Last weekend, Phoenix1 did the unthinkable. A new team to the North American LCS that lost the first eight matches of its existence, P1 continued its recent hot streak by taking down regional giants TSM — previously 14-0 and record holders of the most consecutive wins by a North American team.
One of the main reasons P1 was able to pull off this historic upset was the play of jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, a long-time presence on top of North America’s ranked ladder who is making the most of his first split on an LCS roster.
Before the season began, Inori decided to travel to South Korea by himself to prove himself in the world’s toughest League of Legends region. He was able to climb to Challenger on the Korean ranked ladder, and soon after received a call from Phoenix1.
“I just wanted to show people that I was worth it to pick up, because I kind of had a bad rep so I wanted to show everyone how good I was,” Inori told The Rift Herald. “I was just really excited, just getting a chance at tryouts, because I knew if I could get a tryout I would most likely be able to make it on a team.”
Originally slated as the team’s starting jungler, Inori missed P1’s first 14 games as the team attempted to sort out visa issues. P1 won just two of those — one against Cloud9 and one against Apex — both in series losses, and started the season 0-6 with young prospect Kevin “Zentinel” Pires in the jungle.
“It was really hard, because I’d get really frustrated watching our games because I could easily help my team win those games, especially the ones against like Echo Fox and stuff,” he said. “I just kind of tried to give as much feedback as I could from the bench and just like helped in any way I could.
“I could give feedback a lot easier [from the bench], but I think it just made me more frustrated more than anything, to be honest.”
So enter Inori, in Week 4, finally getting his LCS opportunity on a winless team in last place. 0-6 soon turned into 0-8 after losses to CLG and NRG, but Phoenix1 was looking more organized and finally picked up its first win the following week by taking down Apex two games to one.
“I think there’s a big difference between me and Zentinel,” Inori said. “Nothing against him, but it’s mostly he’s fresh, like he just started, it’s his first competitive, like real team, and like there’s still a lot he can learn for his jungle pathing, comms, knowing how to track enemy junglers. There’s a lot of things, like, he was lacking in that area. But for me I already know a lot of that stuff and I’m also a very vocal person in comms.”
Inori said the biggest difference his return brought to the team was his presence in voice comms, something he brought with him from his days playing on Challenger teams.
“I think I normally would just step up and try to be the vocal person on those teams, and it just became a habit of mine going forward,” he said. “I think [P1] were used to having me, and when I was gone, there was like a gap in the comms where normally I’d be the one saying all this stuff, so it was hard for the team to really win games when I wasn’t there.”
The team’s first win was followed up by a strong Week 6, where P1 took two-time defending champs CLG to three games and beat Echo Fox 2-1 to climb out of last place in the standings. Week 7 picked up another win for P1 (this time against NRG), but a 2-0 loss against Liquid left little hope for the Week 8 clash against league-leading TSM.
Not even the ever-confident Inori thought P1 would walk away with a win.
“I was expecting to get 2-0’d, but I never really gave up, to be honest,” he said. “After Game 1 I thought ‘these guys really aren’t that good,’ because they made mistakes in Game 1. We got First Blood on them. I saw they weren’t perfect, which gave me more confidence going into Game 2, because I thought these guys could actually make a lot of mistakes.”
After losing Game 1, Phoenix1 responded with a resounding Game 2 victory thanks to Inori’s unconventional champion choice in Rengar. He said the champion was key to the victory because it allowed P1 to take advantage of TSM’s mistakes.
“You can’t play their game; you have to play your own game,” Inori said. “Just going meta, going standard against them would be a bad decision. But just going Rengar, it changes the game a lot. There’s no other champ like Rengar.
“Normally, people don’t go for AD Rengar too, so they had no idea what to do when Rengar just one-shots your back line in a 1 v 3. I think it shocked them a lot and I think they disrespected us a lot going into Game 2. They really underestimated us, they made really bad macro plays where, I think Doublelift mentioned it in an interview, they were thinking more about kills than objectives, which was pretty bad on their part.
“After we won Game 2 I just said, ‘These guys actually don’t know what to do. They’re just really tilted. They’re not playing coordinated.’ I think after Game 2, the series was already over.”
Phoenix1 was one of the only teams this split that was able to match TSM’s aggression with even more aggression, and that was key to the eventual victory.
“I think a lot of people give them more respect when they’re ahead, just because they’re like the undefeated team,” Inori said. “But I think knowing your strengths and knowing how strong you are, you should also play according to how strong you think you are instead of how strong you think they are.”
After taking down the North American giants, Phoenix1 lost 2-0 to Cloud9 the next day, knocking them out of playoff contention. There’s still more to play for, however: P1 will be fighting for eighth place for priority seeding in the upcoming promotion/relegation tournament.
“I think the goal is just don’t get relegated and prep for next split, because we had a really unfortunate start,” Inori said. “So it feels like this isn’t really what we deserved. So that’s our plan, focusing on not getting relegated, win one more game, get placed in eighth, get our best possible chance at relegation, play our best and hope we don’t get relegated, and from there we prep for next split and hope we get a better start to next split.”
And as someone who has been in the North American League scene for a while, Inori said he hasn’t ever seen the region this good.
“I think NA is definitely the strongest it’s ever been,” he said. “I’m kind of proud to play in this region right now because I think it’s really competitive and really fun, personally, to play against some of these teams. And also I think, worldwide standings, NA is top two or top three.”
As for the region’s best junglers, Inori said there’s a lot of strength at the position in NA, but one stands out above the rest.
“Reignover is the S-tier jungle,” he said. “I don’t normally look up to junglers much, but I think in NA, he’s the best jungler. I don’t think he’s that far ahead from most people, though. I think Dardoch and a few others are relatively close, I just think he has a cleaner, more consistent playstyle than the rest of us.”