Phoenix1 Toplaner Zig: “I look up to Vizicsasci.”

Photograph taken by: Michal Konkol / Riot Games

Despite currently being tied for 8th place in the NA LCS, Phoenix1 managed to impress fans from both EU and NA by ending the Rift Rivals tournament with four wins and only two losses. We got to talk to their Toplaner Zig about the NA Toplane meta, his thoughts on UoL Toplaner Vizicsasci and the struggles of the team during the current NA split.

Congrats on the win and the final 4-2 score! How do you feel right now?

Thanks. It feels nice, even though this event doesn’t mean as much as other international events. We’ve shown a lot of progress as a team and that we can win games. Our return to NA LCS should be a good one and we should be able to show our improvements there as well, given that our NA LCS standings don’t look too pretty at the moment.

A lot of people doubted P1 going into the tournament, claiming that you guys would go 0-6, but you ended the tournament with a 4-2 score, even giving TSM a run for the finals. That’s pretty impressive!

Yeah, we didn’t have too many expectations going in, but we just played our game. I also think that the European metagame is slightly behind ours and our players really showed up this tournament. Mike played really well and our overall teamplay was a lot better from what you saw at NA LCS. I think these wins will help us regain our momentum for the NA LCS though.

You mentioned the European metagame. One thing I noticed was that a lot of American teams, including Phoenix1, have been picking Kled a lot. We’ve practically not seen this pick in EU before the tournament though, so why do you think that Kled is so popular in NA?

So the first region that blindpicked Kled was NA and it was my team. At first, it was a good pick because other players didn’t know how to deal with the champion, how to punish his trades and his weak matchups. This past season, ever since a bunch of popular Toplaners got nerfed, Korean teams started to pick him up as well. People use him as a counter to Renekton and as long as Kled gets a stable laning phase, gets through the early game unscaved, his kit is just super good for late game. He clears waves really fast, he’s hard to dive, he’s super tanky and starts fights really easily. You can even snowball early when you properly use his dismount and remount mechanics.

Who do you think are the Top 3 Toplane picks right now?

Probably Renekton, Gnar, Kled… Rumble is really good too, so that makes it four, huh. I guess Rumble, Renekton and Kled would be my picks.

These champions are a lot more aggressive and pokey than the typical tank Toplane champions we were used to, like Shen, Maokai or Nautilus.

Yeah, I remember playing in the meta when you pretty much had to pick Nautilus when he was up, pick Maokai when he was up.

Do you feel like the current Toplane meta rewards individual skill more than before?

I think that there are more components to laning but once people start to play through matchups enough, it becomes this same-old same-old process. Knowing how to get Jungle pressure, knowing the champion spikes etc. I think you can’t get away with blindpicking champs as easy as before.

You got to play against the EU LCS Spring Split 2017 MVP Vizicsasci when you played against the Unicorns of Love. Did you enjoy playing against him?

Yeah, I always thought he was really good, I look up to him especially. I know that he’s a very consistent player, he has a gigantic champion pool, he got Challenger in Korea and is super high Elo in SoloQ too, so I think he’s one of the higher rated players in EU LCS. I think I did fine playing against him, he played some mindgames but I think my Jungler carried the game more.

Europe is a bit behind on the lane domination-snowballing style, given that they still play Gragas and Galio in the Toplane. I tried that in NA and I got abused by EnVy. When I played Galio Toplane they just picked Jayce and dominated the game from there. When you play a tank into a carry it’s like a ticking time bomb but in the reverse, whereas in the past, when you play Maokai into Lucian, you’re eventually going to outscale the Lucian and do way more in teamfights. Due to the changes and buffs to splitpushing items you can just leave champions like Lucian, Jayce or Kennen in their lanes and then what is a Maokai going to do with no damage on his own?

Last split you managed to grab third place, this split you’re currently tied for 8th in the NA LCS. You’ve seen the highs and the lows to a very extreme extent. Did that teach you a lot about having the right mindset?

Yeah, I think we got spoiled a lot last split. We were really lucky. We had roster issues similar to the issues we’re having now, we struggled with finding our team, worked with substitutions and new players coming in, but we just won so many games anyway. These wins covered a lot of our issues that we had internally. This split we weren’t so lucky, we lost a lot of matches with a 1-2 score, where one teamfight decided the outcome. We couldn’t get away with using the same style, using the same players. It was really rough. Just losing in general is rough, I would wish nobody the stress of playing on a losing team.

Especially after we had expectations due to the last split it turned into a very stressful environment. You’re trying to figure out why you’re losing, you try your best but lose anyway, you make changes but you lose anyway, it gets really heavy. Thankfully everyone faced the pressure together and we dealt with it as a team.

Anything you’d like to say to the P1 fans?

Thank you everyone for supporting us during Rift Rivals. Obviously we didn’t have the highest expectations, but I also think that this kind of helped us playing without fear. I hope you guys enjoyed our performance and are going to cheer on us once we get back to NA.

Thank you very much for your time!

Darius Matuschak
Darius is an esports journalist trying to nurture esports culture whenever possible. He got into esports while finishing his Bachelor in Journalism, and has been a regular EU LCS attendee since January 2017.