C9 Max Waldo: "I don’t think Blaber and scuttle crab will ever be an issue in NA."

To say that Cloud9 performed very inconsistently at MSI 2021 would be an understatement. At the top of their game, they looked unbeatable, proven through their wins against the likes of RNG and the 2020 world champions, DWG KIA. However, at their worst, they looked very lost, which was evident when they lost against the OCE representatives, Pentanet.GG. PGG fully deserved all the credit they got for their win against C9; nevertheless, NA fans were left disappointed, and even questioned whether or not North America deserves to be a major region in LoL Esports.


Inven Global caught up with the coach from Cloud9, Max Waldo, to talk about the team’s performance in the tournament, the issues the team faced with the absence of their head coach, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, the things that Max learned from MSI, as well as the work that lie ahead for the team’s upcoming Summer split in the LCS.

For the full video interview, please click the following Youtube link above

How are you doing? What have you and the rest of the team been up to since you’ve returned from Iceland?


We left the day after we played our last match against MAD Lions. We woke up very early to catch a flight, and now we’re back and on break, with the LCS starting in a week. We’re going back to our regular schedule today, actually.

I’m going to start this one off with a weird question. I asked on Twitter if they had any questions they wanted to ask you, and a lot of the comments mentioned some ‘mouse story’. Can you share the story for the interview?


I can’t tell the story out publicly. If everyone knows, it’ll lose all of the flair, and people won’t get enjoyment out of joining Twitch chat and asking about it. Right now, only a few people know it, and if you do, you’re “in”.


You must obviously be disappointed by the team’s performance. How’s the team reflecting on their performance?


I don’t think the team atmosphere itself is necessarily bad; we’re upset that we lost, and I think if we lost at any point, we’d be very sad about it. Personally, I wanted to at least get 4th or higher, so obviously, getting 5th is a problem. That makes me think that we still have a lot to do to get better, but we didn’t walk away like, totally destroyed, emotionally broken, or anything like that. 


Can you give us details on how the head coach for C9, Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin ’s absence at MSI affected the team’s performance/practice?


Hmm… that's an interesting question. I have to think about that for a bit. I think the same applies to both of our remote coaches; it was really hard for both Reignover and Marius "Veigar v2" Aune to participate in reviews due to how things were set up. If you weren’t at the hotel, you couldn’t get an account into the game for scrims or practice, due to how the internet was set up. We were playing on a new Tournament Realm server called ‘hotel’, and if you weren’t in the hotel, you weren’t allowed to access the server. You could select it, but it would kick you out from anywhere else.


So Reignover and Veigar v2 had to watch through Discord streams. But, the Discord streams are from other countries; Reignover’s in Korea, and Veigar v2 is in Norway, so they can’t watch a clear stream from Discord. They were barely able to see what’s going on, so it was really hard for them to interact at all. It really sucked. For a lot of the reviews, they were less equipped to actually interact with us in Iceland, so it was rather an unfortunate situation.


With Reignover and Veigar v2 basically unable to participate in practice, did the number of responsibilities that you had as a coach change during the tournament?


Normally, I don’t go on stage, so in draft meetings, I had to be more interactive and responsible in asking people what they wanted, and creating a flow chart of what the team actually wanted to pick.

Image via Riot Games

The last time we talked about Perkz, you praised his ability to generate various advantages after the first ten minutes, he struggled in the first ten. However, during MSI, it looked like he had more problems after the first ten (ex. Getting caught out in side lanes). What’s some of the homework that he needs to do in preparation for the Summer split?


I think it’s the same. Even if better players made it harder for Perkz to get less advantages after the first ten minutes, it doesn’t really change anything for me. It actually makes it easier to look at ideas, such as “You can’t generate advantages against certain players at MSI in the laning phase.” These players aren’t losing their advantages; 20-30 minutes in, they only snowball further and can’t beat them. Instead of looking at 20 minutes into the game, the question is, “What can you do in wave 1?” 


Zven mentioned in one of his interviews that the team needs to play the first ten minutes safely. Did the same problem that you’ve just described also apply to the team as well?


I don’t want to tell my players to play the first ten minutes of the game safely; I feel that’s actually wrong. Not that Zven is wrong; I think he just gave an interview answer to an interview question. I think we should play the first ten minutes better. Now, if you ask me, “How are you going to play the first ten minutes better”? In an interview, I might say, “Oh, we need to play the game slower”.


