Isaac “Azael” Cummings-Bentley is a legendary esports personality who mainly serves as a color caster in the League Championship Series, making up half of the ‘Dug-duo’ alongside David “Phreak” Turley. Alongside his casts on the weekend, Azael does other content through the LCS, like their podcast The Dive and other random skits and videos.
Before his career as a League caster, he won the 2010 Intel Extreme Masters IV World Championship for World of Warcraft and began casting that and other games, like StarCraft II. In 2015, he began playtesting for Riot Games before making the switch to cast the LCS in 2016. He’s been a mainstay ever since.
At the start of the 2022 LCS spring split, Azael chatted with Upcomer about his career before League and what it could look like if League ever died, as well as what it means to be in the LCS right now with all of the recent hype in the league.
Azael on casting and growing through COVID-19
The main goal for an esports caster is to provide entertainment and information to the audience. When that audience is live, interacting with the casters and the things happening on screen, that energy goes back into the casts. But over the last two years since COVID-19 shut down in-person competitive play across the world, casters have had to produce that energy on their own.
“It’s more draining as a caster to just put on the energy when you don’t feel it,” Azael said. “When you’re in a crowd and everyone’s popping off, it takes no effort at all to be excited.”
Luckily for Azael, however, as a literal world champion, he knows a lot about what it takes to reach the highest levels of competition. He knows how to grow even when it’s really difficult.
“Motivation was definitely something that’s harder to come by when you’re not in this exciting environment,” Azael said. “Motivation is fleeting, discipline is more permanent. If you’re motivated, it’s easy to put in the time. If you’re disciplined, you can [always] do it, it doesn’t have to be easy.”
Azael doesn’t only rely on his own motivation, but also on strategies he’s put in place to inspire confidence in himself and avoid the negativity that so often seeps through the esports community.
“I don’t read Reddit at all anymore,” he said. “A lot of people get into that habit which can be really difficult, whether [the comments] are positive or negative … People can get really in their heads.”
Instead, Azael has a group of people around him that he can use to provide more meaningful, professional feedback, as well as relaying community sentiment when appropriate. By employing healthy tactics and avoiding negativity, Azael has continued to grow as a caster, even amidst COVID-19’s cast-from-home requirements.
Hyping up the LCS despite its international failure
Perhaps just as challenging as casting through COVID is hyping up a region that is so often criticized and made fun of in global League of Legends. With constant memes thrown at the LCS, being excited can be rather daunting.
Making meaningful content is an issue that plagues the whole broadcast, Riot production team and external media in North America. Fans often ignore educational content because “NA bad,” but they also don’t always respond well to energetic content meant to make the region look exciting for the same reason.
While broadcast writers and other content producers can hide behind their scripts, Azael and the casters have to attach their faces and names to their attempts of legitimizing the region. But Azael doesn’t succumb to that negativity or let it affect him and his craft. His composure allows him to fully enjoy the league he casts.
“There’s a lot of reasons to be excited for North American League of Legends,” Azael said. “Does that guarantee [NA is] going to win a world championship? No, of course not. But does it mean that [NA is] moving in the right direction? Absolutely.”
Azael recognizes that despite whatever happens in October, the LCS has the rest of the year to be entertaining. And he offers some sage advice to the part of the audience that can’t get over their Worlds failure saltiness: “Enjoy the ride, that’s what I’m doing.”
“People like to say ‘What’s the point if we don’t win Worlds?’ I think there’s so much fun to be had watching the league right now,” Azael said. “It’s just a really fun time to be an LCS fan. So for me, that’s not invalidated by poor international performance.”
So far this spring, the LCS has perhaps been the most competitive it’s ever been, both compared to the level of play from other regions and its own internal strength among teams. It’s no longer TSM, Team Liquid or Cloud9 dominating every single game, there’s a lot more parity from the rest that has improved the region as a whole.
For some, none of that improvement matters, remaining stuck in the LCS’s past international results. But for Azael, those results and any of the community’s negativity are ineffective.
“I’m just enjoying the ride, and I think everyone should,” he said. “Take it for what it is and enjoy it.”