Philip “Philip” Zeng’s professional career in League of Legends happened on a whim.
Before joining FlyQuest, he was a student at the University of British Columbia and struggled to find something he was passionate about.
“Right before it started I was struggling in college and didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Philip said. “But something I was really passionate about was the League. I always played the game and ground it.
That hard work paid off when he was discovered by FlyQuest assistant coach Richard “Phantiks” Su, who saw the potential in the top laner.
“Phantiks is the one who saw the potential in me and he recommended I give it a try. Our relationship is quite close because we often test matchups against each other and he will applaud me,” Philip said in laughing. “It’s really good to have him as a coach and mentor to help me with parts of the game that I hadn’t thought of.”
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Phantiks told the truth about the weaknesses he saw in Philip’s play. He noted the lack of knowledge for the game and the basics of laning that LCS players do seamlessly.
“Before I turned pro, I would say my style of play was like a draw,” Philip said. “I wasn’t doing that much CS back then, but Phantiks told me the importance of having a high CS, especially in a competitive game. You would never see someone with less than 10 CS. When I I started out fighting people all the time, I didn’t know the long term effects of it all.
Yet even with those flaws, there was something special and unique about the way he handled mistakes that set Philip apart from other top laners at his level.
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“Philip was definitely a double-edged sword when I first laid eyes on him in the solo queue,” Phantiks said. “He made questionable decisions and got himself into awkward situations, but the way he got through them was unique. He approaches skirmishes with a creative mindset that really caught my attention.
“He was a short-term idea for our Academy team when we moved [Eric “Licorice” Ritchie] at the end of last year,” chief executive Nick Phan said. “It was difficult to assess him because he didn’t have a lot of experience at all. We chose to take the risk of working longer with him at the Academy where he was able to discover himself as a player through the Academy and then the Korean bootcamp.
Initially a short-term fix to fill a void on FlyQuest Academy, Philip quickly made an impression, quickly progressing through the system and eventually taking a major leap.
Photo credit: Tina Jo / Riot Games via ESPAT
A promotion that shocked more than one
After a tough 2021 season when the organization missed the spring and summer playoffs, FlyQuest bounced back in 2022 with a rebuilt roster that saw the team finish fifth in the spring. When the team made changes this summer to promote Philipw, many questions arose regarding their new top laner’s move to the LCS, especially when the team honestly shared that they had no expectations. .
“I think there was a misperception by a lot of people in the community. Many actors and different personalities approached us at the beginning when we announced the upcoming exchange this summer, and our response was that we didn’t have high expectations,” Phan said. “We just wanted people to know that it can take a while to adjust to the LCS.”
Yet even with this adjustment period, FlyQuest had faith in Philip to experience major growth in the LCS and make the team even better because of the spark he could provide the team.
“This roster had a specific need, and I think Philip fills that with his hunger and work ethic,” Phan said. “The risk didn’t seem as crazy to us as it did to outsiders. The holes we saw in his game made it look like they would progress much faster at the LCS level than at the Academy.
Take your first steps as an LCS top laner
No feeling is more exciting for an aspiring professional League of Legends player in North America than taking their first steps on the LCS stage. For Philip, it was a moment that sparked the realization that his hard work had paid off.
He remembers the initial excitement of learning he had been promoted to the main team, his hands shaking with a mixture of impatience and nervousness. He remembers the surge of motivation that immediately kicked in when he started watching VODs on repeat before immediately jumping into single-player queue games to try out new things he learned.
“Right now I just wanted to do everything in my power to get better at the game,” Philip said. “In my free time I was trying to get smarter about the game. It was a lot of pressure, but when I won that first game it was validation for the work I had done.
He noticed the crowd chants bleeding through his noise canceling headphones. He felt the vibes of the stage that ignited his motivation to continue growing as a professional and to continue having moments like this for the rest of his career.
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Phan praises Philip’s level of concentration.
“He takes being a professional very seriously, which you won’t get much when you see him hanging out with friends,” Phan said. “But I like that duality with him because it’s hard to predict. I think his hunger and dedication to his craft is something that really brings this team together.
When asked to describe Philip, Phan immediately called him “an enigma”. He discussed the duality of his young top laner with wonder, noting his ability to go from “awkward” to “thoughtful and intentional”.
“We have Aphromoo. We also have Josedeodo, Johnsun and Toucouille who can hold the team together, but I think Philip keeps us level in many cases,” Phan said. “All the players want to play with him, and it’s the right decision to have him in our team.”
Philip replaced Colin “Kumo” Zhao in FlyQuest’s starting lineup. Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
Moving forward with FlyQuest
Currently, FlyQuest is 7-6 in the LCS Summer Split and holds a solid sixth-place position. For Philip, his progress has been seen on the outside, and he feels it on the inside as he has honed his own style of play with the qualities that made him stand out from the start.
“I didn’t believe in my abilities to compete with the best of the best at first,” Philip said. “I felt my opponents didn’t really respect me, so I started using that as a strength and doing a lot of things they didn’t expect.”
He detailed his unorthodox approach to the game – all the random wanderings with the height of knowledge that could change the course of the game. So far, he admits it hasn’t been so successful.
“It didn’t work out, straight away,” Philip started laughing at the incredible failure before continuing. “But one day something like this will work and it’s going to be really great. I’m not afraid of making mistakes if it means that in the future it can change the game in a positive way.
Being an everyday LCS top laner these days has been about making adjustments on the fly, where his biggest thing has been capitalizing on his strengths as a player while working on his weaknesses.
“I’ve been working on being more calculated with that aggression these days with the help of my teammates,” Philip said. “Still, I think playing crazy games that can feel really bad isn’t always bad as long as you get the most out of them.”
Constructive criticism has been something that has only made Philip stronger, as he adapts to the curve balls thrown his way as he transitions from laning against Academy talents to LCS pros.
“I always thought my ability to play at that level was there, but I couldn’t always channel that,” Philip said. “Now I feel like I’m improving a lot in that area. The progress I’m making is huge and I feel like I’m adapting to the LCS.
This mentality is what makes Phantiks optimistic about Philip’s future.
“Although he was thrown into the LCS on short notice, he took my feedback to heart and improved at a steady rate,” Phantiks said. “I’m excited to be a part of its growth and what’s yet to come.”
Main photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT