Hai Lam’s triumphant return to the NA LCS this season ended on Saturday with FlyQuest’s heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Phoenix1.
Up 2-1 in the series, Fly was only one game away from clutching the third place title. Despite a solid showing from Hai and his teammates, P1 bested them and made the comeback win. Fly capitalized on P1’s weak team comp in both of their wins. Once P1 put tanks back in the top lane and Ryu Sang-wook, P1’s mid laner, stepped his game up, the curtains closed on FlyQuest.
Hai, Fly’s mid laner and primary shot-caller, believed the defeat rested mostly on his shoulders. “Whoever won mid, won that series,” Hai told Dot Esports after the match. “When [Ryu] was ahead, I wasn’t very strong, and he was able to do things. But when I was ahead, he wasn’t very strong and he wasn’t able to do those things.”
P1’s victory wasn’t because of Ryu alone, however, it was because his team began to revolve around his lane. “They started making plays at mid lane, and they played heavily around Ryu to try to get him ahead and get me shut down.”
Ryu’s lead from the mid lane was mostly thanks to jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, who seemed to find a burst of confidence in the finals games that led to him snowballing his mid laner.
“Games four and five, I got crushed mid, so then… that’s why we lost,” Hai said. Could the team as a whole have done any better? Not to Hai. His criticisms of the game focused mostly on himself. “I got camped pretty hard. I should have been able to live if I played safer, but other than that, I think we played pretty well as a team. If I didn’t fall behind, the game would’ve been ours.”
Hai is always hard on himself, and that’s part of what makes him a great leader. And despite their dejection after the loss, FlyQuest’s season was an overarching success by any metric. When the season began, not many of us thought they’d be anything more than a lower-level team, let alone competing for a top position in the playoffs. In fact, TheScore Esports put Fly at the very bottom of its power rankings before the season. FlyQuest shocked us all by showing up as some of the league’s top talent.
Hai told us they aimed to make it into the top four at the end of the season, and that’s exactly what they accomplished. “While it sucks that we are fourth, and I’m disappointed in that place, I’d much rather be fourth than any place below it.”
It was certainly a long journey to make it to fourth place, though. The team started the split off very strong, but there were a few rough weeks there in the middle. They went from fighting against Cloud9 for first place during the first few weeks to losing game-after-game to lower-level teams. At that point, the team was just trying to figure itself out. Realizing mistakes, addressing them, and improving are all a part of team growth. “We knew we were a good team,” Hai said. “We just had to get there.”
Hai’s confidence in his team is part of what makes him one of the best leaders in the industry. He’s been leading teams and driving them forward for years now, starting with his days on Cloud9, and he’s gotten very good at it. He’s an excellent leader and shot-caller—in fact, he’s arguably the best that western League of Legends has to offer.
“It’s honestly very humbling,” Hai said. “I think it’s great that so many people think I’m the best leader or shot-caller that’s lived in the West, and I feel like that’s such a giant title, you know? It might not be a title like ‘the best player ever,’ like Bjergsen or something like that, but I am happy that I have made a name for myself. I’m proud of that fact.”
Hopes are high moving into the next split, but Hai and his team aren’t going to think about the future until they’ve had some much-needed rest. Without needing to travel to compete in the MSI, FlyQuest has more than enough time to both rest and improve on some of their shortcomings. Fans have plenty to be excited about when they see them back in action for the summer.
Interview by Saira Mueller