But it’s a lot more complicated in how we should play better. Blaber’s dying for scuttle crab every time for a different reason, but the problem is generally always the same. It could be many different things. It could be that your lane doesn’t push enough, the jungler might not be looking at the lane, the skirmishes play out unexpectedly, in which you think you win, but you actually don’t; the list goes on. Most of the time, these problems can be fixed by intentionally practicing early wave management. It’s really just about the first three waves. Actually, let’s say, the first four waves.


Since there are too many scenarios in terms of matchup and what not, it’s always going to change, right?


Yeah, it’s always going to be hard to describe, because it’s always so different. We use the first four waves as a template for how we’re going to get the scuttle crab.

Does that tie in with the inconsistency that C9 has shown during this tournament? What worked for Cloud9 that enabled them to beat RNG, but lose to PGG?


I don’t think it’s gameplay related. In the game we lost against PGG, we picked Kai’Sa-Nautilus in our 1-2 pick and they picked Senna-Tahm Kench, so they outscaled us everywhere. They picked Sett into Sion, had a losing bot lane, played Tristana into Viktor, and Lillia into Udyr; our draft was bad.


In our interview with Humanoid, he stated that Cloud9 was a much better team in scrims. What are some of the reasons behind the team failing to bring that ‘scrim C9’ to the stage?


Oh, was this after we played Kindred mid? We beat them in scrims, then played Kindred mid against them and lost [laughter]. We lost in three minutes; the game was over at crab, so of course you’re going to say the game was easier than the scrim game [laughter]. 


What are your thoughts on the finals? What did you like and dislike about the way that DWG KIA and RNG played?


A lot of what happened, which I know a lot of people are aware of, is that Khan, Ghost, and BeryL had a bad tournament. I think DWG KIA actually had a better draft in game 1, but lost. Game 2, I liked DWG KIA’s draft better, and they won. In game 3, I think I might’ve said that DWG KIA had a better draft [Max was on Discord with LS, Nemesis, and Fudge on stream - Ed.], but looking at just the draft, I would now say that RNG would’ve won. Game 4: RNG just can’t play this game because their top side was full AP, and they were against Aatrox.


Oh, in game 5, they did a really cool thing with Gragas and Nocturne; I think RNG drafted really well. Despite losing on Gragas in game 4, they ran it back in game 5, and played Nocturne mid, and played really well.


In DWG KIA’s finals press conference, ShowMaker said he just played Xerath because he wanted to. What do you think about the pick?


Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s good against Orianna, though.


One of the biggest controversies of this MSI was the scheduling of the semis and the finals, with the first seed, DWG KIA, playing just a day before the finals, they also didn’t have side selection for the finals (coin flip). What are your thoughts on the matter?


I think this answer is really simple; I think you should never be incentivized to lose. If anything in the tournament was incentivising you to lose, it’s structured poorly. If you can lose for a day off and side selection, they would obviously do it. 

LS, Nemesis, Fudge, and you were pretty critical of drafts at MSI. From your perspective, can you give us more insight on what the teams were doing wrong in drafts?


I was poking fun at the fact that only like ten champions were being played. We just traded Gnar/Jayce/Lee Sin top, Udyr/Morgana, Viktor/Orianna, Kai’Sa/Orianna, then Leona/Nautilus. There would be a couple of different picks here and there in the mid lane or wherever else, but everyone would just play the same champions all the time. There are obviously better picks and better moments to pick different champions, in situations where you have the ability to.


For example, Kai’Sa-Nautilus would be picked as 1st-2nd pick; I don’t think it is totally safe, but a lot of bot laners and supports feel that they can’t play ranged support into Nautilus. Which, to a certain extent, is true, but we should be comfortable to flex different picks into support, so they can move it out and counterpick Nautilus.


A lot of these things I’m talking about takes a lot of practice and time. If you have months of practice to set up good drafts, have players share champion pools, be able to go different lanes, etc, you don’t have to default to what’s good right now; you can play whatever fits the moment. It’s not easy. If you just showed up at MSI and don’t know what to play, the drafts we saw are probably some of the better drafts that you can actually pull off. Just pick Lee Sin. I think Lee Sin’s pretty good.


DWG KIA were praised for having a huge champion pool; so big that some even labelled it, ‘champion ocean’. Why do you think they only opted to pick the same 10 champions, rather than optimizing that ‘champion ocean’ to the fullest?


I mean, it would be pretty speculative to say exactly why, but a lot of it could be that they aren’t totally dominant in the tournament. They aren’t just destroying everybody, so they’re doing what they feel like is better than others are doing. So if DWG KIA aren’t playing well, someone might say, “Oh, it’s because of the draft.” An example of a better draft could be, let’s say, RNG’s draft; they just take that draft and say, “Problem solved.” I think that happened to a certain extent, but I can’t say for sure. Again, this is all speculative.


How much of the ‘LS/Nemesis MSI tier list’ is aligned with what C9 thought were really good champions? How much did the team agree with the champions listed as ‘Z-tier’ or ‘S-tier’?


Not so much at all. We would make jokes about champions, saying “Oh, it’s Z-tier”, so we’d pick it here, but I don’t think it really aligned. I think LS actually said this: In most roles, teams would mostly pick champions in the B/C tier. I think it’s pretty easy to say, “I think these champions are actually going to be picked in a tournament, but there are champions that are better than those champions.”


MSI was your first international tournament as a coach. How do you personally reflect upon the experience?


What I got from Europe, was that I have to play the game more. During the Spring split, I didn’t play as much; I didn’t have as much time. In Spring, I was like Master 200lp, but when I went to Europe, I played every day, and that felt so much better. I felt so much faster in reviewing laning phases and looking at the game. I need to play a lot more, and maintain a higher rank; not necessarily a high rank, but I need to play a lot, and against good players to consistently review games in an effective way. I knew it was really important, but I didn’t know how important it was until I didn’t play and try to do reviews.


Is there anything you’d like to have done differently during MSI?


It’s mostly about having conversations with the players about what they’re thinking. It doesn’t even have to be about the game; about what they were thinking at the time. Having these conversations is important because in my opinion, being a player is far more stressful than being a coach. I think as a coach, it’s your responsibility to manage the stress of your players as much as possible.


You could argue that it’s the manager/sports psychologist’s job, but I really think it’s the job of the coaches, because they’re able to have better conversations with the players. Coaches can have much better and much more direct conversations about what’s happening with the player. I don’t think I did that enough, let alone did it well.

On the flip side, what are some of the things you did well during MSI?


I think Fudge was the best player on the team during MSI. We’d look at a game, and we’d agree on everything, until we find a point we disagree on, then we talk about it. It’s that simple for everyone, but we did it really fast. We’d find things we disagree on, talk about it, and find ways to do them better, as well as shedding light on things that players don’t pay a lot of attention to. 

Image via Cloud9

CSing was a big thing for us. We paid a lot of attention on how to farm minions. It starts off really simple. For example, if the tower’s shooting the minions, you have to auto it twice or else the tower gets it. But then, you take more steps forward, and ask, “How do you think about getting the minions before you have to do something else? Can you have an idea of all the things you need to do, do something else, then come back to that task?


Compartmentalizing these ideas to do it, let’s say, 10 seconds in advance. You take these steps further out, to get to the point where it’s not just the CSing that slows down; it’s the whole game that slows down. A lot of that’s what happened with Fudge; the game’s definitely much slower for him than before, and is able to think a lot more in moments that should feel fast; moments that probably feel fast for other players. He’s actively trying to make the game slower for himself, so that he can think more than others.


You’ve briefly talked about this earlier, but going into Summer split, what are some of the big homework that Cloud9 needs to do?


Wow Dan, this is a hard one to answer [laughter]. The homework for Fudge is… it’s basically the same. I think for everyone, it’s actually the same. I don’t think anything has changed; I think we just have more information to work with than other teams do, but I don’t think much has changed. Perkz’s laning phase was something we talked about in our last interview, and he still needs to work on it. Fudge is improving very quickly, but how do we keep the acceleration going? I think our bot lane had a weaker tournament, so we need to have conversations with our bot lane to figure out why that happened.


If it was just because our opponents were better at laning, how do we prepare ourselves to play against those players at Worlds? These are all very vague things I’m describing, because it’s very hard to say what we’re going to do. It feels bad to speak in generalities like this.


Do talk to me about Blaber, because he’s been memed hard about scuttle crab pretty hard during MSI.


I don’t think Blaber and crab will ever be an issue in NA. I think this will only be an issue against much better teams. You can quote me here if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’ll never happen against NA teams. Once we face Korea and China again, it’ll happen more, but I’m not really worried about the crab situation. Because it’s not just on Blaber; it’s a lot more on laners.


I want to end this interview by asking you why your voice is shot; tell me what happened at karaoke [laughter].


Why did we go to karaoke? We went out to eat; got Korean BBQ and went to karaoke. It was a good time. You saw Perkz’s tweet about it, and that’s why my voice is messed up [laughter].


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