Coming into the second week of the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, Brandon "MasH" Phan replaced Jason "WildTurtle" Tran as FlyQuest's starting AD Carry for their matches against TSM and Dignitas. MasH has a storied career, moving in and out of the LCS for nearly a decade, also spending time off, grinding Korean solo queue, and in the OPL.
MasH came back into the scene this Spring, playing for FlyQuest Academy. Though the team didn't have a great record at the end of the season, he showed promise over the off-season, and FLY tried him out in some LCS scrims to test him. Now, he sits with a 14.5 KDA across his two games. There's no promise of him starting for the team long term, but his performance in this re-debut is definitely one that sparks conversation.
Welcome back to the LCS, MasH. What was the win against TSM like compared to your expectation coming into today's match?
We expected that TSM would play Fiddlesticks, but we didn't expect them to still pick it once they picked Syndra. We expected the Syndra to go mid because Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg's a great Syndra, but we had a good draft ready for today. I would say our scrims weren't amazing results-wise, but I personally got a lot from the LCS scrims since I'm coming from FlyQuest Academy. I applied all of what I learned and I'm glad we were able to take the W today.
Did the context surrounding today's match affect your approach to it?
Oh, yeah, for sure. I always focus on myself first. It's always most important to focus on yourself first, but not to an extreme where you put yourself before the team. That's especially true because I'm the new guy coming into the roster. In terms of playing against Yiliang "Peter" "Doublelift" Peng, I respect him. He's a good player, but in terms of his Syndra pick, we definitely thought it was going mid. Bjergsen is one of the best Syndra players in the LCS, so a lot of us did not expect the Syndra bot.
There's no disrespect there, we were just expecting him to take the Aphelios, and then I expected it to be where I would take the Syndra. Turns out TSM valued Syndra a bit more. There's also the external factors of coming into a team that was a finalist in Spring, and that the player I'm subbing in for is a big name like WildTurtle. He's been around for a while and he's a way bigger name than I am.
A lot of people s*** on me for being MasH, like 'He has all these ex-teams...he sucks." Those things came into my head a bit but I didn't let them consume me. At the end of the day, I know myself better than everyone else, and the team decided to play with me. FlyQuest picked me up for the LCS Academy league before this season, so thanks to the organization for giving me its trust.
You may be the new guy on the team, but you've been competitively active even longer than WildTurtle! Did your time on FlyQuest Academy in spring teach you new things despite being a veteran of a near-decade of professional play?
Yeah, my last LCS game was in the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split on Echo Fox, and since then, the offseasons just didn't look good for me most of the time. I've been playing in NA for almost two and a half years since my last LCS game. I thought about retiring, and I also spent some time coaching for TSM Academy with Peter Zhang. Opportunities for playing weren't there, and regardless of where my skill level was, people weren't aware of it.
All they knew was this guy didn't have a good LCS track record, so why would they pick that player up? I kept trying to knock on doors and just never gave up, and here I am on FlyQuest Academy in 2020. I subbed in for a lot of scrims for FlyQuest's LCS squad, and when we won one against Team Liquid, it was a huge shocker for me. No sarcasm there.
You kept persevering and it's looking good for you. But like you said, WildTurtle is a well known name and someone who is closely associated with FlyQuest's most recent era too. So how did the coaches approach the roster swap? Personally, I expected you to pull out a Karthus or something, though of course, you played well on Aphelios. But what was their decision behind the roster move?
For that the process was, I was playing well before Week 1 even started, just with Academy, and then a bit later, they said they wanted me to play in an LCS scrim, so I joined that and it went well. And then I didn't play in another scrim until this week, but they said they'd like to use me for this week. So I was scrimming, we were splitting time, and things just went well. I didn't expect to play LCS within this year. Obviously my goal was to get to LCS, but my whole focus was to just get myself out there in Academy, they'll know I'm working hard, and that next year maybe something would pop up for me.
Yeah it looks like maybe you accelerated that a bit, obviously it's only been one game, but you performed incredibly and now that you've shown that you can play well in LCS, what's your focus going forward week to week, and how has this performance changed the way you are viewing your career trajectory?
I just want to keep playing well, with whatever is thrown at me. Maybe I go back to Academy, or maybe I play another week in LCS, whatever is thrown at me I want to take on the challenge, go through the challenge, and then focus on the next challenge. Whether that's to make Playoffs in the LCS or win Academy or just get in Academy Playoffs. I'm staying level headed. I don't want to take one win and have people say, "MasH is back, he has to start [over WildTurtle]." I don't want it to be like that. I want it to be slow and steady and focused on each step.
