"A random fan has sit down on the Liquid side," I posted on social media in all caps during the intermission between games two and three in the quarterfinal series between Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming. The back-to-back defending champions were on match point after going up a quick 2-0 in the series, and Liquid, on the edge of being eliminated from the North American League Championship Series summer split, pulled the trigger on a substitution that no one -- not even the player himself -- saw coming.
Jovani "Fabbbyyy" Guillen, failing to make a positive difference in the first two games, was traded out for Phil "Jynthe" Vu. At first, when the announcement was made on broadcast, I thought it was a mistake. Did they actually mean Jhin, like the in-game marksmen?
"They told us Jynthe, and we thought it was Jintae the old school player," CLG captain Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black said. "Then we took two to three minutes figuring out who the hell this guy was, Jynthe. We had no idea. He came out of nowhere. And going into the game, we were like, 'Alright, what if this guy is a world champion AD carry player? We're just going to get screwed over.'"
"I'm Phil Vu," revealed the mystery man himself, not actually former professional Justin "Jintae" Dinh, the champion Jhin, or former world champion Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin under a mask. "I'm 18 and from San Diego. [I'm] currently in college [at] San Marcos."
A bit shy doing his first interview, Jynthe was the complete opposite on Summoner's Rift, jumping forward in his debut match to try and pick up a kill against CLG's championship bottom lane. His excitement got the best of him and death awaited him as he sprung ahead, giving CLG the first blood gold in a must-win game for Liquid. After his first hiccup in the bot-lane, however, the 18-year-old rookie turned it around, getting help from jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett to pick up his first kill as a pro and snowball from there.
"A week before [the] playoff match, I came into the house and worked with the team," he said. "It was primarily Fabbbyyy [scrimming with the team]. I actually only played like three games with them."
Although thrown into the frying pan of a series on the brink of extinction, Jynthe, with a helping hand from his teammates, was able to have one of the more successful debut games in League of Legends history. He finished with a 7/2/6 scoreline on Ashe, only dying once after giving up first blood, and was a key ingredient to Liquid's first (and only) win of the summer playoffs.
"I was pretty surprised," he said, still reeling at what just occurred during the past two hours. "I thought it was kinda risky just putting me in with no experience, and especially since it's my first time on stage."
Nerves got to him in the first game, yet he pulled through. In the second game where he had them settled, things didn't go his team's way. Dardoch's ganks that worked for them in game three of the series were backfires in game four, and the snowball that went the way of TL before was now rolling down the hill for the reigning champion. Jynthe didn't back down, though, and kept plugging away, trying to make plays to no avail in a blowout series and season ender for Liquid, with the tossed in rookie failing to pick up a single kill. He ended his season in only two games, and his scoreline of 0/4/1 dampened the excitement around his fantastic opening performance.
"I prefer the utility, consistent, DPS kind of play," he said. "I don't consider myself a hyper carry, but I can dish out the damage for my team and hit champions that'll enable them, as well."
Aphromoo, who didn't know who Jynthe was when he stepped onto the stage, still spoke highly of the rookie after the fact he had a disappointing game two. He praised the young player for having the confidence to try and attempt plays while it seemed like a majority of his team felt stagnant in attack. All in all, it was a disappointing day for Liquid, but a possible beginning for a player that has bounced around the amateur scene since the early days of League of Legends.
A computer science major, Jynthe still wants to make his dream of being a pro-gamer a reality if the chance is available. While two games does not make a career, everyone has to start somewhere, and there are worse ways to take your first steps. From uncertainty to victory and then finally elimination, it's a day he'll never forget.