Cloud9 is once again playing with its full starting roster in the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, but the team's previous level of play has not quite been there. The reigning champion of North America is currently 9-8 through 17 games in summer and has fallen into a 3rd place tie with Team Liquid in the LCS standings. Cloud9 began week 6 by losing to FlyQuest's entire FLY Academy roster, but bounced back with a convincing win over Dignitas.
Cloud9 support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme spoke to Inven Global about his recent opponents, his perspective on his role within the team, and C9's current level in comparison to the peaks of their performance at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational.
Congrats on the win, Vulcan. Did the team change anything between yesterday's loss to FlyQuest and today's match against Dignitas?
Well, yesterday we were playing something on which we were a bit uncomfortable. Twisted Fate is not something that we've been practicing recently, so I think we were just trying to go back to comfort and making sure that we all know kind of what direction we want the game to take to ensure we have a good idea how to navigate mid game, I guess.
I think that was the biggest thing, alongside trying to minimize inting, which still happened in bot. There was a bit of int there, but those were the biggest things we took from yesterday.
Yeah, I'm glad you brought up the TF because we're seeing some more AP champions alongside the AD solo laners that have been popular for the past few patches. As a support, does the type of champion your mid laner is playing change the way you have to approach your role within the context of the team?
It doesn't matter that much, but the main thing that does impact my role a little bit is I need to make sure that Blaber, in most cases, doesn't fall behind because he will be the one playing the magic damage champion. If he's too weak, he won't be able to kill the people stacking armor. He needs to be the one damage if everyone against us is going to be building armor, so it's pretty important to make sure that your jungler doesn't get screwed.
Aside from that, it doesn't really matter too much for me. As long as whoever does all the damage isn't set too far behind, we should be good to go.
Is FlyQuest Academy actually a team playing at a LCS level, or did Cloud9 play poorly and hand them a win yesterday? Is this roster better than previous FlyQuest rosters you've faced this summer?
It's hard to say because I think yesterday's game was very poorly played by us, so I'm not too sure. I guess I'll have to see more of the FlyQuest Academy team to see what their level is, but I really just feel like we played so badly that it's not really a testament to whether they're good or not. I guess that sucks for them for me to say that, but that's kind of how I see it.
Maybe they're better than the other team; maybe they're not — like I said, I need to see more. I'd say they were more willing to take fights and maybe more on the same page on how to execute them. That's probably the one thing I can give to them.
Do you think DIG can retain the same level of play with Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham starting in the jungle after the organization parted ways with Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett?
I think that Dardoch and Soligo were probably both better than Akaadian and Yusui, so unless there's a possibility for them to unlock a new level of teamwork because it's so much easier to work with the new players. I mean, I guess I'm referring to Dardoch. I guess that's the topic of the day...or the month, rather.
Unless this allows them to be on the same page more or communicate better or something, I feel like the other roster was better. I feel like they're less scary now. I guess that's not really controversial to say, but they don't feel as scary anymore.
Your team and four other teams have already qualified for the 2021 LCS Championship at the time of this interview. Who do you think are the most likely teams to fill out the three remaining post-season spots?
I would say Immortals... and probably Golden Guardians, too. I think they've been looking pretty good with Licorice now. Between CLG and FlyQuest, I'd take CLG. I like they've been showing signs of life even though they're up and down. I feel like they have good players, so they should be able to at least find a way to get into the playoffs when the 8th seed exists.
Dignitas has a pretty good record, so maybe there would be the last team to go just based off of record, but I think if I were to rank them in terms of performance and projected performance, I'd probably rate Dignitas below CLG.
Speaking of Licorice, as a former teammate of his, do you think Golden Guardians is a better fit for him than FlyQuest?
Well, I think that Licorice likes to fight, look for Teleport plays, and skirmish. That was been C9's playstyle for a very, very long time. To me, it felt like FlyQuest wasn't that proactive, and maybe, they weren't confident enough to pull some of these plays out. It definitely hurt Licorice to not feel comfortable to go for plays or not confident enough in the way that the rest of the team is then maybe not confident enough to go for certain plays.
It seemed to me like it was a rough environment for Licorice on FlyQuest, and I'm not surprised to see him, as of right now, play much better on Golden Guardians. They're a team that scraps a little bit more than the old FlyQuest roster. I think that's the biggest factor, from having played with Licorice. He's a typical C9 player, he likes fighting.
I appreciate your thoughts on the rest of the league, but let's talk a bit about your team for a bit. What's it been like re-developing synergy with Zven mid-split? Also, how does Zven's return change the way you perform within the context of the team as a whole?
I think it was obviously hurtful to us as a duo to not have that playing time. If you look at it from a pure skill perspective, there were a few weeks where we didn't practice together, and we didn't figure out matchups. When we came back, we were kind of behind on what we wanted from each other in certain match ups or which matchups we're comfortable playing; that kind of stuff.
I wouldn't say it was hard at first. Because I think we played for a long time togetherl we were kind of able to just come back and kind of just click back together. It was just knowledge and matchup information that we were missing.
Regarding how Zven fits into the rest of the team, I think he's just more vocal than k1ng. He's not shotcalling like Hai, but he knows what he wants or what he needs, and he's able to recognize patterns and plays in the game, so he's a good voice to have in the game. I guess it's just felt easier and more comfortable to have Zven back in the lineup because we've played together for a long time now...well, a long time in terms of esports.
Despite Cloud9's struggles at MSI 2021, you received heaps of praise for your level of individual play on the international stage. How do you feel you played at MSI, and how do you feel your current level of play compares after going through these summer roster shuffles?
It's definitely very nice to receive praise from people all over the world when playing at an international tournament, but as a support main, my priority focus is the performance of my team and my teammates. That's what my play reflects.
Maybe I'll get praised for doing some mechanical plays, but maybe there are other parts of my play that are lacking that make my teammates look worse. It's more important for me to make sure that doesn't happen than maybe making some flashy plays. Even though it was nice, I'd trade the praise any day a few more wins...maybe one against Pentanet.GG.
Through coming back from MSI, taking a break, laning with a new partner, trying to get on the same page, and then having Zven come back, I feel like my individual play hasn't been my best recently. I think today's game was pretty good for me, but for the most part, I haven't been at my best.
However, I'm confident that I'll be back in form for playoffs, which is the most important part of the year. We could lose to FlyQuest Academy a few more times and everyone would forget that if we won the post-season. That's what we're focused on right now.
Zven said to me that if Cloud9 had been playing at its MSI 2021 level throughout the Summer Split, you guys would be undefeated. Do you agree with Zven, and regardless of your answer, where would you say Cloud9's current level is on a scale from 1 to 100 with your MSI form being 100?
I feel like we were notoriously inconsistent at MSI, so I wouldn't say we'd be undefeated in our MSI form. However, I think what Zven means is that when we were at MSI and beating top teams like DAMWON and RNG, then there's a pretty good chance we'd be undefeated in the Summer Split.
Obviously, that's not really realistic with meta changes and the fact that we were inconsistent at MSI, so I don't agree with his statement, but I do think we might be very close to undefeated right now with our MSI level of play. I'd say we're at 50% of where we were when playing our best at MSI. I think we're already back on track and we are just trying to get back to the form we had at MSI.
All images by: Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT