Phoenix1 executed the biggest upset all year in the North American League of Legends Championship Series on Saturday, taking down the previously undefeated Team SoloMid in a thrilling three-set match.
TSM had won all 14 of its matches to that point of the LCS summer split and hadn’t even dropped a game in its last 17. After taking the first one Saturday night, however, Phoenix1 rallied in a way few could have expected from a team that entered the series in eighth place with a 3-11 record.
Phoenix1 lost to Cloud9 on Sunday, halting its momentum and officially ending its long shot playoff hopes, but Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Phoenix1’a AD Carry Brandon “Mash” Phan after Saturday night’s shocking win.
Vince Nairn: How would you describe what just happened?
Brandon “Mash” Phan: For us, coming in, it was like, “We treat this like just another team. Obviously, it’s TSM, the best team in the league, and we’re gonna how we normally play.” We were aggressive, no hesitations. Sometimes it backfired, but we just kept going head first.
VN: After you guys won Game 2, did you feel like you guys wanted to be even more aggressive and take some risks in the third?
BP: For us, I think I was really decisive that they were gonna ban Rengar. They ban Rengar, so that left the GP pick for Zig, which really opened it up. We just kept the same mindset and realized we were gonna have to adapt draft, and that’s what we did.
VN: It took a while for you guys to click this split, and what happened in between them really put you guys at a disadvantage. But Inori comes in Week 4, and you guys have just looked completely different. What has been the key behind the turnaround?
BP: For me, Inori was a big addition to it. We were scrimming with him here and there, but we realized we couldn’t use him for the first three weeks and we had to use Zentinel. That kind of slowed down our synergy with the team. Nothing down on Zentinel, but I don’t think his play style fits our team. I think me and Gate and Inori know how well we work with each other. It was just like a really weird experience playing with another jungler.
VN: I know you guys said you approach every game like the opponent doesn’t matter, but beating TSM, does that do anything for you guys in terms of confidence or inspiration?
BP: It definitely inspires us because if we can take a set off TSM, we can take a set off anybody else in the LCS. Our expectations are high as a team, and we’re actually improving still, compared to some other teams. We always keep focusing on improving a lot. We were 0-9 at the start. You can end the season 0-18 and say “Screw this,” but we just took it as a learning experience and made the best opportunity out of it.
VN: Is it agonizing that you didn’t get the chance to play with Inori earlier, seeing how he’s influenced the team since being here?
BP: It’s definitely a tease for sure. Echo Fox would not have a win, for sure. I think the C9 series in Week 2, we would have beat them if I was playing and Inori as well. We would definitely be middle of the pack. 100 percent.
VN: For you, personally, we’ve talked, and with everything you’ve been through with TiP and coming back on such a short amount of time with P1, how did you kind of handle the time between splits?
BP: It was definitely rough because I just didn’t know where I was gonna be. I was trying to contact our owner from China on TiP. Nothing really helped out. So for me, it was just focusing on my own play, and hopefully that would translate into another opportunity in the LCS. It all worked out.
VN: Starting 0-9, obviously the esports community reacts to things like that a certain way. How did you let that not bother you and just kind of stick to the plan?
BP: For me, I guess the start of my career was OK. After that, it became downhill. I was on a bottom five team most of my career. I just like proving people wrong. I think I helped give that mindset toward the team. I know Inori doesn’t like losing. I know if I held that aspect, just let’s keep going. We just wanna make sure we can prove people wrong, be happy for ourselves and exceed expectations
VN: You said you’ve been on a bottom five most of your career. How do you handle that? It’s gotta be difficult.
BP: Everything is so easy when you win. Fans love you. People say positive things. I think for me, the easy answer, the very typical PR answer is thick skin. But I don’t think it’s really that. I do things where I just don’t pay attention to that stuff. I just go work out, eat, talk to friends and just be close to the team. You can’t separate yourself from the team when you’re losing. Otherwise, you’re not in it together.
VN: How did it feel to hear P1 chants out there? I don’t think I’ve heard any all split
BP: I usually don’t hear that at all. It was pretty cool, especially on the main stage. I hear it sometimes in the theater because we beat some teams in the theater. But the big stage was a pretty cool feeling, honestly.
VN: It’s usually the TSM chants that reign supreme in there
BP: I know. Pirean was like, “Oh, we won!” I was like, “Yeah, you beat TSM, Pirean!” It was so funny because he was in disbelief.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.