Phoenix1’s existence began with perhaps less fanfare than any recent “new” League of Legends organization.
The team purchased the spot of Team Impulse — which was forced to sell — before the summer split of last year’s North American LCS. Without many available players, the inaugural Phoenix1 roster more or less ran back the unsuccessful spring split of TiP’s roster.
The first attempt at a rebirth proved about as troublesome as expected. Jungler Rami “Inori Charagh, who would later become an intriguing prospect, couldn’t join the team at first because of visa issues. In his place was Kevin “Zentinel” Pires, and the team struggled. Even after Inori joined, Phoenix1 still had extreme difficulties at times and finished the split with a 5-13 record, resulting in another trip to the relegation tournament where the team would have to fight to stay in the LCS.
The stress must have been monumental for the owners of Phoenix1, as they got involved in the “spur of the moment,” and faced the reality of relegation after their first split. Co-owner Michael Moore told PVP Live that if they hadn’t retained an LCS spot, it would make “no financial sense to continue,” meaning that depending on the promotional tournament, he was at risk of losing all of his investment without having the ability to push further with his new venture. Perhaps that desperation was the same for the players, but in any event the team swept Echo Fox to keep its spot.
“We never lost the faith,” Moore told Slingshot after the promotional tournament. “If we had given up when we were 0-9, and we easily could have, this season would have ended a lot different.”
Phoenix1’s true rise would begin during the offseason, as the organization attempted to rebuild and leave the unsuccessful summer in the past. P1 signed Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from H2K, No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon from KT Rolster, and Adrian “Adrian Ma” from Immortals as well as Kim “Fly” Sang-chul, the former coach of Royal Never Give Up, to create a veteran team while fostering new talents Inori and Derek “Zig” Shao.
“We decided that we wanted to keep moving forward with Zig and Inori, who we see a lot of potential in,” Moore said in an interview with Slingshot. “Last summer split was both of their first splits in the LCS, and especially Inori only ended up playing half a split. So getting player that have a lot of experience was very important to us, so Arrow and Ryu are perfect fits for that. Both have been playing since Season 3 on a professional level, and both of them have really really great English, so those were the two of the biggest deciding points in picking those players up.”
Phoenix1 is again at the point of its career as a team to make another shot at rebirth and greatness. So far, the Phoenix is already soaring above expectations. At 6-4, Phoenix1 has already surpassed last summer’s win total and is tied for third place as the halfway point nears in the spring split. In the midst of other teams still having trouble adjusting to new rosters and Korean imports, Phoenix 1 has had a relatively smooth transition and proven it can go toe-to-toe with some of the region’s best.
This year’s roster is more formidable than most fans expected it to be. Zig has been playing as a solid top laner consistently against foreign talent. Inori was able to make his own mark as one of the hungry up-and-coming junglers. Ryu brought his performance from H2K to NA with great success. Arrow is proving to be a great asset to the team with his textbook supportive play working well with the current meta. Adrian has been working well with Arrow as a solid support, showcasing his own veteran status over the course of three prior NA LCS teams.
“I think this is the best iteration of teammates I’ve had so far,” Zig told Slingshot. “They look the strongest, the communication is really good, and I think with more time we’ll get better everyday for sure.”
When Phoenix1 formed, Moore told theScore Esports he paid Austin “Gate” Yu, Brandon “Mash” Phan, and Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik money they were owed from TiP. It seems he wants to do right by the players. It appears his gamble in acquiring the LCS spot and risking relegation has paid off, as the team is primed to be a competitive force in the playoffs.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot