Cloud9 has started off the League of Legends Championship Series 2020 Spring Split in scorching fashion, going 4-0 in its first two weeks and looking far and away the most dominant team in the LCS. Robert "Blaber" Huang has done an excellent job of taking over Jungling duties fulltime for C9 since the departure of Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen in the off-season, and has not missed a beat coordinating with top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie and mid laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer.
Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme has done an excellent job in the place of Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidham, who joined Evil Geniuses with Svenskeren before the start of the season, but AD Carry Jesper "Zven" Zvenningsen has been in a class of his own. Coming off of a maligned 2-year tenure as part of TSM to take the starting position that Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi held on Cloud9 for seven straight seasons, the pressure for Zven to redeem himself was a topic of conversation for C9 fans.
Zven has taken all pre-season expectations and shot them directly into the sun. The Danish dynamo leads the LCS in KDA, and has not died in a single competitive match in 2020. Cloud9 followed up its 2-0 week 1 over Team Liquid and Golden Guardians by massacreing Immortals on Saturday, and then thwomped 100 Thieves on Sunday in an impressive showing of teamfight mechanics to match C9's currently unparalleled macro.
Zven joined Inven Global's Nick Geracie after Cloud9's win over 100 Thieves to discuss Cloud9's near-flawless beginning of the Spring Split, the team dynamic of the new C9 roster, and his thoughts on the current AD Carry meta.
I'm joined by Cloud9 AD Carry Zven. Your team is now 4-0, and while your individual players have been strong, your team's coordination has been unparalleled in LCS thus far. Can you provide your thoughts on this?
I think we have players who are good mechanically on an individual level, but the thing that makes us look coordinated is that our opponents are not. Vulcan and I traveled to South Korea to duo queue on the ladder there for a month during the off-season, and the rest of the team features players who have played together for 1-2 years. We also bootcamped in Korea as a team for a few weeks.
When you compare all of that to, for example, Immortals, who claims to have only about only practicing together for 3-4 days before the start of the split due to visa issue, or even to teams who bootcamped in December but then took a break like TSM and 100 Thieves, or even Team Liquid who still hasn't been able to practice with its full roster, you can see why the teams we're playing against look like they are not at their full potential yet.
On C9, I think are both good mechanically from an individual perspective, but we also function well as a team. Our read on how to play the meta is very focused on early game priority and dragons. Both of those things are very important, and once we get dragon, we swap to the top side for the Rift Herald, which is also very important. Playing the game with these neutral objectives in mind is how you play right now. Fighting for these neutrals is very important, and I think we do that well.
You and Vulcan took time to develop synergy in the off-season, but as we've seen on previous teams of yours, a solid bot duo may not always mesh well with the rest of the members of the roster. How has forming synergy between yourself and Vulcan with the rest of the team gone so far?
I just think that playing ADC in Cloud9 is really easy. Licorice and Nisqy are the type of players who can just play everything. Nisqy has played four different champions in four matches so far. He can play Pantheon and focus on engaging and roaming one day, and today, he showed he can play support-style champions like Morgana. He also has Zoe and other control mages; he can play it all, so far at least.
Also, both Nisqy and Licorice have this one trait that not many solo laners have: they're very selfless. They don't mind giving up waves to help their teammates or going into a bad lane matchup that's overall good for our draft. They're very easy to play with, and they make it so I don't have to do much.
C9 has good macro right now because we are very well-practiced. We've put in a lot of time and effort in the past two months, so we look really coordinated compared to other teams. When you have good macro, like we do, you don't need good fingers.
We don't have to outplay our opponents in teamfights every game because we are aware of where we are supposed to be, and our opponents are not. If you're playing against a team who has worse mechanics than you, but also, your team is smarter than them, it feels like it's just too easy to win.
Agreed, but I also feel C9 have individually been popping off. After a summer on TSM where your isolated deaths were kept on a spreadsheet, you are currently the only player in the 2020 LCS Spring Split who has not died in a single game. Have you changed the way you played individually since last year on TSM?
In the off-season, I had a couple of months since TSM didn't qualify for the League of Legends World Championship. I took a step back and watched every single game of Worlds 2019, including every Pro-View stream that focused on an ADC player. They are the best from each region, so they're all worth watching. I watched the laning phase; how to play mid game; how they played with their respective teams, and I asked myself, 'What is my biggest weakness right now?'
I quickly came to the conclusion that my wave management in lane was bad, so I would often die to ganks or be put at a disadvantage. In addition, I realized I die when I'm trying to get minions that I can't get. Lastly, I would find myself somewhere I was not supposed to be on the map. I worked on these things in solo queue; mostly in South Korea, because NA solo queue is...not very good, so it's hard to practice these types of things because your opponents won't punish you.
In Korea, though, I put in maximum effort every day. I woke up thinking things to myself like, 'Today, in these 15-20 games I play, I'm not dying to ganks.' or 'Today, I'm not getting caught out in any games.' I put so much effort into solo queue that every game felt like a competitive match. I was breathing hard, I was sweaty, and very focused in and re-assuring myself like, "Nice, nice...I'm playing a good game here."
