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Krepo talks about worlds surprises, H2K’s run and his own professional growth: “I’m trying to mature a lot on a personal level.”

Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels is one of the most well known and popular casters in League of Legends. He’s a former professional player and was one of the first high-profile examples of a player transitioning to the desk after retiring.

Krepo has been a mainstay on the European LCS desk and has been a part of the casting team for the League of Legends World Championship. Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Krepo at the quarterfinals in Chicago to talk about worlds, his career progression and what current player he thinks would be good for the analyst desk.

Vince Nairn: So what do you think about the tournament to this point?

Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels: For me, I’ve just really enjoyed it. I don’t think there was a single meaningless match in groups because different parties either under-performaed, or an unexpected team showed up like ANX. I like it when groups are unexpectedly competitive, when everybody’s pick ‘ems are wrong. I think that shows we don’t always know everything about League.

VN: Beyond ANX, has anything really surprised you to this point?

MV: I thought this was the year we could hype China and not be disappointed, and I guess that’s still partly true. ANX, not the fact that they got through, but the matter in which (they did). I thought they played pretty meta overall, or meta champs. They had a couple of cheese picks, but they’re not a cheese team. They earned their way through, and I think that’s really important to remember. They just made League fun again. The Poppy/Anivia combos. These old picks that we completely forgot about. Bot lane, laning 2-v-2 is super fun for me. In terms of big surprises, the collapse of G2 was probably my biggest surprise and made me a little sad for Europe. I feel there’s so much more in that team. But that’s worlds for you. You have to perform when it counts.

VN: H2K was the redeemer for Europe, of course. What has their run meant to Europe?

MV: I don’t really believe in EU vs. NA or whatever. I just think it’s great for a team like H2K that has a lot of players who individually have a high ceiling. They play a very apparent style where if everyone is playing well, they play super well. But if lanes are losing, then other lanes will start over-extending. Ryu stepping up in this tournament meant that FORG1VEN can actually get unlocked and show what he can really do. That’s great to see something for them where it all came together. Because that team, they’ve had everything go wrong. They had visas. They had illnesses. They had injuries They had everything with FORG1VEN. They had so many setbacks and they persevered through. And everyone counted them out and didn’t think they could do that much. Then they went top of their group. It’s been surprising and inspirational.

VN: What’s it been like to see FORG1VEN have a run like this, too?

MV: Yeah, his style this tournament has reminded me a lot of what he played in SK. He has a very linear style in lane, but he does it so well that it definitely works. It requires H2K to play around it, but he definitely masters it. I think it’s good for him because as a person, he has always been outspoken that he joins teams for competition. He doesn’t chase the money, and he wants to be a legacy player.

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VN: For you, you’ve completely made the transition from player to caster, on-air talent. How do you view worlds from that perspective?

MV: I think it’s good because you can carry a perspective. It’s always good to have (that). The grass will never be greener on either side because you’ve been on both sides. I think that’s important. It gives me context and I see how sometimes players view casters and also can explain to them why. Back in my day, I would ask why a caster is saying X or Y, and now I know why. I still have a good relationship with a lot of players. I still try to play the game a lot. It’s different. My life is still a bit of a grind. I thought it would be less of a grind when retiring from playing, but it’s just a different kind of grind. But overall, I think it was the right step. I’m really happy with the career progression I’ve made the last year and a half. I feel if I kept playing until now and I retired into casting, I would be too far behind. So I’m really happy I made the choice when I did. I miss playing every single day. It will always have a place in my heart. I’m struggling with the fact that I’m pretty bad right now at it. But I just love the game, love the competition, love the fans.

VN: You mention it’s a different grind. What’s different about it now?

MV: We work in an office right now during the week and then we have the shows, but outside, I just want to play a lot to keep my League of Legends knowledge and give it a kind of flair no one has, which is playing on a decent level. And that requires a lot of time, especially if I want to watch other leagues as well. Even something like incorporating gym. My normal week is I’ll be in the office until like 6 or 7, then I go to the gym and get home at 8-8:30. Then I start playing League for like 4-5 hours. Than it’s midnight. I relax for a couple hours and go to sleep, then the day starts over. Then it’s the LCS shows. On the weekend I stream a lot. I could get days off and ways out if I want to, but I feel guilty sometimes if I take too much time off. But that’s the aspect where it’s grind-like, but I start to think. I get paid to talk and play video games. Let’s put that in perspective. It makes it a little hard to make long-lasting relationships sometimes. It’s a very unique world. That’s the negative aspect of the grind, but in essence I am fortunate. I just traveled for two months straight in the United States. I can do whatever I want. I can afford a trip randomly if I want to take a break. The only sad part is I don’t see my parents that often, more so for them rather than me. But I got to surprise my mom with a trip home earlier in the summer, so she was happy with that. Overall, I’m pretty content.

