Phoenix1 jungler Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung’s impressive showing at Rift Rivals earned him the title of Group Stage MVP. Despite not advancing to the final, Phoenix1’s impressive 4-2 record placed it second in the best-of-one stage, surprising many North American League of Legends Championship Series fans considering P1’s domestic record is 3-7. At the end of Day 2, Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser talked to MikeYeung about his success at Rift Rivals and ramping up as a new jungler.
Kelsey Moser: One of the first things that I noticed is that there’s definitely a large shift from what we previously saw in Europe with the introduction of NA teams and really strong jungle matchups. What would you say is the fundamental thing you’re sort of relying on to get victories over EU teams?
Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung: I feel like, coming into these games, coming from inside our team, we didn’t really think that we were necessarily going to have a poor performance, so we played with a lot of confidence. I think that was the one thing that we had as an advantage that nobody has seen us play like this before. We haven’t even been playing like this in the NA LCS. For some reason — which I don’t know — after the plane flight, and the jet lag, we just entirely changed our play style. Personally, for me, I feel like I’m playing completely differently from the NA LCS and playing so much more aggressive. It seems to be working out.
KM: Particularly in the G2 game a little bit earlier, I noticed you took a few invades that I might normally think of as too risky (like when their enemy top was pushed out, and stuff like this). Is that what you mean by more aggressive?
MY: I feel that it comes with the mentality coming into the games. As a rookie player coming into the NA LCS games, I was a little bit scared of making a bad impression coming in as my first games, my first few games. I wanted to do well. I wanted to play consistent and just play my normal game where I can just win off team macro and just play as, say, a normal pro player would (an average pro player).
Coming into the games, it’s just a shift in mentality. Before every single game, I like to talk to myself, or I like to think to myself, or have the coaching staff come talk with me in the room with all the players. I like to think about how I want to play today, what I feel I should play around in the games today. I’ve learned that the best way to play is to play without the fear of making a mistake. How I want to play from here on out is — even if I go 0-6, even if I feed, I’ll know that I’m still making proactive plays. I’m not going to have any regrets. There are times in the NA LCS where our games will go to 50 minutes, to multiple dragons, multiple Barons. It’s because we’re too scared to make a play.
KM: Right now between this year and last year, there is some more downtime between camps to take advantage of tempo. Would you say that that necessitates aggressive play? Why do you think this aggressive mentality has been effective?
MY: I feel that that’s not necessarily the case where we’re more aggressive this season because there’s more downtime because in the past. There are also other things that influence aggressiveness as well. In the past season, there were more camps open, so counter jungling was so much more popular. If you take enemy wolves (smite it), now you have the wolf spirit scouting out the entire enemy jungle. You can find the enemy jungle that way. That allows you significant advantage for your team. In this season, it’s just a complete new jungle.
KM: I’ve spoken to other rookie or newer junglers, and when they come to the main stage they often say they realize one of the biggest struggles is constantly communicating and keeping their team updated. It seems you haven’t necessarily been struggling with that as much. Could you talk a little bit about the communication system on P1?
MY: On P1, we like to communicate as a team, so everybody has a responsibility to communicate. We don’t necessarily have roles like this guy is the main shot-caller or this guy decides when to swap, because it’s so different depending on the situation, depending on who has the leads, depending on what champions you’re playing. Speaking for myself, I like to coordinate calls. I’m the shot-caller for ganks, pretty much. I also give information just like every single other player on the team. Like if we can Baron, if we can dragon, if I’m strong here, if I can zone this guy off. When we Baron, if I can out smite the guy. If I can outplay this guy in a team fight. There are multiple times where I like to set up a play ahead of time. For example, my Lee Sin inSecs, I like to call that one minute ahead of time. Where I say I can inSec this guy, and I like to prep my team to follow up.
KM: You also weren’t the only recent addition to P1. You also had Xpecial (Alex Chu) coming in. Is having a rookie jungler and a veteran support a deliberate dynamic, or how has that worked out?
MY: It really helps the team overall. Morale, as well as team communication, as well as shot-calling. In game, Xpecial is a god mechanically, but he also controls the comms. He makes sure that no one is getting too hyphy. He makes sure that we’re doing this right. He is pretty much the dad of the team.
KM: You’ve gotten a lot of attention for your Nidalee. Can you talk a little bit about what specifically makes you like Nidalee or makes you play Nidalee well?
MY: I feel like Nidalee is a really good champion for me because I like to play carry-oriented junglers. I feel that I am a more mechanically intensive jungler. Nidalee allows me to do a lot of burst damage. It allows me to impact the team fights that no other jungler can in the meta right now. For example, one-shotting the enemy AD carry, one-shotting the enemy mid laner — it’s kind of how like Riot talked about how AD carries like to play on a knife’s edge. As for jungle, I like to play on a knife’s edge. Even if I go super squishy builds like full AP because I feel that I can do very well in teamfights and just wait for the right moments to go in, and I can change the team fight for the entire game.
KM: Do you think eighth place in NA reflects your current form or do you think you’re going to come back and do much better than that particular placement?
MY: Do you mind if I skip that question?
KM: If P1 ended up in a best-of-five, do you guys think you’d be very adaptable in that scenario as a new team?
MY: I feel like, in best-of-threes, we are actually better than in best-of-ones. Even in NA, we would always lose the first game, and we’d come back stronger in the later games. For example, the Immortals game, the CLG game, and the Dignitas series where we would always lose the first game, but come back later and have a better showing. I feel like that was just because of our lack of experience as a team together since we only came in with this roster on Week 3.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Raphie Rosen