Phoenix1 is about to face its biggest test of the year
Phoenix1 was a hard team to read coming into the Season 7 of the NA LCS.
They hit their stride midway through last summer, but other teams have finished strong and then fallen flat the next split (looking at you, Echo Fox). They signed a couple exciting foreign stars, but it wasn't clear how those players would sync with the rest of the team.
As the team started climbing the standings and power rankings, those questions started being answered with aplomb. New ADC No "Arrow" Dong-hyeon is quite clearly the best at his position in all of North America and a close contender for the Spring Split MVP. Mid laner Yoo "Ryu" Sang-wook has provided another strong lane that the team can play around. And critically, they've moved past the sort of mid-split team drama that can ruin a season.
Since we took a look at this team two weeks ago, they've been nearly flawless, beating FlyQuest, Echo Fox, Team Liquid, and Immortals without dropping a game. The are clearly contenders for the NA Lcs championship. The new duo lane of Arrow and William "Stunt" Chen has not missed a beat and William "Meteos" Hartman looks like the starter in the jungle.
But this week, the team will face its toughest test yet: matches against TSM and Cloud9, the two teams that still sit above them in the standings. Win both, and the team is in position for a first round playoff bye and path straight into the semifinals.
Phoenix1 vs. Cloud9
The first game pits Phoenix1 against a C9 squad that they manhandled in week five. It was Meteos' first game against his old organization, and he showed them his love by taking over game one with his shot calling. Phoenix1 won the bottom lane early, and in an interesting move, had Arrow prioritize roaming with an extremely early purchase of Swiftness Boots. His roams, combined with a favorable top lane matchup, gave Phoenix1 three winning lanes. Cloud9 had no chance at contesting the map and P1 romped to victory.
In game two, Cloud9 focused on shutting Meteos down, and for much of the game, they accomplished that. C9 ADC Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi punished Arrow for roams and jungler Juan "Contractz" Garcia picked up kill after kill on Rengar.
Normally a fed Rengar is a death knell for the other team, but P1 didn't buckle under pressure. They punished C9's almost comical reliance on mid laner Nicolaj Jensen, grabbing counter kills when C9 overextended. That pushed the game into a teamfight phase where Arrow was god-like. The C9 gold lead almost didn't matter as P1 out-executed their opponents in almost every hectic fight, even ones C9 started.
Arrow has been—by far—the best teamfighting ADC in North America. Not only does he dish out insane damage, he knows how to position himself to stay safe. He leads CLG's Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes by one in the total kills category, but has died 33 fewer times. The playoffs will be a good test of Arrow's dominance, but he's definitely challenging Liquid ADC Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin for the title of best imported ADC.
This time around, Cloud9 looks even more disjointed than before. They haven't really solved who should play in the top lane—Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong and Jeon "Ray" Ji-won continue to split time, despite the former leading the league in "Player of the Game" votes. That makes it difficult to say how C9 will attack top lane, P1's weakest position. In this critical match, Impact should return for the entire series, and Cloud9 should draft teamfight comps and hope to punish P1's questionable objective control. But given P1's ability to beat Cloud9 in multiple ways, and C9's current trajectory, it may not matter.
Phoenix1 vs. TSM
One matchup highlight this week is Liquid ADC Yiliang "Doublelift" "Peter" Peng facing off against his former team, TSM. Jason "WildTurtle" Tran will have his hands full against Doublelift, but let's be honest—Liquid sucks.
The more interesting matchup is WildTurtle vs. Arrow. TSM beat P1 way back in Week 3, but Arrow stomped the duo lane. Despite a strong match record, TSM has struggled with the downgrade from Doublelift to WildTurtle, especially with the team's control of the map. It's ironic that while some ADCs complain about a lack of agency in Season 7, TSM's ADC situation has directly impacted how mid laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen played the game.
For much of the first two games, WildTurtle's best move was dodging a skill shot from Arrow to get executed by a turret instead of ceding a kill. But TSM as a team got back into it by focusing on the side lanes while P1 tried to ram it down mid. TSM's wave control stalled the game. The teams eventually traded objectives all over the map but eventually, WildTurtle got the last laugh, shutting down Arrow after a chaotic fight at the Elder Dragon.
TSM have to be wary of opting into the same type of fights. Almost every time they tried to jump on Arrow, he either got out of it or just killed his assailant. Instead, they should focus on what worked—keeping P1 occupied in the mid lane, controlling the side lanes, and taking neutral objectives when P1 has to wave clear. The 1-3-1 is a game Phoenix1 can play to, but TSM seem a bit more adept at it.
On the P1 side, they need to continue to play smart, controlled League and have Meteos make better decisions on those neutral objectives. Even Barons they've won have ultimately cost them, and they can't make those kind of mistakes. Meteos has provided very poor ward control, and so has Stunt, especially compared to former ADC Adrian Ma. They've made up for that by having the carries ward, but that's not sustainable over the long term.
Phoenix1 has certainly shown the talent and ability to beat anybody in the LCS. This is a great weekend for them to actually do it.