Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme is one of the biggest names in the League Championship Series. The Evil Geniuses support has won three of the last five domestic LCS titles and attended four international events across his career. As his level of play has continued to rise, his proficiency as an entertainer has followed to match. After joining EG for the 2022 season, Vulcan has established himself as a bona fide LCS superstar as well as the league’s most entertaining personality.
Coming up Clutch
Aside from a few games in the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split for Clutch Gaming, Vulcan made his true debut in the big leagues in 2019 as CG’s starting support. Vulcan was a promising young talent who was signed after an impressive performance in the 2017 NA Scouting Grounds. Alongside veteran AD carry and former world champion Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin, Clutch Gaming hoped for the support to blossom into a strong domestic talent for the Houston Rockets-affiliate organization.
Even before his debut, Vulcan was well-aware of the importance of branding oneself as a competitor, and by extension, an entertainer, but the young support was far more one-track minded than he is on EG today.
“Everyone always says how important it is to put your face out there -- do interviews, have a brand, tweet, stream -- and I was just like, 'f--- you, I don't care. I just want to play the game,’” Vulcan recalled.
While Vulcan has become far more well-rounded in his approach to his career, a young player in the LCS has a lot to learn about competing at the highest level before concerning themselves with being a primetime entertainer.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“I don't think it’s necessarily a bad thing when you're starting because there are a lot of things that you need to learn when you make the jump from amateur to Academy and Academy to LCS as well,” Vulcan said. “I think being focused primarily on the game when you're a young player just coming in is the right approach.
When I first started in the LCS, there were so many things that were new to me … I was so impressed. I was on the LCS stage playing against these people I had been watching for the past five years from home. I was walking by them in the hallways thinking things like, 'Holy f---, that's Bjergsen.'"
Vulcan was initially starstruck by the concept of competing in the LCS but eventually settled into a more well-rounded perspective after his first full season on Clutch Gaming. During that season, CG qualified for his first League of Legends World Championship through a miracle run in the 2019 LCS regional final that saw CG win three best-of-five series in three days against FlyQuest, Counter Logic Gaming and TSM.
Refining his approach
Vulcan spent the next two seasons on Cloud9, winning both spring LCS titles in 2020 and 2021 and competing at the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds in his second year with the organization. He would have been at MSI 2020 as well, but that tournament was canceled due to complications and concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. With Vulcan reaching even greater heights with C9, his perspective on the competition grew.
“Over time, I've started to care more about other aspects of being a pro player in the LCS. My mood is still affected by whether I win or lose, but back then, it was all about the game,” Vulcan said of his time on Clutch. “If I had a good night of solo queue, I would go to bed happy. If I had a bad night of solo queue, I would go to bed angry … I've been trying to separate myself more from the game in some ways so that I cannot let it control my life so much.”
On Cloud9, Vulcan learned how to take a step back in his competitive outlook.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“The big thing is that even though I may have had a loss or had a moment where I f---ed up something for my team -- whether it's one month or six months, whatever the time is -- I'll be fine. I'll still be a pro player … unless I really f---ed up,” Vulcan chuckled before continuing. “The important things will still be there.
It feels so much bigger than it is because I care about competing. In the moment, it will feel so important and I will be affected by things so much, but if you take a step back and look at it in the big picture, f---ing up one time won't matter as long as I come back and I do better.”
Vulcan has indeed done better at every stop in his career. After a top eight finish at Worlds 2021 with Cloud9, Vulcan was looking for a change and found one in joining Evil Geniuses, where he has found even more competitive success. He won his third LCS title this past spring and achieved a top four finish at MSI. EG is currently in sole possession of first place in the LCS summer split with a 9-2 record.
All of this success has allowed Vulcan to lean into playing the heel of the LCS, upping his ever-present authenticity into outright trash talk and providing a brand of entertainment absent in the LCS since the retirement of legendary AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng.
Vulcan admitted to having thoughts and feelings on Cloud9. He has presented these sentiments more publicly on Evil Geniuses, especially because his new team’s brand has enabled him to be more boisterous with his thoughts and feelings than in previous chapters of his career.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“It's their brand, and I like leaning into it,” Vulcan said. “It kind of feels like the fans and our community allow us to be more toxic in some ways because #LIVEEVIL, right? They want us to, and they like when our team does it as long as we're not trying to hurt somebody.”
One of Vulcan’s primary forms of banter is in the form of the Twitter ratio, and while he’s done it to many a member of the League of Legends esports community, there’s one individual who has been the EG support’s primary target from the start.
“I also have notifications on for our general manager Andrew Barton, so whenever he tweets, I get a pop-up on my phone,” Vulcan said with a smile. “Sometimes, I'll be in the middle of a scrim -- don't tell my coaches -- but if I get that notification and the scrim is a free win, which happens kind of regularly at EG, I might just alt-tab while I'm running back from base and quickly ratio Andrew.”
Vulcan started off his “ratio campaign” simply because he found it humorous, but it’s reaped more benefits than just his own personal enjoyment, even when he’s had it thrown back in his face. “I was kind of just riding the wave trying it out because I think ratios are kind of funny. I was trying to be creative with it, but I did get a bit repetitive. Doublelift called me out for that and I got ratioed back,” Vulcan said. “Also, my followers have been going up like crazy since I started doing it, so it's also kind of a business move.”
In a recent LCS summer split match, Vulcan even wrote “RATIO” on his forehead in black sharpie in mimicry of the G2 Esports LEC team. In typical heel fashion, he had to bend a few rules to pull it off.
“The first thing that came to mind was having a sponsor on your head to get free money. Sadly, Riot doesn't allow us to sell forehead space,” Vulcan said while laughing.
“Someone mentioned I could write RATIO on my forehead, and I thought, 'Why not?' I kind of knew I could do it once if I just didn't ask and sprinted to the stage. Obviously, afterwards, they told me not to do it again,” he said.
Vulcan has expanded the way he approaches his own brand in his competitive career, but in his time with EG, he has differentiated his persona from his actual self more than ever before.
“I do kind of have a character. Phil is different from Vulcan,” he said. “I am putting an image out there that is kind of my brand, and it doesn't necessarily mean that when I'm trash talking someone, I'm trying to be mean or something. I just want to entertain and try to get the fans to be involved in what's going on and in rivalries and all of that stuff. I guess I've just been smarter about the way I present myself. I'm trying to have more fun with it and enjoy different things more.”
In a career spanning less than half a decade, Vulcan has continuously bettered himself as a competitor and provided increasing levels of entertainment while doing so, establishing himself as one of the cornerstones of the LCS in the process. When asked if he felt that he was one of the faces of North America’s League of Legends talent, his answer was trademark to what he’s brought to the table in interviews this season.
“I feel like it's pretentious for me to claim that I'm a big face, but with that being said … yes,” Vulcan said. “I've won three of the last five splits, I've been successful in pretty much every split after my rookie split on Clutch Gaming.
Maybe the LCS doesn't give me the recognition I deserve. Maybe I need more.”
Lead photo credit: Riot Games