That's a mature response! I want to touch back on a video we did with Nick "Inero" Smith back at the end of 2018 where we broke down the off-season in-houses. We ended up featuring you in that video, since he and other players specifically mentioned you as a strong player. Do you feel like there's something you've changed in the last couple years that have benefited you? Or are there changes to the game that have fit more with your playstyle? Because that was year eight in your career and people started looking at you in a new light.
Yeah I mean no one took me seriously after Echo Fox. I think part of the reason why nobody knew how good I was is at that time the team just did internal scrims. There was that frontline/backline thing on Echo Fox, so only people on Echo Fox would know my skill level since we didn't scrim anyone else. And after that, I went to Korea to bootcamp and joined an OPL team. And that didn't go too well, though I enjoyed my time there, but then I took some time off.
I was thinking, "Is League even for me? I don't feel like I'm playing that bad. I'm always high Challenger!" I always told myself if I stop getting mad at losing or if I'm not naturally Challenger, then I'll stop playing the game. But those things never happened. I'm still getting mad when I lose - not to the point of being extremely frustrated or hitting things, just mad that I lost - and I'm not struggling to hit Challenger. Climbing to Challenger has always been an easy thing for me, from Season 1 till now.
And then these in-houses popped up, and I thought it was cool I'd get to play against some Academy players and see where I was comparatively. And I started as an "amateur" or whatever that was one level, it was red. Academy was yellow and LCS was blue. So you only get to play with Academy and unsigned players, and I was considered unsigned. And I was like, "What? Guys I used to play LCS, I should at least be the yellow level."
But Inero told me it was not flame, it was just how their system worked. And I started my game off with a Karthus game, and I just blew them out of the water. And after that, I was getting perma banned from Karthus. It was where if I would get Karthus, it was game over. That's how insane it was at the time when I'd play Karthus. And I didn't even one trick that champ. I just played it because I thought it was a good pick. I saw the Dark Harvest change, and watched some streams, so I played it.
But anyway, I worked my way up, I got promoted to Academy level, and then eventually I got into the LCS level. And I was just destroying everyone with mages, and the meta was these three ADCs, but those ADCs were not even that strong at the time. Everyone was just making fun of bot lane. And I'm just playing every single type of mage I could, and I'd get five mage bans but I'd still pull something else out.
And yeah, I eventually got pulled to the LCS tier of in-houses, but they eventually died down. I'm not sure what happened to those in-houses, I enjoyed them, and I think that was definitely part of my trajectory in getting back in the scene. People recognized that, "Damn, this guy is still good." And I pay a lot of credit to Inero for running them and for telling me to keep trying.
And then I played a bunch of solo queue and chilled for a year, and now here I am. You know, I went from all that, to coaching, then almost got signed to an Academy team, but now this. So I'm glad I'm here after all that time.
Yeah thank you so much for sharing that journey with me. We do kind of have this tendency in NA where when someone doesn't prove themselves to just say, "Oh it's NA, that player is just bad." But I think you stand as a counter argument against that. Are there other players that are veterans who had their shot in LCS/Academy but it didn't work out? People that might be in a similar situation that you were in. Are there other MasHes that we have forgotten about that you think deserve to be at the top level?
Yeah, let me find some names... So the one that comes to mind for me is Matthew "Deftly" Chen. Obviously the Summer hasn't looked that great for them, but I think Deftly moved back down to Academy and he's doing great in Academy now. I'm not sure how long he'll be in Academy, but he's definitely one of those players who is still grinding.
And as well, I also worked with Brandon "Brandini" Chen who was on Echo Fox at the time, and it was a similar situation with no external scrims, but he was able to land himself on a team, and now he's grinding hard. And the time he played LCS, he looked pretty good, but he still hasn't really had a shot. And funny enough, most of EG Academy are players I'd mention. They're former LCS. Andy "AnDa" Hoang is one of them, Matthew "Matt" Elento is one of them. Yeah, there are a lot, but EG is just a good example with so many veterans on the team.
Thank you so much for your time MasH, anything you want to say to FlyQuest fans after this win over TSM?
Yeah to the FlyQuest fans who are unsure of me, I totally understand the situation. You guys might just be like, "Man, this guy is s***." And I totally understand! I'm from a losing background, and maybe I get too many chances and I sucked. But thank you for being FlyQuest fans. Hopefully I changed some minds, and hopefully I keep playing well for you guys, and I hope you cheer me on.
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