During the picks and bans phase for Game 3 of the LCS finals, I had the chance to talk with the renowned Rivington Bisland III. Riv has been a play-by-play caster for League of Legends for most of its history and was at the St. Louis finals conducting onstage interviews with players like Jason “WildTurtle” Tran in between games. In this interview, we talked about casting at large arenas, conducting stage interviews, and more.
Daily Esports: How are you doing? Are you enjoying St. Louis?
Rivington Bisland III: I am absolutely enjoying St. Louis. This is actually the first time I’ve been here. I kinda have to remember, “We’ve been to this stop, but we’ve only been in a taxi, the hotel, and then back. Were we in St. Louis? No.” So [it was enjoyable] seeing the arch, being able to kind of live around the fans here and figure out how they live in St. Louis.
The barbecue is amazing, and that’s the first thing we were told, so that’s the first thing we hit. And beyond that, the games are delivering. Hopefully, we see a four or a five ’cause TSM is looking real hot.
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At the moment we are at 2-0, middle of picks and bans Game 3. TL has Gangplank and Tahm Kench. So that should go a little bit better for CoreJJ. What have you been thinking of this series so far?
I have been actually very surprised at what’s happening. It seems like Team Liquid is kind of in the trough. They’ve found themselves at where they didn’t know how to fix success. Which sounds very weird, but we’ve heard it from even the coaches saying, from Dodo, that “We’ve had too much success, we got complacent, we got lazy.” And obviously, they didn’t bring that gameplay here today.
But it feels like they didn’t actually fix completely what was kind of surrounding that laziness, or not allowing them to get the engages that they wanted. We have seen strong fights from them. Game 1 was a big back-and-forth with the conditional of a Heimerdinger — what? That’s crazy! But I don’t think I’ve seen, from my point of view, TL playing to the confidence that they play with. It seems very reserved.
Do you think the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” trope of TL beats Cloud9, Cloud9 beat TSM, TSM beats TL has really shown? Especially now that TSM broke it, but now they are hoping that it’s still there?
It somewhat plays into it. I feel like the players, obviously, don’t think of that stuff too much. But [there’s] the idea that Bjergsen and Doublelift find themselves in each one of these games to be that pivotal player and has to be taken down. That amazes me to know they’re playing a game inside the game. So no matter what history says, this matchup is always going to be amazing, which is why it surprises me that TL fell so far behind here.
Do you think TSM close it out with Game 3?
I think TL could bring it back in Game 3. TSM is just looking very, very strong, and with TL going to TSM’s late game, I don’t think it’s starting to favor them. They need to start doing the short game, aggression on each lane, get Impact out of that lane as soon as possible, or allow him to split push so you can take the fights to the split.
I wanted to talk to you a little about the venue and casting. What’s the big difference between when you’re casting at the studio versus when you are at this new venue?
Oh man. It’s so great. One thing you really have to be careful about is blowing out your voice. Because in the studio, while you still have fans, you don’t have ten thousand fans that are driving the intensity that you actually have to feel like you’re casting over, because hearing yourself is one of the most important things. So unintentionally, we’ll start to lose our voice quite a bit, and you don’t want to do that because you could have a huge series. So just the emotions in general are at one thousand to start.
It’s amazing — you get up there and you’re like, “Okay, calm down. It’s only Game 1, not Game 5.” But you want to go into Game 1 like it is Game 5. So that emotion build is so awesome to be at these events with, and share all those relatable Baron steals, Elder Dragon takes with the fans around you.
Because you’ve been doing the onstage interviews, you just got off with [Wild]Turtle. How does that play into more when you are interviewing? ‘Cause you are in the middle of eight thousand people, and they wanna know what’s going on?
Absolutely! One of the big things for me I said before is that relatablility. It’s like, “What would they want to know? What would they be thinking in this portion of the game? And probably, how do you come back?” So with Turtle being on that stage, I wanna tap into that so people can relate to Turtle’s dream once. Because hearing from the players is like a dream for the fans all the time. We wanna know what’s going on in their head, and they’re usually very short on vocab, with “That was cool,” or “That was great. I got a penta.” And you’re like, “No, what happened in that penta?” So [it’s about trying to] extrapolate that information out of them with the intensity of the crowd. I feel like it makes interviews so much more fun.
How has that transition been? You obviously cast all the time, but you have to take a very different approach when interviewing. Like new topics versus going deeper into a follow-up question. How do you balance that out?
First off, I make sure that I never ask what I wanna hear. That was actually a big thing. When you become an interviewer, you’re like, “I think this would be cool,” but then you have to balance that off yourself and say, “Do other people think that’s cool?” Because you might be driving for an answer. To just be like, “He’s gonna say this and I want him to,” and when he doesn’t it’s PBBBTTT. Everything falls flat. So it’s really fun to make sure that dynamic stays flavorful. You don’t just kind of shoot questions at a player like you said. You think, you listen, and you wanna offer that second question.
In this instance, we try to keep them short and snappy. So it almost plays like, boom, we got the lights on them, we got the lights off. So the questions will kinda just be really quick. It really is — that dynamic changes; you can’t always do a quick interview. Sometimes they’re long-form, and you can’t be like, “Hey, I’m here with WildTurtle: This is long form.” That’s all caster voice. So you are right — you have to change. Take a step back, and really, really want to know what that answer means to the person, and how far you can go with that second question.
