Phoenix1’s first split in the North American League of Legends Championship Series pretty much encapsulated all the emotions an ownership group could feel.
The team had only two weeks to form after acquiring the LCS spot from Team Impulse. Playing without jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh for the first part of the split led to an 0-9 start and worries of relegation. Then, behind Inori and a cast of players that has mostly been written off throughout their careers, Phoenix1 rallied to finish 5-4 in its final nine matches and avoid relegation.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn talked to Phoenix1 managing partner Michael Moore, who summed up the season and give his thoughts on beating Team SoloMid and what to expect next spring.
Vince Nairn: How would you sum up your first split in the LCS?
Michael Moore: The headline for the whole season is just “All the hard work and everything finally paying off and turning the season around.” That’s the biggest thing. Even when we were 0-9, the players knew we could come back. We never lost the faith. If we had given up when we were 0-9, and we easily could have, this season would have ended a lot different.
VN: How did you handle all the losing early?
MM: Personally I always believed in the team and was trying to be as encouraging as possible. Our coaching staff and management really handled that well. It doesn’t create the right atmosphere if you’re coming down on the players so hard for losing, and they’re just getting discouraged. It’s gonna be self-defeating. I hope the players knew we were going to be supporting them.
VN: When the opportunity came up to get into the LCS, were you thinking about it already? Or was this completely new to you?
MM: We were looking to get involved beforehand, since probably the very beginning of this year. We figured a more realistic timeline would be this offseason between summer 2016 and spring 2017, but all of the sudden this opportunity presented itself and we went for it.
VN: How did you guys try to handle the less than ideal circumstances, with only a few weeks between spits and try to get everything together?
MM: It was just a kind of unreal amount of work and literally just working. Everyone we started with, mostly just the ownership group and Eric (Ma) our GM just working around the clock. Led up to the two weeks until the LCS starting. We just tried to lean on getting an experienced staff together. Our coach Charlie (Lipsie), who worked for C9 and NRG before. Having someone who already knew the scene. And Eric, who worked for Team8 before. Their experience. The three TiP players to have for them to build around.
VN: How did you go about trying to build the trust of the TiP players?
MM: From what I could tell, they were a little distrusting from the beginning. Their trust had been broken. It took us visiting the old TiP house where they were still living and talking to them about what they need, what we could do to help support them moving to the new team. It wasn’t until we moved them into the new house and continued that commitment that I felt like they started to believe in us.
VN: What did you think of the LCS as a whole in your first go-around?
MM: It was great. Coming in so quickly, we got a ton of support from Riot in terms of setting up our infrastructure and getting everything up and running. The other team owners I was willing to meet and got the chance to talk with. They were super supportive.
VN: What were the major takeaways from the split and things you’re going to evaluate going forward?
MM: That’s something we’re gonna take some time to sort through and figure out things that we want to be more intentional about moving into spring 2017. For this split, it was kind of whatever we could get together. So it’ll be good to have the time to evaluate going forward. I think that’s something we’re gonna have to take time to figure out now.
VN: Did you have any hesitance with this investment? You were taking over a team with two weeks to form an organization, and three of the players you inherited were on a team that didn’t do well in the spring split. Did relegation scare you?
MM: Oh, of course. I’ll be honest, when I was talking to the other, the investor group, at a certain point, I was against (buying in now) for all those reasons. It’s such a huge risk. We just decided as a group it was worth it now or never for us. We were all in.
VN: Did beating TSM give you guys any validation to the season?
MM: Totally. It was a total validation, I think, to just say that “OK, everyone gave us so much crap at the beginning of the split.” You had people like Piglet saying we don’t deserve to be here. Stuff like that. Even beyond just the hype and the excitement (of that game), we were happy to prove ourselves.
VN: Anything else you’d like to add, or things P1 fans can expect from the offseason?
MM: I’ll just say, the one thing I think of and am thinking and talking about: I’d like to tell fans to just keep cheering for their teams and players that you like. I think a big thing, there can be so much negativity about the teams at the bottom of the standings. It’s just the nature of the way things are, and I don’t think you’re ever gonna change that, but try to call out to the fans (of those teams) to counteract that with positivity and support. It means a lot to the players.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.