Charlie Lipsie is a former analyst and coach for Cloud9 and NRG Esports, and currently the head coach of Phoenix1. After his team’s impressive back-half of the split, which included upsetting TSM, surging from 10th to 8th and securing a place in the 2017 Spring Split, we had the opportunity to talk to Charlie as his team prepares for the offseason ahead.
THE RIFT HERALD: So it’s offseason mode; how’s that been so far?
P1 CHARLIE: Technically we’re still not offseason. Like we’re still in the house. We’re getting to watch some of the LCS qualifiers. Starting next week it’ll be really offseason for us. We’re taking a few weeks off and we’re planning our rest of off-season after everyone gets back on September. We’re looking to, like, go to Korea’s boot camp...
TRH: What do you expect to get out of trip like that? I know that a few teams went last split; it worked better for some than others.
P1C: This will be like my third or fourth time going with teams to Korea.
TRH: Oh, nice, yeah.
P1C: Yeah, so I know exactly what I’m supposed to expect and what to get out of it.
TRH: Great. So you’ve spent time with a variety of different organizations just in NA, what has been--within your experience with Phoenix 1 so far--what has been different about it than your time with NRG and Cloud9 and other places?
P1C: Phoenix 1 and Cloud9 have been the two orgs, I’ve felt like, those are the best orgs that I’ve worked with, by and large compared to other ones I’ve been around and seen.
TRH: What makes them so good to work with?
P1C: The owners, between [Cloud9 founder] Jack Etienne, and [Phoenix1 owner] Michael Moore, those two have been really good to work with. It’s kind of like, we trust each other, and we don’t really keep things behind each other’s back. And it is, like, what it is. And we’re pretty straight-forward with things. And we always plan to be on the same page about everything. And I think that’s, like, really important between, like, the owners and management and the staff.
TRH: One thing that seemed clear from Phoenix 1 early in the year was that when Inori joined the roster, the team dynamic changed. What did you see, as a coach, once he came back into the lineup and what he brought to the team dynamic?
P1C: One of the things about Inori is that when we were trying out a few people, he was definitely the jungler who stood out the most. He was very vocal. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he was aggressive, and aggressive in the way he’s playing of getting anything done, and that’s what I really looked for in a jungler. So I thought he was like a perfect fit, especially for our new team.
TRH: When he’s in picks and bans and he’s telling you that he wants to play Rengar or wants to play Mordekaiser, what kind of process is that like? I mean, was it only okay because of those specific situations or does he have a pretty large amount of freedom there?
P1C: There are some champions--but I’m not going to say what champions they are--like, if the situation looks okay, looks good for it, I tell the players beforehand, before we even get onstage, or the night before or day before, like, if the situation looks good, just tell me and we can talk through it and I’ll probably just let you pick it. Like, if a situation looks good for Rengar, I’ll trust you to play Rengar even if we haven’t had a lot of time to scrimmage with it at all. Like with Rengar, Mordekaiser, or even, like, Twitch, we actually barely ever practice in scrims. It’s one of those things, like, I trust those players to be good at it and they’re confident in it so I let them play through and it’s always seemed like a good experience for me to do that.
TRH: So then for next split, what do you think are the big growth points for Phoenix 1? You know you hear a lot of people talking around “well, if Inori was here the whole split, things would’ve looked differently.” Now that you have the whole roster what would you like the team to improve on the most?
P1C: I think right now the way we play is really straightforward, really one kind of style and I really want to expand on that. Like, strategy-wise, as far as split-pushing strategies, team fight, I think we really need to expand on all those areas and get better at them.
TRH: Is that a mechanical thing, a communication thing, or a mix of both?
P1C: I think it’s just, I won’t say it’s mechanical, or communication. It’s just like the way the team likes to play, but I think even though you’re really good at one thing, you still need to understand how to play other styles because in certain games you’ll be put in a situation even if you don’t try to be.
TRH: Speaking of different styles, the playoffs are going to be on the new patch that’s intended to maybe take out lane swaps. What teams do you think are going to be helped the most by that and which ones do you think are going to be hurt?
P1C: I think Immortals will be hit or miss, because I think their bot lane’s not the strongest bot lane of the top six teams, but I think their top and jungle duo is one of the best. So it’s like the bot lane, if their bot lane goes even and Reignover and Huni have a good matchup, I think they can just trade better than they can standard. And I know how Huni wants to play aggressive and starve the top laner when they have a good matchup and on red side I’m sure they’ll just give Huni the best matchup they can. Huni has like one of the biggest champion pools of the LCS so I’m sure he has like tons of counter picks and they can abuse it.
I think Darshan might be another player that can do that. It’s like almost the same situation. I actually think C9’s pretty balanced, like Impact is strong, I think Sneaky’s bot lane’s not bad either. They’re pretty strong; they’re pretty well-rounded. And with Envy I think it’s really hit or miss. Like sometimes I think Seraph can go off, or sometimes I feel like they’re very inconsistent on snowballing one lane.
I think TSM will do pretty well in standard lanes actually. And oh yeah Liquid. I think Liquid can potentially get abused.
TRH: What are your goals right now heading into the spring split? Do you have your eyes on a playoff spot, do you just what to finish better than this split?
P1C: I plan on going to the playoffs. That’s the number one priority, the number one goal, because even going into this split with the roster from week one I felt we would be a playoff team by the end of the split if we had Inori the whole entire time, and we will have that next split so I’m very very looking forward to being a playoff team and that’s our main goal.