After their first loss of the weekend to Team Liquid, I spoke to Cloud9’s Head Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu about the recent dip in performance, transition in the top lane, and Dark Elementalist Lux cosplay.
Miles Yim: Tough loss against Team Liquid today. You had a strong early game with the red buff invade and four quick kills for [Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen]. Why didn’t that early game success translate later in the game?
Reapered: Recently, we are trying snowball team comps, but it didn’t really work on stage. In scrims, it looked pretty good, but it’s hard to transfer on stage. I guess that’s the issue for our team right now…We had a Thresh, Varus, Olaf, super strong early-mid game. So we had to do something, and make some players hasty. Then, if they make mistakes in the early game, then you know, [bad game]. Pretty much, that’s it.
Why did you decide to draft a snowball comp against Liquid? Was it something you saw in scrims?
I don’t know. Because of the scrim result, and because of the meta, snowball team comps are pretty good right now in scrims. Every region is trying snowball team comps. LCK is trying to blind Fiora for some reason. Xin Zhao is popping off in the LPL. In this meta, you can do anything you want if you can snowball because the Baron is super strong, dragons are super strong. Even if you’re an early game team comp, if you have two Elder Dragons, you’re good to go. This makes a different meta from the past. I guess it’s a little bit difficult if you pick a snowball team comp against a teamfight comp. If you fuck up once, then [bad game].
Did the Jhin pick by [Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng] surprise you at all? We haven’t seen a lot of Jhin lately, even with the recent buffs.
I was surprised. I saw Jhin a few times in our scrim games, but I don’t know. Because of the Jhin pick, we can snowball super hard. Even if they have a Tahm Kench, we have a Varus/Thresh, we have pressure, and Jhin’s early game is pretty horrible without an aggressive support. Also, we had planned to go invade too, so I thought it was pretty good for us.
Jhin is definitely back in the meta. He has a super long engage. What TL did with Orrn and Jhin together, you cannot avoid the engage. Or the classic team comp: Rumble-Jhin, something like that. So he’s definitely back in the meta. You saw Darius top too, right? Right now, you don’t need to care about tanks if your top laner has some good counterpick. “Oh, they have a Jhin? I’m locking in a tank. Oh, we have a Darius. Hello.” [Laughs]
But in this game specifically, where was the breakdown? Why couldn’t you snowball off that staggering early game from Sven?
First, we were too hasty, because we wanted to snowball fast. Second, our team comp was a little bit awful too. We are pretty good at snowball, but if you put it together with a teamfight after you fucked up the snowball, then it looks pretty awful. I definitely think our pick/ban was fucked up in the first round. I’m thinking I want to put something super hardcore to snowball with the Azir next time.
Cloud9 went 8-1 through the first round robin, but are 3-5 since [Note: C9 finished the second round robin 4-7, tiebreakers included]. Can you explain the dip in performance? Is it just an emphasis on trying different team comps, or something more?
It’s not only team comps things. I’ve been coaching this team four splits in a row. We are pretty bad at some creative things. We are pretty good at team fight or sustain, but we definitely have to improve the creative things, or snowball. C9, if they have strong teamfight team comp, they have a strong chance to win, you know? I want to improve on other team comps with creative things.
What does creativity in team comps mean to you?
Something like, I remember our Shen game last week. We didn’t use our Shen ult for 14 minutes in a row after the first dive bottom. “Oh, we have a Shen ult. Alright, we have a Sum advantage. Alright…let’s whatever. Yeah we have an advantage, yeah whatever.” You don’t create some situation. Shen ult is good, but what? If you’re in game, with a Sum advantage, you have to look to use your advantage.
We have a Kha’Zix and Shen together. Maybe their mid champion cannot play the game, because Kha’Zix is already good at mid ganks. Oh, they have a no-dash mid champion, Syndra? Syndra can one-shot Kha’Zix, but if we have a Shen ult, go HAM, you know? Something like that.
Shifting gears to the performance of your players, [Eric “Licorice” Ritchie] has exceeded all expectations in his rookie split. In what ways has he grown, in your eyes, over these past months?
His mindset is definitely way improved from the first time this split. He’s trying to understand how to lane against top-tier top laners. Before, his tier list was fucked up. “Oh, I can beat Cho’Gath with my Jax.” I don’t think so. The tier list and champion counters were fucked up, because it worked in the Challenger Series. But if you play some top-tier, world-class top laners, it doesn’t work, specifically on stage. We’ll keep trying, keep getting smashed, and then learn. He’s getting better.
Before Licorice, there was [Jeon “Ray” Ji-won], and now he’s playing in the LPL on your old team, EDward Gaming. Have you kept in contact with Ray at all?
I did contact him multiple times this season. We don’t actually talk about the game. We talk about how’s China, how’s your team and teammates, something like that. I had coached EDG too, and Coach [Jeong “NoFe” No-chul] is my friend. We talk a lot about that stuff. He looks pretty good in China, Gnar king, you know? [Laughs] He’s a special kid. Pretty good mechanical and laning phase skills. But he had communication issues, and just didn’t improve at the English part. But in China he’s doing pretty well, so I guess Chinese is a better fit than English.
Do you think the change of scenery has helped Ray? He was very open last split about his mental struggle.
I think so. In China, you can easily visit your home, it’s like a one-hour flight. I don’t know, maybe some culture things, Western and Asia are a little bit different cultures. Also, he was working with EDG two years in a row before he came to America. So that might have been helpful?
When I spoke to Jack Etienne a few weeks ago, he was direct about his desire to win at Worlds, and that Spring Split was just a stepping stone towards that goal. Do you share your owner’s singular focus, or would winning Spring Split mean more to you than just Championship Points?
We want to prepare for Worlds…I was pretty much giving super easy team comps every time. Pick Maokai, hit Baron, that’s it. Then, we are winning a lot. I know my player’s strengths and weaknesses, so I want to avoid every weakness, and give them the comfortable team comp as much as possible.
But right now, I realize two years in a row, our strengths at Worlds, that didn’t work. We pick Maokai, alright, you’re getting fucked. We’ll fuck you 200 ways, get ready. And then every time we go into game, oh shit, can’t win at all, because we don’t know how to snowball team comp. We don’t know how to split push, we don’t know how to play around anyone except mid. That was my issue at Worlds two years in a row. So right now, I’m not going to pick something only for our strengths. If we pick Sejuani first pick no matter what, pick Azir, top whatever (maybe Gnar), bottom some strong champions with the Braum, you win no matter what. I guarantee we win almost every game. But if you do that, it’s kind of meaningless practice-wise.
Stage experience is way worth it, more than scrims. In scrims, if you have Fiora or Kennen, super snowball champions, you win no matter what. You get one kill on enemy top, just afk. If you pick something like a crazy jungler, Rengar, if you kill once, you win no matter what because it’s scrim games. But on the stage, it didn’t work at all. So either we transfer our scrim performance on stage, or we find some middle line of the snowball team comp which is not too crazy. Right now it’s processing and working on it.
Disgusting. [Laughs] Kidding. I actually liked it. The man has a talent for League of Legends, but he also has a talent for showing…something other than League of Legends. It’s pretty good for the scene I guess, the players. How did the team react? Everyone just kind of ignored it. “Oh, you look pretty,” and then go play soloqueue. [Laughs]
This transcript has been edited for clarity.