Hail, Champions! This week marks the 1-year anniversary since LoR's official release, and we invite you to celebrate using this special Professor von Yipp deck in tribute to all the developers that make the game possible. There's just one catch: don't tell LoR's game director Andrew "Umbrage" Yip, because he wants to keep the significance of this card secret! We've got the full story of von Yipp's covert creation along with a spicy deck that features him below.
Why Umbrage Dislikes Professor von Yipp
If you play a lot of LoR, you probably know that von Yipp refers to a speaking hyper-intelligent cat also seen in Catastrophe, Subpurrsible, and Nyandroid -- the human whom the Professor von Yipp card frame is cropped around is just his assistant. The cat does appear in the full art for Professor von Yipp, and the card's quote, "Today I present to the committee my newest invention, as demonstrated by my esteemed colleague...", subtly hints that the man operating the machine is not the titular character. What you might not know is that there's actually a fantastic story behind this little subterfuge.
Riot Games has a history of including personal callouts in their games. Many of the League of Legends champion names and item names are aliases from Riot developers, their family, and sometimes even players. Even Jeff "Kassadin" Jew, LoR's executive producer, has a champion named after him from his time working on LoL. During LoR's development, the team wanted to honor Umbrage, the man whos been working towards a Riot CCG in some form since he joined the company in 2011. The problem was that Umbrage is a very modest person who wants his work to just speak for its self. He did not want anything in-game glorifying him, and since he's the director he has the ability to veto anything he dislikes. So a secret plan was formed to sneak in a call-out to Umbrage without his knowledge. Mel Li, current Senior Game Designer and former Narrative Lead for LoR, spilled the beans in an interview with Twin Sunz podcast.
So initially, [Professor von Yipp] was one where we weren't exactly sure what we wanted the card to do, but thematically we wanted to make sure it was a call out to Riot Umbrage. And this had to be super secret, because Umbrage does not like things being made about him. This wasn't my call at all, so I'm gonna I'm gonna divest myself of any kind of liability and just be like "Yo, I just went along with the ride." But somebody had told me "Hey, we're gonna make this card out of out of Andrew, but you can't tell him. And you need to make sure that
some kind of call out to his cats gets in there."
So I don't know [Riot Umbrage] at all, I was pretty new on the team – I think it was like Month Two – so I'm like "Okay, I'm gonna have to go like find pictures of this guy's cat, but I don't know him and I can't ask him because I'm not supposed to tell him." So I'm looking through pictures from mutuals on Facebook, looking for a cat, and it's just so awkward because I'm like "I just don't want to get caught for this". I don't want him to know that I've been searching through his photos.
It was just isn't so awful, and I don't remember how we ended up getting pictures but there was some kind of cat reference that had to go to our art outsourcers over Six More Vodka. And so I had to put in a picture of what I believed was his cat at the time. Yeah, super, super awkward. So Umbrage, where ever you are, I'm really sorry.
Keep in mind that during the development process, cards are often text-only and that adding the artwork is one of the final steps. As a final precaution, however, they cropped the card frame around the human assistant so that the real von Yipp is only viewable when the card's full art is displayed. That is how the card was released; Umbrage has since become aware of this trickery but by then, trying to undo it would only call even more attention to the card and himself so he instead just avoids talking about it. Von Yipp has gone on to become a permanent fixture in LoR, including the aforementioned cards, two guardians (the standard version which is still available in the store along with a Nyandroid version exclusive to a previous Zaun bundle), and a bio on the LoR Twitter.
If Umbrage Dislikes It, Why Are We Making a Big Deal About It?
That's a fair question, and honestly, we did go back and forth about it. We certainly want to respect Umbrage's desire for privacy. The problem is that there really aren't any other cards specifically associated with the LoR team. The closest we've seen is the story Steve Rubin shared behind Starbone, which was touching but frankly about mourning the loss of designer Dave Smith's dog Ricky rather than the developers themselves. We think it's a problem of humility: if Umbrage is too modest to allow proper call-outs for himself, how could anyone even consider making a call out for someone else? So in our eyes, Professor von Yipp isn't just representing Umbrage or his cat, its representing the entire LoR development team. And we do want to honor them -- whether its the multiple examples of public discussion, their eagerness to engage with the community, or their reverence for players' feelings, there's definitely something very special about the LoR team that is worth saluting.
The Best von Yipp Deck
Now that we've decided to play the Professor von Yipp card, we need to find a deck. Unfortunately, finding a competitive deck that employs von Yipp is a daunting task. He's a terrible tempo loss: at 4 mana 2|3, he has 4 net stats less than Bull Elnuk, and it can be difficult to utilize his passive ability since it only benefits 1-cost units summoned while he is on board. We tried a few different decks in preparation for this article including
- Silverfuse's recent Teemo + Azir deck which looks to buff Sand Soldiers
- Mogwai's older solo-Elise Snapvine + Prankster deck which includes Yipp as an alternative value engine
- A few unsuccessful homebrews that tried to utilize Yipp + Powder Monkey combos
The best deck we found came from player Teemoshy, who shared this Teemo + Fizz deck from his lineup in the Runeterrable Radio Discord tournament. Its play pattern goes similar to the infamous TF Fizz archetype, except it swaps Twisted Fate + card cycling shenanigans for Teemo and looks for a more burn-focused strategy including Prowling Cutthroat and Jagged Taskmaster. Try to save the Daring Poros until your Yipp is on-board -- 1 mana 3|3 elusives will whittle your opponent's Nexus down fast and are usually worth more than a little extra early game chip damage.
A special thanks to Mel Li and the Twin Sunz podcast for unearthing the incredible backstory behind this special card, and of course to the entire LoR dev team for giving us such a great game!
What was the thing that the LoR team has done that's impressed you the most? Commemorate the 1-year anniversary and share with us below!