We enter week 5 of the NA LCS, as we move on from week 4. It was predicted as a one-sided slaughter. It wasn’t even supposed to be a contest. With the first ranked team versus the bottom tier of the ladder, Phoenix1 shouldn’t have even posed a challenge. The polls gave Phoenix1 a 3% chance of winning in their first game against IMT. So, where did it all go wrong? What created the opportunity for Phoenix1 to rise from the ashes?
To begin with, mentality played a big part of what went on. Something that is generally overlooked is how often a win or a loss can either boost or decimate a team’s morale. It alters their way of thinking about the game, as well as in-game decisions. Immortals just came from a loss against Team Solo Mid, who dismantled IMT pretty handedly in a 2-0 sweep. This not only gave IMT players a gut shot to all their decisions, but also into their play in general. Phoenix1, on the other hand, just came off of their second win of the entire season. With the introduction of MikeYeung, they were riding the winner’s high coming into the series, although the daunting task of defeating the top ranked team was still a monstrous task.
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Phoenix1 vs. Immortals: Game 1 (Week 5, NA LCS 2017)
IMT drafted power laners in every lane, picking up Syndra, Jhin, and Rek’sai to give themselves full advantagae over their counterparts. With decent early game advantages, as well as great late-game scaling, IMT looked superior in the draft. Phoenix1 seemed to believe they could easily ride the early and mid-game out by drafting a somewhat disjointed composition, picking up Kog’maw and Orianna for their power picks, but giving Zig Renekton, unfortunately putting them at a slight disadvantage during the early game minutes.
From the start, IMT put in work. Xmithie continuously put pressure on both middle and bottom lane, granting the power lanes more advantages to work with. After a great return roam bot on a flashless Xpecial netted first blood, a roam from Olleh and Xmithie onto a window-shopping Ryu sealed the early game off for Phoenix1 .
With the pressure exerted by the mobility of Xmithie, Olleh, and range from Pobelter and Cody Sun, IMT pressured out multiple objectives, successfully taking first tower and dragon with one fell swoop, leaving Phoenix1 with only a tower in response.
This systematic approach led to IMT taking objective after objective, as Phoenix1 scrambled to find some sort of relief. This came at, what they thought, was a great catch onto Xmithie. What they found out instead was just how far they had fallen behind, and what happens when an ADC finds a fed Syndra.
IMT moved to quickly shut the game down. With time moving towards the late-game, baron plays started to make an appearance. And after IMT’s first attempt saw a small hiccup, a solid pick from Olleh onto Tahm Kench saw Phoenix1 fall one by one to end the game.
Phoenix1 vs. Immortals: Game 2 (Week 5, NA LCS 2017)
After a disastrous game one, Phoenix1 decided to switch it up a bit. Trading out the Kog’maw for a bit safer Kalista, Phoenix1 picked up a strong early game composition, bolstering the Renekton with MikeYeung’s favorited Nidalee pick. IMT were still able to gain the sought after Rek’sai, Syndra, and Jhin combination, but would now not have quite as easy of a time ganking lanes with the mobility Phoenix1 drafted.
The opening minutes saw a very similar first blood in the bottom lane. After excellent pathing by Xmithie, with the help of a power leash from his bottom lane, the level 3 reksai got a clean work-around onto the still level one bottom lane of Phoenix1 , burning all the summoners from Arrow, as well as flashes from Xmithie, Olleh, and Cody Sun.
But, Phoenix1 remained calm. Allocating multiple resources top, Phoenix1 went to work turning game two into the MikeYeung show. A simple gank top saw Flame lose both his flash and Teleport to only a flash from Nidalee.
Which saw MikeYeung dive the poor drunkard again, setting him even farther behind within only 2 minutes of his first death.
From there, the game spiraled out of control. IMT could never find a familiar foot to stand on, as their early game pressure and advantages that had won them game one were not as apparent during the second bout. For the next fifteen minutes, Phoenix1 and IMT traded blow for blow until a somewhat desperate teamfight went awry for IMT and gave Phoenix1 the baron.
The fast and loose teamplay from Phoenix1 completely shook IMT off their own game, making game one seem like a slight outlier. IMT is a team that is completely dominant when they have a setup, like a basketball player at a free throw line. Phoenix1 never let the referees see the foul to put IMT at the line, though, and simple closed out the game after a second unfortunate catch onto Zig spelt a deadly ace for IMT.
Phoenix1 vs. Immortals: Final Game (Week 5, NA LCS 2017)
The final game was a definite misstep by IMT. To the surprise of nearly everyone in the stadium, and fans who watched online, IMT decided not to ban out Nidalee, and instead moved to ban out the Kalista in the second phase of the game. Although I generally do not try to point to the drafts a reason that a team has lost, this one seemed worthy of pointing out. After the complete dominance that MikeYeung showed during the second game, not banning out the Nidalee was IMT’s downfall.
Game three had possibly the quietest early game out of the series, with neither jungler’s early ganks and roams even creating an opportunity or burning any summoners. It wasn’t until around four minutes that Phoenix1 jumped out to a simple lead after an intense 2v2 fight between the mids and junglers saw Xmithie fall to Ryu.
After the first blood, IMT seemed to fall into a passive stasis. This has been their Achilles’ heel in multiple series, and was even seen in the previous game of the series. With simple kills coming out and around the map, IMT continued dropping kill after kill until they finally snapped, going in on Phoenix1 and gaining back some ground after Phoenix1 dive under the top tower.
With IMT finally showing signs of life, Phoenix1 started to hesitate a bit, which proved to be a slight miscalculation. With baron on the table, Xmithie found a great pick onto Ryu and followed it up with a fantastic teamfight, wiping out most of Phoenix1 .
But then, MikeYeung decided to show why he is the best rookie in the summer of 2017, capitalizing on some very questionable plays from IMT.
With the baron successfully saved by MikeYeung, IMT looked completely crushed. Looking for any window of opportunity, they fell prey to Phoenix1’s style and rushed an engagement outside of their own base after a binding landed on Ryu. It was the last binding and engage from IMT of the series.
With that, Phoenix1 gained their first 2-0 week heading into Rift Rivals, and IMT are left to nurse their wounds with their first 0-2 week of the split. This series was IMT’s to lose. By not setting up properly and having improper mind-sets, they were completely dominated by the skirmish of Phoenix1 and the power of the rookie MikeYeung. And we’re left to wonder: Are Phoenix1 actual contenders? Or is this just a fluke?