The Order Of The Phoenix

Phoenix1 before their third game against Cloud 9

On May 26, 2016, ESPN released the roster for a new team in the North American League Championship Series, Phoenix1. The team bought their spot from the owners of the former Team Impulse, who were forced to sell their spot after being late on payments to players. However, the ruling came very late in the off-season. There weren’t many potential buyers for the spot, leaving a door open for anyone who wanted to snatch a spot for the down low. The father-son duo of Rob Moore and Michael Moore, pounced. Unfortunately, at this time in the off-season, many free agents were already taken by other teams. So the Moore’s, General Manager Eric Ma, and the rest of the new org moved quickly to field a roster for the upcoming split. They settled on a mix of veteran pros and rookies. However, on paper, this team looked weaker than every other team in the LCS. The roster was trashed on sites like Reddit. People questioned why the Moore’s decided to buy into the LCS, only to field this roster. One redditor called them “a shoe in for 10th place, and they’ll get destroyed by C9 challenger.” in a comment with over 100 upvotes. Less than ten days after the roster was released, the season started. And as the pundits predicted, P1 immediately ran into problems.

Mash reacting to a 0–2 loss to Echo Fox to open the season.

Phoenix1 would open the split against Echo Fox, in a match that some thought would decide the worst team in the LCS. Phoenix1 was already at a disadvantage however. One of their best players on the roster, Inori, was having Visa issues, and he could not secure a visa in time for the beginning of the season. Therefore P1 had to field a substitute jungler, in Zentinel.

Phoenix1 lost 0–2 to Echo Fox.

Then they lost 0–2 to Immortals.

Then 1–2 to Cloud 9.

Then 0–2 to NV.

Then 0–2 to Liquid.

Then 1–2 to Apex.

With an 0–6 record, Inori finally resolved his visa issues, and could play for the starting lineup. Unfortunately the losing didn’t end there.

P1 lost 1–2 to NRG.

Then 0–2 to Cloud 9.

Then 0–2 to TSM.

The season was at a halfway point, and Phoenix1 had lost every single match they had played. With an 0–9 record, relegation had a gun pointed at their faces. It seemed they were well on their way to the Challenger series. Their opponent to begin the back stretch of the season was Apex. In Game 1, Phoenix1 didn’t last 35 minutes. Mash left the game before it ended. It seemed that there was no hope for Phoenix1.

But then the Phoenix rose from the ashes.

In Game 2, even though they surrendered every dragon, Mash had a deathless game and sent the series to a final game. Game 3 didn’t even last 30 minutes. They crushed Apex. Inori, Pirean, and Mash each had deathless games. And Phoenix1 finally broke their losing streak.

Phoenix1 after winning their first series as a professional team.

Of course, the story could’ve ended there. Phoenix1 could’ve gone back to their losing ways, they could’ve gotten relegated, and the Moore’s could’ve lost their entire investment. Instead, they went 2–2 in the next 4 series, with wins against NRG and Echo Fox, pulling them out of last place. Many people considered it a miracle this team got out of last place. But the miracles weren’t over. In fact, the biggest one was about to come.

TSM, or Team Solo Mid, could be called the powerhouse of North American League of Legends. They have been in every single North American Split Final. They have won the most split championships. They have consistently been the most popular team in NA, and when they stepped into the ring with Phoenix1, they were on the cusp of a perfect 18–0 season. No team in NA has ever had a perfect regular season, and TSM looked to change that. To TSM, Phoenix1 looked like a small fry. After Game 1, TSM was well on their way to bulldozing P1. The game only lasted 26 minutes. P1 could only manage a single kill. TSM just walked backstage to prepare for the next game, to finish off the weakened prey. But sometimes prey can fight back.

THE TALE OF INORI’S RENGAR

Before entering the LCS with P1, Inori has had a career stomping solo queue, both American and Korean, with one Champion.

Rengar.

In Game 2, Inori got the Rengar that he wanted.

Three minutes into the game, TSM jungler Svenskeren invades the blue side of Inori’s jungle. He walks over P1’s wolf spirit and doesn’t care. Sven wants the blue buff and the wolves. But you don’t just do that when you’re against Inori’s Rengar. Because Inori will fight back.

Inori, only a few steps away, walks up to Sven’s Gragas while he is attacking blue and chunks Sven’s HP to below 5%, forcing Sven to flash over the wall. Unfortunately for Sven, the flash is right into the arms of Pirean. This was only the beginning. The kills kept coming and coming until Inori was 12/2/7. To top it all off, he backdoored the enemy nexus just before 28 minutes.

Inori backdoors TSM’s nexus

Now this is where the tale should’ve ended. Parth and TSM banned Rengar, and P1 should’ve regressed to the picks that lost them Game 1. But that didn’t happen. Inori went off again, and he didn’t even need Rengar. He went 6/0/10 on Rek’Sai, leading P1 to take down TSM’s Nexus, winning the series, ending TSM’s perfect season, and shocking the World. Oh, and Dyrus had to shave his head.

Dash and MarkZ taunting former TSM toplaner Dyrus on the analysis desk, after P1 shocks TSM

Unfortunately, this miracle wasn’t enough to get P1 out of 8th place, out of the relegation zone. So on August 6, 2016, P1 faced Echo Fox. The winner would be safe from relegation, the loser would be down to their last strike. Luckily, P1 3–0'd Echo Fox, adding to the rise of the Phoenix, and proving many doubters wrong.

Unfortunately, there were two revelations to come in the next two months. Michael Moore revealed on a podcast in late August that the team was projected to lose $500,000 in its first split. Adding to monetary concerns, Rob Moore was ousted from his position as Vice Chairman at Paramount Pictures. However, the Moore's didn’t sell the spot to make some easy cash. They doubled down on Phoenix1, to make them a playoff contender come January.

Pirean was moved to a sub position, and Ryu, who just came off semifinals at the World Championships, was signed.

Mash left for challenger veteran team Gold Coin United, and P1 signed former KT superstar Arrow.

Gate left for Echo Fox, and P1 signed former Immortals support Adrian.

P1 also acquired a new coach, former Royal Never Give Up coach Fly.

With these acquisitions, P1’s potential was to be a playoff team. That was the goal for the next split. P1 immediately hit the ground running with a 2–0 victory over Echo Fox and their former support Gate. Then they hit a roadblock. Another roster which changed from last season was Dignitas, with one of the best top laners in the world in Ssumday. P1 fell to Dignitas 1–2. However, when P1 got knocked down, they got up again. P1 went on a 3 game winning streak, over NV, Liquid, and Immortals, to end up with a 4–1 record. While this was going on, Arrow was popping off the entire time, and making a case for MVP. Unfortunately, P1 lost the next three series to TSM, Flyquest, and CLG. To make matters even worse, Inori had an emergency, and had to miss the next few series. It seems P1’s ambition of playoffs was falling apart.

THE TALE OF DARK METEOS

Part of a comic depicting Meteos leaving Cloud 9 for Phoenix 1.

To find a new jungler, P1 turned to Cloud 9, and asked C9 to give them their sub jungler, Meteos. Meteos has had a storied career for C9. He set records back in C9’s heyday, including a 12.7 KDA in the Season 3 Summer Split. Most recently, he was on C9’s Worlds roster which reached Quarterfinals. However, Contractz replaced him in the starting roster for Spring Split, leaving him without a starting spot. Needing a jungler, P1 asked for Meteos, got Meteos, and put him in the starting lineup. With Meteos, P1 went on a tear, taking down both NV and Meteos’s former team Cloud 9, with 2–0 scores. While they lost to CLG, they rebounded with a win over Dignitas. Unfortunately, Adrian was transfered due to a multitude of issues to join Team Liquid. P1 reached out to Dignitas and acquired sub support Stunt, who was put in P1’s starting lineup. While many had low expectations for Stunt, he proved he could keep up with the LCS meta. P1 beat Flyquest, Echo Fox, Liquid, and Immortals, before losing a rematch against Cloud 9. After the loss, P1 made the decision to put Inori back in the starting lineup, despite the fact he only played one game during that stretch with Meteos crushing his opponents. With Inori, they lost 0–2 to TSM to finish the split in 3rd place. This was above the expectations of many. P1 was projected to be a fifth or sixth seeded playoff team. To clinch the 3rd seed was something to be proud of for everyone on the team.

P1 began their playoff run with a match against sixth seeded Dignitas. P1 wanted to complete their revenge for their early week 1 loss. Staff made the decision to start Inori over Meteos in the jungle. Many pundits questioned the move, but Inori proved them wrong. P1 took down Dignitas easily in three games, giving P1 a ticket to Vancover, in either the first place or the third place matchup, depending on how their series against Cloud 9 went.

I was in attendance for that series against Cloud 9 yesterday. I was sitting next to the Moore’s, the owners of P1. They were happy the entire time. When neither Inori or Meteos could get the job done, nor Stunt or sub support Shady, the Moore’s watched their longshot title aspirations end in an 0–3 sweep, but sadness was overcome by memories of how a team destined to be relegated became a playoff contender. Michael told me on the record that win or lose, he was extremely proud of how far this team went. He had every right to be. As the series ended, he posted on Reddit a comment on how proud he was of this team. It shot up to the top, and Moore could see the fanbase he tried hard to develop throughout the past two splits come out of the woodwork and congratulate him. Will P1 become profitable? Will Meteos stay? Time will tell. But there is no doubt, no matter what happens, that P1 is becoming a powerhouse.

Michael Moore’s comment after P1’s loss to Cloud 9.
I’d like to thank the Moore’s and the rest of the P1 staff for letting me sit down in their section at LCS, while brainstorming this article. Also, it was great talking History with HistoryTeacher. An experience I’ll never forget.