Liquid’s Eyla has CoreJJ-sized shoes to fill in LCS 2022, but he’s up to the task

Eyla playing for Chiefs at OPL Split 2 2019 finalsRiot Games

Bill ‘Eyla’ Nguyen’s jittery interview when he first stepped up for Jo ‘CoreJJ’ Yong-in won the hearts of Team Liquid and LCS fans in 2022. The rookie support is still having to deal with filling those big shoes, but he’s up for the task in his quest to become LCS’ best.

Eyla, on the surface, might seem like the nervous type. His first on-stage interview with LeTigress during LCS Lock In 2022 would definitely give that impression, but he has that white line fever when he loads into Summoner’s Rift.

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While the youngest and most inexperienced member of Liquid’s current roster, Eyla has proven his worth across the first month of competition. He helped Liquid to a Lock In victory, including a clean 3-0 against Evil Geniuses in the final, and has stepped up again to start LCS Spring 2022.

His record across the year so far? 10-2, with a 5.18 KDA in Lock In (his LCS Spring 2022 KDA is a more modest 2.8 after two games).

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He has big shoes to fill too. CoreJJ is currently sidelined due to issues with the Korean star getting his green card. Eyla means Liquid can be under the import limit after big spends on Gabriel ‘Bwipo’ Rau and Steven ‘Hans sama’ Liv from the LEC.

It’s been a lot for him, but he’s taken it entirely in his stride ⁠— composed deep down, even if first appearances tell otherwise.

“It wasn’t too much of a difference because we’re just playing from our own apartment,” he told Dexerto about his LCS debut.

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“I’ve been playing here for a decent time now, like a month and a bit, so it’s not like there was a massive change between Lock In and Week 1 of LCS, but in general, playing in the LCS feels great, and it’s a really big opportunity.

“I don’t think I’m too nervous on stage anyway. Maybe I’ll be more nervous when I play at the LCS Studio for the first time, but we’ll see what happens because I might be really confident anyways.”

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The step-up from Academy to LCS has been an eye-opening one for Eyla. While not adverse to top flight competition back home in the Oceanic Pro League (now the League of Legends Circuit Oceania), the skill difference is night-and-day between OCE and NA. He’s rubbing shoulders with some storied names in League of Legends.

“The biggest thing is just how much better everyone is,” he simply explained. “Being able to play with and against better players, it forces you to try and improve, or you’ll be left behind. That alone is really massive.

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“Being able to work with all the LCS coaches is big too because there’s a lot of concepts that I’ve learned that I didn’t really experience when I was back in Academy, so that’s been big.”

However, there will always be a looming question over Eyla’s future in the LCS ⁠— at least for 2022 ⁠— once CoreJJ’s green card issues are sorted, what’s his future? Nguyen himself isn’t too sure of that answer, even if it seems like the obvious one is moving back down to Academy.

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He’s been under the tutelage of the 2017 world champion for the last year while on Liquid’s second roster, and that close relationship has given Eyla the skills to be a more-than-apt replacement momentarily.

“There weren’t a lot of people who could teach me a whole bunch back in OCE. Since I came here, I’ve learned a lot, especially with laning phase, shotcalling, and all of that, and it’s kind of insane how much someone can teach you when they’re good at the game,” he laughed.

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For now, Eyla’s just trying his best to leave his mark in the LCS to guarantee his future.

“There’s always a worry of that happening, but I keep it at the back of my mind. At the end, we are teammates and not competitors, so I try not to think about it.”

The importance of relationships far from home

While thousands of miles away from home, Eyla isn’t necessarily alone. His transition to NA ⁠last year, which ended with an Academy Playoffs title in Summer, was made easier by having ORDER teammate Harry ‘Haeri’ Kang and coach Jake ‘Spawn’ Tiberi by his side.

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Eyla came painfully close to strutting his stuff on the world stage twice while in the OPL. He lost the Split 2 playoffs to both MAMMOTH and Legacy respectively in 2019 and 2020, tearing up his tickets to Worlds in the process. Off those rosters, Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami, Calvin ‘k1ng’ Truong, Mitchell ‘Destiny’ Shaw, Quin ‘Raes’ Korebrits, and Jonah ‘Isles’ Rosario have since made it to the LCS stage.

But it was Spawn and Haeri, by his side, that ensured he could finally reach those same heights.

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“He was a big reason why I learned so much in OCE during my second year and how I got really good,” Eyla said, praising Spawn.

“When you go to a different country for the first time ⁠— it was a new place with a whole bunch of new people ⁠— it was nice someone that I know come over with me. He’s a really big driving force behind my success and how much I’ve learned, so it’s nice to have him with me on my journey.

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“Him and Haeri I’m both really close to, so it helps having people who I know around.”

The homesickness hasn’t kicked in too much, but there’s definitely a friendly rivalry in the LCS now that Eyla can play against his fellow countrymen (New Zealanders included).

“A lot of friendship groups that were in OCE tend to stay intact when you come over to NA. There’s also a little bit of banter and rivalry. Matches against them matter a little bit more. It’s a bit of an ego battle to see who’s a better OCE player,” he laughed.

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Enchanters, enchanters everywhere

Funnily enough, that next OCE rivalry comes up this weekend when Liquid take on Cloud9, with Eyla lining up against Fudge for the first time at the LCS level. Cloud9’s enchanter antics took the world by storm in Week 1, with Fudge himself playing Soraka and Ivern mid in the Nick ‘LS’ De Cesare-led side’s first two wins of the season.

