League saved BioPanther’s life. Now at MSI 2022, he wants to do it justice.

BioPanther playing at MSI 2021 for PentanetColin Young-Wolff for Riot Games

“I think [League of Legends] literally saved my life.” Those were the words of Brandon ‘BioPanther’ Alexander, ORDER’s top laner. Representing Oceania, MSI 2022 is more personal than just another international event to him. It’s about doing justice to a game that’s given him a purpose.

BioPanther is ORDER’s smiling assassin of sorts. The OCE international veteran has been at the top of his game, in the top lane, for years.

He’s not the flashiest of players. Bio trades in the skill-check champions of Irelia and Jax for tank picks like Ornn and Sion. He is the weak side king, taking over the mantle from Oceanic legend Brandon ‘Swip3rR’ Holland in the process.

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Every time I’ve watched BioPanther ⁠— whether it was at Worlds 2018 in his rookie season, or in the OPL and LCO across the last five years ⁠— he never had the same imposing aura as the big fish in this small pond. Speaking to him for the first time, I was expecting a quiet, somewhat timid leader behind that glowing smile on stage.

What I was met with, as ORDER embark on their 5,000 mile journey to Busan for MSI 2022, was emotion unlike anything from an esports pro I’ve seen interviewed.

It was near the tail end of our conversation where Alexander got candid about the role League of Legends played in his professional career and his life. It was a mature take from a 23-year-old in this youthful industry, and it was as refreshing as it was raw.

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“My ambition for this game has never stopped even though I’ve been playing for 11 years now,” he stated. “This game has changed my life in so many ways, and that’s why I still play it passionately.

“I think [League of Legends] literally saved my life. I actually would have died, to be honest. This made me my own person. I was able to openly be not an introvert, and it made me able to express myself in a way I wasn’t able to do normally.”

It puts a lot of things about this profession into perspective. At the end of the day, it’s about finding enjoyment and fulfillment in games, from casual norms to the pro stage. However, it also highlights how international events present an opportunity to those from minor regions to break out and turn heads.

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For BioPanther, MSI 2022 is more than just another opportunity though. It’s not just getting experience to move overseas, or leading ORDER to new heights ⁠— he wants to do the game he’s loved for years “justice.”

BioPanther lifting OPL 2018 Split 2 trophy for Dire WolvesRiot Games
BioPanther is one of Oceania’s most storied players, and the veteran leading a young ORDER at MSI 2022.

A new ORDER

For those outside of Oceania, ORDER is a new name on the big League of Legends stage. However, it’s surprising in essence that this is the first time they’ve ever made it here.

ORDER was assembled in December 2017 as a super team ready to take down the OPL. Its talents included 100 Thieves AD carry Victor ‘FBI’ Huang and former Golden Guardians member James ‘Tally’ Shute. They had the best mid-jungle duo in Oceanic history in Samuel ‘Spookz’ Broadley and Simon ‘Swiffer’ Papamarkos. Jake ‘Rogue’ Sharwood was no pushover either in support.

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Despite this lineup, they were forever cursed to finish fourth. They’ve done it four times in four years. They’ve finished second twice, even with star-studded talent that has since taken the world by storm.

2022, in some essence, was their biggest gamble with the roster yet. BioPanther is the experienced head leading four relatively young and unknown players, even within Oceania.

Ian ‘Corporal’ Pearse, the team’s support, had returned from a two-year stint in the LJL. Jungler Shane ‘Kevy’ Allen was the LCO’s best rookie in 2021. Ronald ‘Kisee’ Vo and Nathan ‘Puma’ Puma represent the new guard of Oceanic talent in the mid and bot lanes.

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Bio saw the potential early on though, and kicked back international offers to spend one more year at home to build upon his domestic dynasty.

“I had an offer in Brazil and I was going to go, but [I didn’t],” he said. “It was mainly because some offers got ghosted and some fell through, and I was like ‘it’s getting close to end of season and I was like ‘I’ll see what’s happening in OCE.’

“I looked at [ORDER’s] roster and said ‘this is worth my time,’ so I committed. The opportunity was there, but some felt weird and I was like you know what, if I feel any uncomfortable feeling I’ll do what I feel like is best for me and stay.”

BioPanther smiling on stage at MSI 2022 playing for PentanetColin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
BioPanther knocked back international offers to spend one more year in Oceania.

The memes were out in full force as ORDER finished the LCO Split 1 2022 regular season in fourth, barely breaking .500 with an 11-10 record. Though this start didn’t faze them.

ORDER knuckled down in their preparation and put on a run that’d make even G2 Esports jealous. They swept Dire Wolves, PEACE, and MSI 2021 representatives Pentanet.GG convincingly in the lower bracket to book a spot in the grand final.

“The whole playoffs run ⁠— I’m not going to lie, I think the Dire Wolves series was our hardest series. It was our warmup series. Once we got our steam rolling, it was good,” BioPanther explained.

“Everyone just stepped up during playoffs. It was crazy that we swept everyone until finals and then we had some interesting draft plans, but the whole playoffs run was crazy.”

Then came the Chiefs, the firm favorites for the title. Quin ‘Raes’ Korebrits, formerly of Immortals, headlined one of the best rosters ever seen in Oceania on paper. Park ‘Arthur’ Mi-reu, fresh off a stint in the LCK, and Kim ‘Topoon’ Ji-hoon and Tally rejoining from NA made them seem like giants.

They were fallible though. Pentanet pushed them to 3-2 in their Winner’s Final bout, and ORDER came out swinging in the grand final. The two squads traded blows constantly in 30-minute back and forths until a game five was forced and ORDER, behind BioPanther’s 6/0/11 Tryndamere, ran it home.

For an organization that had boasted some of the best teams in Oceanic history, it was surprising their first title would be lifted by a young squad many had written off as a playoffs contender, but not much else.

“The Chiefs, to me, ran into the series thinking they’re the better team. That’s fine, but I think of every game as the first game. We can’t think about the end result, we just have to keep playing until it stops. We can get excited that we won one game, but only once we win the series can you be relieved and relaxed,” he said.

“I made sure [my teammates] were confident and composed and that’s all that mattered. Puma said ‘pick me Vayne’ in game five and I said if you feel confident just pick it. I don’t care about composition, in the moment, you just trust your teammate to the fullest and that’s what everyone had.

“Everyone trusted each other and everyone knew, no matter what, we wanted to win for each other. Keeping everyone composed was the best way to beat the Chiefs because they’re very experienced.”

Being the role model

Qualifying for MSI 2022 meant a lot for the organization which had finally tasted League of Legends glory after trying for so long. For four of the players, it marks their first time on an international stage.

BioPanther has been here before at Worlds 2018 and MSI 2021. He was a part of the historic run that saw an Oceanic team make the Top 6 for the first time at an international event. He has that experience, but it’s hard to just pass that on ⁠— his teammates need to experience it.

“[My role] is to guide them to understand that there’s not really a skill difference but how people want to play [in other regions],” he explained. “When a play is made, everyone is involved in it. That’s what makes the difference between teams.

“Once you go to the international stage, you’ll realize you will get sh*t on for stupid sh*t. It’s not because ‘they’re better mechanically,’ it’s because they know how to play around the champion and play with their teammates.

“I can’t tell them that though because they haven’t experienced it. I can’t tell them to read my mind. You haven’t played Canyon or Showmaker and I have, and they’ll never understand that. This experience will be super beneficial, but they need to be ready for a huge difference in gameplay and styles.”

He’s a bit of an outspoken “bad guy”, as he puts it. He’s been playing the game for 11 years ⁠— well beyond some of his teammates even looked at using computers ⁠— and has confidence in his knowledge on the game. However, that doesn’t always mean meta, especially when it comes to some of ORDER’s more unconventional drafts across the year.

“I don’t mind being seen as fierce or open about my opinions because I’ve experienced a lot and I understand why things are or aren’t possible, especially with draft or gameplay. I will speak my mind and I speak it with chest, with confidence, because I’ve been playing this game for so long.

“When we draft, we draft for our team, not what’s meta. If you think it’s good we’ll work around it and I’ll facilitate it. ‘You want to play Evelynn [Kevy’s pocket pick]? We’ll make it work.’

“I don’t care about the optimal draft. If everyone feels confident heading into a game, I feel like I’ve succeeded as a team player and a leader. They can trust me. I push them to their limits.

“It’s not the most happy-go-lucky. I don’t want them to head out of this year with no regrets. The whole playoffs I told them we only have one chance in 2022 to make MSI, so let’s make it f**king count. I don’t give a f**k about playing for Split 2. Our moment is now, and we win now.”

That kind of fire, that burning passion, is deep-seated in most competitive players. There is a different air around BioPanther though. It’s not feigned or half-hearted, it’s a full-body feeling.

He went on a tear in OCE solo queue before departing for Korea, smashing the ladder up to rank one. Behind closed doors, he’s giving it his all in terms of scrims and preparation.

