Foreword: I wanted to write this because I know a lot of people probably came onto the scene more recently and don't know the full story of Doublelift. As a CLG fan since Season 1, I spent all of my years in high school watching this player, hoping he would succeed. To this day, I still remember the first time he won NA LCS with CLG and DoubleliftsTrophyCase became a dead meme. I thought I'd write a small tribute to one of my favourite players of all time, and the original player who got me into esports.
Today, League of Legends is almost a household name. It is near and dear to all of us who browse this subreddit. Love it, hate it, balanced or broken, millions upon millions of us log in every single day to play, to relax, or to be part of a community. League of Legends has become part of our norm. Spamming D or F to escape grave peril, feeling the rush of a pentakill, the frustration of losing a game – they are all parts of the game that have become, for many, as natural as breathing, as regular as waking up and getting out of bed.
The story of Doublelift begins long before the glory of the current era. Before the inaugural season of NA and EU LCS in 2013. Before Faker had downloaded the game and played for the first time. Before Fnatic hoisted the first world championship in Sweden in 2011.
The story of Doublelift begins in Mission Viejo California, when a young boy, born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, who had fallen in love with video games from the moment he had touched a Nintendo 64 first started playing computer games on his brother's desktop. The boy, Yiliang "Peter" Peng, embarked on his odyssey in PC gaming, much like how most of us did – with classic Blizzard titles: StarCraft, Diablo, WoW. What the boy picked up often depended on the whimsy of his brother and friends. The tide of MOBA-style games came to him in the forms of DotA and WoW. But the stresses of being a teenager, and the strictness of his home environment quickly began to eat into his ability to play games. At the time, he was only playing most of those titles casually – and eventually, he stopped playing all of them altogether. All, except for one game: League of Legends.
Admittedly, he didn't keep playing League because it was necessarily his favourite among all the games he played, or because he thought he was particularly good at it. He kept playing because, in his own words, "it was a game he could play casually"
That all changed when he began to top the ladder. People started to recognize Peng. He was no longer just some nerdy kid from Mission Viejo. Online, he was "Doublelift" – one of the best players of League of Legends. And in spite of mounting pressure from his parents to go make something of himself, and the insecurities of becoming a pro video gamer in those early days, Doublelift ventured into the darkness and uncertainty with the ambition of becoming a professional.
The first team Doublelift joined was nameless – a ragtag group of high rated ladder players – Atlanta, mandatorycloud, Yiruru, and wallstop. Its foundation became the team "APictureofAGoose." But he wasn't there for long. In those early days, before the allure of multi-million dollar contracts, and job stability, the formation of teams was almost spontaneous. Doublelift left Atlanta's team for a short stint on a team known as "Team SoloMid" formed by the Dinh brothers, Reginald and Dan Dinh. But quickly swapped to the team of one of his friends from the game with whom he often played, HotShotGG. There, Doublelift spent his first time on CLG – but found himself unsatisfied with the environment. His search for a team that would "actually practice" left him trying to join the organization of fellow NA player William "scarra" Li. When that deal fell through, he finally found a home in Epik.Gamer – a team that had competed at the 2010 World Cyber Games, but had previously disbanded. On May 1, 2011, Epik.Gamer reassembled: its roster was Dan Dinh, Salce, Dyrus, Westrice, bobbyhankhill, and of course, Doublelift.
The team found immediate success, placing second at the Riot Season 1 NA Qualifiers, but falling just short to a team Doublelift had previously left – Team SoloMid. The placement, however, was sufficient enough to earn Doublelift a ticket to Dreamhack 2011 – a ticket to the first World Championship in League history.
But earning the ticket and being able to cash it in were two separate problems for Doublelift. The decision to pursue playing video games professionally did not sit well with his tradition-oriented parents. To them, the idea of gaming was antithetical to success – it was a waste of time, a waste of their child's potential. They, like all parents, worried for the murky future that devoting so much time to playing a game might create. The event their son so desperately wanted to go to was some sort of trap – perhaps both literally and metaphorically. He would go. But he would never come back.
After painstakingly convincing his parents that "he wasn't going to have his organs harvested there," Doublelift went to Sweden with team Epik.Gamer. They went undefeated in Groups, only to be knocked into the loser's bracket off a 2-0 by a team that they had actually overcome during Group Stages – Fnatic. In the loser's bracket, Epik.Gamer and Doublelift would yet again fall to the team that had bested them in qualifiers: Team SoloMid.
In Sweden, Doublelift tasted, for the first time, the fruits of his labour, winning back a few thousand dollars of prize money. But he also tasted the bitter bite of defeat. To go undefeated in group stages, only to fall short in elimination games when it mattered. Winning and losing on the game's biggest stage had lit a fire in him.
