Fans were concerned about Cloud9 after week 3 of the 2022 LCS Spring Split, and for good reason. Five minutes after the abrupt announcement by the organization of the release of head coach Nick "LS" De Cesare, whose unique compositional perspectives were attributed to a lot of C9's early success, C9 took a tough loss to Counter Logic Gaming and nearly did the same against TSM the next day before a plethora of mistakes by TSM allowed C9 to come back and secure the win.
Concerns be damned, Cloud9 came into the superweek of week 4 fully prepared with head coach Max Waldo at the helm and looked more dominant than ever with a far more conventional style that led to a convincing 3-0 slate against Dignitas, 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. The dominant week was punctuated by an otherworldly performance by Park "Summit" Woo-tae, who dominated his lane opponents in all three of the C9 wins.
After going undefeated in the first superweek of the 2022 LCS Spring Split, Cloud9 jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang spoke about the growth of his teammates, the team's identity after LS' release, and the strength of Hecarim in the current jungle meta.
I'm here with Blaber after a 3-0 superweek for Cloud9. How did this week go compared to your expectations?
Going into the week, I definitely expected us to 3-0. I think we're really strong right now. In my opinion, last week was not real. That was not our real strength or level of performance, we underperformed really hard. As a team in general, I think we're really, really good. We have really good individual players and we are going to get a lot better as our communication improves.
Summit played fine the first few weeks of the split, but this week, he was on an entirely different level. What do you think contributed to his sudden increase in top lane domination?
I think Summit is really good. Summit is by far the best top laner in the LCS when it comes to laning, no one can match him. I also think that we played against a weaker top lane pool than we did last week, though he still did well against Ssumday yesterday. I also think that Summit is just really good and could do this to any NA top laner in lane, especially if you give him the matchup that he wants.
Summit may be feeling more comfortable communicating with the team than he was before because his English is getting better every week, which is true with our other players as well. It's hard for me to attribute exactly why he looked better on stage this week because from my perspective he has always been this dominant.
Most expected this level of play out of Summit, but AD carry Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol and support Kim "Winsome" Dong-keon have exceeded many an expectation as a rookie bot lane duo.
How do you think they've done so far, and how are all of your teammates working on improving their English? Or is Winsome, who is a dual citizen, already fluent?
No, Winsome's English is pretty poor compared to the average US citizen. I figured that it might be a lot better because he lived here before, but his English was still definitely better than that of Summit and Berserker right from the beginning. Even now, I think Winsome's English has improved. I know Berserker is taking English lessons, but I don't know about the other two. I assume they all are, but I don't actually know. Regardless, they're all getting better at it by spending time around us.
With a roster with so few native English speakers, have you taken on a major role in the communications of the team?
Yeah, I've definitely taken a big role in our communication. I've always been the main communicator in all of my teams, at least for the first 20 minutes of the game. Last year, for example, Perkz would take over a bit in the mid and late game, but in general, I feel like I've always been the one who talks the most in my teams — regardless of whether it's been good or bad. *laughs*
Right now I'm just trying to communicate with shorter words. A lot of the time, the Korean players communicate with each other in Korean. If one person doesn't understand, they'll translate in-game, which I feel is something that is very unique about our team compared to others.
Have you and Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami retained your synergy from last year through his roleswap from top lane to mid lane?
I definitely think our synergy is there, but it's just a bit harder to show it right now.
Yesterday, Fudge was on Ryze, and I thought it was easy for us to show our synergy in moving around the map, but otherwise, when you're not playing those mid/jungle combinations focused on roaming together — Lee Sin/LeBlanc is the one that always comes to mind — and focusing more on farming or scaling on picks like Orianna and Corki, it's harder to show that you have synergy because you aren't really doing things together.
It's not perfect, but I definitely think we have some mid/jungle synergy.
Your team compositions were much more conventional this week. Is the era of enchanter mid laners like Ivern and Soraka a thing of the past for Cloud9?