VN: Did you ever envision when you were playing that the game would grow this much and that you would end up on the analyst desk?

MV: Both yes because initially I feel like I was kind of at the berth of the analyst desk. Because back in the day in Europe, Joe and Deman would have to fill very long in between games because there was long turnover times. I asked him one time, “Yo, can I jump in? Do you guys want to shoot the shit about League and just talk?” That evolved into kind of like post-game reactions with players and then we had the analyst desk in Season 3. I always thought there was a broadcast element for me. I was worried I wouldn’t become good enough of a caster delivery wise. That’s why I really liked joining Riot because they gave me the framework to evolve in and they supported me very well. So I expected it. Also, esports, my first big tournaments were in front of pretty large crowds. We played in Korea — and this is about three months after I quit my college — I played in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. So I believed in it from the get go. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still special. Anytime I’m at an event and hear the crowd getting loud, I get goosebumps. And it’s honestly the best feeling in the world. That’s why I love worlds.

VN: How has your personal growth coincided with your professional growth? Your tag used to be “scumbag” Krepo, of course, which you made it a point to change. Your physical appearance has changed, too. How has your personal growth coincided with your post-playing career?

MV: I’m trying to mature a lot on a personal level, especially working within a company is great. That’s why I didn’t take, for example, the full-time streaming route because I really wanted to pick up skills that last long and make me a wanted commodity in esports. Things like how do you handle conflict? How do you deal with feedback? But I also don’t want to lose the fun side of me, which is why sometimes you see the Twitter memes and the banter. I feel like a little personality and a little sass is OK sometimes. It comes with a lot of heat online. I don’t really mind too much. The whole health thing has been really fun for me. People always whine, “Krepo talks so much about gym. He’s not even buff. What the fuck is he talking about?” I get messages on snapchat. I got one today from a guy. He was like “Yo, bro, I saw you in London and I’ve been following your snapchat since, and you inspired me to lose weight.” And the guy’s lost like four and a half stones (about 60 pounds). Great. I’m making an impact on people’s lives by sharing what I’m doing with them. That’s what it’s about, man. Fuck the haters. Do it for the fans who follow you, and that’s why I love worlds. You get here and you meet all the nice people. You meet all the people who are genuinely esports fans and are passionate, who love the games. They ask you for just your opinion on the games and a picture. It’s all just a fun environment and has none of that online negativity. That is what really makes worlds such a good event for me, and that’s why I love going out and meeting fans.

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VN: One thing I wanted to ask you is about the European casters, a lot of you started going with the vests on camera? Was that talked about? Is that more of a personal preference for you?

MV: I really just like the waistcoat with the rolled up sleeves. It’s a mix between business and casual. It’s really hard for me to fully suit up. I got a really nice suit, though. Riot hooked me up with an insanely nice suit for finals. So I’m excited to wear that one. But I’m just experimenting. There were other people who already loved the waistcoats. It’s not like I revolutionized that or anything. I just followed. I had a stylist come in. She brought in like, a lot of Ted Baker. A lot of relatively affordable waistcoats. It’s very comfortable to wear those.

VN: You mentioned getting in on the caster desk at just the right time. It’s interesting because there is a group of players retiring soon, and I’m guessing one viable option will be going on air. What were the first things you had to master when you made this transition?

MV: You could always start making guest appearances in your career. I think that’s the best advice. How do you get good at something? You try and you fail. A lot. I did a lot of analyst desks where I swallowed a lot of my words. I mess up everything. I tried to do a joke and it fell flat. A good amount of failure teaches you how to get better. I still fail all the time. I’m not happy with my casting. I’m never happy with my analyst desk segments, but I know I’m getting better. I know everybody thought I was a really bad a year ago. There’s still a bunch of haters out there today, but also a lot of people love it. But a year from now, I’ll be great. I know that. And that’s my goal. I’m lucky to have Deficio by my side because he is the inspiration in terms of work ethic and how unselfish he is. He shares anything he can with you. We do duo prep a lot and the guy’s a rock. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.

VN: I know you’ve had a bunch of players come do guest spots on the analyst desk. Who are some who you have liked?

MV: I’m on good personal terms with Mithy, so I will be biased to go with him. But I think he brings a lot of insight, mostly because it’s a role that I know a lot, and he goes deeper with it than I go. If I ever did a different role, I don’t know how deep that knowledge goes. But Mithy transcends what I know, and I feel like I’m very educated within my role. I look up to people who teach me things, so Mithy I liked. I liked some of the banter. There was Rekkles, who was always a good performer. But there are a lot of people out there who need to come out of their shell a bit more, become more comfortable and really get their personality shining. Because we have a lot of good personalities in the EU LCS. Most of these players donate so much of their time to practice that they can’t stream so much. I think it really hinders them in their career growth.  Love that they put practice first, but I think they can min/max a little bit better.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games