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IW HolyPhoenix: “I think we will see more players from Turkey play in LEC and LCS in the future”

The Mid-Season Invitational 2021 has not been an easy ride for the Turkish faithful, with the TCL champions Istanbul Wildcats bowing out of the tournament with a score of 1-5 in Group C.

It’s been bittersweet since they returned home early but earned a valuable victory against the MAD Lions. We spoke to the veteran botlaner of the Wildcats, Anıl “HolyPhoenix” Işık, about their struggles throughout MSI, what he’s learnt and his thoughts on the future of Turkish talent.

Thank you very much for doing this interview. It’s very gracious of you to do it after your last game. I’m not going to beat around the bush, the Istanbul Wildcats has had quite a difficult time at MSI. Let’s start with the last game against PaiN Gaming, it was a game that really didn’t matter but even after the game, you look quite devastated on camera. What was the game like for you and how are you feeling after it?

HolyPhoenix: I mean, I’m an ambitious guy. So even though the game doesn’t mean anything at all, I still care very much about winning. I really wanted to beat Brazil beause they were also the first team we lost against and winning that game would even things out. Like I was so sad after losing, I just felt like I wanted to go home. Even though we didn’t get out of groups, if we won we would fly home feeling a little bit better.

I was so sad but now I’m feeling better, but still feeling mostly empty inside. I wanted to do much better in MSI and exit groups, and play against some of the best teams in the world. We couldn’t do that so…it was not the greatest international tournament for me.

Regarding the run for the Istanbul Wildcats, it definitely has not been the ideal tournament, especially since the expectations from Worlds 2020 with SuperMassive Esports almost making the Main Event. What were your expectations coming into the MSI, and were your expectations for the teams you faced met, or were they better than expected?

HolyPhoenix: Our expectations were to at least get out of groups and then look for one, maybe two wins against some of the best teams in the world, and I think that would be alright with us. I think we had the potential for that, but I think both PSG and MAD Lions are really good teams and they deserve to advance to the Rumble Stage.

Winning against the MAD Lions of course felt really good, since they are the LEC champions and they are a great team. Against PSG Talon, we could also win and it was a really close match actually. They are also a great team, maybe an even better team than the MAD Lions. It was a really close game and up until the end, I felt like we still could’ve won it. It was a decent tournament I guess for us in that regard, but the results were a little disappointing.

As you mentioned, some of the games were close and you also defeated the MAD Lions. You showed that the Istanbul Wildcats could compete with the MSI teams, and many of those games were decided on single moments. What were the biggest issues for you guys as a team? Was it communication, the meta or something else?

HolyPhoenix: I mean, the meta change probably affected us slightly. If you noticed, we just banned Morgana and Rumble every game, so yeah. After three losses, we just said to ourselves: “Okay, this patch is not working for us. Let’s go back to the old patch”. So we just banned those champions and everything went back to normal. So we tried playing back like on the old patch, that’s how we tried to do it. I think it was better.We felt more comfortable on those champion picks.

But I think our biggest issue was mentally. We are actually not a team that’s really used to losing, because in the TCL we played much better than MSI. Now coming here to Iceland, we played against much better teams so there is more stress since we are also representing the TCL. So many people are watching you.

I think our mental state and the inexperience of the international stage were our biggest issues. Except me, it was their first international tournament for the other four members. I think it’s part of it. For communication, after these things being factored in, communication does not go smoothly in-game and so forth.

After the MAD Lions game, we actually came back really well actually and we were quite prepared mentally from my perspective. But the third game, the one against PaiN, it was the result of these two games: We couldn’t get out of groups, we were so close to winning against PSG, we just didn’t handle it well mentally and you could actually see it in-game.

I get where you’re coming from. Speaking of that, when you said that when you beat the MAD Lions, what was the team atmosphere like in general before you beat them because it’s like in the first Round Robin, you were 0-3 when you could have been maybe 1-2 or 2-1. Was everyone just very stressed with themselves? What was it like?

HolyPhoenix: For the first three games, we almost won against the MAD Lions too, and I thought that we could win but against PaiN Gaming, we just threw the game really hard.

And the third game, it was a mental game as well. Against PSG, like in the early game, some of our plans didn’t go accordingly. We then gave them a lead and stopped playing as a team. PSG just carried on and snowballed the game to a win because we didn’t play as a team. Maybe we could’ve came back into the game and fought more, but we thought it didn’t matter too much since we had a one day break before the second Round Robin.

I think everyone was mentally alright and we were saying that we will win the next three games and make it 3-3, and our team will get out of groups that way. That’s the state we arrived in before the games, and after we defeated the MAD Lions we all believed in our run out of groups even more. But at least we fought more and played as a team on the final day.

Even though you’re out of MSI, I’m pretty sure the Wildcats have had a lot of valuable experiences playing in Iceland as well as scrimming many teams here. What would you say was your biggest takeaway and lessons from MSI?

HolyPhoenix: For me, I think for the laning phase I may have learned something from scrimming against the best teams in the world, especially for my role as the team’s botlaner. I learned some things and picked up a couple of tricks. And for us to beat MAD Lions, I think it also shows that the TCL teams can defeat the LEC teams too. It just gives hope to the whole region that we are able to achieve really good things in the near future.

Personally for me as well, I think this was just the start. I want to go to Worlds and do much better than I did in this MSI, and make sure that I perform much better. This is my goal for the near future.

Last question, you mentioned that the TCL teams can defeat LEC teams with you guys defeating MAD Lions. In your opinion, since we see Armut winning the LEC from the TCL, do you think that the TCL players tend to be overlooked by the bigger leagues? Are there a lot of good players in TCL that could make LEC?

HolyPhoenix: I mean, I think Europe (LEC) sees the TCL as a really weak region with really weak players. I have been playing for 10 years and I think they always seem to view the TCL as such. But with players like Armut, BrokenBlade and Clozer, I think this opinion is starting to change. And maybe with our win against MAD Lions too, this opinion will be changing even more rapidly.

I think we will see more players from Turkey play in Europe (LEC) and North America (LCS) in the future. But at the same time, I hope some of these players will stay on in TCL to help it become a better region. This is my dream, let’s say, that I hope for a better TCL. But yeah, I think for the future, you will see more players from Turkey making it to the bigger stages and leagues.

Thank you for the interview, HolyPhoenix!

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