FunPlus Phoenix advanced to the grand finals of 2019 League of Legends World Championship, beating Invictus Gaming 3-1 in one banger of a semifinal. Between back-and-forth moments, dramatic base races, and the second bloodiest game in Worlds history, jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang stood out as the most impactful player on his roster, even taking the MVP trophy for the series.
In a post-match interview, Tian talked about how he didn’t even think FPX would go that far, discussed his exemplary Qiyana play, and picked his favorite opponent for the grand final between SKT and G2.
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This is actually your first time playing at Worlds. Have you ever thought you could go this far and qualify for the Finals?
After the first day of the group stage when we lost to J Team, I actually thought we wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs. However, we made very effective adjustments and we got here. So I think it’s worth it, whether it’s expected or not.
You met iG today, with whom you are familiar friends and opponents. Did you think the series was going to be that intense and bloody?
Honestly, I was really very nervous during the first 2 games, but later I started feeling more comfortable and I did better. Since iG are from the LPL as well, we are familiar with them and they with us. Today, we both stuck to our own styles, and I think we did better.
During the first two games, there were fights all over mid, while in later games they were all over the map. How did you find your own pace in these fights against iG?
I think it’s also part of our team’s style. We actually have a similar style to iG: very aggressive, and neither of us want to give up resources, which is why all four games today were very intense.
You played Qiyana very well, and you also had great coordination with Doinb. But you didn’t seem to have a smooth start, with a 0-3 at the beginning. How did you find the chance to reverse the situation for yourself?
There’s no excuse for this. There was some problems at the beginning, and I was nervous. But later I did better in teamfights. Qiyana has great ultimate, and it’s convenient for me to initiate on the backline.
In the third game, your Qiyana was always initiating on the backline and focusing on the carries. How did you find the perfect spots beyond the enemies’ vision?
In several fights, I felt I was fed and I could even kill Jayce on my own. That was what kept me initiating on the backline. I wasn’t even afraid of confronting them directly either.
In the fourth game, we could see that at level 1, Ning intended to start at your red buff, but you already knew he was there. How did you handle it?
We did better than them during the level 1 teamfight. I knew that Olaf would definitely start at our red buff at level 1, and this was also what I told my teammates. So I asked Tahm Kench to help me guard it and asked them to let the bot play the sacrificial role. There was no other way.
Also in the fourth game, you almost had an outplay moment, avoiding the last damages from the second turret by getting into stasis then getting away with a little HP. But why did you hit the camp after that and even harass TheShy?
At the moment, I just thought he was TheShy, so he must want to kill me. Therefore, I hit the camp to draw his attention, then I just got myself into trouble.
So before the teamfight at the Baron, you were also trying to draw TheShy’s attention?
At the moment, the mid wanted to go back, but iG just rushed up there, so we just fought back.
Out of all best-of-5 games at Worlds so far, do you think the most unforgettable game will be one of the four you played today?
Yes, I think it will be the fourth game today. It was really intense. We were winning at the beginning, then threw it, and had to fight back later.
Tomorrow, your final opponent of Worlds 2019 will be decided. Which team do you want to play against, SKT or G2?
G2, because Europe is the home venue to LEC, and when the Finals end, I hope the crowd will be screaming “FunPlus Phoenix”.