Cloud9 is 0-3 to start the 2022 LCS Summer Split, but it's hard to fault them for such a record. After a bout of COVID-19, top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami was forced to play remotely while in quarantine, and passport delays for AD carry Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol and support Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen meant C9 Academy AD carry Calvin "k1ng" Truong and support Mitchell "Destiny" Shaw had to step in on short notice.
After week 1 of the 2022 LCS Summer Split, Fudge spoke to Inven Global about his return to top lane, replacing LCS Spring Split MVP Park "Summit" Woo-tae, and what Cloud9's roster should look like in week 2.
This weekend hasn't gone your way, but are there things that Cloud9 can take away from these games?
I think there is a lot of talk from people memeing our bot lane and saying things like '3v5', 'C9 can't win with this bot lane', and 'Where are Zven and Berserker?', but in reality, all three players on our top side did not play well in these games. Jensen and I made a lot of mistakes in lane and I think it's coping to think that all of the problems are with our bot lane and that it will all be easy once we have Zven and Berserker.
I wanted to address that initially because that's what the public has been saying about our losses. I think it's very important that we focus on what we could do ourselves on the top side because I think there is a lot that we could be doing in the games. There are a lot of decisions that Blaber, Jensen, and I are making that make the game hard.
You only recently rejoined the team in Los Angeles. Do you think having less time to practice than other players was a factor in these mistakes, or are these mostly individual errors?
I would say they're individual errors. There are definitely a lot of team cohesion-based ideas that we lack. With or without our bot lane, we are not very coordinated as a team, especially in the early game. You could say the same thing about our mid game and late game, but I really think there are a lot of possible plays we could be making around topside with minion waves, or at least, things that we could be talking about that we are not.
I think that I specifically could be communicating possible plans a bit more than I have been. I got to LA about a week ago and I wasn't really practicing with the team until then. I was a bit jetlagged, and obviously, I have COVID, so it was really hard for me to scrim and practice efficiently. I wouldn't say that I was necessarily out of practice — I was playing 20 games a day in Korean solo queue.
Perhaps I wasn't as caught up to the meta with things like Sejuani and Olaf top. I wasn't really seeing those too much in Korean solo queue, so I didn't really have practice against those champions coming into this week. There are a lot of things that we have been working on in scrims, but it takes time. We sort of lack coordination on what to do as a team on certain timers and we lack an overall direction with our gameplay.
Are you feeling better now?
Yeah, my symptoms have been gone for about three or four days and I've been testing negatives on antigen tests for about four days. However, on COVID PCR tests, if you had COVID, you're likely to continue to test positive even if you're not contagious or have no symptoms.
Hopefully, you can come back to the arena soon.
I'm hoping to go next week but Riot told me I may not be allowed to go next week because they want to be safe or something, so that's a bit unfortunate. We'll see.
What has it been like returning to the top lane?
I definitely think I am not at the level of matchup knowledge that I had in 2021, strictly because I haven't been playing the matchups that often. Back in 2021, I think I had a really good grasp on all the matchups, especially in the Summer Split, which allowed me to usually go even in losing matchups. I would usually pick champions that outscale and then I would go even in lane.
I think now I'm still adjusting to mechanical parts of the champions, but I wouldn't say my overall understanding of the game is at a worse level than when I was a top laner in 2021. I would definitely say I have actually gotten better in terms of understanding the overall map state because I have the perspective from playing mid lane.
I think it will take some time before I adjust to all the different matchups in top lane, but I wouldn't say that I'm worse than any other top laner right now regardless of the individual mistakes I've made. I think I'm still better than the other top laners. Obviously, everyone makes a lot of individual mistakes. We are not the best region, so although I say I am making individual mistakes, I still think I'm better than the other top laners.
I still have confidence that I will play well throughout the regular season and going into the playoffs, and I think that I will constantly get better and improve faster than the other top laners that I'm better than already.
You were transparent last split that you felt your natural strengths were better suited to mid lane. Can you walk me through the process that resulted in you returning to the top lane and replacing Summit?
I do believe that the way I play is usually slow and more strategic as opposed to aggressive and mechanical. Summit is a good example of a very aggressive and mechanical player, whereas I'm more on the other side of the spectrum. I usually don't take too many risks if I don't think I need to and I pick champions where I don't really need to take as many risks because I'll usually outscale. I think mid laners are usually more like this than top laners.
I think top lane is usually way more mechanical and you have to outplay way more so that you can win your lane. Usually, winning lane is the most important part of being a top laner. If you have the control of the side lane and vision around your lane, you will usually control other parts of the map because you have enough pressure.
In terms of me swapping, we played with Summit in playoffs. The decision was made directly after we lost. It was the same day because it was already being talked about.
He had issues with dying to a lot of ganks and not really respecting the enemy team's timers because he was very focused on being aggressive and mechanical, as I said before.
By the way, I do think that Summit is one of the best mechanical players I've ever seen, and that's something I've been trying to work on. He's sort of the model of how I'd want to be in terms of mechanics while also still being strategical and keeping the good, consistent parts of me.
I didn't really die to many ganks as a top laner in 2021, and I was specifically very consistent as a player in the Summer Split. I wouldn't really make too many mistakes in laning and in teamfighting as well. I've just been trying to work on the more aggressive and mechanical side of things to become a more complete player that can play both styles when required.
So it sounds like this new roster is more focused on being less exploitable than the Summit-focused roster?
Yeah, I would say so.
At the time of this interview, Zven has already arrived in Los Angeles. Do you think Berserker will also be ready for week 2?
Yes, he is likely to be here for our first day of scrims after our off-day.
Is there anything you'd like to say to the Cloud9 fans?
Yeah. I wanted to address, as I said in answering your first question, that it seems like every fan is completely scapegoating our bot lane, but I think the blame has to be put on me, Blaber, and Jensen. I think we are all playing poorly and I think the fans that expect it's going to be really smooth sailing when Berserker and Zven are here should change their perspective a little bit.
Basically, I want the fans to also put the blame on the other players maybe a bit more because I think that we also have a lot more experience than our bot lane in terms in terms of international experience and playing in a team that is at a high level. I think the responsibility should be more on us.
You can obviously argue that our bot lane this week was not playing extremely well compared to how they'd want to play, but I do think fans are exaggerating a bit by saying our bot lane was at least 90% of the reason we lost this weekend. I don't think that is true.
All images by: Riot Games