Cloud9 has qualified for the finals of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series after defeating Team Liquid 3-1, and of all the ways C9 outclassed TL, the jungle matchup was, surprisingly, the biggest. C9 jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang took full advantage of TL jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen's uncharasterically poor performance, and by the end of the series, there was no doubt who currently holds the title of best jungler in North America.
Blaber spoke to Inven Global after Cloud9's win over Team Liquid to discuss his matchup against Santorin, how his team has grown since the finals of the 2021 LCS Lock In, and his thoughts on playing offline for the first time in over a year next week at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre.
Congrats on the win, Blaber. This series was a lot less close than initially expected, what led to this being such a one-sided win for C9?
I think we all expected TL to be tougher opponents than 100, obviously. Team Liquid bested us in the Lock In and both matches during the split, but honestly, I don't think we ever doubted that we were going to win this series. We all think that we are better than Team Liquid, but none of us expected to beat TL easily.
It wasn't easy today — we showed we were the better team, but it's not like we 3-0'd them. I think that Team Liquid can maybe improve by our next best-of-five series if we were to play them again. I don't think we expected to sh*t on them, but we all expected to win.
The jungle matchup was far more one-sided than expected, specifically. What did you think of Santorin's performance today?
I don't think he played great today, definitely. I think he had one of his worst series since I started playing against him. I don't think he's a bad player at all, and I think he will bounce back very easily from this, but he definitely didn't show up today to the level I'm sure he wanted to. It felt pretty easy for me to play today.
When Cloud9 fell off last summer, the talk was around Santorin potentially superceding you as the best jungler in North America. Do you think you've re-established you are the best jungler in the LCS after today?
I mean, personally, I don't care about being the best jungler in NA. Honestly, though, I think I am right now. I don't think I have to prove that to anyone, really. I feel like I'm playing the best right now and that's all that matters to me.
It doesn't matter if other people think I'm the best or if they think Santorin's the best. Right now, I think I'm playing well, and for me, being the best in NA is kind of something that you have to be. I'm looking to do well internationally. If you can't be the best in NA, then you don't stand a chance internationally. I really want to win the Mid-Season Showdown so we can go to MSI and get better practice.
In this series, Team Liquid's only win came from a composition that had more options than Cloud9's, but when that happened again in game 4, you guys won your most convincing game of the series. Can you talk about the differences between game 2 and game 4 in terms of draft and level of play?
I thought we won draft extremely hard in game 4. I think there's a misconception that Ashe and Lucian don't do damage, but they both do so much damage that I don't know where this comes from. Also, we had a Sion, so in a front-to-back teamfight composition with Ashe, Lucian, Braum, and Sion, we are always going to win.
Ashe has one of the highest DPS ceilings of any ADC. I think one could argue that just having me on Nidalee as the single AP threat isn't enough, but with Braum and two ADCs building Kraken Slayer, there's really no problem.
Nidalee isn't front of the meta, but you continue to succeed on this champion. What are her strengths within the context of the current competitive jungle meta?
I think Nidalee has very strong skirmishing power right now. She clears very fast, and in front-to-back teamfights, she's actually not that bad — she has heals, spears, and she's able to kite back and engage easily. She's able to slow or root the frontline with Everfrost if they walk towards her — for example, Udyr has to run at you to be useful, so you can root him with Everfrost when he does. I think Nidalee is a pretty good champion right now.
Your top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami has grown a lot since your last series against TL. How do you think he's handled expectations surrounding his growth?
I think Fudge is playing really well right now. I'm really glad to have a player like Fudge on my team. He understands how to play around jungle, he's able to play both strong side and weak side of the map, and can play both carries and tanks.
It's very nice to have Fudge on the team, I think he's playing really well. One of the things I think he's definitely improved on his laning phase. When Fudge was on Cloud9 Academy, he was playing against bad players, so he was able to get away with mistakes that you can't make against some of the best in the world like Alphari...maybe not one of the best in the world, but he's definitely a good top laner, right?
A lot of times, Fudge was a lot worse at calling for plays around him, but now, I think he's improved on calling for resources or help. We weren't as good at playing around top lane offensively and defensively before, so I think he's improved a lot on that. I think he's been playing pretty well.
On the topic of Fudge's flexibility, it seems like your mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković can also play more champions than his role peers in the LCS. How has it been integrating a new mid laner into the team from a jungle perspective and what has your role been on how the team identity has changed since last year?
Perkz and I obviously didn't have the best synergy when he first joined. Now, I don't actually think we had bad synergy. At the time, jungle was extremely overpowered, so I didn't play through mid much. I would just farm all of my camps and carry the game.
That's how jungle was when Taliyah, Udyr, and Olaf were all OP. Now that jungle is a bit weaker, and in my opinion, mid lane is quite strong, we've been playing together more as a duo. Jungle is still strong, but now I think it's been much easier to work on that since that's what we are practicing.
As the longest tenured member of Cloud9, did you feel more responsibility to make sure that these new players were integrated properly? You can't just plug these players into the spots of Eric "Licorice" Ritchie and Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer without making some changes, right?
Yeah, I've been on multiple C9 rosters including the Sneaky rosters that went to Worlds, and I think this year, our roster has a lot more flexibility. Last year, honestly, it felt like it was much easier for us to win by playing through bot lane and having bot lane carry. Nisqy was really good at facilitating that, and Licorice was really strong on weak side.
It felt like we were kind of one dimensional. Either bot lane would carry or I would carry, and when we weren't able to do that, we couldn't really win games. This year, we're able to play through all of our roles comfortably. I think that's a big strength of ours. Our team has the biggest champion pool, by far, in every single role amongst LCS players right now, so it's just so easy for us to draft.
This is the first time Cloud9 has ever beaten Team Liquid in a best-of-five series.* As a starter for C9 since 2018, is that a significant achievement to you individually?
I hadn't actually thought about that at all. It definitely means a lot for me to beat TL because I've always felt that TL has been our biggest organizational rival. Every time we've played them, it's been a banger, but they've bested us. I've always wanted to beat them, so obviously, this feels really good for me, but we haven't won the whole thing yet. Even though we won this series, if we lose the finals, it means nothing.
*Note: This was the first time Cloud9 had defeated Team Liquid in a best-of-five series during a LCS post-season, but not in organizational history. C9 defeated TL 3-1 in the final round of the 2015 NA Regional Qualifier, which was the second time the teams had played in a best-of-five series. The first time was in the semifinals of the 2015 NA LCS Spring Playoffs, in which C9 reverse swept TL to head to the finals against TSM.