Brimming with confidence that he is LCS ready, Eyla is ready to treat 2022 as a year to become something bigger.
Before TL Eyla was subbing in for Team Liquid’s support CoreJJ, he was in the OPL, enjoying everyday life as a pro player. If he won, that was cool. And if he lost games, that was okay as well. In OCE, Eyla quickly rose up from the challenger scene to the OPL and became the best support in the entire region. Everything was going great, as he prepared himself for what he thought would be his first regional win.
He lost. That initial expectation that he would win was grappled right out of his hands as he was left confused and distraught. It was a new feeling for the young OCE talent as his whole career had been built around winning as a natural thing. He sat with that feeling for months, taking it all in before coming to a breakthrough of what winning really meant for him.
Now, he is fully ready to become a great LCS support, while also understanding that he will need to work extremely hard to reach those goals.
In this interview, we speak to TL Eyla to talk about his first games in the LCS, his journey to becoming a pro player, and how CoreJJ has inspired him to work so much harder.
LCS Lock In was your first stretch playing LCS games. Talk to me about how you got started in League of Legends. Was playing pro always a goal for you?
TL Eyla: I've played games ever since I was a really young child. And I was always pretty competitive. I used to play a lot with my brothers because I have one older brother. We used to play games all the time. That just followed me throughout my childhood. Eventually, my friends started playing League. So I joined them and I played for fun in my first three or four years playing the game. It was very casual and I barely played rank.
I played like 2500 normal games and had like 100 ranked games, but eventually, I hit a really high rank. When I hit challenger, I realized, oh, this could be my future. You know, this could be something I could chase. So I tried. During the last two years in high school, I played in Oce Academy and did very well there. So straight out of high school, I got into OPL and then I played on Chiefs, then played on ORDER, and I did well enough that I could make the transition to North America. It’s pretty crazy how far playing this game has taken me.
Did you get recommended originally by Spawn because of your connection from ORDER?
TL Eyla: Yeah, he was a big factor in the reason why I came here. I think he's one of the biggest people that taught me a lot back when I was on ORDER. The biggest takeaway was learning how to shot call because that is really important for a support player. I also learned how to communicate and lead a team. So I think a big reason why I'm good at shot-calling now is because of him. And yet he's continued to do that for me. He's a big reason why I am where I am in my career. Just a really helpful person who is really smart about the game, as well as a great teacher.
Photo by Riot Games and espat.ai. Taken by Tina Jo.
Going back to the OPL, what was that like back then? Thinking back to the years of 2017 and 2018, what was it like making the jump to the top level in Oceania
TL Eyla: Yeah, the money is not very good. Laughs So if you actually consider the number of hours you put into work, you actually get paid under minimum wage as a pro in the OPL. Though, it was always liveable.
Not great, but I never did it for the salary. As long as I could do it without…dying laughs then I was happy to give becoming a professional my everything. I didn't really care if it was a viable future or not, I just loved the everyday working towards improvement in a game I love so much. I wanted to give it a shot. Salaries were terrible, but it was never my priority.
Joining the LCS as an Oceanic player was never realistic and never something you could strive for.
So back then, you talk about how you enjoy working towards a goal. What was that goal?
TL Eyla: Maybe I'm different from other people. When I look at other people, a lot of them have goals. They already know what they want from the start, but I kind of just came into the scene and I had no idea. No idea what I wanted to do. At the time, not many people were getting imported, it was only Lost back in 2018. Joining the LCS as an Oceanic player was never realistic and never something you could strive for. I honestly just wanted to enjoy myself. I didn't know what I wanted at the time. Yeah, I just thought it'd be really fun. It’s funny, I was not as strapped to winning as some other people back then, but I worked so hard every day simply because I actually liked the everyday life of League of Legends.
It seems like you didn't have an overarching goal. But what you really enjoyed was the everyday lifestyle and just becoming better little by little.
TL Eyla: Yeah, you read my mind honestly. That’s how I felt about it back then. It was not until I lost my first OPL final on the Chiefs that I realized I did not like that feeling. I became somebody who had this overarching goal to win because I knew what it felt like to lose.
I want to talk about that split because you were the Split MVP on Chiefs and frankly, supposed to be the region’s representative. Talk to me about what that feeling felt like after building yourself up as the best to lose out on qualifying for the biggest event of the year?