It wasn’t just for himself personally though. He was putting in the effort to prove to his team that he’s not all talk. He was building that trust to have faith in him as a leader.

“I don’t mind if I lost during playoffs and went third place. However for me, I got rank one, I pushed in solo queue and in scrims, and I made sure the team knows they can trust me inside and outside of the game, that I’m pushing myself to my limit.

“I have no regrets, but I know that if we lost a lot, my teammates would have been like ‘oh I should have spoken up’ or ‘I should have made this play’. All that sh*t doesn’t matter when it’s gone. You make the opportunity now and you say how you feel. Even though it might be filled with emotion or grief, if it’s going to be constructive and goes towards a positive outcome, not only do you learn as a player but you grow as a person.”

Overcoming the underdog mentality, and the nameplates

ORDER is facing off against NA’s Evil Geniuses and Europe’s G2 Esports in the three-team Group C at MSI 2022. It gives the Oceanic representatives the best chance of escaping the first stage of the event again, just like Pentanet did in 2021.

The second seed matchup might be a bit harder comparing NA to the CIS, but BioPanther doesn’t see the game that way ⁠— much like how he doesn’t see leadership the same as most captains, or how he sees League of Legends as more than a profession.

BioPanther playing on stage at MSI 2021 for PentanetRiot Games
BioPanther has racked up the experience on the international stage, something he’s sharing with his ORDER teammates.

“I didn’t look at the draw because I didn’t mind who we play. I don’t think about that,” he admitted.

“At the end of the day, yes I’m excited to face Broken Blade and Impact, but I load into the same game they do. There’s no advantage they have over me. I load into the Rift, he’s playing Camille, I’m playing Gnar ⁠— I only care about the matchup. The player behind the matchup doesn’t matter. If I play the matchup better than them, that’s fine.”

For someone coming from Oceania, that’s quite the statement. The region has long leaned on the narrative of playing underdogs and using these international experiences as a launchpad to learn from the best.

It’s also incredibly difficult to turn off the nameplates when it comes to the best players in the world. The mental barrier is something a lot of Oceanic players struggle with, coming from the small pond into the big ocean.

It all goes back to the topic of trust though. Like how BioPanther has trust in his team, and they have trust in him, he has that trust in himself to go toe-to-toe with the best.

“We’re in a very low-infrastructure region, so of course we’re going to be underdogs and overlooked.

“I’ve played against Xiaohu, Khan ⁠— players that are very established in good structures. But to me, I’ve gone into this position to prove myself and I shouldn’t let these names faze me. I’m playing a matchup, I’m playing against their team composition. I’ve played thousands of games, I’ve seen these champions before over and over. The person behind it isn’t going to change how I feel.

“Of course, they’re very good, but if you know how the enemy champion affects yours and how it affects the composition, what more can the player do? The game will speak for itself.

“As soon as you start thinking ‘I’m playing this player, it’s unplayable’ or ‘Gumayusi-Keria, it’s over’, you lose perspective of your confidence as a player. You should have trust in yourself that even if you do get dumpstered, you put everything in and you trust that you can learn from that experience.”

RNG's Xiaohu at Worlds 2021Riot Games
Nameplates like Xiaohu, RNG’s top laner, don’t scare BioPanther.

While parts of the Pentanet roster that made Oceanic League history went on to great things ⁠— like Jackson ‘Pabu’ Pavone getting a slot in EU Masters ⁠— BioPanther sees more potential in this younger, next-generation squad at ORDER heading into MSI 2022.

The one thing he noted about last year’s run was internal conflict. It’ll be inevitable again this year, he admitted, but he wants the world to see his team for who they are.

“Our team, in general, has more potential to show the world the best of themselves and OCE. Every player on my team is worthy of better. They are incredible players and I want them to do that on an international stage because that’s where it matters.

“I want to make Top 6 and do better than we did last time. I want to push this team to the same height and beyond. We have to take it one step at a time, think about our group and what champions they play, and make sure everyone is comfortable. I want to reach finals and win MSI, but I can’t be thinking about that without doing the first step.”

Those are very game-centric goals, but holistically there’s a bigger purpose to BioPanther’s journey to Busan. It’ll be one thing to walk away with a few wins, plenty of experience, and maybe an international offer.

It’ll be another to give back to the game that, in his words, gave him life and purpose. That’s something to be proud of.

“I have a lot of thanks for this game in a way, so it’s not only an amazing opportunity to make the most of it, but it’s an achievement because I owe a lot to this game, so I want to make sure I do it justice, and I do my team and myself justice.”