Slingshot’s Andrew Kim talked to Phoenix1’s Derek “Zig” Shao during Week 1 of the North American League Championship Series.
Andrew Kim: It seemed like Phoenix1 had a pretty OK comeback story in the second game, although Dignitas showed a commanding early game. As Dig was accumulating advantages, what was communication like?
Derek “Zig” Shao: I guess we were just focusing on the gold, just still trying to win. I think we had a tumultuous set of scrims for the week before, so our mentality was strengthened from some of the bad sets of scrims that we had. I think everyone’s just serious about winning, so even if we’re behind, the goal remains the same. We just still try to stay in the game and keep a positive mindset no matter if shit looks bleak or if we’re down a lot.
AK: What do you mean by a tumultuous set of scrims?
DS: They’ve just been up and down. Compared to last year, we were scrimming a lot more of the lower tier teams. It’s harder to break into the upper echelon of teams in NA unless you have a good reputation, I guess? Like the C9, TSM, TL, they are mostly inward. They look inward when they’re trying to find scrims, so they’ll only try to scrim each other, plus maybe one or two outsiders. So at the start of the split, we were scrimming some of the higher tier teams, and as a new team, we started scrimming late too because we had some visa issues. It was like, some scrims didn’t go so hot early on. We’re trying to develop our style and stuff too, but yeah. It’s just been rocky.
AK: What’s it like to face a caliber of player such as Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho? Did you have any concerns or things to keep in mind before the game?
DS: Not particularly. I think NA has had a history of having a lot of top-tier Korean imports in the top lane, especially like Huni (Heo Seung-hoon). If Duke (Lee Ho-seong) came over too it would have been like three or four world champions that are just in the region playing, and Huni is now in SKT. I got to play a lot against his last year, when I was playing amateur too, my team ended up scrimming him a lot. Impact (Jeong Eon-young), I’ve been playing against since last split. There’s Looper (Jang Hyeong-seok), there’s Flame (Lee Ho-jong) now, there’s just a lot of high-tier competition, and I think at the end of the day it’s still a team game, so it doesn’t really matter how strong they are individually or something, or to an extent I guess. I think Ssumday put on a pretty good performance today, too, and definitely outclassed me individually. But I think just a few fixes to some of the issues that we had and we’ll be competitive versus this team as well. It was super back and forth too, so it’s hard to say.
AK: With the addition of Ryu in the mid lane and Arrow in the bottom lane, what’s it been like playing with them? What’s your impression of them?
DS: They’re super clean. Like, I think this is the best team I’ve been on thus far in my career. I think I had a pretty long career but mostly out of the limelight. I played on a team with Hauntzer (Kevin Yarnell). I played on a team with Sneaky (Zachary Scuderi) before. I’ve been in the scene for five or so years, I guess. I think this is the best iteration of teammates I’ve had so far. They look the strongest, the communication is really good, and I think with more time we’ll get better everyday for sure.
AK: With the new meta being tank-focuses again do you find it suits your play style?
DS: I like various different styles. Like in solo queue, I don’t really touch tanks at all, but in competitive right now it feels like tanks are the go to. You kinda need a front-liner/initiator unless your team can play really well around not having one. It makes contesting objectives easier. It makes team fighting, like your formation easier, if you just have a beefy dude stand in front. I think I’m comfortable with this meta right now for sure. If it did switch to damage dealers — like, I play a lot of Jayce and Kled in solo queue — I like that type of style, too, where it’s you’re just like a diver or heavy damage dealer type thing. That suits me as well. I was a Jayce one-trick-pony before. I literally only played Jayce for two seasons and then played some Gangplank too last split, which is a damage dealer too.
AK: With your career being five years old, have you ever had pain related to playing?
DS: Actually just recently I’ve been thinking more about taking care of my wrists because I was hitting the gym for a bit, trying to do some Olympic lifts and stuff, and mostly on my own without a personal trainer or anything like that. Sometimes my form would waver. I’ve been doing a lot of push movements, like bench press and overhead press, and then like after 12 hours of practice and then hitting the gym as well, my wrists were starting to feel more tender. So I’ve been wearing a brace at night because I remember reading somewhere that Bjergsen (Søren Bjerg) does that as well. When I play now, I try to just take breaks and do wrist stretches and stuff like that. I think it’s unreasonable to expect people to not face injury, especially with the volume of practice that pros have to face. If you’re not taking care of your wrists and you haven’t gotten injured, you’re an outlier, I think. Most people will deal with problems. Most pros, I think.
AK: What in your opinion are the overrated teams, and what are the underrated teams?
DS: I don’t really try to buy into it, but I think the teams that mostly kept similar rosters are still gonna be the stronger ones. And I think CLG, TL, C9, TSM, they all seem pretty strong. I think IMT will play slower than most people rank them. Just because they were really late to starting scrims and they had visa issues with Olleh (Kim Joo-sung). Envy I think is also — I don’t think anyone rates them highly. I think FlyQuest is a little underrated. Envy, Echo Fox, and Immortals will be lower than their rankings. I think we’re adequately rated. Some people have us high, some people have us low. I think we’ll be a playoff team for sure. That’s like the first step for any competitive team, to aim for playoffs, and then you do your best there. I think the region as a whole is still competitive in that most teams in the middle of the pack can take games off of anybody, and the strongest team I guess right now seems like C9, but from scrims I think TSM is still strong as ever. I think they just had a bad game against C9. I think TL is still strong too, so TL, CLG, C9, TSM are the strongest four.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games