As NA fandom calls MSI 2022 a success, Jojopyun wants to push expectations higher

Andrew Amos

Evil Geniuses have been sent home from MSI 2022 after Chinese favorites RNG put on a clinic against the NA representatives. While LCS fans back home are celebrating their semifinal berth, mid laner Joseph Joon ‘Jojopyun’ Pyun isn’t settling with that result.

When Evil Geniuses defied expectations in the LCS Spring 2022 Playoffs with a lower bracket run made of dreams, there was an air of hope within NA fandom heading into MSI 2022.

The general sentiment was homegrown talent would get a chance overseas as the underdog’s hopes rested on their two domestic carries in Jojopyun and Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki. While it wasn’t the Team Liquid super team or ‘Korea9’ on paper, their dominant BO5 performances were a decent form indicator.

Evil Geniuses were slow starters at MSI 2022. They got by in Groups by pummeling Oceanic representatives ORDER before G2 Esports gave them a taste of their own medicine.

In the Rumble Stage, they were really the gatekeepers. Outside of an upset win against T1, Evil Geniuses would just end up beating PSG Talon and Saigon Buffalo while the three other major regions bullied them around.

In Knockouts, there was nowhere else for Evil Geniuses to hide against Chinese giants RNG. They made the series competitive ⁠— as close as you can really get for a 3-0 sweep ⁠— but the defending MSI champions had their number all over the Rift, and Jojopyun admitted as much.

“I don’t remember the second game too well, but in the third game, they had way better positioning at Rift Herald and were just winning lanes,” he told Dexerto. “They’re winning from the get-go, but they threw, and we got some good angles for teamfights, which allowed us to come back.

“RNG is just a better team, and they were basically better at everything in the series like teamfighting, playmaking, laning, but they still had some throws we could abuse. If we were able to abuse them better, we could have won.”

The 17-year-old mid lane prodigy had a lot of external pressure lumped on him by the NA fandom, although there were genuine concerns he’d crumble at his first international event.

That theory was quickly disproven. While the early games were shaky, by the end of the event Jojopyun was Evil Geniuses’ star on the Rift. His Ahri against Li ‘Xiaohu’ Yuan-Hao in their final series was a testament to his rapid growth in just three weeks overseas.

As for the pressure? He had ice in his veins.

“Some veterans still feel more pressure on the international stage compared to rookies,” Jojopyun scoffed at the ‘pressure’ talk. “I don’t think pressure really depends on how much experience you have. It depends on the player.

“I don’t agree with the saying at all. I don’t feel pressure from people analyzing my performance. I feel pressure from myself and wanting to play my best and wanting to keep improving. I’m pressuring myself, not being pressured by people’s expectations.”

However, while the applause was coming through thick for Jojopyun and the Evil Geniuses side, he personally isn’t content with just calling a playoffs berth a success for the region. Instead he wants to lead NA to titles ⁠— that’s the only result that matters ⁠— and MSI 2022 can be considered a stepping stone of development along the way.

“Results-wise, I feel like going to semifinals is fine by NA standards but we could have showed more. For my standards, the results could have been much better.

“Everyone on the team is really good, and they plan on staying. We plan on being the hope for NA.”

jojopyun waving to crowd at MSI 2022
The ever-confident Jojopyun sees himself as the “hope” of NA.

Returning to the LCS with a wealth of experience

When you analyze Evil Geniuses’ results, the fact they went 1-12 against major region teams across MSI including 0-6 against G2 Esports and 0-5 against RNG, those are the kind of results the team believes they can improve on. They need to be better if they want to do anything of merit internationally.

However, it’s not just what happened on stage. Soaking in the high-level practice in Korea has given Jojopyun a huge amount of experience that he can take back to the LCS ⁠— and he knows exactly what that means.

“I’m sad that it’s over… but I learned so much from this experience at MSI, and I’m very grateful for that. I got to play against the top mid laners in the world that I look up to a lot,” he stated.

“I’ll definitely be the best mid in LCS by far after MSI, but I feel like we’re going to try and do a lot of new things. I’m not really looking forward to playing in the LCS either because I really liked playing against these mid laners, but I have to prove myself there so we can get that momentum going into Worlds.”

The difference between domestic and international competition was stark, arguably more so than Jojopyun was expecting. The tricks he could use to abuse mid laners back home didn’t cut the mustard against the cream of the crop.

Instead of bending a knee to the likes of Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok and Rasmus ‘Caps’ Winther, he took the beatings and adapted. He picked up small things by facing them ⁠— the one-percenters that win games.

The Jojopyun that is leaving Korea is a vastly different player to the one that arrived a few weeks ago, and he’s admitted as much.

“In LCS I can play any playstyle I want. I can play for helping my team, play for lane kingdom, and trying to carry. The team will be much more adaptable after MSI [due to our experiences here]… It’ll be hard to exploit us when we come back.

“I learned a lot from facing Faker and Xiaohu ⁠— they’re the two I got the most from by far. Caps is really good too. The way they play with their team and their playmaking is amazing. Almost everything honestly that they do I can adapt into my own game, which I have been doing this tournament.

“It’s much harder to exploit them, so it was more satisfying if we made good plays and beat them in some areas.”

As for all the Twitter talk of sending Xiaohu back to top lane or teaching EU a lesson or two, “it’s banter, but I still respect them,” Jojopyun said. “It just gets me more hyped for the game. It adds a bit of fun.”

At the end of his first competitive split now, it’s quite unfathomable to outsiders just how rapid Jojopyun’s rise to the top was. Yes, there’s the Fortnite memes, but to so comfortably climb up from the amateur ranks to the pinnacle of play is unlike anything NA has seen.

While some are still comprehending that, the 17-year-old is moving on with his trailblazing as he’s not just satisfied with being the best in NA ⁠— he wants to be truly competitive with the world’s best and held in that same regard.

“I knew my potential, and if I put the work in, I kind of expected this to happen. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, and I wouldn’t even say I’m satisfied because I feel like I could have done more, but for me, it was pretty expected [to reach the top so quickly],” he mused.

“I just want to be able to compete with the top players, and after playing against them here, I’m confident after a few more splits I’ll be up there with them. The more I keep playing internationally, the closer I’ll get to competing with the best.

“We’re definitely going to make Worlds, so I’ll see them there.”

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About The Author

Hailing from Perth, Andrew was formerly Dexerto's Australian Managing Editor. They love telling stories across all games and esports, but they have a soft spot for League of Legends and Rainbow Six. Oh, and they're also fascinated by the rise of VTubers.