It’s indicative of a wider meta shift in League of Legends too, with enchanters going top lane and taking Smite before roaming around the map. Eyla isn’t a huge fan of that though, praying Riot removes it sooner rather than later.

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“I find it annoying as a bot laner. Obviously, my top laner playing against a Janna top is just really chilling. He doesn’t have anyone to lane against, so he’s just getting all the plates, all the towers and CS. But when I’m on the receiving end, and a Janna is playing in my lane, it’s pretty frustrating,” he said.

However, Cloud9’s innovative strategy has a bit more depth to it in Eyla’s eyes and is a lot healthier for the game. It also frees him up in support to spread his wings and pick champions he otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

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“Any team with any identity like Cloud9’s enchanter meta, or a different team who heavily prioritizes another lane ⁠— teams who have that clear identity forces the opposing team to react to it,” he said. “You can’t just ignore and pretend it doesn’t exist.

“I don’t mind it, because having diversity and having teams with identities forces other teams to figure out their own stuff and make sure they’re ready.

“Having the possibility of picking [enchanters] outside of support really broadens what you can play too.

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“If you have an Enchanter mid, you can opt to play a front-to-back comp with Braum, or I can engage and my ADC still has peel. Some Enchanters have really good follow up and make me tankier than normal, so having Enchanters in general in other roles feels nice for support.”

Cloud9 coach LS praying on stage at LCS Spring 2022Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
LS is taking the LCS to church, and Eyla isn’t opposed to his gospel.

This is why, in Eyla’s eyes, this meta is one of the most enjoyable for quite some time. While tank supports have historically dominated the support role, this year has seen the rise of enchanters and engagers existing alongside each other harmoniously.

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“Right now, there’s a lot more variety than normal because champions like Lux and Karma are really high priority, sometimes Yuumi, but a lot of people still play tanks into that, so it’s diverse,” he said.

“I’m a big fan of it because I don’t like to only play tanks ⁠— in the EG series, I played three Lulu games. Having the variety is very nice. Hopefully, it doesn’t change too much.”

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Eyla on Champions Queue: “I have no idea if it’ll be better [than solo queue]”

Outside of whatever LS is cooking up in the Cloud9 kitchen, Champions Queue has been the hot talking point of the LCS. The new solo queue experiment pits pros and amateurs against each other in a more competitive environment in an attempt to improve the NA ranked experience.

Eyla has played a handful of games on Champions Queue but isn’t quite sure whether it’s an improvement.

“The ping is great, it’s eight ping compared to 48 I usually have, so that’s a really big plus,” he listed.

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“Also having comms ⁠— I played mostly without comms, but it’s nice to have the option because sometimes you play with people you know or people you look up to and respect, and it’s nice to comm with them.

“However, at the same time, there’s a lot of people who aren’t as good and comming with them might not be as enjoyable because they won’t know concepts that you want to put into practice in game, or they’re very inexperienced and it can be hard to communicate.”

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The rookie support’s biggest criticism though is two-fold but stems back to one overarching idea: the closed environment of Champions Queue.

“It’s much more like scrims where you want to pick what’s best most of the time. So instead of picking based on your pick order [like solo queue] it’s just like ‘let’s pick the most OP pick’ and for support a lot of times that’s been like ‘let’s play Thresh’ or ‘let’s play Aphelios / Jinx every game.’

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“I think in terms of champion diversity, it’s a lot harder to practice champions because it’s a more controlled environment, and you can’t just lock in what you want. In that regard, having a bigger champion pool might be hard to practice. I just want to be able to pick whatever I want.”

The bigger concern is whether Champions Queue is just a bandaid solution for pro players, but will stunt the development of solo queue players once all the top players leave the grind for Challenger to pursue the grind for a share of the $400,000 prize pool.

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“That was one of my worries because I considered ‘what if I played solo queue instead of Champions Queue?’ The queue times are going to be insane, and there’s going to be no good players. That’s definitely a worry I have.

“I have no idea if Champions Queue will be better overall because in terms of being a solo queue player, having never played competitive and you’re trying to work your way up, not being able to play with those top players makes it harder.

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“For people who take Champions Queue seriously and take advantage of being able to communicate with more experienced players, those players will learn a bunch. Do the benefits outweigh the bad parts? I’m not sure.”

One thing Champions Queue has done though is allowed Eyla to set his sights even higher. Regardless of whether he continues playing on Liquid’s LCS roster or not, he wants to show NA he is indisputably one of the region’s best supports, rivaling not just those on other teams but CoreJJ himself.

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TL CoreJJColin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
Eyla wants to prove he can live up to the lofty expectations of CoreJJ and be an LCS starter for the future.

His goals for 2022 are centered around putting his name even further on the map and doing whatever it takes to not just fill shoes for a star due to circumstances but become the star himself.

“I want to get Rank 1 in both solo queue and Champions Queue. I got pretty high on the NA ladder previously, in the Top 5, but that’s going to be one goal of mine to show that I’m really good,” Eyla stated.

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“In competitive, it depends on whether I’m in Academy or LCS. In LCS, it’ll be nice to make Worlds, so if I do continue to play there, that’s the big goal.

“If I’m in Academy, I want to get so good that it’s indisputable that I could be one of the top LCS supports even if I’m not playing up there. I’ll be playing against our main team a lot in scrims, so if I pair up well against them, it’s a really obvious sign that I’m ready.”

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