FunPlus Phoenix are arguably one of the strongest teams at the League of Legends World Championship with stars like top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon and mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. Behind the players on the rift, though, is a coach who once played at the world championship -- Chou “Steak” Lu-Hsi.
Since retiring after the 2015 world championship, Steak has coached in both the League of Legends Master Series (LMS) and League of Legends Pro League (LPL), leading numerous teams to strong domestic finishes and international appearances. Now, he is hoping to lead FunPlus Phoenix to its second Worlds title.
It’s the coach’s job in League of Legends to prepare the draft phase and help mediate strategy between his players. A coach is usually somebody who stands in the background and is only seen during the pregame draft phase, but Steak is unmistakable at Worlds this year. He wears his heart on his sleeve and has always been known as a jovial character, often smiling and proudly rocking an afro during his playing days. At this year’s world championship, his hairstyle is in support of his team.
“So I chose red for my hair because red means good luck in Chinese culture,” he explained. “Because we think we might not be that good or ready for Worlds, I tried to get this red to bring our team good luck.”
With a little bit of luck on top of their skill, FunPlus Phoenix are one of the favorites to hoist the Summoner’s Cup this year.
Steak and Flash Wolves at the world championship
Photo credit: Riot Games
Steak played competitive League of Legends as a top laner for over three years, earning two trips to the world championship with both Gamania Bears and Flash Wolves. After retiring, Steak coached Flash Wolves for two years, leading them to four domestic titles and two Worlds appearances. After playing with Flash Wolves and reaching the quarterfinals with his team in 2015, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When I was playing with Flash Wolves, I had a really good relationship with all the guys there,” Steak said. “When I felt like I couldn’t play in the professional league anymore, I tried to be a coach to stay together with them. Working at Flash Wolves was not like working with a professional team, it was more like playing with friends.”
Friendship was the name of the game for Flash Wolves as their players became famous for yelling and singing onstage during international matches. They were competitive, but having fun was just as important. Steak loved his time with Flash Wolves, but it was only natural for him to try something new eventually.
“[When I started] working for RW, I thought that I really wanted to come and work in LPL to see just how good and competitive it was,” Steak explained. “And I’m really fortunate to have this job in the LPL today.”
Making the jump to the LPL
Steak joined Rogue Warriors in 2018 and led the team to two strong regular season finishes -- second place in the 2018 spring split and first place in the 2018 summer split. Although Rogue Warriors didn’t win the LPL, Steak had the opportunity to help push a team near the top. He even worked with his current mid laner, Doinb, on Rogue Warriors, and proudly remarked on how much more “mature” Doinb is personally and with his teammates.
After working with Rogue Warriors in 2018 and 2019, Steak coached Royal Never Give Up before moving on to LNG Esports and FunPlus Phoenix. FPX finished in second place in both the LPL spring and summer playoffs this year under his guidance and largely haven’t missed a beat. They fell short against Royal Never Give Up in the 2021 spring finals and recently did the same against EDward Gaming.
“I think we were playing really well in the first rounds of playoffs,” Steak said about FunPlus Phoenix’s playoff run leading up to the finals. “But at that time, we weren’t that good and ready to play in the finals. So going forward, we’ll be better.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
After all, finishing second domestically doesn’t matter if your team can bring home another world championship title. So far though, FPX have struggled to emulate the strength that everyone expects from the team in the group stage, dropping their first game to DWG KIA and defeating Cloud9 in a base race.
“I think we feel good right now, but the beginning of the tournament does not feel as good as we thought,” Steak said. “I think we are not getting used to the pace of the game and we have some problems in the draft, so in the future, we’ll work on our draft and try to do better.”
FunPlus Phoenix currently stand at 2-1 and will play their three remaining group stage games on Friday, looking to defeat DWG KIA, Rogue and Cloud9 to secure a quarterfinal berth. Although FunPlus Phoenix haven’t looked their absolute best, Steak hopes that fans will continue to support their Worlds campaign.
“Our team is still very strong so please believe in us and we’ll do better.”
Lead photo credit: Riot Games