C9 Vulcan: "We expected to be strong, but we also expected to have more competition for 1st place."

▲ Photo by Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games


Cloud9 kept on rolling after a perfect first round robin, securing its 10th win of the season in its second meeting with Immortals in the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split. C9's shot at a perfect season has not deterred them from trying new strategies on stage, as Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme took his Tahm Kench to the bot lane and farmed for the majority of the laning phase while Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen stacked up his passive on Senna through harass.


The end result saw C9 with a full-fledged carry Senna despite a severe farm deficit due to her passive being stacked incredibly high when not farming after her nerf in patch 10.3, and Vulcan's Tahm Kench was significantly tankier than the quintessential standard support build The River King has utilized all season long. 


Vulcan joined Inven Global's Nick Geracie after defeating IMT to break down the farming Tahm Kench strategy, discuss Cloud9's dominance throughout the LCS Spring Split, and to give his opinion on who could contest C9 down the stretch towards the Spring Playoffs. 



Vulcan, we haven't seen a team destroy the LCS like Cloud9 has in quite some time. How has the split compared to your initial expectations thus far?


We expected to be a top team because of the amount of effort we put in as individual players, but we definitely thought that some of the other teams would be stronger.


For example, Team Liquid has struggled due to visa issues, so the team is weaker than it should be at this point. Evil Geniuses is slowly starting to get it together, but they were supposed to be one of the top teams, and they are not showing up. Counter Logic Gaming was supposed to be good, and they're in last place. We expected to be strong, but we also expected to have more competition for 1st place.



Cloud9 is 10-0, which means you've beaten every team in the LCS at least once. Is there anyone who can catch up to C9 at this point?


I think it has to be Team Liquid, but honestly, their issues are not only in the jungle. I feel like a lot of their players don't look too inspiring on stage when we see them play, and even when we scrimmed against them, they didn't seem as dominant as they were in the previous two seasons. That leaves only TSM, who is improving steadily from the looks of things.


TSM is willing to play more aggressive compositions, like we saw with the Taliyah/Pantheon combo for Mid Laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, respectively. They take risks on stage and don't seem afraid to make plays.


TSM played pretty well against us in the first round robin, we just outplayed them. We took a 'smurf' fight 4v5 and somehow, we outplayed them and won it, but objectively, it was a good fight for them to take. In theory, they were supposed to win that, but...*laughs* we won it. Still, I thought TSM played pretty well, and the team has not reached its ceiling yet. Based on this, TSM is probably our strongest competition this year.



Dignitas was looking to challenge you for first place in the beginning of the split, but has struggled to perform consistently. Do you think DIG will become more consistent?


I think it's possible for them to compete, but I think the way their team is built is kind of flawed. They have Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon in the top lane and Henrik "Froggen" Hansen in the mid lane, both of who are really resource-heavy Solo Laners. Froggen doesn't really like to roam much, and in the current meta, it's really important for a Mid Laner to be willing to leave his lane and potentially give up CS to make plays.


It seems to me that Dignitas is not too willing to do that, and when we played against them, our Mid Laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer was able to abuse that. DIG would try to contest dragons without Froggen, and Nisqy would arrive and carry the fight. Dignitas has good players and good pieces, but I think they need to adjust their style a bit. It feels like that some of their players are not willing to make the plays that the meta requires.



Speaking of resources, we saw an interesting strategy for you and Zven today in which you farmed the lane as Tahm Kench, and he took a Support item and just focused on harassing your opponents in lane. I have a few questions for this, but from the perspective of the Tahm Kench player, how different is this compared to the traditional Tahm Kench support build?


Well, I'm supposed to last hit minions, so that's very different. Normally, I position myself outside of the minion wave to look to poke with Q, but if I have to CS, it's a lot harder to get poke angles. Because of this, I'm poking a lot less and instead just farming while I make sure Senna is safe.


In general, I'd say the strategy is more about Senna than it is Tahm Kench. On patch 10.3, Senna was changed so that the Soul drop rate from her passive is much less if you are killing minions. Since Senna gets all of her stats from the Souls, that's basically gold for her, so you need someone else to take the CS in lane. In playing Tahm Kench with Senna in this way, it allows Senna to play very aggressively in lane and get the Souls by hitting the enemy champions.




Dignitas Academy also used this strategy this week, but they drafted Galio. Galio doesn't allow Senna to play as aggressively as Tahm Kench does because he doesn't provide as much safety. Because of this, it's harder for Senna to match the enemy ADC in terms of statistical value. The strategy hinges mostly on Senna, and Tahm Kench provides her the safety to play aggressively.

In addition, Tahm Kench scales pretty well with gold. I was able to go Dead Man's Plate into Spirit Visage and I was really tanky. Spirit Visage also adds to Tahm Kench's synergy with Senna because of the healing she provides. Tahm Kench is the perfect champion to pair with Senna for this strategy.



Thanks for breaking that down. Zven told me we wouldn't see the standard Senna AD Carry after her changes in 10.3, but did you try her as a conventional support at all before experimenting with this strategy?


I tried Senna support, and it's really hard to get as many Souls as you would just doing what we did against Immortals today. You're very squishy, and if you're playing support, you don't have a Tahm Kench as your laning partner. You probably have an Ezreal or something, so that won't help you get your Souls stacked as much from your passive.


It's really hard to play Senna support because you can get one-shot by just about anything, but if you're in a match up where you can safely and poke them down, I think it can be really good. It still has a place in the meta as a counter-pick to things like Tahm Kench or Braum, but anytime you see a Senna support on your screen, you can call your Mid Laner and dive her. If it's well-executed, it can be really strong, but it's difficult to find the right draft for it.


▲ Photo by Tina Jo for Riot Games


Mid Laners have always had an influence on the map, but you mentioned that Mid Laners must roam now more than ever to make plays in this meta. Since Support has always been a roam-centric role, has that changed with how you have to play with your Mid Laner?


It's mostly pretty natural. If Nisqy needs to roam, and we have bot pushed, then I need to go up and help him push mid so he can roam as well. We kind of use our push in bot lane to help the rest of the team move together and make plays that way. The way I see it, every role is intertwined with one another, so we all try to help each other out and make sure that no one is in a bad spot. If someone is winning, we want to make sure to spread their wealth to everyone.



C9's dominance early on in the split was chalked up to more off-season preparation and pre-established synergy. However, now that we're over halfway through the split, isn't it time for that to stop being an excuse for other teams?


I think so. Obviously, at the beginning, our extensive bootcamp was what helped us be better than other teams, but teams should be catching up to us by now. It's been a good amount of time, so if teams got better, they should be right behind us doing what we do, but obviously, they can't. I think we're more flexible in draft than other teams, so it's hard for them to always have the right picks ready and be able to contest us at dragon. I don't know...I think we're just too good.



Last week, your Top Laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie said that an 18-0 split shouldn't be something to focus on because a team trying to improve above all else should lose some games. What's your take on a potentially perfect split by C9?


I think the way we challenge ourselves is stepping away from our comfort zone in terms of picks and the plays that we go for in game. It's hard to find the best draft since we can scrim a team, pick anything we want, and win. We're playing a lot through bot lane on stage right now, so sometimes we'll try other things and play different champions in scrims. On stage, I've pretty much only played Tahm Kench and Nautilus, but when teams have tried to abuse that, it hasn't worked out for them.


In regards to the 18-0 split, if we lose a game, it's obviously going to be good for us to be able to see our mistakes, but at the same time, we can see our mistakes even when we win. For example, today we had a lot of mistakes around Baron Nashor, primarily around vision control. It was a bit different because Zven isn't used to having wards, so between that and me having to push the mid wave, we were a bit uncomfortable.


It's not impossible for us to improve through wins. Obviously, losses will show more mistakes and will allow us more opportunities to play from behind. As of now, we have not played from behind on stage, so being in a losing game would be good for us in that regard. Still, I think we are identifying our mistakes and continuing to improve through our wins.



Now that we've talked about your LCS peers and Cloud9 as a whole, I want to ask you something personal for the last question. In the off-season, people were shocked that Cloud9 bought out your contract from Dignitas to the tune of something around $1.5 million. This is the best League of Legends we have ever seen you play, so do you think that you have silenced some of your doubters with your performance on C9 thus far?


I hope I silenced some of the people that were doubters. At the same time, though, I always feel like a winning team will make the individual players look better, and that's even more true for Supports. The way the role works makes it easy to get assists when your teammates are popping off because you can just boost them up without showing off too much individually.


I do think I am playing very well right now, it's obviously the best I have ever played. No matter how well I play, it's hard to make the argument that I'm worth that much money, so I'm trying my best to be worth.

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