Since Cloud9 has brought AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen back into the starting lineup for the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, the look of the team has started to resemble that reigning LCS champions who captured the organization's 4th domestic title this past spring. At 3rd place with a 21-12 record, C9 has qualified for the 2021 LCS Championship alongside 2nd place TSM and 1st place 100 Thieves.
After Cloud9's shellacking of Team Liquid, Zven spoke to Inven Global about returning to the LCS, C9's current power level after qualifying for playoffs when compared to its form at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, and the team's strength relative to the other top teams in the league.
What are your initial thoughts after today's win over Team Liquid?
My initial thought is that C9 is kind of back. Even though we didn't necessarily win our scrims, we had a lot higher game quality overall. There have been glimpses of pretty good stuff in our scrims and it gives me a lot of hope. Everyone knows that winning or losing doesn't really matter for anything else other than confidence in terms of onstage performance.
I just feel like we've been playing a lot better in scrims lately, so I feel like C9 is kind of back. I think we found our groove. Our team compositions are better, our drafts are better, and our team cohesion is better overall. We understand our win conditions, so I feel good playing the game right now. Things are getting back into place.
Outside of your own individual play, what would you say you bring to the team dynamic?
I think people will look and think I'm some sort of savior that shotcalls for everyone, but I really don't. Sometimes, even if a player is better or worse than another, it might not be the level of play that matters. It might just be that that person fits really well into that team and makes others around them better. I think I might be that for the team and I feel like everyone else has been stepping a lot compared to the past couple of weeks. Things are falling back into place right now.
Where would you put the team's current level of play compared to MSI 2021?
I don't think we're close to our MSI level. If we had been playing at our MSI level, we'd be undefeated. However, we're not playing at all at that level, but I think we're getting there quickly. The other teams in the league aren't looking that insane. TSM and 100 Thieves have good records and for the most part, they're looking decently clean, but they're not close to unbeatable. I feel like if we beat TSM tomorrow, we will be the best team in the league. In time, we will get there. I'm sure of it.
Jenkins has exceeded individual expectations in his LCS debut for Team Liquid, but it feels like the team doesn't have as high of a ceiling compared to when they start Alphari in the top lane. Now that you've played against this iteration of TL, what are your thoughts?
I think TL is definitely the team that suffered the most from the mid-season changes that have been made. Some teams like 100 Thieves straight up upgraded. Some team like TSM stayed the same, and those teams are obviously doing the best. Golden Guardians is also doing better with Solo.
Then there's TL, who is straight up downgraded. I think that's fair to say. Even though I like Armao, I think he's worse than Santorin and most importantly, there's the matter of Alphari versus Jenkins. I don't think Jenkins is bad at all. He's doing fine; today he went 0/5/0, but it happens. He wasn't in a good lane matchup and he wasn't given any resources at all, so that's fair.
Jenkins has been playing fine, but he's not Alphari. Alphari would create a lot of advantages for Team Liquid around his pressure that Jenkins just doesn't. Jenkins does a good job of not dying, for the most part, and he is a good laner as well. However, on some of the shared champion pool — like Gangplank, for example — he just isn't Alphari. Not a lot of people can be Alphari, so TL is missing having that third lane to play around and they're struggling because of that.
Did you have a chance to see any of the DWG KIA games played with their altered roster? If so, what did you think of Heo "ShowMaker" Su in the AD carry position?
I think his first games were kind of disappointing. He actually plays ADC a lot in solo queue; I've played against him when he was in EU playing solo queue before MSI. He was actually decent; a decent Kai'Sa player, at the very least. His first couple games on stage were kind of shaky, though. Even though he had a good scoreline, he was drowning in the laning phase in the Ezreal and the Kalista games he played. Even though DWG KIA won both games, he was struggling.
I think DAMWON is a team that is so far ahead of everyone else in terms of fundamentals that they can win games with a completely subpar roster. I don't mean that the roster is a bad roster, but rather that they can win with people in roles that they aren't as good at compared to their main roles.
DWG KIA's problem is that their bot lane has been underperforming for a long time. If they could find a bot lane that filled the same role while playing better, they would be the best team in Korea and it wouldn't even be close. It seems as though DAMWON had a bit of the NA LCS roster issues as well. *Laughs*
You mentioned in an interview with Travis Gafford that it was taking you some time get used to LCS competition because you can get away with a lot more at the competitive level of Academy. Do you feel like you've had enough games with the main roster now to once again be acclimated to LCS competition?
