Luka “Perkz” Perković’s parting of ways with G2 Esports was the single biggest move of the offseason. Perkz is the best western player in League of Legends history and will be playing in a region outside of Europe for the first time in a full-force return to the mid lane with Cloud9. Perkz has the potential to send C9 into the stratosphere, and by extension to elevate the rest of the League of Legends Championship Series competition.
The adversity of a new region
Perkz has spent the entirety of his career with G2 Esports, and even now that weeks have passed since his transfer to Cloud9, it’s still hard to imagine him in anything other than a G2 jersey. Cloud9 undoubtedly becomes better with the addition of Perkz, but the star mid laner will have to make many adjustments to get comfortable on C9.
Perkz will be returning to the mid lane full-time after splitting between both mid and bot for G2 in 2020. After spending the entirety of 2019 as an AD carry, Perkz transitioned back to mid lane in the 2020 LEC Spring with surprising ease and was immediately the best mid laner in the region.
Perkz’s transition to the mid lane will be affected by some new factors this time around. Not only is Perkz joining a new team for the first time, but he is also playing in a new region for the first time — in the midst of a pandemic, no less. Perkz will be adjusting to a culture he’s previously only known as a visitor during past international competitions, and he’ll have to do it in unprecedented times.
Perkz will also be playing against a new pool of opponents, and while one could argue he is coming to North America as the best mid laner in the region, his lack of familiarity with these opponents must be considered as a factor.
When Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen joined TSM before the start of the 2018 season, he was considered superior to Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. However, Doublelift had a significantly better spring than Zven because of his familiarity with the other AD carries in North America. Similarly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Perkz play second fiddle to Team Liquid’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in terms of best mid laner in the upcoming split simply because of Jensen’s familiarity with the LCS.
If there’s anyone who can adapt to a new environment and all of its factors seamlessly, it’s Perkz, but these variables must all be considered before even accounting for building synergy with his new teammates on Cloud9.
Assimilation won't work
If one took Cloud9’s offseason at face value, it’d be easy to say that this is simply an augmented version of the 2020 roster. However, Perkz is not the type of player you work into a system — he is the type of player that you build a system around.
This is to say that despite retaining 3/5 of its starting roster from 2020, this year’s Cloud9 should be considered as its own era due to the transformative nature of Perkz as a player both in and out of game. In a recent interview with Inven Global’s Lara Lunardi, G2 Esports head coach Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann described Perkz’ passive influence on competitors around him, both in his own team but also the region he competes in as a whole:
“Perkz will elevate the entire region. Starting with solo queue, he will show that the NA One Trick Ponies will have to actually adapt. He just has this aura that makes everyone try-hard. I think Cloud9 will be really, really strong. I also think he will instantly be the best Mid Laner in NA, no doubt about that. They are contenders and depending on how well it develops, they can be a threat internationally. No doubt he will succeed there and that Cloud9 will win Spring, at least.”
For Cloud9 to win spring as GrabbZ predicts, C9’s ability to assemble around Perkz will be crucial. Perkz has pre-established synergy from his time on G2 Esports with Zven, and he should be able to enable the hyper-aggressive playstyle of C9 jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang at least as well as Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer has in the past two seasons.
Nisqy was essentially known only for his Zoe when he first joined Cloud9, but after a heavy dose of melee champions, he became the primary conduit for C9’s early game. Cloud9 continued to excel at spreading mid lane priority to the rest of the map, but when it came to playing directly through the mid lane itself, C9 fell short.
Even as Nisqy continued to improve as an individual and expand his champion pool and styles of play within C9’s system, the team as a whole seemed to lose a step when deviating from its primary style of play.
C9 can’t just plug Perkz in place of Nisqy and expect to become a better team, and that’s even before accounting for Fudge’s LCS debut this coming spring. New head coach Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin should help a semi-established roster start fresh, and the execution of the new C9 system being put into place will be crucial for the organization to get the mileage out of Perkz worth the price of admission.
What's "success" for the new Cloud9?
It’s difficult to qualify what should be deemed as success for the new C9. On one hand, the team just missed the World Championship for the first time in its history. On the other hand, C9’s history of success, coupled with Perkz’ incredible legacy, comes with an inevitable burden of expectation. Even with all of the variables that factor into Cloud9’s acquisition of Perkz, anything below a top 4 finish at Worlds 2021 would be a disappointment for the team.
C9 has only made it past quarterfinals once in Worlds history, and it is the only North American team to achieve such a feat. If the addition of Perkz can’t bring C9 to new heights as an organization, it will be difficult to call the first year of the deal anything but a disappointment.
All images by: David Lee for Riot Games
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