I'm playing better now, but like I said earlier, playing in C9 is so easy. My teammates just play well, but if you ask them, they'll say they didn't do anything to help us win either. All five pieces of our roster are like a puzzle coming together, and everyone is doing their thing. So I'm laning and trying to get in advantage so we can get a dragon, so we can then swap to the top side to take Rift Herald.
Generally, we follow a very simple formula that works in most of our games. Then, when our opponents are equally as good as us in the macro, we have good fingers too. When we have to teamfight because our opponents' macro is good, we have the mechanics to win through that, too.
Right now, I feel confident, but we aren't unbeatable either. We made mistakes against 100 Thieves today, and we were a little greedy: Nisqy's Morgana solo-killed Tommy "Ryoma" Le's LeBlanc, and we had a free tower right in front of us, but Blaber died. We have to make sure to keep the aggression up, but also, tone back the greedier plays a bit. Still, so far, I'm happy with how things work.
Outside of the most aggressive jungling in the LCS, what does Blaber bring to the table as a teammate?
Blaber has a big voice mostly in the early game. In the mid game, he will still say his piece and give information, but in the early game, it's almost always Blaber making the plans. Overall, I'd say there's a back and forth between all of the laners and Blaber as the Jungler. Yesterday against Immortals, we got an early advantage from a level 1 invade play which put their bot lane behind, so Blaber made a point of wanting to come back to the bottom side of the map again.
We give options to Blaber in the form of information and opportunities, and then Blaber will confirm or denies whether that option fits into what he's doing. He makes his own plans that he will share with us as well in terms of how he wants to spend the early game, so that's when his voice is the biggest.
You and Vulcan have had time to get to know each other, but I'd like to hear about your relationship with Nisqy since you both started your respective careers in EU, but have spent a lot of time playing in NA as well.
Personally, our relationship is really good. We're both Europeans and we both have the same kind of humor, and we know the same people so we can relate to each other in that sense, so that's kind of nice. Nisqy's a nice guy, and I knew him before I joined Cloud9 as well. We weren't super close, but we talked to each other sometimes, so it's been cool becoming teammates. As people, I feel like we have a good friendship so far, and I enjoy playing with him as much as my other teammates.
In game, playing off of Nisqy is very easy. I think he's actually stepped up this split compared to his previous seasons; he solo-killed Ryoma today and solo-killed Jérémy "Eika" Valdenair yesterday against Immortals. Obviously, those aren't the best Mid Laners in the LCS, but still, Nisqy is playing well so far on different champions with different styles.
The thing I like the most about Nisqy is that he's willing to sacrifice for the team. He doesn't care about the numbers next to his champion, he will gladly die for the team and won't care if it ends up with us killing everyone. That's what a team needs. Aside from that, Nisqy's mechanical play has been really good this season. I think he was the MVP of our match against 100 Thieves today.
Something I've noticed after every C9 win is that you and Licorice get out of your chairs, turn to one another, and shadowbox before the team's victory huddle.
It's just an inside joke between us, it would take me a long time to explain it.
Fair enough, I'll take your word for it. On the Summoning Insight season preview, you mentioned that you originally wanted to return to Europe after your first season on TSM, but now, you're here for a third season with Cloud9. Have things changed regarding your feelings towards living in LA?
Cloud9 has a winning formula, not just how we play in the game, but also how we are as a team. We have workouts every morning for 60-90 minutes, we eat together, and we actually talk and hang out like good friends as a team.
It makes me happy to have people I can interact with, and that extends to Cloud9 Academy since they are in the same house as us. We talk to them every day during our workouts and meals, and it feels nice to have those you can talk to as people, and not just colleagues.
Aside from that, I came to terms with living in LA. I don't really go out ever or do anything, but I'm okay with living here now in terms of the time zone and my family and friends being far away. At first, I couldn't really live with it because I was losing a lot, and that made things worse. Now, I'm okay with it because I have things here that I appreciate.
I'd like to get your thoughts on the AD Carry role in the current meta. Right now, we're seeing Miss Fortune picked a lot, but the S-tier features two of the newest champions in Aphelios and Senna.
In his post-game interview on broadcast today, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng said that there isn't really a true laning phase anymore and that has indirectly been a hit to Team Liquid's play-style. I agree with what he said in that there isn't much of a laning phase in terms of a 15 minute 2v2 anymore because the Rift Herald is so important now.
It's bad if you give Rift Herald away, so what you have to do is 'win bot lane' by getting an advantage to get dragon, and then you can use that momentum to recall to base first and then go up to the Rift Herald to make the game progress. Instead of going top for Rift Herald, you can stay on the bottom side if you want to, but then your opponents have a chance at Rift Herald.
For example, let's say you stay in lane on the bottom side despite winning, and the other team goes and gets herald. They're going to get five plates, and maybe you do as well since you were already winning the lane bot, but in that case, your advantage just turned into an even trade. You have to be proactive and take the herald, because if the other team doesn't do the same, they lose out on the opportunity for a lot of plays.
The game is very simple right now: fight for dragon early if you can; give it up if you must; try to swap top for Rift Herald or at least vision of the area. If you can't fight for dragon and herald, you're going to find yourself at a disadvantage and you will fall behind in the early game. So yeah, there isn't much of a traditional laning phase right now.
As for Senna and Aphelios, they are champions whose kits are pretty strong, but they are so flexible in the game as AD Carries. They can play safe; they can play aggressively; they scale well, or in Senna's case, infinitely. Both picks are very dominant because of their good kits, but they're also very overtuned right now. Aphelios got a little nerf recently, he's a bit more balanced, but he's still on the strong end of the champion spectrum.
Senna is getting nerfed every patch slowly towards being only viable as a Support. Riot is trying to shoehorn her like Pyke by nerfing the regeneration from her souls. I suppose this will eventually make her unplayable, but for now, she's the strongest AD Carry in the game alongside Aphelios.
After that, it comes down to preference. Some teams like Xayah/Rakan, some like Miss Fortune, some people play Varus, and then there are also mages like Cassiopeia and Syndra that we've seen Immortals and IMT Academy play, respectively.
The tier list is Senna/Aphelios; then down to Miss Fortune/Varus; and then there's the preferences depending on the team like the ones I mentioned. Some teams play Ezreal, too, so while there is a definitive top of the ADC meta, the lower tiers are preferential. If you don't choose Senna or Aphelios, and your opponent has one of those champions, then you are at a disadvantage.
Does having brand new champions define the meta at the beginning of the season change how you practice in the off-season, and how does it change how ADCs play within the context of their team?
People have to understand that the ADC meta is always 2-4 champions. That's how it is. Last year it was Xayah and Kai'Sa, and their nerfs made the way for Aphelios and Senna upon their respective releases. If Aphelios and Senna get nerfed, then suddenly, Miss Fortune is Op. If you nerf everything, something will always take its place, so the tier list is very simple.
For practice purposes, when Senna came out, I spammed her every game. I asked everyone I played with to pick me Senna, and I would even play normal games or URF or whatever the **** I had to play in order to get Senna. I asked people what they built, I checked the Korean solo queue ladder, I checked every server's best players to see if they were playing her or not, and I just tried to learn.
When Aphelios first came out, she was considered a troll pick in Korea. People would say, 'Please no, don't troll me!' if I picked Aphelios, like I was locking in Teemo and running it down bot or something. But I didn't care, I just wanted to pick Aphelios and try to learn.
Once you play a champion a lot, you notice in LCS if some people can't play it, and if a team can't play Aphelios or Senna, they have to use bans. For example, 100 Thieves banned Tahm Kench today, which gave me a hunch that they can't play Senna and weren't going to draft it. I'm speculating at this point, but it could be right based on how the draft played out. The other scenario is if a team can only play one of Aphelios or Senna, they will ban the one they cannot play and pick the other.
I want to make sure I'm not a weakness to my team, so I spammed Aphelios and Senna in every game for the entire off-season. I don't play champions that I think are useless. I'm not going to play Kog'maw, Twitch, or Jinx in solo queue because I'm never going to play them in LCS. I made sure to play Senna, Aphelios, and Miss Fortune every game that I possibly could in the off-season to make sure I was on top of the meta. That's how I practice, and it's a formula I've come to believe in.
Your work ethic is staggering, and clearly, it's paid off for you and C9 so far. Honestly, your energy is different on C9 and I hope you are having as good of a time playing as your fans are watching.
We are winning games, but I am happier, too. It's a good mix.
Thank you so much for the interview, Zven. Is there anything you want to say to C9 fans, who may be missing Sneaky a little bit less after these first four games?
I know people miss Sneaky, and I will do everything I can to fill his shoes. I want to follow in his footsteps of bringing C9 to Worlds every year. One other thing I want to say is that I think people should stop s******g on TSM just because C9 is doing well. I did my fair part of blaming TSM, but a lot of TSM's failures in these past two years were my fault as well. It's not like it was only everyone else's fault just because I am playing well right now.
All I'm trying to say is: Don't get on TSM just because I'm doing well. On my twitter posts, I see people making TSM jokes, and when I was on TSM, I hated that people would make fun of us at any and all opportunities. Regardless of whether you are a TSM fan or not, don't come to my twitter or any of my profiles to make fun of them just because I'm doing well. You can say 'congratulations' without flaming TSM.
In general, I feel 'C9 vs. TSM' is a boring, overrused joke that people make for attention at this point. I don't like it, so I wanted to say that. Lastly, thank you to the fans for cheering for us. It's been a blast so far these first two weeks, and I've been overwhelmed by the nice people on my social media.