Before the start of the 2022 LCS Spring Split, Cloud9 confirmed that their roster would essentially have two support players in Kim "Winsome" Dong-keon and Jonah “Isles” Rosario. However, once Winsome secured his starter position, Isles was left on a permanent bench for the entirety of the split.
That all changed last week. After a dominant Spring Split, uninhibited by the abrupt release of head coach Nick “LS” De Cesare after just four games, C9 stumbled in the final week to a 1-2 record in their last three games.
Bad got worse in the first round of playoffs, where C9 were swept by 100 Thieves and top laner Park “Summit” Woo-tae, Spring Split MVP frontrunner, was exposed to an abysmal 2/23/5 KDA. C9 went into their first lower bracket match against Golden Guardians as the favorite to win, but the hype train had undeniably lost a lot of steam.
Enter Isles. The C9 Academy support had only played in the LCS during the Lock In at the beginning of the year when Winsome had visa issues that delayed his arrival to the US, but the Monday night before the Golden Guardians series, Isles got the call.
“Tuesday was our first day of scrims, so Monday night, one of our managers messaged me and asked if I wanted to play LCS the following day. I said, yeah. [laughs] It's literally that simple,” Isles recalled in an interview with Inven Global after a clean sweep of Golden Guardians
Isles ushers playstyle change for C9
C9 showed a different look against Golden Guardians than their previous top-lane focused playstyle. Summit had weak side duty for the majority of the series while, alongside AD carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol, Isles contributed to a very different complexion in the bot lane.
Berserker changed his steady diet of Zeri and Aphelios for lane bullies like Miss Fortune and Caitlyn, while Isles mixed a Lux support game in with two games of Leona. With a more lane-focused approach to the bot lane, Berserker and Isles either generated their own leads or exerted enough pressure to allow C9 to get things done elsewhere.
“I think that part of the reason could have been due to champion pool. Winsome is a lot less likely to play something like Lux, but I wouldn't say that was the main reason I was put into the starting position,” said Isles. “In scrims, C9 weren’t doing their best. There was that week Fudge tweeted they went 0-15 in scrims, then they went 1-2 in the last week of the Spring Split before getting swept by 100 Thieves the following week.”
The match against Golden Guardians marked Isles’ first game on the LCS stage, his only previous LCS experience coming from the 2022 LCS Lock In, and he had only prior three days of practice with the C9 squad. “Honestly, I was pretty nervous coming in for the first time, especially in the second game where I was playing Lux,” Isles admitted after the match.
However, Isles had a fantastic series against GG, doing every bit his part for C9 and arguably playing better than any other starter aside from mid laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, who was awarded Player of the Series. The support attributed his seamless transition into the LCS roster to previous experience playing with Fudge and jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang, as well as the close-knit approach Cloud9 has taken with their LCS and Academy rosters.
“I think a lot of it was Lock In experience and the fact that I've scrimmed against the main team so many times before that I kind of already know what everyone's thinking,” Isles said. “I've watched a lot of their scrims, I've played with the players, so I'm quite well-versed now.”
What does this means for C9’s bot lane?
In his performance, Isles also silenced skepticism towards his ability to synergize with Berserker, but his perspective was the GG may have helped him out a bit with their hyperfocus on the bottom lane of C9. Every time we both died, the fight seemed to end with the whole enemy team dead, so we would just look at each other and laugh,” Isles recalled with a chuckle.
Berserker was another player on C9 who had a standout performance in the series, particularly on Miss Fortune, and his level of comfort in playing with Isles was a cornerstone of the duo’s success. Isles starting in the LCS was a concept toyed around with by C9 at other points of the 2022 season, but the support stated that the organization did not want to pressure Berserker into making a decision until he was certain.
“People wanted to give him extra time to think about whether making a change would be better for the team or not,” Isles said. “I think we were right this time.”
There is a clear difference in the respective strengths of Winsome and Isles, and whether C9 will stick with one player or rotate them around is unknown. When asked whether he would be starting more games in the post-season for Cloud9, Isles answered with one word and a smirk: