PowerOfEvil: The ultimate underdog

PowerOfEvil’s career is the ultimate underdog story, as he has time and time again defied expectations and found success against all odds.

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

For most European players, qualifying for the EU LCS (or LEC) is the best way to get noticed. This is their moment—a chance to show off their skill and test themselves against some of the biggest names in the region. For Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, that moment came much sooner. 

As a part of the Unicorns of Love roster, PowerOfEvil just managed to qualify for the 2015 EU LCS Spring Split when he and his teammates were invited to IEM Season 9 San Jose. Of course, this invitation was nothing more than a mixture of luck and external circumstances. Most League of Legends viewers simply found the UOL brand amusing, so Unicorns ended up winning the fan vote and attending an international tournament before playing their first EU LCS game. 

Explosive start

By all means, putting Unicorns into an event like that should’ve been the same as throwing them to the wolves. Yet, it wasn’t. From UOL’s first series against Lyon Gaming, Unicorns made it loud and clear they were here to fight. They took aggressive trades, set up proactive dives, and drafted off-meta jungle picks with no fear or hesitation—all of that on the biggest stage they’ve ever played on. PowerOfEvil didn’t stand out at first. Which made it all the more surprising when the German mid laner locked in LeBlanc in game 2 and found several game-changing picks to claim a 2-0 victory over Lyon Gaming. 

His real test came in the semifinals against TSM. 

The shift from facing Challenger Series mid laners to laning against a superstar like Bjergsen would be enough to make most players nervous. But PowerOfEvil didn’t waver. Game 1 saw him working together with his jungler to shut down Bjergsen with the CC-heavy LeBlanc/Twisted Fate combo. This approach allowed them to find an easy First Blood at level 2, and PowerOfEvil made full use of this advantage by scoring three back-to-back solo kills against Bjergsen’s Xerath and leading his team to a confident victory.

Game 2 adopted a slower pace. PowerOfEvil tried to push his foe around in the Syndra vs Azir matchup, but Bjergsen deftly avoided poke damage and picked up CS under his turret. It seemed like the Dane was determined to leave no openings after the disaster that was game 1. However, even the best rarely achieve perfection. Bjergsen made a blunder—took one step too far against a level 6 Syndra—and PowerOfEvil went straight for the jugular.

One solo kill later, he had complete control over the mid lane, making it all too easy to set up a bot lane plays and drag TSM into one losing teamfight after another. 34 minutes was all it took for UOL to pull off the biggest upset of the tournament. And while they lost their final match 3-0 to Cloud9, Unicorns of Love have definitely made their presence known. 

The LCS breakthrough

PowerOfEvil carried this momentum into the 2015 EU LCS Spring Split. His ability to take over games on mages and AP assassins became the cornerstone of UOL’s strategies. He also showed the first hints of creativity by bringing back the long-forgotten AP Kog’Maw build. The build transformed a traditional hypercarry marksman into a walking artillery unit, and PowerOfEvil was excellent at using its long-range attacks to pick off enemy carries.

Unsurprisingly, though, Unicorns needed some time to catch up to the competition. Their regular season was a rollercoaster of wins and losses, and analysts often struggled to predict the outcome of the next UOL match. But what was a headache for the casters, became a blessing for the viewers. Whether it’s off-meta picks, unorthodox tactics, or crazy outplay, there was always something exciting going on in the Unicorns of Love games, and despite their middling 9-9 record, they frequently stole the spotlight from stronger teams. 

Unicorns of Love defend their Nexus against Fnatic

They hit their peak for the playoffs. 

PowerOfEvil went largely unnoticed in the quarterfinals series against Gambit Gaming, as hit teammates—Kikis and Hylissang—stole the show with their relentless aggression. However, he fully made up for it in the semifinals against SK Gaming. His Orianna took over 5v5 teamfights, his Kog’Maw tore through melted the enemy backline, and his game 5 Baron steal allowed Unicorns of Love to come back from a monumental gold deficit and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

As his teammates jumped and screamed in celebration, PowerOfEvil got up and joined the huddle. There was a huge grin on his face. He just went from playing in the Challenger Series to fighting in the EU LCS finals in Madrid, and he knew it was his time to be happy. 

Unfortunately, the royal road was not in the cards for that UOL roster. The finals had them facing Fnatic, an EU LCS powerhouse that dominated the competition with its explosive Huni/Reignover duo. Despite a strong game 1 showing on the innovative armor pen Varus, PowerOfEvil found himself playing with two losing side lanes for the majority of the series. And even though UOL put up a good fight, they couldn’t match the raw firepower of their opponents.

Of course, PowerOfEvil could still leave the stage with his head raised high. 

After all, he’s already achieved more during his first EU LCS split than most players accomplish over the course of their entire careers. But that matters little when you were one game away from winning the entire thing. And as Fnatic lifted the EU LCS trophy, there had to be a thought in the back of his mind: it should’ve been him.

The fall

The 2015 EU LCS Summer Split saw PowerOfEvil doing everything in his power to become an EU LCS champion. He established himself as the pillar of UOL’s lineup, a reliable carry that always pulled through in t skirmishes and topped the damage charts in teamfights. He also came up with Nashor’s Tooth Orianna—a build that became synonymous with his handle and earned him his first (and only) Pentakill. In short, PowerOfEvil offered everything you could ever want from a mid laner. 

Yet, it wasn’t enough. 

Despite his best efforts, UOL’s Summer Split mirrored their spring showing. Once again, they went 9-9 and finished the regular season in the middle of the EU LCS standings. This wouldn’t be so bad if they also replicated their previous playoffs run. But they didn’t. 

PowerOfEvil scores a Pentakill on Nashor's Tooth Orianna

Their playoffs journey kicked off with the quarterfinals against Team ROCCAT. Unicorns had a strong start and quickly secured a 2-0 lead over their opponents, but a sudden resurgence from ROCCAT put them on the verge of being reverse swept. In the final game, Unicorns of Love pulled out a Gnar/Nidalee/Orianna/Varus/Alistar team comp that aimed to dismantle ROCCAT with a single devastating teamfight. It took them some time to set up the perfect combo, but a double knockup from Alistar and Gnar decimated ROCCAT’s backline, securing a 3-2 victory in UOL’s favor. 

The semifinals matched them against an all-too-familiar foe in Fnatic. Last time, Unicorns were one game away from taking the W. This time, they weren’t even close. Fnatic were head and shoulders above their opponents, and it didn’t take long for Unicorns to be down 2-0. With his back against the wall, UOL’s mid laner went for Devourer Kayle, a pick that could make the entire game revolve around it, provided PowerOfEvil got enough items. In hindsight, it’s hard to think of this as anything other than a desperation move. The 2015 iteration of Fnatic was the last team to leave a scaling pick unpunished, and it took them a total of 27 minutes to shut down PowerOfEvil’s Kayle, knock down UOL’s Nexus, and punch their ticket to the EU LCS finals. 

As for Unicorns of Love, they went on to play in the third-place match against H2K. By all means, they should’ve been much easier to deal with, but if you took off the name plates, this would seem like an exact replica of UOL’s semifinals. Once again, Unicorns found themselves struggling to keep up with enemy aggression. Once again, PowerOfEvil pulled out the Devourer Kayle in the final game of the series, and—once again—he faltered.

Granted, Unicorns could still qualify for Worlds through the Gauntlet. But as luck would have it, they were matched against the powerhouse Origen roster, and another 3-0 loss put an end to their World Championship ambitions. Perhaps it’s this aspiration to play on the biggest stage of them all that drove PowerOfEvil to leave Unicorns of Love in the off-season. And perhaps it’s the main reason why he joined the same team that just defeated him, Origen.

Chasing Worlds

It’s common to look back at Origen recruiting PowerOfEvil as the beginning of their end. But that wasn’t the case when they signed him. PowerOfEvil started his time on Origen the same way he did on Unicorns of Love—with IEM San Jose—and he instantly seemed like a great fit for the team. Not only did he come out on top in a semifinals rematch against TSM’s Bjergsen, but he crushed CLG’s Huhi to secure an easy 3-0 victory for Origen in the finals.

However, a different narrative took place in the EU LCS.

Origen’s professional work environment presented a stark contrast to the band of brothers feel of Unicorns of Love. To make matters worse, expectations were at an all-time high after Origen’s top-4 finish at Worlds, which put a lot of pressure on PowerOfEvil. Every move of his was dissected and scrutinized, and the “Bring back xPeke!” cries followed him wherever he went.

With that, it’s not exactly surprising that Origen had a rough start in the 2016 Spring Split. PowerOfEvil lacked the experience or the leadership qualities to fill the shoes of the team captain, so Origen came up with the Band-Aid solution of funneling resources into the Zven and Mithy duo. Their efforts bore fruit, and Origen’s bot lane carried them all the way to the finals where they lost 3-1 to the newly-promoted G2 Esports.

This was a decent result considering the circumstances, but Zven and Mithy didn’t want to settle for a second-place finish. Shortly thereafter, they left the team for G2 Esports, and Origen… Well, Origen crumbled. Finding a new support was easy enough, but filling the AD carry void proved much tougher, and Origen had to bring in their team owner—xPeke—as an emergency stand-in.

The irony was that PowerOfEvil finally found his stride in the mid lane, so if Zven and Mithy stayed, Origen could’ve even aimed for the title. Instead, they just fell apart. Their 2-8-8 (wins-ties-losses) record placed them at the very bottom of the standings, meaning they had to defend their EU LCS slot in the Promotion Tournament. Fighting for his life in the Promotion Tournament was a far cry from playing at the World Championship, but PowerOfEvil still had a smile on his face when Origen requalified for the EU LCS with a narrow victory against Misfits Gaming. 

His time on Origen wasn’t great, and it wasn’t pretty. But at least the biggest disaster has been avoided.

Fresh start

No one was surprised when PowerOfEvil left Origen in the off-season. What was surprising, though, was him replacing Selfie on the newly-promoted Misfits Gaming. The League of Legends community didn’t take kindly to this news. PowerOfEvil’s stock hit the rock bottom after the Origen fiasco, and many speculated that Selfie would’ve been a better fit for the team. 

PowerOfEvil didn’t let that phase him.

So what if he was once again an underdog that had to prove his worth on the Rift? He’s done it before on Unicorns of Love, and it didn’t take long for him to do it again. From the moment Misfits stepped onto the EU LCS stage, it was clear there was something special about this roster. 

The lineup of Alphari, KaKAO, PowerOfEvil, Hans Sama, and IgNar thrived on early aggression. It also put a strong emphasis on playing around the bot lane—a style PowerOfEvil was already familiar with from his days on Origen. Unlike with Origen, though, he now had the experience and the knowledge to stand at the helm of his team. And his rookie teammates rallied behind him. 

With that, the recipe for success was in place. The only thing left was picking up wins. Misfits soared to the top of the EU LCS standings, as few teams could hold off their onslaught. By the end of week 6, they were 7-1. It looked like they were set to make a deep playoffs run, but suddenly, they faltered. The communication and the champion pool of their jungler—KaKAO—left a lot to be desired, and other teams finally started singling him out in the pick/ban phase. Misfits only found a single win during the final four weeks of the 2017 Spring Split, making their overall record an unconvincing 8-5. 

Still, it looked like Misfits could persevere in the playoffs. Their first series against Splyce came down to the wire, but in the end, they came out on top and qualified for the semifinals. However, a 3-1 loss to Unicorns of Love knocked them down to the third-place match where they suffered another defeat at the hand of Fnatic. Something had to change for the Misfits ship to set sail again. 

And that something was the addition of Maxlore.

Making strides

At first glance, the jungler swap didn’t do Misfits any favors. The addition of another confident voice only seemed to muddy up their shot calling, and they barely managed to squeeze into the playoffs with a 6-7 record. Then, everything clicked. All the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fell into place, and—much like PowerOfEvil’s first team—Misfits peaked for the playoffs. 

The knockout stage also bore a striking resemblance to his first playoffs run: a confident victory in the quarterfinals, a close win in the semis, and a one-sided loss to a stronger opponent in the finals. This time, though, he wouldn’t be denied Worlds, as Misfits had more than enough Circuit Point to qualify for the tournament. During the 2017 EU LCS season, PowerOfEvil established himself as a solid self-sufficient mid laner that struck fear into his opponents with his trademark Syndra and Orianna picks. 

But the 2017 World Championship was a completely different animal. 

Here, he was lost in the crowd of top-tier mid laners whose lists of achievements dwarfed anything he’s ever accomplished. On top of that, no one believed that Misfits could gain ground at the tournament, let alone make it out of the group stage. But as their group stage opponents envisioned the free wins they would get from an inexperienced EU LCS team, Misfits prepared for battle. They had a rough start after finding themselves on the wrong side of a stomp in their first game against Team WE. 

However, as more matches took place, it became increasingly clear that Misfits weren’t the pushovers that everyone thought they were. They were a cut above LMS’ Flash Wolves, and they had plenty of firepower to go toe-to-toe with TSM, who were originally expected to finish this group in the top-2. This disposition of power culminated in an exhilarating tiebreaker between Misfits and TSM for the right to advance to the knockout stage. 

In present day, this match is mostly remembered for TSM’s bizarre decision to draft a top lane Jayce. However, there was more to it than the pick/ban phase. Nothing of note happened for the first 16 minutes of the game, as both squads measured each other up with brief trades and split-second skirmishes. PowerOfEvil was the first to break this standstill. He went for a cross-map roam and caught out the enemy Jayce to score an easy First Blood for his team. From then on, Misfits ramped up the aggression. They set up dives, contested vision, and initiated teamfights, forcing their enemies into one unfavorable situation after another. 