We'll see. Just because we haven't played it doesn't mean we don't think it's good or that we don't know that it's good. There are a lot of things that we think are good that we just haven't played on stage or haven't had a chance to try. You can tell clearly by my jungle priority that I think Hecarim is the strongest jungle champion right now. I've first picked it every game, so we haven't really had to show anything else, in my opinion.
The draft is really simple once you first pick Hecarim — you go down the line with a dive composition or you draft to outrange your opponent and let Hecarim peel. The drafts this week were pretty simple for us, but maybe we'll show some other stuff in the future.
Hecarim has seemingly come out of nowhere as a premiere jungle pick. What changes in the meta are responsible?
The nerfs to Goredrinker and Sterak's Gage definitely played a part, but they're something people don't talk about. They both got nerfed pretty hard for bruisers, primarily Sterak's, which was previously a really OP second item for a lot of champions. This makes champions like Udyr and Hecarim a lot stronger because they get a lot more value from their items comparatively.
For example, Frozen Heart is a really OP item right now. You get a lot more value from that than whatever a Lee Sin is building, which certainly won't be Frozen Heart, and Xin Zhao won't get the same value out of Frozen Heart as Hecarim. I don't think Turbo Chemtank is OP — it is really strong on Hecarim — but overall, the full itemization is going to be more valuable than that of the champions who build Goredrinker.
We talked about your synergy with Fudge earlier — how do you think he's been developing as a mid laner?
I think he's developing really well. The fact that he's able to show his proficiency on mid lane champions like Corki and Ryze is really good. Those aren't true mages, but he even had a great game on Orianna the other day, in my opinion. When he busts out his Akali and Sylas, I think you're going to be more impressed.
It's a real statement for you guys to go 3-0 in such dominant fashion after the abrupt mid-week release of LS. Do you think your performance this week has silenced your doubters and put fan concerns to rest?
I'm sure going 3-0 will silence some doubters, but to me, the performance doesn't really matter. I've been playing a long time now — feels weird to say — and I just know that regular season doesn't matter. Getting 1st or 2nd is nice for the playoff bye, but even then, does that even really help you? I don't know. Maybe playing more best-of-fives than less is better.
From my point of view, as long as we make Playoffs, the specifics of the regular season doesn't matter that much. Obviously, we don't want to lose. Everyone is playing to win, but if we play well now and don't know what the f**k we're drafting in the post-season, then it doesn't matter.
So as long as you're in a playoff spot, improving and preparing for the post-season is more important than specific placing in the regular season?
I mean, everyone wants 1st or 2nd, of course. You get the 1st round bye, you get a higher seed, you get side selection — there are definitely some nice perks, but playoff performance is what really matters in the grand scheme of things. Spring Split matters even less than Summer Split in my opinion because only one team goes to the Mid-Season Invitational.
There was a recent tweet from Riot Games caster David "Phreak" Turley where he admitted he was wrong to rate C9 4th after seeing Summit's play this weekend, and that your team is definitively top 2 and only Team Liquid with support Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in in the starting roster has a chance against you. Do you agree with this sentiment, and if not, what other teams can match you in the LCS?
Yeah, I agree. I'm not afraid of them, but I think TL with CoreJJ are realistically the only team that can beat us. I think other teams can certainly upset us. I don't think we're so strong that no one can get a win against us. I think we've gotten our most comfortable drafts all Spring Split in our last three games, so we'll see how it goes.
Do you think you'll get Hecarim at all next week?
Probably. I don't think people are accrediting these wins to me. They're just saying it's top gap, which it is, so they might not ban Hecarim. Today, FlyQuest could have banned Hecarim, but instead they banned Ryze and Ahri.
Thanks for the interview Blaber, and congratulations on an incredible week. Is there anything you want to say to the Cloud9 fans?
Thanks to everyone for the continued support, I really appreciate it. We're going to keep trying our best, and hopefully, we'll make it to MSI.