I think I'm almost there, but it's more of that in Academy, you don't know which champions are the best in certain matchups or drafts because you might win both sides of those matchups. That makes it difficult to tell what is good or not. In LCS, you don't usually win both sides of matchups, so you get better practice and better understanding of both the meta and draft.
When I came back last week, I had three days of scrims, which is 15 games. I didn't know what was good into what, and while the team hadn't forgotten how to play around bot lane, they had started sacrificing their ADC a lot when I wasn't playing because k1ng is okay with that. But I'm not.
I think that led to some bad gameplay last week, and combined with not knowing what to do in draft, I didn't play that well against Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Counter Logic Gaming. We didn't really play well around my lane, my inhibitions, and what I drafted, but I think that with time, C9 will have good drafts around bot lane and we will play around bot lane more when needed. I feel like we're in a good spot right now.
You mentioned not being willing to sacrifice the way that k1ng did, but if anything, I'd say our weak side play has been superior to his which has allowed Vulcan to roam much more. Can you explain how you split the difference between properly playing weak side without self-sacrificing?
Sacrificing doesn't mean Vulcan can't roam. Today, Vulcan roamed for the top Scuttle Crab; we gave up one tower plate for that and I gave up a wave for it as well. Later, he roamed mid and we got a dive on Jensen to get our last pick Yone ahead. Yone doesn't win that hard early game on his own, so getting him going is really important. Things ended up with Perkz being up a lot of CS, especially because of the dive on Jensen.
I'm fine giving up a plate for a crab or a plate for a roam because we wouldn't have won 2v2 in this matchup. Aphelios is strong against Kalista and their jungle champion has a better early game than ours.
Playing Diana, Kalista, and Rakan makes for a very ultimate-reliant team composition, so i'm fine giving away some CS or plates here and there because I know Aphelios can't carry against a five-man unit of Viego, Diana, Yone, Kalista,and Rakan. He will just die in fights if he doesn't play perfectly, and we banned Thresh from CoreJJ so it was hard for Aphelios to find safety as an immobile champion against our champions.
I knew that giving some gold to Yone or Diana would pay off by them eventually killing Aphelios. Sacrifice isn't a general thing, it's a draft thing. Sometimes you take it, sometimes you receve it. Today, I wasn't the most important part of our draft, so I was fine being down in CS early in the game because later on, I would get paid back.
Thanks for clarifying that difference. Were you able to watch the LCS roster at all when on C9 Academy to see what the problems were from an outside perspective?
No, I actually don't think watching the LCS team was that helpful for me, but I think playing with the Academy team was actually helpful for me. I had to lead them a lot because a lot of the time in Academy, people don't know what's best. When they review a game, they don't know what to do differently next time to improve. I think I improved C9 Academy's system in terms of how to play the game, review, draft, and grow.
I think over the course of my time on C9 Academy, we improved a lot as a team. It helped me develop some leadership skills, In some strange way, me being gone from the LCS team kind of worked out for everyone. It's sort of like a relationship where you didn't know what you have until you no longer have it. In some ways, this whole thing actually worked out pretty well, and I think that with a little bit more time, C9 will be back. Soon, we will be the best team again.
[mss press conference] While you got to play on LAN for the finals of the 2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown, you mentioned the outdoor environment created issues to where it didn't feel like being on the LCS stage. What's it like to finally be back on the true stage?
That final wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be. It was a little hot or cold at times; there was a breeze here and there and the sunlight issue that caused Team Liquid to pause before game 4, even though it kind of sucks to have a pause. Being back on stage is very nice. Obviously, I miss the fans because that makes the whole thing so different, but it's nice that vaccines and a lot of COVID-19 precautions have allowed us to perform on stage.
I'm very grateful for that because playing online just isn't the same at all, and the gameplay is also worse. It's different, I guess, so I'm very happy to be back on stage. I'd say I was a bit 'rusty' at first because the stage is a bit different than the MSI 2021 stage. Also, there are some things that have changed.
The white noise in our ears was louder before but now, it has been changed back to normal. There were some lighting problems that Perkz had that I think have been fixed. As you noticed, he's allowed to wear a cap now. We had some issues with that, but Riot is being good about listening to feedback, as are we. With time, being back on stage will be great again.
All images by: Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT