 2021, and he’s always looked very good.
The thing that people maybe don’t know about Evi is what a great teammate and leader he is. When you ask people about Evi in Japan, the first thing they talk about is not his play skill, but what a great leader he is, and how good he is for building a team environment. In Europe, the one that comes to mind immediately is Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković. Normally you have the play skill or the leadership – it’s rare you see a combination of the two.
Obviously, he will need to spend some time adapting and learning English, but I would say that the speed at which he is learning English is very impressive. He will be a very important player for the team going into this year.
And of course, Jankos is the best western jungler of all time. You look at somebody younger like Javier ‘Elyoya’ Prades Batalla or Kacper ‘Inspired’ Słoma, and sure, they are very successful, but they will have to do this for another five years. I don’t think Jankos is in danger from having his GOAT status taken away for at least three or four years. Obviously, I’m very happy to have him on the team.
Then we have Lee ‘Ruby’ Sol-min, who is a midlaner who used to play in the LPL. I wouldn’t say he was rookie-level in LPL but he was good. He was Rank 1 in the Korean solo queue for quite a long time. He had a solid season in the PCS, although I want to say this was when PCS had the COVID situation. He was on a team playing from Thailand with 100 ping versus the teams that were playing from Taiwan on less ping. It was a bit hard to judge his performance.
Then at Unicorns of Love Sexy Edition, he was probably the best mid in the ERLs. I know some French fans may disagree, but let’s say I don’t think there is a single French fan that would deny that he was at least top five and probably top three.
The thing that stands out about Ruby is how creative he is. He plays a lot of things, was a Vladimir one-trick coming up, and the way he teamfights is as if he plays Vladimir on every champion. He is a super aggressive player and we have to see how that transitions into the LEC.
Overall, I think it’s a very talented team with a lot of quality and aggression. We will have to try controlling that natural aggression without putting too many limits on it, because that’s what makes those players great.
Again, I make the same promise I made to EG fans two years ago; I don’t promise that we win everything immediately, but I promise we will entertain.
Talking specifically about Evi, why him? Some people would consider other import options as better due to skillset or even his age. Do you think that’s even a factor?
You can’t buy that skillset. That’s not something you can coach – you either have it or you don’t.
The people who question Evi are maybe questioning the LJL, which is fair. I don’t think the LJL is the most competitive league – there are three, maybe four, solid teams, and two good teams. But it’s telling that Evi has gone to eight of the last ten international competitions and that’s no coincidence.
Just looking at him based on his solo queue rank and the LJL is missing the point. Go and watch him against international competition, how he is clicking his buttons, playing in lane and testing his limits, especially on ranged champions. For instance, he had a very good game at Worlds against Martin ‘Wunder’ Nordhal Hansen. They [DFM] did lose the game but he played Kennen very well, especially in lane.
Maybe he was a bit overaggressive in certain teamfights, but I would say that he was the one trying to push the pace forward. He has insane qualities that you can’t find elsewhere and his play skill is good.
You can talk to people who played against him at Worlds and they would tell you that this guy is no joke. The way he pushes his limits, and asks questions of you. Watch him play on stage first before drawing conclusions, but there are a lot of intangibles there that people may not see.
I also believe you remember his Gnar from Worlds…
No comment on that one!
In 2017, Evi came to Brazil where I was coaching and he was on Rampage for MSI. He was incredibly skilled and I remember that we scrimmed some of the major region teams and there was no top laner on those teams that was more impressive than Evi.
I remember when I went to Europe in 2018, we ended up signing Andrei ‘Odoamne’ Pascu on Splyce in my first year in Europe. To be clear, that was the right decision at the time, no question. But there were rumors that Odoamne would be going to North America and Evi was right on top of the shortlist if Odoamne wasn’t an option.
So, you had your eyes on him for a long time?
I’ve been following his career for five years now. There was never a point where leaving DFM was an option. He is a very patriotic person. LJL has given him a lot and he wanted to give back to them. But at some point, you want to test yourself, right?
As a last question, tell me what’s your general opinion on the LEC? Did the league improve from last year and will it be more competitive?
The league this year is fascinating. Every team in the league, except Excel and KOI, have a rookie on their roster. With rookies, you never know how they’ll perform, making the league exciting and unpredictable. No rookie was promoted, except maybe Kyeong ‘Photon’ Gyu-tae, whom we didn’t study closely. As a fan, I’m excited to see how these young players will do.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how Martin ‘Yike’ Sundelin will do on G2 – he has a very different role to fill. MAD Lions also has a very aggressive roster with a bot lane that’ll either go 0/10 or 10/0 every game and that’ll be exciting.
Otherwise I’m very excited for the KOI/Heretics game. I’m new to Spain and I’m not going to claim I know all about the rivalry, but I know it’ll be a big one.