After today, the 2022 League of Legends World Championship comes to an end for İstanbul Wildcats. The Turkish champions bit the dust on Day 3 against Royal Never Give Up in the Play-In Stage and dropped to an 0-4 score, making it impossible to reach the next phase of the tournament. Tenured bot laner Anıl “HolyPhoenix” Işık wasn’t too fuzzed about his team’s elimination. He acknowledged the difficulty of his Play-In group and thought that the Wildcats actually held up decently in the games.
At the end of Worlds 2022 Day 3, HolyPhoenix spoke to Em Dash about being eliminated from Worlds, what the tournament still offers him after a ten-year career, and he evaluated the state of the TCL and other smaller leagues.
Elimination from Worlds 2022
Welcome, HolyPhoenix. You’ve unfortunately been eliminated after losing to RNG. But, I will say, you guys brought some fun and spice with the Garen top, and there was a moment where it seemed like you could climb back into the game. How did you head into the game?
We knew that, if we just play ordinary picks, we wouldn’t be able to beat them. So, we had to get our comfort and cheesy picks. For me, that is Samira, and it’s Garen for the top lane. I think it went quite well. Especially the Garen pick was a surprise for them, I think. That’s why we could ace them and why the game lasted for more than thirty minutes, I think. Maybe we could win another fight if they didn’t have the soul and our three inhibitors weren’t open. I think it was a pretty close game.
“When I sit on the chair to play the game, I always think: “We need to win. We can win.””
It’s very important to keep the team morale high when your back is against the wall. How was that for İstanbul Wildcats?
Yeah, I think there is no tilt, there are no negative emotions usually. We didn’t play that badly, you know? Maybe we lost all the games, but we always looked to fight. We always had a chance to win. It wasn’t like any game was a stomp. Even against RNG. I think we just keep the positive mentality and if we just get a win against Isurus I think it’s not horrible for the TCL. Our opponents were all really good teams. DRX, RNG, MAD Lions, Saigon Buffalo… So, we have zero wins, but we fought and I don’t think we looked like a trash team.
You did have quite a rough group, yeah. [Laughs] You’ve been at the international stage before, but what was your reaction when you saw your Play-In Stage group being drawn?
[Laughs] Well, I think year by year it gets harder for wildcard teams to through Play-Ins. The format is pretty hard. We have to play against RNG and DRX. In other years, like last year, it wasn’t that hard. So, I didn’t feel sad or anything. We just came here to do our best and see what happens. I wasn’t like “Oh, look at this group, we can’t get out” you know? When I sit on the chair to play the game, I always think: “We need to win. We can win.”
That’s the right mindset to have, right? Why even play the game if you think there’s no chance of winning at all?
What Worlds still offers a veteran
At this point in your career, when you’ve been around for so long, what does Worlds still mean to you?
The first goal when we all come here is to get out of the Play-Ins, of course. Loss by loss, the goals change. First, it was getting out of Play-Ins, then it was winning against Saigon and Isurus to maybe get a best-of-five against MAD Lions. Now, the goal is to win against Isurus. The goal is always changing. We look for what we can do. The first two goals didn’t happen, so now we’re looking at the third goal.
This is my second Worlds. The other one was in 2014. There was a wildcard tournament back then and it was kind of easier. We had to play against Russian, Brazilian, and Japanese teams. Now, when I come here, we play against DRX and RNG. It’s pretty hard. [Laughs] But we set our goals day by day.
“I’m happy with who I have become, but I feel like I still have things to do in the future.”
If you look back at yourself as a player in 2014 and compare it to the player you are now, you must have grown into a very different player, right?
Yeah. [Laughs] In some ways, yes. The aggressiveness is still there I think. My playstyle. But as a person, I think I have changed completely. My personality has grown so much. I became a leader year by year with the experience I got. I’m happy with who I have become, but I feel like I still have things to do in the future.
Yeah! You still have to get out of the Play-Ins man. [Laughs] Can’t stop before you get out of the Play-Ins, right?
Yep! [Laughs] Next year!
Why the TCL struggles compared to Brazil and Vietnam
Looping back to something you said earlier about Play-Ins getting more difficult every year: how do you feel about the strength of other wildcard regions?
I think Brazilian and Vietnamese teams actually improved a lot. I think the TCL kind of stayed the same these years. We got out of Play-Ins in 2014 but the format was easier. The same in 2017 with Fenerbahçe. But the TCL is keeping a similar level. Sometimes it’s a bit better, sometimes it’s a bit worse. From what I could see, Brazil and Vietnam improved a lot compared to other years.
“Brazil and Vietnam improved a lot compared to other years.”
Why do you think the TCL is staying at the same level?
The biggest reason, I think, is because of the economy. We used to easily get foreign players. Now, with economic reasons, it’s hard for teams to get good foreign players. We had SnowFlower, Wolf, even Malrang played in the TCL. A lot of good players played in the league. It’s harder for teams to get thee players now. So, it’s just economic reasons, to be honest.
To round up, HolyPhoenix, do you have any words for the fans?
Thanks for all the support from TCL and international fans. I actually a lot of foreign fans each year. So, keep supporting us, and you will see more of us in the future. I love you guys.