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P1 Zig: “The team environment could have been really bad if we let it, but (Pirean) is really positive and counteracts that.”

P1 Zig says Pirean has had a calming influence on Phoenix1.
Zig (Derek Shao) says Pirean has been a positive influence on Phoenix1's team environment. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

Phoenix1 continued its post-Rift Rivals slump by dropping series to Cloud9 and Team Liquid in Week 7 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS). Slingshot’s Emily Rand caught up with P1 top laner Derek “Zig” Shao to talk about the team’s struggles and reuniting with his old teammate, Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik.

Emily Rand: I’m sorry for the losses. What’s the team atmosphere like right now, and how are you feeling?

Derek “Zig” Shao: The team atmosphere is still pretty good just because we’re still rebuilding and this patch was a pretty big change to the game. So it was a little experimental even though we know that wins are really important right now. The 3-10 team losing to the other 3-10 team is pretty much the worst thing that could possibly happen, but right now we’re just scraping by and trying to gather as many wins as we can going forward toward the gauntlet. I think our playoff dreams are a little unrealistic at this point maybe, but we’re still going to try as hard as we can to get as many wins as we can.

ER: There has been a lot of talk about this new patch. How do you feel about it?

DS: It feels like tanks are a lot better. The tank itemization changed and with Doran’s Shield and a lot of the more impressive bruisers getting nerfed and stuff, it feels like you can lane some of the great scaling tanks into almost anything. In scrims, we were having really good results with tanks, tank top and tank jungle and a hypercarry somewhere, so we went with that onstage and lost anyway. Other unforeseen bad things happened during the games.

ER: Within your career as a top laner, you’ve shown a lot of flexibility. Does the team decide how you’ll play, either tank or more of a carry champion, or is it wholly meta-dependent?

DS: Week by week, we just try to build a tier list. We have draft meetings to decide what will be best and if I have to blind pick, what I’ll blind pick, and if I have the counter, what options I have there too. We just decided that blind picking tanks were really safe this patch and we could play them into anything. It seemed fine, you can lane versus everything, but we’ll have to go home and watch the footage and stuff to see why lost and everything, what actually happened in games.

ER: Since MikeYeung (Michael Yeung) came onto the team, there has been a lot more jungle attention top side. How has communication with him been?

DS: Our communication together is pretty good. Our team is able to play around any side of the map — top, mid, or bot — and Mike is really good at proactively communicating his plans and what side of the map he wants to go to. Small skirmishes too, I think he’s really good. He plays them mechanically really well when he’s on his comfort champions and he has a lot of those. I think we do pretty well as a top/jungle pair.

ER: Did the mid lane substitution of Pirean for Ryu (Yoo Sang-ook) change your approach or play style top lane at all this week?

DS: Not particularly. Pirean is good on Taliyah, Corki, Kassadin. His voice is less dominant than Ryu, but I think he played really well this weekend. We’re old teammates too, back from the first P1. Nothing in particular, I think. He doesn’t change my play style at all.

ER: How do you think Pirean has improved since you first played with him?

DS: I think he’s improved around the same rate that I’ve improved really, so probably a lot. They beat us when he played on nV, and I think he played really well during his stint with nV. I’m happy to have him back around because he’s always really positive and he’s fun to be around. He’s always laughing even though things could have been really bad this weekend. The team environment could have been really bad if we let it, but he’s really positive and counteracts that.

ER: With only a few weeks left, where do you see P1 ending up now?

DS: At the start of the split our goal was to make worlds. That was our goal since last split. Our goal is still the same. The most realistic way we can make it now is through gauntlet, so we just have to improve as much as we can week-to-week, try to pick up as many wins as we can and just make it to gauntlet, win gauntlet.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games