The timing of Alex "S0ul" Luo’s League Championship Series debut could not have been predicted. After less than a year in the amateur League of Legends esports scene, S0ul was signed to TSM Academy in May 2022. Less than two months later, TSM top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon was forced to step down due to compounding wrist injuries, and S0ul found himself making his LCS debut against Cloud9 in Week 4 of the LCS summer split. TSM lost their first game with S0ul in the lineup against C9, but the next day they managed an impressive win in arguably their cleanest match this summer over FlyQuest.
S0ul’s humble beginnings
The circumstances of S0ul’s LCS debut are as unique as his beginnings in League of Legends. As a spectator, his LoL esports knowledge dates back as early as 2013.
“I know League of Legends from the OGs -- TSM in the “Bay Life” days, CLG with Hotshot, Team Curse team curves -- I watched those guys back when I was 11 or 12,” S0ul recalled after his LCS debut. “I've never really been like a huge sports fan or something. So that was kind of like, my football or whatever.”
S0ul played the game casually and ended up hitting Master -- the tier just below Challenger, where players are often scouted from for competitive opportunities -- in 2016, but quit the game entirely shortly after. It wasn’t until S0ul attended Durham College that he rekindled an interest for the game through a League of Legends club, and in 2021, he made his way to the amateur competitive scene under casual circumstances.
Photo credit: Nick Geracie
“Originally, I joined the amateur scene through one of my friends. He basically was just like, ‘Hey, I have this team and we need a top laner. Do you want to play?’ It was just a bunch of GM players. That was when I kind of found my passion for it.” S0ul said. “I kind of wanted to see where it would take me because I was putting in a bunch of time, and I really had a passion for developing myself as a player and trying to improve.”
Under the moniker “animegirl,” S0ul competed in the amateur scene on a handful of teams before making a big career jump in playing for Immortals AOE to start 2022. This was the start of a new chapter for S0ul, but the young top laner gave a lot of credit to Dignitas Academy head coach Mervin-Angelo “Dayos” Lachica for making him comfortable with taking his career to the next level.
“He's been kind of like a mentor to me since I started in amateur, and he’s been helping me throughout. He was the first person that like … really, really believed in me,” S0ul said of Dayos.
On the cusp of finishing his education, S0ul was on the fence about pursuing a professional career, attributing his indecisiveness to his young age and parental skepticism. Dayos’ insistence of his potential as a pro was a major factor in convincing him to take the plunge. Dayos even offered to talk to S0ul’s parents on his behalf, but after S0ul relayed Dayos’ thoughts to his parents himself, he was full-steam ahead on his path to the LCS.
“I was not really sure of what I wanted to do in my life,” S0ul said. “Having someone be so sure of me and believe in me so much is definitely more than I ever could have asked for.”
animegirl goes pro
S0ul switched to his current moniker upon being signed by TSM Academy ahead of the summer split. Although his step up after a short time in the amateur scene was impressive, he was not expected to debut in the LCS in 2022 because of Huni’s veteran status and talent. S0ul was part of TSM Academy for only a brief period of time before he got the call to start in the LCS. When asked how he was told by management that he would be making his LCS debut in Week 4 of the summer split, S0ul cracked a smile.
"The funny thing is I was actually told by Huni," S0ul said. “He was just lying down on one of the couches and he said, "'Hey man, listen … I think you might have to play today.'"
Photo credit: Tina Jo / Riot Games via ESPAT
Upon finding out it was due to the condition of Huni’s wrists, S0ul was more worried for his fellow top laner than excited for a chance at his own debut.
“Huni is a piece of League of Legends history,” said S0ul, recalling his initial reaction to the news. “Having that kind of thrown at me and thinking of the possibility of whether he would have to retire or not was the first thing that came to mind.”
Since stepping down from his starting position, Huni has assumed a coaching role for TSM, and S0ul spoke volumes about Huni’s role in helping the young top laner adjust to the LCS across the past two weeks of practice.
“Being able to have Huni by my side to ask questions while I’m scrimming and practicing is like a dream come true,” said S0ul. “He's literally every single thing you could want in a coach -- he understands player perspective, he’s super empathetic, he’s a great person to hang around in and outside of the game, he's got a vast array of knowledge. He can teach me more than I could probably learn in a year or two on my own.”
S0ul paused to pull down the bottom of his TSM jersey to reveal a Huni signature on one of the white stripes across the torso. “It’s kind of cool to sort of play in his shoes because I look up to him a lot. I definitely respect him a lot as a player.” After TSM’s win over FlyQuest last Sunday, Huni was the first to rush the stage and wrap S0ul in a giant embrace following his first career LCS victory.
Photo credit: Nick Geracie
Confidence, not arrogance
S0ul considers one of his greatest strengths to be his versatility, and he’s not alone in that opinion. LCS Academy caster Matthew "Cubby" Samuelson attributes S0ul’s quick climb through the tiers of the North American competitive scene to his well-roundedness.
“S0ul climbed the ranks quickly because he was a self-sufficient top laner,” Cubby explained. “Oftentimes players get picked up because they do incredible things in teamfights but need to learn laning or map fundamentals. S0ul had this down and the entire gameplan for IMT AOE was to play towards Meech bot. S0ul rarely got help or resources top and still found advantages.”
While S0ul’s solid weak-side play on Shyvana against Cloud9 top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami’s Gangplank was not enough to help TSM secure a win, he was not the reason TSM lost the game. Furthermore, in TSM’s strong performance against FlyQuest, S0ul was given the opportunity to be a pressure point on Gnar against Philip "Philip" Zeng’s Sejuani. S0ul took an early lead with the help of TSM jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu and never looked back.
I think I'm a very well-rounded versatile player,” S0ul said. “I think that's the first thing people think of when I think of me, or they think I'm a pretty reliable player too.”
His first weekend at the LCS featured solid performances for a rookie making his debut mid-split, but S0ul also garnered a lot of praise for his confidence both on and off of Summoner’s Rift. Throughout postgame interviews at all levels of competition, S0ul has carried himself with the poise of a seasoned veteran despite being 21 and having limited experience, regardless of whether he’s being spoken to after a win or after a loss.
“I think he’s just a confident person,” Spica said of S0ul after TSM’s win over FlyQuest. “He’s shown a lot of confidence in scrims just in the way he’s conducted himself. I would say it’s a good thing for a rookie. You don’t want to play scared and you want to show people you are very capable.”
S0ul felt that aside from level of experience, the level of the top lane pool in the LCS is not significantly different than the LCS Academy League. The biggest change he noticed was the amount of time that LCS players put into the game in comparison to lower levels of competition.
“Once you get to LCS, it's completely different from Academy and amateur because you either have complete veterans who have been playing the game for 10-plus years, or rookies who have, are on the game 24 hours a day, working their asses off,” S0ul said. “They’re working their ass off to try to make it to the next level and kind of cement themselves as part of a history. Hopefully, I can get there.”
S0ul boasts a lot of confidence for a rookie, but two games into his LCS career, he still has a lot of respect for his upcoming opponents.
“At the end of the day, these people are in LCS for a reason,” the TSM top laner said. “And I think if I go around with the ignorance that like, ‘I'm better than this guy, so I don't really have to think about him’ -- that’s kind of detrimental to my own development … I think there's always something for me to take away from the gameplay of every LCS top laner.”
Lead photo credit: Tina Jo / Riot Games via ESPAT