But when he came back home from Sweden, the situation had become icy. While his parents acknowledged the earnings he had just made, to them, the excursion to Sweden was a one-time indulgence. It was time for their son to find a real job – to grow up and join the workforce.
Eventually, tensions boiled over. And Doublelift was forced to leave his own house with nothing but his computer, his bicycle, and a bit of spare cash. But Lady Luck was kind to him. An inquisitive and kind Redditor, with the user tag "tnomad" – better known now as Travis Gafford, in response to the thread Doublelift posted in the fallout, gave Doublelift a home to live in for the time being, and the breath he needed to get back on his feet.
The Winless Star
After Worlds, Doublelift left Epik.Gamer and signed with a team known as unRestricted, which would later become Curse. With the move, came a role swap. While he had played Support going into Worlds (having been known for his Blitzcrank in SoloQ), he would now be the starting ADC. With his teammates in Pobelter, Lapaka, NyJacky, and LiQuiD112, the team would go compete in various circuit tournaments – MLG, IPL, and IEM. But the change of team and position was a rocky transition. Curse would post mediocre results at all of the major LAN events they attended. And Doublelift would eventually leave them for the team he had previously been with, and one of the bigger names in the scene at the time now – Counter Logic Gaming.
In those early days, the CLG roster Doublelift joined was about as close to a super team as you could have gotten. The two larger than life personalities of Saintvicious and HotShotGG, as well as the star mid-laner Bigfatlp, and a player known for his methodical approach to the game in Chauster.
On CLG, Doublelift finally found a home. And in Chauster, a mentor. Many who remember the scene from back then will fondly remember the term "Chauster School." And in that academy of hard knocks, Doublelift would quickly develop as one of the bigger names when it came to the ADC role. But it was never quite enough. While CLG posted high placements throughout much of the Season 2 Circuit, they never managed to take the final step and win a tournament on the largest stage. After a disappointing finish in OGN Summer 2012, where CLG was knocked out in the first round of playoffs, Saintvicious left the team after a public and infamous row with their star top laner HotShotGG.
After saintvicious left, the uncertainty of the situation, and inability to find a suitable replacement, saw HotShotGG role swap from his home in the top lane to jungle, while CLG picked up CRS's up and coming top laner VoyBoy. The roster featuring "George in the Jungle" was workable. But it also did not win. At the qualifiers for Season 2 Worlds, Doublelift knocked out his former team in CRS to finish 3rd and earn his second ticket to League's highest stage.
This time, he wouldn't even make it out of groups, finishing a disappointing 1-2 and not even getting the opportunity to play an elimination series.
CLG's slide continued to plague Doublelift following Season 2 World's. The team suffered numerous roster changes and role swaps. But the one consistent factor was the player who had quickly made a name for himself as one of, if not the best ADC in NA – Doublelift.
2013 was the inaugural year of NA LCS. The big 4 of Team SoloMid, Team Curse, Dignitas, and Counter Logic Gaming were all expected to dominate the league. But in the opening spring split, CLG finished a mediocre 13-15 in the Round Robin, enough to award them a shaky 4th place before they were then immediately knocked out in the opening round of playoffs by Team Vulcan.
The low finish meant Doublelift and his teammates would have to play for their careers in the promotion tournament following Spring Split. They requalified by knocking out the team of Doublelift's former teammate in bigfatlp's Azure Cats.
In Summer, CLG performed exactly the same as Spring, but this time, 13-15 in the Round Robin was only enough to give them 6th place in the regular season. While they staved off potentially having to play in relegation by defeating CRS in the 5th place match of playoffs, CLG's mediocre finishes across two splits meant that for the first time since he started playing professionally, Doublelift would miss out on playing at Worlds (though he would join as a voice on the analyst desk).
The 2014 offseason saw one major change for Doublelift. While he had seen his fair share of roster swaps over his now 2-year tenure on CLG, management had now gifted him an up-and-coming talent from a promotion team called Team FeaR. That player's in-game name was "Aphromoo".
With the newly dubbed Rush Hour bot lane, CLG and Doublelift surged, narrowly missing out on Finals at IEM 8 Cologne as well as LCS Spring 2014, finishing 3rd in both. But just as things began to look up for Doublelift, roster swaps in the top lane and a general slump for the team left Doublelift and CLG floundering once again in the 2014 Summer Split. By this time, CLG had become known for being a one-dimensional team. Memes of "Protect the Doublelift" or being only able to play around their singular star player began to surface. And the ever-present doubleliftstrophycase became an homage to a player who, despite being regarded as the best in his role by many, had never been able to win. The cursed 13-15 record would come back, but this time, CLG would be forced to play in relegation after losing the 5th place match in playoffs.
