It’s always hard to judge how fans will react when a new personality is added to the casters’ desk. With new talent coming in it means making room for what people already enjoy and nowhere is that more true than the NA LCS, where some of the same people have worked on the broadcast team since it started back in 2013.
So when Clayton “Captain Flowers” Raines joined the NA LCS broadcast at the beginning of 2017, no one quite knew what kind of reception he would receive. However after just one series on the desk, Raines’ dedication, hard work and talent shined through immediately and he was showered with praises from the notoriously hard to please NA LCS crowd.
Now, almost a year after his journey as a Riot caster began, Rift Herald had a chance to sit down with Raines at the 2017 All-Star Event to talk about how it all started, what it was like to go from amateur leagues to worlds and his thoughts on the preseason.
The Rift Herald: How did you get into, not just casting in general, but Riot casting and League of Legends casting?
Clayton Raines: I did my first cast in the summer of 2015 and back then, I wasn’t convinced I had any business doing it, but at the recommendation of friends and family, cause I was at a point in my life I had just graduated college and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, they suggested doing this. And I originally thought, “There ain’t no way in hell.” But the first thing I did, for a month straight I only watched friends playing solo queue and played my voice over it and I played those back for myself. Nobody else got to hear those!
Then I moved on to putting a couple videos on YouTube, I looked at the forums, I moved onto an amateur community, stuff like that and the whole time I wanted to do League of Legends, cause it was a game that I played since 2009. As soon as this game was released from beta I was playing this game. It’s one of the very few games I have come back to time and time again. It’s a game I love.
So, I figured if this is something you are going to do, if this is something you are going to give an honest shot at, you can’t go halfway, and be like, “League of Legends is too big.” Cause that was my original thought, you know, ‘this game is too big, it has the most views on Twitch.’ You had these guys like Phreak and Kobe and Jatt that have been in it for years and years. What kinda business do I have going in here? But I figured, I’m trolling by trying to talk about video games for a living anyway, I might as well go for it...
TRH: You might as well shoot for the stars?
CR: Right, yeah, if you are already going to space you might as well shoot for the biggest, brightest star out there. So, for a while I started casting for an amateur org that was basically like, ‘LCS for the rest of us,’ teams full of guys that are like plat and diamond. And I think they average like 70 viewers on a weekend, so it’s pretty small time.
But there was one clip from that, like their preseason, where there was one team that was all Masters tier guys, destined to win everything, so much better than everyone else. But there was another team that was a couple Diamond one guys and some Diamond five guys and they beat em. And I had a Baron call where the lesser team had a 3v5 and beat em and I lost it. And that clip went to number one on the subreddit overnight and that was my big break.
The next day, and I say this with no exaggeration, no word play, I saw a Riot Games email in my inbox and I fell out of my chair. I kicked myself back from my desk and fell out of my chair. Cause I thought, there’s no way. There’s no way Riot saw that and wanted to talk, but they did and they did. And after many interviews and many many months I eventually found myself here.
TRH: Have you been surprised by the community reaction too you from that initial small video to Worlds?
CR: Yeah, like I said, when I started here I thought I no business being here. I have no formal broadcasting training. I did radio for a year in college and theater and improv, but I’ve never had broadcaster, shoutcaster, commentator training. So, I thought i would have a couple people say, “Yeah that’s okay,” but everyone else would be like, “Get off the stage.”
But the reception to the initial YouTube video was really positive and the fact that Riot came to talk to me was a huge thumbs up, but by the time I got the LCS, I had no idea what to expect from the greater reception. Cause you know, when someone new shows up on the scene, it’s hard for people. They just think, “Why is this guy here, where’s the guy we know?” So, I didn’t know what to expect. But the first day was incredible.
TRH: Do you think it makes a difference that there aren’t many casters in North America that came from a League of Legends background, or that sets you apart in anyway?
