It has been a rough summer for Phoenix1 in the North American League of Legends Championship Series, who looked much improved at the mid-split Rift Rivals tournament, but failed to continue that success upon returning to North America.
Emily Rand: How are you feeling?
Alex “Xpecial” Chu: I’ve just been sick, so I haven’t been feeling great. Other than that, the games themselves, they weren’t too unexpected. It sucks that we lost the way we did, but it’s just a hot mess right now.
ER: How is the team going about trying to pinpoint or target the issues you have had as a team?
AC: We’re just trying to take it one step at a time. Fix what we can, just do our best. For me it’s the same thing, just do my best. It’s obviously been really stressful for me. I got sick because of it. It’s personally been the most stressful season I’ve had, and it’s been the most stressful week that I’ve had of that season. I think I’m playing decent, so I’m not too sad about that.
ER: It was a bit surprising to see the Zac left open today in Game 2. When you go through pick/ban, how much of it is the team and how much of it is your coach, Kim “Fly” Sang-chul?
AC: It’s both. In draft, I feel like most teams do this same procedure where they go through all the picks and bans possible so you’re never really surprised, and then they decide what champions you want to pick beforehand as well. You kind of have an idea. For example, the choice, “Do you want to pick Zac or give up Zac?” That’s made before we’ve even begun onstage. None of that was a surprise. I actually think we played well around the Zac. We were ahead quite a bit. Zac did get nerfed this patch, that’s why we felt comfortable doing it. I don’t fault the draft at all. It was going to be tough to win no matter what, TSM is the best team in North America.
ER: Take me through the decisions behind the Shyvana/Draven composition.
AC: There wasn’t any specific goal in mind in terms of the two champions themselves, it was more that Draven was really good against what they picked. They picked Taric/Kalista, which is weaker since I had Thresh I knew that I could punish those picks with the Draven. Draven is good against Zac. And then Shyvana is actually a really good champion against the Zac as well since she can clear really quickly, counter jungle the Zac get ahead of the Zac that way. That’s pretty much it, just counter picks for lane, counter picks for mid game, and even the late game isn’t bad. Obviously, Shyvana doesn’t do well against Kalista, for example, but if when you can snowball and transition it doesn’t really matter.
ER: How does it change the way you play as a support when you have an AD carry champion like Draven, who depends on getting ahead early to be successful?
AC: Not necessarily, that’s more about the support pick given that I was Thresh against Taric. Taric is really strong into me after six, but I’m stronger than him before six so I try to play really aggressively and tailor my items to counter Taric’s teamfight ability. I went Talisman first item and the movespeed really helps to kite out the Taric ulti. Those are the choices I make to help my team out.
ER: Previously, Team SoloMid was your home organization and the one on which you made a name for yourself. Although it’s been a while now, and a few different teams, do you ever have a specific desire to beat them or a special feeling facing your old organization?
AC: I used to. I was on TSM for four and a half, five years, and then I’ve been away from TSM for about three years? Three and a half years? It’s been a while. I’ve kind of lost all that specific rivalry. It’s more of, “they’re the best team and I want to beat them” more than “they’re my old team and I want to beat them.” I don’t have grudges like that against my old teams and have always left them very amicably.
ER: The last time we spoke, I talked to you more about your career as a whole. What is next for you moving forward now that you’re at the end of another split?
AC: This season actually has been really productive for me. I’ve actually learned a lot and a big factor in that was when Big joined Dignitas. I requested a support substitute because I’ve always been a player that has been able to learn a lot from other players no matter how good or bad they are. I learn a lot from watching them play and seeing what they do right and learning from that. Also seeing what they do incorrectly and learning from that. Big was actually really good at communicating. I didn’t realize I was lacking so much until I saw the difference in our play. His communication was so much better that I immediately had to learn that and I brought a lot of that communication to Phoenix1. I feel like I’m doing a lot for Phoenix1 in game in terms of communication and I’ve improved a lot. That’s something I wish I had learned sooner.
In terms of what I want to do in the future, it’s hard for me to say. I still kind of want to look into casting a bit, just do something else in the offseason while I have more free time. I still want to play but I’ve been playing for so long I don’t mind trying other things. Sure I’d like to play more but a lot of that depends on the opportunities that present themselves.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games