TL Eyla: That first loss in the finals hurt so much. I never lost anything that important before. In Challenger, I won all my splits and basically won throughout my whole life when I started trying to become a pro player. So yeah, losing that was actually really tough.
I think that's when I truly realized that I wanted to win as a pro player. Maybe I felt fine with every day because I knew I was a really great player, but that loss really helped me realize that I can do so much more. That loss really hurt though. I remember it affecting me for months, and whenever I would log into the client, I would think about that loss in the finals. It is so weird, but it really affected me.
In ORDER, I gave it the same effort and lost again. Though, that time, it did not feel as bad because I learned after that Chiefs loss that losing is going to happen if you want to be at the top of League. It sounds weird to say, but there isn’t a pro player who has won Worlds that has not lost a big game in their life.
Back in my early years, I really didn’t care, but after Chiefs, I experienced such a big mindset shift. When I lost on ORDER, it was weird. I worked so hard just to get second again, but it did not phase me nearly as much. That time, I knew how much effort I put in, and felt fine knowing that I truly gave it my all. I saw things in my game that I could improve on, and I felt so much more motivated to correct those mistakes and become better.
I have realized losing is good. It is okay to embrace those losses. If they happen, they happen. But when I get that important championship win that I am working for, it will feel so much better because of all the growth I have done because of those losses.
I wanted to join Team Liquid because I think surrounding yourself with really good players is the best way to go.
After ORDER, you are able to move to North America and play for Team Liquid Academy, where you have an opportunity to elevate your game higher under Corejj. When you got that offer and came to America for the first time, what was that like for you?
TL Eyla: I was excited. I think it was definitely one of the bigger reasons why I wanted to join Team Liquid because I think surrounding yourself with really good players is the best way to go.
I learned a lot from my peers and people who are better than me. So I was really excited, but at the same time and maybe this weird, but I'm not the sort of person to fanboy over someone or respect someone until I know them personally. While I was excited, and I had a lot of good things, my world had not changed playing in NA.
To be honest, I actually like watching other roles and learning from players in other positions. It is so funny, but I get so bored watching support sometimes and like gaining perspective from other roles. Learning from other players that are not support helps me understand in the future what that role could be thinking in-game.
That has really helped me understand where I need to be as a support because I know how to counter other roles now.
Photo via Tina Jo of Riot Games and espat.ai.
So what have been your biggest takeaways from being on Team Liquid with CoreJJ, and what was that point where you began to have that respect?
TL Eyla: Some of the biggest things I've learned from him is how to work really hard. He taught me how to actually work hard and also work smart. There is nobody who has a work ethic like his. Everything he does has a purpose that is driven to make North America better. Just watching how much he does, even when he does not need to do it is admirable. I gained so much respect for him because I saw this player who could just do his job, and he would be the best player in NA. Yet, even with this mindset, his goals are so much bigger than even himself right now, but he is doing whatever he can to help Team Liquid one day win Worlds and make the region better.
All that stuff was new to me, and definitely something that I've been trying to do this past year. This year, we're gonna fix the main thing of shot-calling and communication because that is something everybody can always work on. Studying different ways to be more purposeful with words is something I want to work on with him and help others with.
I don't think we're super close friends or anything, but as teammates, he is sort of my mentor who took me under his wing to show me what it truly means to work hard. He is just a really good person with so much knowledge and talent for the game. As a teacher and also as a person that is above me. I try my best to help him out when I can, but he helps me out a lot. It’s a good work relationship, and I have so much respect for him. Even putting aside his pride to switch out of the game right now is insane. But I am so happy to be gaining first-hand experience on this team.
When you are in the LCS games? Are you the primary shot-caller in the team? Or does someone else take over?
TL Eyla: I am the primary shot-caller in the academy. However, there are a lot of insane players on my team that are very great at communication in-game. So I do talk a lot less than I would in Academy. Everyone talks a lot throughout the game. Even Hans Sama, who I thought was a really quiet player is actually a great communicator for a very mechanic-based role. I do have some catching up to do and that's why I keep silent. I let them control things more and I try to focus on mechanics as I slowly ease into my shot-calling against a higher base of talent.
Would you say this also helps get your name out to LCS teams for the future too?
TL Eyla: Yeah, I do think the games I played left a very good impression on people, but to me, I played decently and it was just expected. I just want to play really well. I know I am an LCS level player, but spending this time on Team Liquid helps me become somebody who can be more than just LCS level. I know I can be a top support with more guidance.