I had met Ovilee, back in August. I had went to the LCS studio for like two days. I’m from New Jersey…
Heck yeah! I’m from Upstate New York. Binghamton.
I used to go to a school in Rochester for a couple of years. I love Upstate New York. Ovilee was talking to me about how for interviews, when she’s preparing for them, she’ll bounce ideas off of you, Kobe, everyone else, so that way it’s not just her ideas.
Even coming up to this one, I kind of even asked production. I was like, “Hey, what would you guys wanna hear? I know I’m ending with the LCS GOAT question,” but getting that idea means, as I said before, I’m not getting the question I wanna ask for a specific answer. You’re getting a very broad question that gets that and is also the reason we don’t try to lead to the “yes, no, maybe” answers. “How did you feel? How did that feel? What’s it’s like?” Those are very easy to answer simple, so we try to get that information out of the players. It’s asking simple questions, but directed towards like a broad answer.
I remember my first interview was with Pobelter…
Oh! He is the most troll guy. Ovilee will say it all the time, and she gets the best out of players, but you’re right, man. [With Pobelter it’s like], “Dude, you just three-gamed on Viktor. You guys won finals.”
[Pobelter response:] “It’s good.”
Just like, “Pobelter, where do you think you stand in the North American for mid laners?” [Pobelter response]: “Top 10.”
It’s like oh my God! You’re such a troll.
Let’s see if there are any new picks.
Yeah. Are they doing good?
Kalista, Galio, LeBlanc, Rek’sai, and Vladimir. Against Gangplank, Skarner…
Oh, TL has Skarner?
Yeah, Jensen’s playing Syndra, [with] Varus and Tahm Kench. Any immediate insights on that?
I love Jensen on Syndra. He definitely needs something to carry. Impact can play the hell out of that Gangplank, but looking at things like Skarner, looking at the Heimerdinger before — they’re great champions. We’ve seen them played; we’ve seen them win. In this situation against TSM, I feel like it’s way too conditional. Looking at Jensen on Syndra and then you see the Skarner, which is very conditional in the end. You start getting Quicksilver Sashes; you lose one of your engages off the Scatter the Weak. The Heimerdinger before, is it conditional? You win, and they might have to ban it, but … I’m not very in favor of doing those conditional things.
I think the Sona-Taric is as far as my strategy and mental would take it. But when you come into these Game 5s, I feel like you should be putting your best foot forward all the time, and you trick the opponent with your strength. Not with gimmick. Maybe these are strengths; you know I call them gimmicks like they haven’t been practiced, but these teams practice everything. But I hate conditional things coming into the games, and I would love to see TL play a little more structured around their favorite picks and picks that make them strong in lane, that leads to late-game.
So for this finals, there are so many intersecting story lines between Doublelift versus Bjergsen, Jensen versus Bjergsen. The desk was talking about Xmithie looking for his fifth win, which is absolutely crazy.
Jensen and Zven are looking for their first title. Semifinalists from Worlds, it’s crazy.
Are there any storylines that really stick out to you for this series?
Overall, I think the Xmithie-Akaadian one sticks out to me the most because Akaadian became a player this year, for me, that understood what it meant to have a brand behind him. What it meant to know that he’s kind of not playing for himself. Not playing for himself, but taking it more seriously while he plays for himself. You know, he’s not just going in and being like, “I’m gonna play two games this weekend and go home.”
He really takes that seriously, and I think he is a great player for other players to look at that are coming up in the scene, that are getting chances to accept that limelight and let it be your shield when you play. I feel like he’s grown so much as a player this year. Now we see him on a finals stage and he is making plays left and right. Impact plays that are changing the series.
They’re on match point, and his Rek’sai has been insane and his Hecarim has been just killing it.
It is. And that was the question before: “Where was this Jarvan coming from? Why do you keep putting him on Jarvan?” and it does seem like they fall back to these wheelhouse champions. TSM seems unstoppable, and it’s not the 45-minute TSM that’s unstoppable. It’s a little more pressure in the early game. They start adding the gold lead, and TSM is already at your inhibitor at 25-30 minutes now.
Which TSM has historically struggled with. TSM used to be known as that late-game team, and now they’re closing games out at 30-35 minutes.
Absolutely, and I think that changes a dynamic when you are playing against an opponent so much. [It’s because] they are expecting A, B, and C. And when A changes right off the bat, B and C are up in the air. Silence becomes chaos, and I feel like that’s what happens. Nobody wants to make the right call. The calls aren’t confident, and nobody is following in on even bad calls, where everybody should be going in to make it a little bit better in that scenario. TSM I think have already identified this, and I would not be surprised to hear them saying, “We have this in three,” in their pregames and every in-between.
With an eventual full five-game series from that finals, neither Rivington nor I would have expected its outcome. Riv continues to provide unconditional love and energy towards the LCS and all the events he attends. It was great to speak with him and would have loved to see his expression during the last moments of the series.
Make sure to follow Rivington on Twitter.