Robin “Robinsongz” Sung entered the TeamFight Tactics Reckoning North American Regional Finals with one goal in mind: to make it to Worlds. The same could be said about every other competitor, but Robinsongz was specifically determined to do whatever it took to finally achieve that goal.
The decision to quit his job and go pro, all the preparation, the self-improvement and his poor performance in the last two seasons’ top eight finals came down to those last six games back on September 5 as he sat alone in his bedroom, focused. Since the top three players among the final eight would qualify to Worlds, Robinsongz just needed to have one good day.
He decided to have a historic day instead.
The TFT Reckoning Regional Finals consisted of two days of play and featured the top 16 players in North America. The tournament was the final stop for NA competitors before the TFT Reckoning Championships. That’s where the 20 best players from around the world will compete for a $250,000 prize pool during the first weekend of October. Robin did everything he could to be one of those players.
After a poor start in the six games during Day 1, Robinsongz managed to barely avoid being eliminated as one of the bottom eight players. But since Day 2 came with a clean slate, Robinsongz knew he couldn’t waste this second chance. And he didn’t waste it.
After the first three games, Robinsongz had three first-place finishes. Halfway through the finals, Robinsongz had already accomplished something that has only been seen a couple of times before: winning three straight games in a TFT final. Just three games in, Robinsongz virtually clinched his spot at Worlds. But with his Twitch chat celebrating his Worlds lock, Robinsongz silenced them with three words.
“Job’s not finished.”
Hey DJ (play that comp)
Robinsongz was born in Los Angeles on March 15 1992. Shortly after, his family moved to Taiwan. He spent the first few years of his life there before returning back to LA, where he would stay until he graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Economics. Afterward, Robinsongz found himself lost with no real passion. Trying to find something he wanted to do with his life, Robinsongz moved back to Taiwan, and it was there he found something he enjoyed doing: being a DJ. It was fun, but Robinsongz said he knew he needed something more stable. And after a two year stint in Taiwan that ended in 2016, Robinsongz moved back to the States and landed a job at iBuyPower, a gaming computer company. Soon after that, a friend told him about Riot Games’ newest title, TFT.
Robinsongz has always shown interest in competitive gaming. He started playing League of Legends during Season 2 and peaked in high-Diamond, but he never saw the game as a career path. He just played as a hobby.
But when Riot released TFT back in July of 2019, the game immediately had an impact on the esports scene and Robinsongz. Players rushed to be among the first to reach the game’s highest rank, and he was no different. He improved quickly and ended up at the highest tier, Challenger, by the end of the first season.
After that, he stagnated until the set’s third expansion, Galaxies, which launched in March of 2020. Then, armed with extra time to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinsongz achieved infamy with the Mech-Pilot Infiltrator composition. When the comp was assembled, three champions combined to form a giant, powerful, mechanized Garen. It was an absolute menace on the ranked ladder, and Robinsongz proved he was one of the best players of the composition when he reached rank 1 in NA.
Then Robinsongz qualified for the first-ever North American Regional Finals after placing in the top two of the Team Liquid Galaxies Qualifier, despite still working full-time at iBuyPower. But after a disappointing finish at the Regionals, he knew something had to give, whether that be his work outside TFT or in it.
Leap of Fate
Robinsongz’ daily schedule started off with waking up early in the morning to commute to his job at iBuyPower. He worked there from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Immediately after work, Robinsongz would rush home, shower, eat and then it was time to stream. Robin typically streamed from 8 p.m. to at least midnight, often going to one or two in the morning. Robinsongz’ exhaustion was catching up to him and he said his job at iBuyPower wasn’t one he anticipated having for long.
“I was just a random person, I was super disposable. There was no potential there,” Robinsongz said. “I liked streaming very much and I felt not going full-time was seriously hindering my TFT performance. So, I took a leap of faith and quit.”
It was a risk to quit his job in the middle of the TFT: Fates season, but he had the support of his Twitch community and his girlfriend, Ivy Wang. While she didn’t understand what TFT was before they started dating, around the time Galaxies dropped, she started to accept the idea of him leaving his stable job to go pro.
“I was comfortable with the decision because he wasn’t happy at his job,” Wang said. “He was always so exhausted. It wasn’t fun.”
Golden Spatula winner for Breakout Player, time to add this to my LinkedIn pic.twitter.com/bxMO58c8G6
— robinsongz (@robinsongz) January 14, 2021
Focusing on TFT helped Robinsongz win the second NA Qualifier. This win gave him a spot at his second-straight NA Regional Final. But just like his first season, Robinsongz made it to the top eight before ending his season with disappointment.
But with his stream and play consistently improving, esports organization Team Liquid decided to bring him on board. At first, Wang didn’t understand why signing with the organization was a big deal.
“I thought it was weird,” Wang said. “He explained it to me like physical sports but instead of basketball or soccer, it’s video games. But I was pretty excited when he got signed to Team Liquid. It’s like Kobe getting signed with the Lakers, right?”
Despite having consistent success and being picked up by Team Liquid, many high-ranked players in the community still didn’t think much of the former Mech-Pilot one trick. Many of the game’s top players saw Robinsongz as a non-threat due to his reputation of only being able to play one specific comp. During the weekly Teamfight Talkshow podcast, where top players were regularly brought on to make top 10 lists, Robinsongz was often left off completely.
When I was on Teamfight Talkshow during the tail end of Set 5, @GiantSlayerTFT (again tysm for having me on) asked me to make a tier list of the top ten players in NA. Felt a need to update it
Still can’t believe the first one was missing robin entirely monkaS pic.twitter.com/lTc4RPHfiO
— jirachy 🥰 🏳️⚧️ (@theJirachy) September 28, 2021
“I feel like people were severely underrating me,” Robinsongz said. “It made sense back in Set 3, but even in Set 4, people were still leaving me off lists.”
As the TFT: Fates season rolled on, Robinsongz thought maybe other top players were ignoring the tournament results and just catching his gameplay on his stream, where his performance is affected by the relaxed atmosphere and his knack for experimenting. Regardless, heading into TFT: Reckoning, Robinsongz had already started to prove he was one of the premier tournament players in the NA.
The difference between a top TFT player and someone stuck in the middle of the ranked ladder mostly comes down to flexibility. Being able to play many comps and adjust between sets and in games is important. In tournament play, especially, this is an important trait. But Robin ironically thinks that to play flexibly one should actually one trick.
“If I want to learn a comp, I will one-trick that comp until I’m an expert at it,” Robinsongz said. “For example, I wanted to learn how to play Karma, so I played Karma for 20 games in a row, learned the ins and outs and moved on to the next comp.”
Robinsongz repeats this process until he is an expert at every meta comp in the game. And even if other players saw this side of Robinsongz as fitting of a weak competitor, Robinsongz was used to having a chip on his shoulder. But he also mentioned he didn’t use the hate as motivation.
“Most of my motivation is that I want to be the best that I can be,” he said. “I don’t care about proving other people wrong. I want to go to Worlds. That’s my motivation.”
Robinsongz echoed the words of the late NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, who was Robinsongz’s idol growing up in Los Angeles. Robin had long since tried channeling Kobe’s famous “Mamba Mentality,” which means always trying to be the best one can be.
“Kobe was one of my heroes growing up, but I never really got to apply Mamba Mentality into anything or any of his teachings,” Robinsongz said. “I felt like playing TFT was the only time where I felt like a professional athlete and I needed to perform.”
And like an athlete, Robinsongz said many players are skipping the out-of-game prep when it comes to tournaments, and that he thinks that’s where he gains an edge.
“I don’t know what other players are doing, but I take tournaments very seriously,” Robinsongz said. “I make sure I get a good night’s sleep, I make sure to eat well, get some fresh air, and even meditate a little — put you in a Zen mode.”
Not one, Not two, Not three…
Robinsongz appeared to be in peak form as his trip to his third straight trip to the NA Regional Finals approached fast. He placed inside the top 4 of every tournament he played in during the TFT: Reckoning season. That included a first-place finish at the Giant Slayer Series 3 event, the last tournament before the NA Regional Finals.
And considering his monster performance during the NA Regional Finals, his prep paid off. His trained mind and body helped him hang on to eighth place on Day 1 getting into Day 2 on a clutch third-place finish in the last game of the day. Also, his one-trick practice regiment helped him baffle spectators with repeated wins on Day 2. While the experts were shocked, one of his longtime mods, Anthony “Flightzy” Zhang Liu, said Robinsongz’s Twitch chat was ecstatic.
“Everyone was losing their minds because you’ve never really seen that before,” Flightzy said.
After repeating the “job’s not finished” line to his chat, Robinsongz did not take a break. He pulled off two additional wins in the final three games, including the last game of the finals. In doing so, Robinsongz accomplished something that has never been done before in the history of TFT: an astounding five wins in six games.
Not only did Robinsongz do something that could never be done ever again, he did it at one of the most stacked events of all time. And arguably, more importantly, he did it in what is considered a very diverse metagame, prime for skill expression and flexible play. Robinsongz showcased his flex talents by playing five different compositions in the six game series.
But after a brief celebration, Robinsongz was back to work. As he said, the job was not finished. Despite the historic performance in the NA Regional Finals, he hopped right back on stream, to dissect his gameplay and to show everyone even the champion is not perfect.
“He’s just trying to perfect his gameplay,” Flightzy said.
Wang knew Robinsongz had the mentality of a champion. But she is still trying to process Robinsongz actually being one.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Wang said. “I always knew he could do it, but it’s crazy to have realized this man is totally and fully capable of achieving this dream.”
Robinsongz enters Worlds as one of the favorites to win the event, something historically new for him. Despite this, Robin is not phased by the expectations others have of him.
“Pressure affected how I played in earlier sets, but I don’t have that much pressure now because I’ve been playing for so long,” Robinsongz said. “I already made it to Worlds. Even if I get dead last, I should be proud of already making it this far. I’m just going to do the best I can, and whatever happens, happens.”