Just before the start of the 2022 LCS Summer Split, FlyQuest made a surprising roster announcement. FlyQuest Academy top laner Philip "Philip" Zeng was promoted to the LCS roster in place of Colin "Kumo" Zhao, and in his debut match against Golden Guardians, Philip held his own against Eric "Licorice" Ritchie and provided the stability needed for FLY to start the split 1-0.
After his LCS debut, Philip spoke to Inven Global about his recent change in roster, his own expectations for himself, and his confidence in his play at the LCS level.
I'm here with FlyQuest top laner Philip fresh off his LCS debut. How do you think you played today?
I don't really think I did anything too special, but I'm glad that I was able to adapt and go even with an LCS top laner. Licorice is a very stable player and I'm glad that I didn't get punished by him too hard because I didn't take a winning 1v1 matchup. I picked something to teamfight and pick off opponents, so I'm glad I was able to not die too many times like I sometimes did in Academy. [laughs] I'm happy that we got our first win.
That's especially true for someone like Licorice, who prides himself on his laning. How do you feel like your debut went compared to your own expectations?
To be honest, I think a lot of expectations kind of get to me. A weird thing about me is that stuff people say actually affects me. For some reason, things like that can affect me in a way that might change my gameplay, so I'm getting over that and learning to not let it happen.
In terms of my own expectations, I personally think that I could go even against a lot of these top laners. I don't know about me smashing them; that might be too out of the ordinary, but to be honest, I think with how prepared we were, the win was something I was expecting.
Were you nervous before your LCS debut, and if so, were any of your more experienced teammates helpful in getting you through the nerves?
First of all, I want to shout out Kumo because I think he is a very stable player in the top lane. Even against the best players in the league, he can go even without giving up everything. Because of that, I wasn't expecting to be here, but they told me that the LCS players wanted to play with me, but also, they told me that they didn't want to have any expectations of me.
I don't think I've had my best performances in Academy this split, but they told me that they were interested in playing with me anyway. I just want to put in that extra work to give 120% on stage.
What was the process in you finding this out, and in terms of when it happened, how much practice have you had with the LCS roster?
We were 5-0 on FLY Academy and we had just finished our sixth game, which was a loss. Right after that game, they brought everyone to a meeting and told everyone about the change. At the time, I didn't give it much thought because I was so excited. Some people in Academy would kill for that LCS spot, right? For me, I actually had doubts and second thoughts. I didn't want to give this version of myself to the LCS just yet.
I still think I have a long way to go and I would say Kumo is much more prepared to play in LCS. Being here is mostly because I was excited to play LCS.
How would you compare yourself to Kumo as a top laner stylistically speaking?
To be honest, everyone says I'm a weak side top laner and I guess I give up a lot of CS and stuff for my bot lane to get ahead on FlyQuest Academy. I think that suited us really well, but maybe I overdid it. I may have gone into that narrative too much and stopped focusing as much on playing for myself.
I would say our bot lane of Tomo and Diamond on FLY Academy is the best bot lane in Academy, so we obviously put all of the eggs in their basket. However, a lot of the champions that I play are carry champions, and because of our team dynamic, I wasn't able to pull them out as often in Academy. I hope I can change the narrative, but I also need to get better at that style.
Since this is your first interview with Inven Global, I'd like to ask how you got into playing League of Legends competitively?
I don't know if you followed Academy last year, but I kind of just got thrown into the fire on FlyQuest Academy, I guess. They had a lot of roster swaps and Licorice ended up going to Golden Guardians. One of our coaches, Richard, saw the champions I was playing in solo queue like Jayce and Camille. He believes that those champions have a pretty high skill ceiling, so he took a chance on me.
I would also befriend people in solo queue because I like making friends, so some people on FLY Academy already knew me. I wouldn't say that had anything to do with me getting on the team, but it did feel nice because it felt like I was joining a team of homies. Eventually, I got to get to know everyone, which has been really nice.
Does seeing the success of North American domestic talent like Evil Geniuses mid laner Joseph "jojopyun" Pyun and AD carry Kyle "Danny" Sakamaki inspire you, or at least, assure you that organizations will give players like that more time to develop?
I'm not sure if I can say that I can achieve the same things that they have because they made history. I don't know if it's safe to say that I can do the same, especially since I wouldn't even consider myself the best top laner in Academy. Honestly, I would say the best top laners in Academy could achieve things even greater than me, so that's why I'm really grateful for this opportunity.
In terms of NA talent, I think since EG already showed that showcasing NA talent can bring NA to even greater heights, that gave me a bit of boost because orgs might take more of a look at that regarding their Academy rosters. It gives me a little bit of an impression that I can play with no expectations and just show what I can do on the stage as I would in any other game.
I think new players should have no expectations because they will have no pressure and can show what they can do. I think this is especially true with rookies because the fact that they are more stubborn gives them an edge at times. Veteran players play a role where they're more stable. They won't lose you the game. Eventually, I think organizations will see that rookies are a bit bloodthirsty in the way that they play.
Are there any top laners in the LCS you still want to test yourself against?
For this split, I'd like to be the best non-import NA top laner. I'm still pretty far from them, but small steps, you know? I've been playing solo queue against Ssumday and Impact for like three years now. I know that these guys are literally insane. They're still improving to this day. For now, I just want to go for small steps and be the best top laner from NA.
Are there any top laners around the world that have influenced or inspired you as a player?
To be honest, I think a lot of up-and-coming NA top laners would all say Impact. He's been through almost all of the NA talent of top laners!
He's been here since season 5, so I can't even imagine how many NA talents he's taken out over the years. He's still getting better and in one of his interviews, he talked about how one of his skills is learning new concepts. I think if I were to choose someone, it would be him.
Is there anything you want to say to the FlyQuest fans now that you've made your debut?
I don't know if this was the right decision, to be honest. I feel like the community thinks it's probably the wrong decision, but I hope that I can put in the hard work to show that I can get better and eventually play better against these LCS top laners.