Heading into a conclusive final week of the NA LCS Spring Split, Phoenix1 were tasked with inarguably the hardest pair of fixtures of any team in the league. Faced with series against the region’s two top sides, Team SoloMid and Cloud9, P1 stood to earn themselves a potential second place finish and a precious bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Phoenix1’s rise towards the summit has been unprecedented, elegantly cruising past the NA LCS’ playoff contenders with a clinical edge unmatched by either TSM or C9. In the two weeks leading up to the team’s final showdown, Phoenix1 claimed series victories over FlyQuest, Echo Fox, Team Liquid, and Immortals, all without dropping a single game. A win in the series with Cloud9 would see P1 match the standings of their opponents, entertaining the possibilty of a path straight to the playoff semi-finals.
As William “Meteos” Hartman took his seat in hope of a repeat performance against his former roster, all eyes were on the Phoenix1 roster to deliver. Unfortunately for Meteos, Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen brought his Orianna ‘A game’ to the series, seizing control of the first game with an impressive 7/1/9 scoreline.
In a surprise move ahead of the second game, Phoenix1 subbed in previously unseen support, Jordan “Shady” Robison in place of the consistent William “Stunt” Chen. The decision drew harsh criticism for the P1 fanbase, who like many analysts, failed to understand why the team management had disrupted the synergy between the team’s primary carry, No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and his support partner.
Whilst Shady’s performance was far from disastrous, his inclusion failed to have the desired impact, as Phoenix1 conceded any hope of a quarter-final bye. Cloud9 swept the series convincingly, then reliant on their defeated opponents to beat Team SoloMid in the remaining fixture to provide them with a first place finish.
Whilst a Phoenix1 victory over Team SoloMid would provide C9 with the idyllic top seed for the playoffs, whether it played to the P1’s ideal scenario was another matter. On the basis that Phoenix1 considered Team SoloMid to be a more challenging opponent, throwing the game against the league leaders would result in a more favourable playoff draw.
Phoenix1 appeared to have thrown in the towel ahead of their match with Team SoloMid, keen to avoid TSM until a prospective playoff final.
In an otherwise unforced swap, Meteos, one of the team’s star performers since joining the roster, was omitted from the lineup in favour of the peripheral jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh. Similarly, Stunt was left on the bench for both games of the series as Arrow and Shady failed to provide a focal point in the bot lane for the P1 squad. Stunt was notably disappointed to have been excluded from the match up, seemingly under the impression that he would feature against Team SoloMid:
I was told i was playing game 2 so sorry… I felt ready and really wanted to play my friend and rival @Biofrostlol
After two uncharacteristic performances from the Phoenix1 lineup, the team finished third in the league standings, set for a quarter final with Team Dignitas before they can face Cloud9 once more. Unable to secure themselves a first round bye, there’s certainly evidence to suggest that the P1 management strategically sandbagged the series with Team SoloMid to avoid meeting them until a potential playoff final.
The Playstyle Of Each Jungler In The NA LCS
North America’s Junglers
Each unique, each with a story. North America's jungle pool may be the regions's strongest position. We take a deeper look:
Mr. Steal Yo’ Jungle
There are few players that understand how to jungle better than Team Liquid’s Reignover. He is easily the best jungler in NA at pathing and is able to consistently create small advantages for himself. While not a hard carry style player, his cerebral play makes him one of NA’s best.
Just when we think we’ve heard the last of Meteos, he triumphantly returns to the NA LCS. Now a part of Phoenix1, there are few players as consistent or smooth in their play as Meteos. His game understanding and strong teamplay put him at a significant advantage over many of the younger NA junglers
Team Dignitas’s Chaser is a player often greeted with much fanfare and promise, but that consistently fails to deliver. Once heralded as one of Korea’s best jungler’s, he has failed to make the impact expected or necessary for Team Dignitas to be a top team in the NA LCS.
First Blood King
There is one player who has surprised more than any other this season, and that is Echo Fox jungler Akaadian who may be their best performer so far this season. With smart early aggression he has consistently gained his team early leads and has proven himself a top carry jungler in NA.
Svenskeren is a player who is excellent at getting the rest of his team ahead and understanding where to apply pressure. Although he can make plenty of flashy plays on picks such as Lee Sin, his presence enables his teammates to shine and players such as Bjergsen have greatly benefited from his presence
There are few players who have arrived to the NA LCS with the hype of Cloud9’s jungler Contractz. An obvious talent, Contractz could be one of NA’s best junglers if he is able to overcome the youthful mistakes that still occur far too often.
Phoenix1 wouldn’t be where it is today without the play of Inori who completely turned around their season and announced himself as a force in the jungle. One of NA’s best jungle talents, Inori can carry a game on a variety of champions including his signature Rengar.
Fed or Feeding
Possibly the most aggressive jungler in the NA LCS, Immortal’s Dardoch is known for his highlight plays and just as amusing fails. A player without an off switch, Dardoch is one of the few junglers who has shown time and time again they can single-handedly carry a game.
After a year of disappointment, FlyQuest’s Moon has found unexpected new life this season behind the leadership of Hai where he has developed into one of NA’s top junglers. A player with a wide and unexpected champion pool, you can never be sure what might be locked in for Moon in the jungle.
One of the off-season’s least talked about acquisitions, EnVyUs’s Lira is a player with the potential to be the star of the team. Already showing his ability to carry games, expect Lira’s play to only grow stronger as he continues to tap into his potential and transition to his new environment and teammates.
From the beginning of his career, people have often overlooked Xmithie and underappreciated the consistent play he has brought to CLG. While he may not carry many games, he is rarely out-jungled by his opponents, placing his team in a position to succeed through superior macro play.