Doublelift would once again, have to fight on the Rift for his livelihood against a former teammate – this time in Saintvicious.
Those who watched the 5 game series between CLG and Curse Academy are not likely to forget it. The series started off with 2 straight crushing victories in a row for Curse. In the eyes of CLG and Doublelift fans alike, the outlook had become incredibly grim. But with their backs against the wall and no fancy draft tricks or smoke and mirrors to rely on, CLG fell back on the one player on their roster who was still remaining from those season 2 days: Doublelift. In Game 3, an absolute do-or-die moment, CLG drafted only around, played only around, and enabled only Doublelift. With a team comp of Lulu top, Orianna mid, Elise jungle, and Braum-Tristana bot lane, if Doublelift couldn't put on a performance worthy of all the praise he received, he might never get another chance to. He would be the sole decider in whether or not one of NA's old guard, and most revered teams from the early scene, would survive relegation. If ever there were a time for "Protect the Doublelift" to live up to its meme-worthy title, or for it to succeed – Game 3 against Curse Academy, in the relegation series following NA LCS Summer 2014 was the final opportunity.
In a nail-bitingly close game to decide the future of a franchise, Doublelift showed up where he absolutely had to. Hitting the late game as Tristana, he showed no fear in walking into the welcoming maw of Curse, demanding respect for his sheer carry potential.
Not an LCS finals game. Not a Worlds game. Not even an LCS playoff game. A relegation game. And Doublelift smashed it.
CLG won that one game and off the momentum of it, completed a reverse sweep of Curse Academy.
Following that intensely narrow scrape with relegation, CLG would go on to achieve 2nd place at IEM 9 Cologne, falling in the finals to Gambit Gaming. They rode the wave to a 3rd place finish in the regular season of NA LCS Spring 2015, going 12-6. But once again, they fell short in the playoffs, losing in the first round to Team Liquid.
Up until now, Doublelift had proven time and time again that he was a player with potential. In those days, the word "potential" was almost taboo to CLG fans. The rosters always were the kind that could go far. But they never quite did when it mattered the most. People began to have their doubts about Doublelift. Was he truly worthy of being called a top ADC if he had never been able to win anything across his entire career? After a stellar international performance at IEM, Doublelift still hadn't been able to grasp first. Even when CLG had performed well in the regular season, they couldn't seem to get the final push.
Adding to the list of his frustrations was the sight of his old rivals in TSM succeeding where he could not, and newcomers in C9 meteorically rising to the top. All while Doublelift was a spectator.
In NA LCS's 2015 Summer Split, CLG and Doublelift finished 2nd after losing a tiebreaker for first place with Team Liquid. But in the playoffs, the team became a different beast entirely. They swept Team Impact to reach a Finals against the team that had started it all for Doublelift. The team that had beaten him 4 years ago in the online qualifiers for Season 1 Worlds that had launched his career: Team SoloMid. It was destiny.
It's a strange thing that the trend of history can do to a fan's perspective. The CLG fans who had stayed loyal to the org, the Doublelift fans who just wanted to watch him succeed, almost none of them dared breathe a word of CLG being favoured going into the match. This was the same CLG and the same Doublelift who had never quite been able to win before. This was the Doublelift who was cursed forevermore to have an empty trophy case. The same Doublelift who could only ever have potential.
It's a stranger thing when the fact begins to smash the fiction.
And there wasn't a single soul in that venue who didn't begin to believe that this was finally it. That Doublelift had finally vanquished his demons. Those beliefs were rewarded when CLG routed TSM in the 3rd game of the series.
Doublelift had, for the first time in his career, for the first time since he had tasted the inkling of victory in Sweden in 2011 after going undefeated in Groups, finally filled his trophy case. He had won NA LCS.
And while the taste of victory was perhaps soured by CLG's mediocre showing at Worlds, nobody could ever deny his legacy in the league ever again.
While his career following that first win in 2015 isn't the spotless slate I wish it could be for narrative purposes, it is undeniable that in the years that followed, Doublelift cemented his legacy as perhaps the greatest player in NA's history. Certainly among the old guard, Doublelift between 2015 and 2020 has cemented himself as the one lasting and timeless player to keep winning domestically. Whatever his international woes may be, this was a player, who had come from nothing, who had given his entirety to the game from the moment it launched, and he had made it.
Because to me, and to many of his fans, his career has been nothing but magic to watch. And as we end this chapter of League of Legends and esports history, I hope we never forget one of the stars that helped make League what it is today.
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