Cloud9 is currently undefeated, sitting atop the standings of the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split with an 8-0 record. Despite community skepticism around the removal of long-time AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi in favor of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, as well as keeping Jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang in favor of 2019 LCS Summer Split MVP Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, Cloud9 has won the off-season yet again.
Cloud9 Top Laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie spoke to Inven Global’s Nick Geracie about cultural changes within the team and organization, his physical therapy regimen, and contextualizes the team’s perfect record in the big picture of its season-long goals.
Licorice, Cloud9 sits atop the standings undefeated and has looked more coordinated than any other team since the start of the 2020 LCS Spring Split. Can you discuss some of the factors contributing to the team’s dominance?
I think it’s really nice to have a strong core to build around. Blaber, our Mid Laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer, and I have been playing together for at least a year, so we already know how we want to play the game. Zven and our Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme have been working super hard and went to South Korea before the rest of the team in the off-season to build duo synergy.
When we started bootcamping together, the bot ane just wanted to learn the game the way the rest of us wanted to play it. I also think that part of the reason we look super clean is that we win every lane. When you win every lane, you can do whatever you want, so the game becomes a lot easier if you win lane.
I’m glad you brought that up, because Blaber has silenced all doubters of his starter capabilities thus far, but he also hasn’t had to play with many losing lanes yet this Split. Will the LCS have the competition to give C9 practice on playing from behind?
There are definitely games in scrims where we aren’t walloping people. If you play a ton of games and you’re trying things, you’re not going to win every game. If you are, then you’re winning Worlds, because you’re the best team of all time. *laughs*
I don’t think there’s a lot to structure in the actual game itself. A lot more of it is goal setting and when we scrim, making sure each of us is trying to work on something so we can fix our problems as a team. We look clean, and we’re winning lanes, but we’re not perfect. I don’t know if I’d even say we’re excellent right now, so what we are striving for is that excellence. That’s what is going to keep us good, so we have to make sure we don’t lose that.
Zven has gotten a lot of attention for his stellar play on C9. How has his performance compared to your initial expectations of him?
That’s a good question. I didn’t really know what to expect from Zven. I knew he was good — obviously, the skill was there — but his last season wasn’t fantastic, so it was hard to know exactly what to expect.
Zven has an insane work ethic, and after I saw him and Vulcan working so hard together, I knew they were going to be good. They got really high LP in Challenger division of solo queue while we were in South Korea, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t worried anymore. Everything’s been good; all of my teammates work really hard. Everyone gets along, for now, I mean...*laughs* it’s easier to do so when you’re winning.
A cultural shift was expected when Sneaky left the starting roster, but the C9 starting five seems to be having plenty of fun. Has there been a shift in team culture from last season?
It feels a lot more open, and I’d say that’s a good change. I don’t want to say people are more willing to be open, but people just talk about their issues more, and that’s something I felt was missing in the previous roster. I point towards the 2019 LCS Summer Finals, which I think was the tipping point of when the team started to go downhill.
I don’t know...when you remove someone like Sneaky who has been a part of the roster for such a long time, things are done a certain way and had been since he was there. Sneaky was here for 7 years, Cloud9 was sort of his team. He was a huge part of the culture, and when someone like that is removed, you have this chance to keep what you want but also change things that you want to, as well.
For now, I think we’re still a meme-y, joke-y, laid back team, but also, we work really hard and we really want to win. That feels more prominent to me than it used to.
Last season, you suffered a wrist injury that sidelined you for a few games. Have you had any flare-ups since your time off last summer, and have you had to take any new precautions to prioritize your health on a higher level?
As soon as this became a real issue, I went and found a really insanely good physical therapist, and I’ve been seeing her weekly since then as long as I’m in the US. She gives me exercises to do and works on things while I’m there, and now, I feel better than I did before the injury.
Everything we’re doing now is general posture stuff, and based on what I’ve learned, a lot of people don’t have the greatest posture. I’m not even talking about just esports either, but people with office jobs or anything that requires you to sit at a desk. That’s what I’m working on right now, so the pain is super minimal. I’m not worried about it at all.
You are now the longest-tenured starting member of the Cloud9 roster. Has that changed the way you approach competition?
I think it gives me extra pressure, but also an opportunity to step up as a leader. That’s not something I had before when I was a newer player in the past couple of seasons. I think it gives me the opportunity to step up more and be more of a leader in general.
As far as performance goes, I think that I have so much internal drive that I’m not individually affected by any extra team pressure. I want to be good because I want to be good. I don’t think being on Cloud9 for a long time has affected me, I’d say growing up has been a bigger factor. *laughs* I was 20 when I joined Cloud9, and now I’m 22. Those are big developmental years for most people, and it definitely feels that way for me. I’m just maturing.
In my rookie year, I had a good season, and it felt like it was good enough at the time. I know this isn’t what you asked, but I’m just trying to focus on myself and not compare myself to others. I wouldn’t say that has anything to do with the team as a whole, that’s just the direction I’m going for my individual improvements right now.
As a former Top Laner and major leadership figure as a player, has your Head Coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu helped you step into leadership?
It’s not really something I talked to Reapered about, but this season, we have a new Sports Psychologist named Gary Hoyt. He’s someone that I’ve been talking to a bit since he’s there to basically help everyone with whatever they need. I think he’s been a fantastic addition to the team and has been a fairly big part of shaping organizational culture, so specifically, I’d point more towards him.
Thanks for the interview Licorice, it’s always a pleasure. Is there anything you’d like to say to the C9 fans?
For me, it would just be to say that the support I’ve gotten has been really amazing so far. All of my teammates have been doing really well and I’m glad to see everyone supporting them, too. What I want to say is: Don’t be too disappointed when we lose. A perfect season is not something to aspire to if you want to win Worlds.
I hope you trust the process, because if we’re doing it right, we’re going to lose. We’re working really hard, so I hope you cheer for us. I trust that you will understand the process and I’m looking forward to your continued support.