The LCS and its raft of League of Legends stars is going through a period of change in 2021, but none are feeling it as acutely as Eric ‘Licorice’ Ritchie — this year will be his “most challenging yet,” the FlyQuest top laner tells Dexerto.
Ritchie burst onto the North American scene as a breath of fresh air in late 2017. He had spent stints on Cloud9’s developmental roster, and a year on eUnited, but his chance to really make an impact came during the org’s LCS roster shuffle in early 2018. He was promoted to the team over Jeong “Impact” Eon-young.
There were doubters, of course, but the 21-year-old quickly waved them all away; the Cloud9 roster as a whole defied expectations, recovering from last place in the fifth week of Summer to qualify for World 2018, against the odds.
Once there they finished top 4, an all-time high for the LCS.
Licorice played a major role in the run, and LCS fans touted him as the best top laner in the league. Just 18 months later, however, he feels like he’s been ‘cast aside’ after being dropped from Cloud9, and shifting to FlyQuest’s young roster.
All that means is one thing: Licorice has been handed a clear goal. He’s lost none of his edge, FlyQuest’s top laner says, and he wants to “prove them wrong.”
The first step is throwing off the “washed up” moniker League of Legends fans have hung around his neck. That’s an easy one — all Licorice has to do is keep playing his game: “I’m going to keep focusing on improving, no matter what.”
Then there’s the fans themselves. Spread across Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms, League fans can be notoriously fickle. Licorice knows this all too well; in 2018, he was lifted up as the LCS poster boy. Now, for the ‘crime’ of being replaced on Cloud9, he’s struggling to see positive comments.
The easiest solution there is to “block it all out” entirely.
“Before I had even played any games, I was seeing people talk about how I was washed up just because I got kicked from my old team,” Licorice said.
“For the most part, I’m just kind of ignoring it right now. I just have to ignore it. I think those kinds of storylines can be entertaining. But for me, as a player, they’re not very helpful to get caught up in.
“Either I’m showing up and I really have something to prove, or maybe the comments hit me the wrong way, and I get sad about it. So, either way, I think it’s not good for me, so I’ve pretty much just been avoiding it.”
Mostly though, Licorice is just looking internally. He’s joined a FlyQuest team stacked with young rookies and exciting talent, which he now has to lead. It’s a “new experience” for him, and one that he admits he’s been looking forward to for some time.
“It’s a totally different feel on this team than my previous teams, where what’s expected from me is totally different,” he said.
“I get to really set the pace, so that’s exciting, and also very challenging for me right now, to try to figure out exactly how I want things set up and how I want things set up for me and how I want things set up for my teammates.”
It hasn’t been an easy road though. When FlyQuest began scrimming ahead of the Lock In tournament, they were losing every game. Matches were getting away from them, leads were disappearing, and the LCS heavy-hitters were winning again and again.
There was a bit of “panic,” Licorice admits, that things might be going wrong.
“When we first started scrimming, we were losing every game. So, I was a little nervous. I was like, damn,” he said.
“I started my career on a top challenger team, and then I went straight to Cloud9. So, I never had the experience of being a bottom, bottom team. So, I was like, damn, is this what it’s gonna be like? This is going to be tough.
“But, now, we’ve already improved a lot, and we’ve started to gel a little bit. And I don’t know, I feel really optimistic and I’m happy with the team that I have.”
So, Licorice is ready for his “most challenging” year yet. He’s got the road set out ahead of him, and — with a trademark Licorice smile on his face — tells Dexerto that he couldn’t be more excited to play out 2021, wherever it takes him.
After all, he’s just loving everything League throws at him.
“I’ve got this great gift from competitive League of Legends where there’s this thing people really care about, and I really enjoy it, and I’m really good at it. I get to actually put as much effort as I can, and see how far it takes me,” he said.
“That’s something pretty special,” Licorice added. “Not everyone gets that.”