And TSM struggled to keep up. 

When the enemy Nexus exploded, PowerOfEvil jumped up from his seat elated, yet focused. It wasn’t over for him yet. Because he still had to go to the knockout stage and face SK Telecom T1.

The SKT challenge

Misfits’ Bo5 against SKT T1 was the ultimate David vs Goliath story. Back then, SKT T1 still had the reputation of the #1 team in the world as well as the aura of invincibility that comes with it. They were simultaneously the unstoppable force that could instantly punish the slightest missteps and the immovable object that came back from insurmountable gold deficits. At first glance, PowerOfEvil and his teammates could do little to oppose them.

Many mid laners would’ve made this about them vs Faker. If you can’t beat the best team in the world, at least you can test your limits against its strongest player. Kill him, and your name will forever be the stuff of legend.

PowerOfEvil didn’t look at it that way. For him, this was an opportunity to change history and upset the SKT T1 legacy. And if he had to play passive to turn that opportunity into reality, he would gladly do so. 

The first game went as expected. SKT T1 broke the game open with a string of quickfire skirmishes, and PowerOfEvil and his teammates could do little to stop their onslaught. Game 2 was different. Instead of trying to challenge Faker directly, PowerOfEvil picked Karma—a utility pick that rounded out the team composition and allowed Misfits to run a playmaking support. 

He put his faith into his teammates. And his teammates paid him back by taking over the bot lane and evening out the score. Suddenly, the idea of David defeating Goliath wasn’t as far-fetched as it originally seemed. The remainder of the series saw SKT T1 going blow for blow with Misfits. At one point, the EU LCS representatives were up 2-1 and a single teamfight away from upsetting the best team in the worlds. 

And then they got overeager. 

They pulled the trigger on a dive past the enemy inhibitor turret, and their opponents jumped at the opportunity to punish their aggression. A teamfight that was supposed to put the final nail in SKT’s coffin ended up setting stage for their comeback. Of course, Misfits could still regain their composure and take game 5. But the momentum they built was lost, and ultimately, SKT’s wealth of Bo5 experience meant it was all too easy for them to outmuscle Misfits in the final game of the series. 

Misfits overextend against SKT

Still, Misfits could take pride in pushing the #1 team into a corner. Most people expected them to stay together and capitalize on this success in the 2018 EU LCS season. Yet, it didn’t take long for fans to find out that this group of players would never play on the same team again. Misfits’ support—IgNar—left to start for BBQ Olivers in his home region, and PowerOfEvil… PowerOfEvil went to North America.

Another setback

The most notable thing about PowerOfEvil joining the NA LCS was the sheer amount of outrage surrounding this move. It wasn’t entirely unwarranted either. Prior to the move, PowerOfEvil launched a full-blown campaign on how he wanted to represent Europe at All-Stars. The campaign worked. But it left a bitter in everyone’s mouth when PowerOfEvil announced he’s leaving the region. Combine that with the fact that his new team—OpTic Gaming—had one of the weakest rosters in the league, and it’s not exactly surprising that his decision turned into a subject of controversy.

But it gets worse. 

Feeling unjustly criticized, PowerOfEvil went on Reddit to explain the reasoning behind this decision. Instead, he created the worst PR disaster of the off-season. The goodwill he built up with his 2017 World Championship run disappeared, and he went from a crowd favorite to an outcast in a blink of an eye.

It didn’t help that his time in North America went exactly as expected. OpTic struggled to gain any ground in the 2018 Spring Split, and their 5-13 record placed them at the bottom of the NA LCS standings. And even though they picked up the slack in summer, they never managed to get the momentum going and break into the playoffs. Of course, PowerOfEvil wasn’t to blame for this. He was OpTic’s best-performing member, and he did everything in his power to raise the level of their mediocre roster. 

Still, the cold comfort of being the #1 player on a bottom-tier team wasn’t enough for someone who just took SKT T1 to game 5 at Worlds, and PowerOfEvil’s OpTic stint ended as abruptly as it began. 

Future prospects

So, where does this leave PowerOfEvil now? He’s just joined Counter Logic Gaming—a down-on-its-luck team that’s hoping to make a resurgence in 2019. Their goals largely align. Once again, PowerOfEvil will need to take up the underdog mantle and prove he still has what it takes to play the highest level of League of Legends. And while the deck is stacked against him, he's no stranger to finding success against all odds.

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Daniil Volkov

I craft League of Legends narratives and cover LCK, NA & EU LCS.