CR: I think that’s sort of just indicative of the state of the game at the time that we came in. I think Quickshot used to play competitive Call of Duty or something, and Phreak used to play semi-pro Warcraft 3, Kobe and Jatt were both pros early on in League. But League wasn’t big back then. I remember reading that their goal was 10,000 concurrent players. So, it was small enough that people weren’t likely to come from there. But these guys have been around since the beginning, it makes sense that they came from somewhere else.
But for me, who had played the game for so long, we’re in season 7 going on season 8, it’s been around for a hot minute. So, the fact that I love the game as much as I do made me more of someone that they wanted to come into the scene.
TRH: Outside of that kinda stuff, I wanted to get some thoughts on the preseason from you. Have new runes changed the way you look at things or prepare for casts?
CR: The cool thing about new runes is that it throws this big question mark into everything. Preseason always shakes things up, changes to the items or the jungle or whatever, but this is a big change. This is a change to something that has been in the game up to this point. So that means that everything, all the metas all the strategies all the general consistencies that you had at that time, are out the window.
And to me, that is so fun. So you get to see people do things that are like, “I have no idea if this is gonna work but we’re gonna try it anyway.” That experimentation phase to me, in any game I play not just League of Legends, but I think one of the funnest things to do is that theory crafting and that experimentation trying to figure out what makes it work, cause when you finally do find what works, it feels so sick.
TRH: Have you seen anything so far that you were surprised by and thought, “I never would have expected this, how am I even going to talk about this?”
CR: There’s been a couple of interesting ones. I remember when Aery first came out I was like, wait a minute this thing is incredibly strong, what is this? But the one I was most excited for, cause I’m a Skarner one trick, I only play Skarner, so I was more excited for the free boots mastery, or rune I should say, than I was for any of the others. Just because it synergizes so well with the way that I play the game.
So, anytime I see somebody else take it, like I was watching a stream the other day of TFBlade, that super good Akali player, number one or two on the Challenger ladder, and he took the boots and I was like, ‘this guy knows what’s up!’
TRH: It’s almost like a secret club. When you see someone else using the runes that only you like, it’s like, ‘you understand.’
CR: Yeah, and that’s the theory crafting that I was talking about, you can get ahead of the curve. It feel even better when everybody starts taking it, and it becomes the norm. Is that gonna happen with boots, I haven no idea, but if it does, you best believe I’m gonna pull on those victory glasses and be like, ‘back before it was cool.’
TRH: So, last question, Zoe. What do you think of her, what do you think of casting her, does it make for a sort different experience from anything else in the game?
CR: Zoe is very very strong. Obviously people have different opinions on Zoe, some people really like her some people don’t. The bubble, I think, is exceptionally strong as a CC ability. Because, if you miss it, there’s still crap on the ground. Yesterday, I was so glad we got to see Bjergsen play it, because I really like watching him as a player and he showcased exactly what I wanted to see form that champion. So he placed them in a way that presented a choice. You either have to pick a side or dodge it, and if you dodge it it’s now a trap in a spot you can’t walk past. He set up the bounces on the Paddle Star really well, which I liked.
TRH: And Fofo, when they took objectives was placing bubbles in the try brush of either Baron or Dragon.
CR: Yeah, yeah, really showcasing what that champion can do. It was a champion that I saw and I thought, this champion is going to be so incredibly strong once the pros figure out how to use it. Cause, obviously, you have to move the thing and do your pool shooter trick shot and learn to push the bubble through terrain properly. But once you do well... I think in the 2018 season, when it starts, you’re going to see a lot of Zoe bans and a lot of Ornn bans.
TRH: Are those kinds of champions fun for you to cast? Champions that are so different from everything else in the game?
CR: Oh yeah. Champions that are different from the game are fun becasue they bring you new opportunities to be excited about that you couldn’t be excited about before. If Zoe banks a shot off a 75 degree angle and kills a guy in a way you never thought was possible, into fog of war, it’s awesome. It’s something you never expected.
TRH: And it lets you get excited about old things in new ways.
CR: Right, every new thing is not just its own thing, how it interacts with everything else there, I mean, sky’s the limit.