After a 3-0 victory over Team Dignitas in the 2017 Split Split Playoffs Quarterfinals, Phoenix1 looked poised to threaten Cloud9 for a place in the Spring Split Finals. Unfortunately for the expectant crowd the prizefight was over within three rounds, as Cloud9 dismantled Phoenix1 on their way to a clean sweep. While Cloud9 was likely the better overall team, a series of roster swaps from P1 put them at a disadvantage and failed to help them gain any momentum in the series.
After mixing up their roster in the final week of the season, Phoenix1 had seemingly found their magic mix in the series against Team Dignitas. After playing with jungler William “Meteos” Hartman for the majority of the second half of the split, Phoenix1 opted to use former starter Rami “Inori” Charagh and impressive rookie support William “Stunt” Chen. With a clean sweep of Team Dignitas utilizing this roster, there was no reason to believe any changes would be made going into their series against Cloud9.
Yet as Phoenix1 took to the rift against Cloud9, it emerged that the team had substituted Stunt and were instead using support Jordan “Shady” Robinson, a player known for his aggressive support picks such as Brand and Vel’koz. Shady had already made his LCS debut in Week 9 against Cloud9, but was unable to secure a win in his first week, suffering an 0-3 record. The switch may have been understandable if Phoenix1 had drawn up a composition specifically designed towards one of Shady’s power picks, but instead, he would go on to play Karma in both games this series.
Bringing in Shady seems like a puzzling move considering Phoenix1’s history of success with Stunt as the starting support. While Shady now holds a match record of 0-5 with Phoenix1, Stunt has been very successful garnering an 11-2 record with the team. Showing a flexible champion pool and immediate chemistry with ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, there is little reason to start Shady over Stunt if you are not planning a composition specific to Shady’s strengths.
In a final move of desperation, Phoenix1 would bring back Meteos for the final game of the series to replace Inori, who had largely been outplayed by Cloud9 rookie jungler Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia. Desperate for a victory, the move to bring the more controlling presence of Meteos to the line-up is a reasonable swap to make, although it failed to give Inori and Stunt the opportunity to play a match together in the series and recreate the success they had found against Team Dignitas.
In contrast, Cloud9 has found success this split with the swapping of top laners Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. The key difference between these swaps and the ones executed by Phoenix1 in their series is tha,t when Ray is playing over Impact, there is a clearly defined strategy they are targeting that will utilize Ray’s strengths and they are able to draft accordingly. Whether Phoenix1 did not have a plan for Shady, or they failed to execute their draft correctly, they were not able to achieve success in the way that Cloud9 is able to with Ray and Impact.
If you are unable to draft to Shady’s strength’s, as a team you must play your better all -around support in Stunt. Stunt has proven himself as a strong support that fits well with the team, evidenced by his ridiculous winning percentage as a member of the starting roster. By not sticking with the roster they had found success with against Team Dignitas, Phoenix1 hindered their opportunities to gain momentum and found their chances at a spot in the finals quickly slip away.
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