To the surprise of few (if any), Phoenix1 is at the bottom of the North American League of Legends Championship Series standings through four weeks. The team, which was purchased after the forced sale of Team Impulse in between splits, is winless at 0-8 and has endured some dominant defeats.
Phoenix1 had less than a week to compile its roster, and some of the holdovers were from TiP, which finished in ninth place in the spring split. Beyond that, the full lineup wasn’t intact for the first three weeks because of visa problems for Rami “Inori” Charagh.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to talk to Phoenix1 coach Charlie Lipsie during Week 4 of the LCS about the team’s slow start, fielding its best lineup and how to proceed going forward.
Vince Nairn: How did you sum up the match today, including that crazy second game?
Charlie Lipsie: I think we should have won (Saturday against NRG). We’re improving, and we’ve had a lot of roster issues the last few weeks. This week we finally got to play with the people we wanted to play with. I think today went OK. Obviously we want to win, but I think going onto future weeks we’ll be better and better.
VN: What do you take away, especially from something like Game 2 (against NRG) and that comeback? Are there any signs in there you can point to?
CL: Playing from behind is really important. You’re trading objectives, learning how to hold. I think we played pretty well from that aspect today. It is something we can rewatch, learn and improve on.
VN: What was it like to get Inori into the actual LCS lineup?
CL: Pretty exciting, actually. We’ve been practicing mostly for the last three weeks, and Zentinel had maybe a half week of scrims the whole time, so it’s pretty nice to have on stage.
VN: What does Inori bring the team?
CL: He’s very aggressive, and he’s a play-making jungler. That’s something that’s really important in the current meta.
VN: This team, obviously it was acquired late. Not a whole lot of players to choose from or a lot of time to practice and get ready, either. As the coach, how have you tried to handle these less than ideal circumstances when starting a team?
CL: I literally had all of six days to put a roster together before the deadline. We pulled the best players we thought together. Obviously we have three more players on the bench, but they’re not splitting time. The roster you saw today is what we’ll use mostly, and for the other roles, we’ll split time maybe 80/20 or 70/30.
VN: I know you didn’t have much time, but what were the things you tried to look for when assembling the roster?
CL: Leadership skills and communication. And I wanted to see what players are the play-makers, what players just sit back and kind of do their thing. That was really important for me.
VN: How did this opportunity to coach P1 come up for you?
CL: I was actually working with people trying to purchase a spot, and when that didn’t go through, I was reached out to by Phoenix1.
VN: How have you handled the format changes for LCS, not only playing best-of-threes but having Friday matches as well?
CL: I think Friday matches are pretty cool. The only bad thing about it is if you play at 8, it can go late into the night. I do like best-of-three because if you have a larger roster, you can mix and match to see depending on situation.
VN: How do you balance, as a coach, the line between being a strategist and also a life coach? Has that always been in your philosophy?
CL: Yeah, I’ve always been pretty good at it. I also have Alec (“Qwerm” Warren) helping me with strategy and stuff.
VN: Coaching seems like it’s come a long way in League. How has the need for coaches kind of shown itself in the last year?
CL: When I first joined esports there were not that many out there. I think it was Mark from Liquid, me and a couple other teams. I think back then people were pretty stubborn about it, and players were stubborn as well about having to listen to someone. Now, they understand a structure is needed. Training habits. How to practice efficiently. People can see how important it actually is, and it’s being embraced a lot more.
VN: Getting back to this split, having the roster you said you want to have going forward, do you feel like this is almost a chance to reset?
CL: Yeah, definitely. The first half of the split doesn’t matter. We just gotta keep improving and pick up wins whenever we can.
VN: What are the areas you need to improve the most?
CL: Mainly objective control. Rotations. I actually think our laners are decent, pretty good. And it’s just teaching them how to play together.
VN: Obviously you have a couple players from Team Impulse, and they struggled last year. Is it difficult for you to kind of battle any mental blocks that come up from losing so much?
CL: Some of the players, since they were on TiP, they’re kind of used to losing. So it doesn’t hit them so hard. But some of the new players we have are actually very good about it, too.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.