In LA, on the 10th of September, the last qualifier match took place between C9 and CLG. C9 triumphed against CLG, yet again gaining entry to Worlds. Cloud 9 showed us why they should be considered one of the fiercest teams in the NA LCS. Although Cloud 9 as a whole performed exceptionally well, one player in particular caught the spotlight. C9 Sneaky proved, not only to the NA LCS, but also to the entire world watching that he is an ADC to be feared.
Reapered has consistently been present in teams that have made it to the World Championship: teams such as SKT T1, EDward Gaming, and many more. The pressure that he felt, coming into a team as a head coach knowing full well that he must guide Cloud 9 to Worlds, must have been quite heavy. After the qualifier, we went backstage with Reapered to get some insight regarding C9’s success.
¤ From today’s match, Cloud 9 has now qualified for the World Championship. What are your thoughts on the journey till now?
Well first off, we had great performances in scrims, and practice was going well. I had high hopes for our performance in the upcoming games, but once those live games came the players were not executing our strategies and didn’t have the same performance that we had in scrims. This all started from this split and went into the playoffs. I am glad we pulled through though. They stepped up their game and exceeded my expectations. I always wanted them to be cooperative and make it into worlds.
¤ Is there anything you thought was crucial to focus on when going against CLG for the qualifiers?
I wanted to focus on CLG Huhi more than anything. Huhi is an outstanding player and a clear obstacle for C9. His roaming knowledge and abilities made him the center of CLG’s strategy and team play. He would always roam to side lanes and use map pressure to squeeze out even the tiniest lead to help his team. We banned all of his mobile and roaming champions and forced him to be stuck in a 1v1 scenario with Jensen. The game plan worked out well for us. In the last game of the series, we let Huhi have Taliyah, but it was for a reason. They first picked Shen top and Maokai jungle; two champions that are not capable of snowballing the game to a significant state. This means that even if Taliyah has a chance to roam, it will not have as much of an impact as it would if they had a ‘Jayce’ top, for instance. We gave up Taliyah in order to pick Xayah and Janna, to counter-pick Taliyah.
¤ In the past games, CLG has been shown to favor a split pushing strategy with picks such as Jax or Fiora top. It would have been only safe to assume that CLG would use a similar strategy against C9. How come C9 uses tanks in the top lane compared to split pushers?
We attempted to try split pushing champions in the playoffs but it didn’t work out as intended (we lost the game). I personally don’t think that it is our team’s style, and top tanks are more suitable for us.
¤ In the 3rd match, CLG brought a tanky top laner to their team composition. Was there anything you said to the players before the game commenced?
I told the players that CLG’s strategy will change in the 3rd game. However, we did not know what kind of change that would be. I just told them to try their best. CLG first picked Maokai as their top laner but I feel like we played around it.
¤ In the 4th match, Impact used a flash-Q as Galio to steal blue buff. Did you have a feeling you were going to win that game?
When I saw Impact steal the blue, I knew we would win that game. Although Contractz didn’t get much out of invading the enemy’s red, I knew we still had the game in our hands. I told Contractz beforehand to buy a Warrior enchantment for his jungle item instead of Cinderhulk and he didn’t seem to like it as much. Luckily, it all worked out and we won that game in the end.
¤ Going for the Warrior jungle item means that it is a very high risk, high reward sort of choice. You either get an early lead and start snowballing or you fall behind tremendously. Why did you tell him to go with such a risky build?
Our late game scaling was too good to pass on the risky build. We had Galio, Orianna, Xayah, and Janna. All these champions scale so well, I decided that we did not need another champion to build late, and should instead prioritize on the early game. Rek’Sai’s early game potential is unparalleled. By choosing the risky Warrior enchantment jungle item, she can aid the other lanes to scale faster or give some early needed coverage. Turns out, Rek’Sai did not do that much (laughs).
¤ Sneaky’s performance was incredible to watch. If you compare his performance now with his performance at the playoffs, anyone can see the difference. What changed? Did you implement a new practice regime?
Sneaky is motivated to win more than ever. The team used to lose games that were considered ‘fairly winnable’. These losses would take a severe toll on the players, especially Sneaky. I feel like this ‘toll’ allowed them to better themselves and become more motivated.
¤ From the past performances of Cloud 9, competitiveness was not as high as it is recently. Is there a reason to this? What did you do to change this?
We would take scrims in a friendly and non-competitive manner. However, we play and think in a drastically different way in live games. If the team thinks a fight or call is too risky in a live game, they would play it safe and stall out the game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would happen too often. The game will stall out to a point where the players could not execute their strategy.
We went back to our preferable style of focusing on the early game and not allowing the game to go into the late game. We have been practicing on our late game strategies recently as well. It was implemented in the qualifiers and I am happy it produced good results.
¤ I heard you are leaving for South Korea today (10th). Did you already know you were going to win since you already bought the plane tickets?
We could just cancel the tickets if we lost (laughs).
¤ Do you already have a clear-cut schedule for practice in bootcamp?
Last year, we would have a gauntlet between the NA teams and scrims. Whichever team won the gauntlet would get to choose the schedule. We even put the plane tickets on the line as a bet (laughs).
This year, CLG could not make it to Worlds so we could not schedule anything prior. I predict we will go to Korea first and see which teams fit our timeframe to scrim with.
¤ Do you have any teams you want to specifically scrim against? Maybe even a team you personally think the team can learn a lot from?
I have a lot of teams in mind, such as Longzhu Gaming, Samsung, and SKT. Because we are going into Worlds as a Wildcard entry, grabbing 2nd place would be ideal. I think we just have to see first to get a grasp on our situation.
¤ You personally have gone to a lot of bootcamps in Korea. Do you think it makes a significant difference?
Every time a team goes to Korea for bootcamp, they get better. You gain the opportunity to learn new styles of play/strategies. You also get to scrim against very formidable teams. From scrimming in bootcamp, we gain a new perspective on how we can improve our weaknesses and find our strengths. Bootcamp in Korea does, indeed, make a significant difference.
¤ On the 23rd, there will be the Play-In Stage. With such a packed schedule, do you have any concerns?
There is a high chance I might not be able to make it to the Play-In Stage. I originally planned to extend my passport in Korea in order to get a visa to stay in China. I couldn’t decide what was more important at the time, C9 scrim practice or the visa. I decided C9 going to Worlds should be prioritized. I am thankful we qualified for Worlds but now my visa is a problem (laughs). As soon as I go to Korea, I need to get my visa sorted. I am extremely concerned that I might not be able to be with my team for the Play-In Stage.
Note - Reapered clarified that the visa process is going well after the publication of this interview.
¤ Do you know which teams are coming up to the Play-In Stage? Any teams you feel threatened by?
I respect all of the teams coming in. We finished 5-6th place in the NA LCS and qualified for the last seed. Granted, other teams are also coming in as the last seeds, but I still respect all the teams. There is no team I am not wary about. The best teams from all across the world are going to be present, so I am a bit concerned.
¤ Are you saying this to motivate your team? (laughs)
That is the truth (laughs).
¤ Do you think Korea has a presence over other teams across the world?
Korea is definitely one of the best, if not the best region. However, as seen in rift rivals, the other regions are not that far off from challenging Korea. We will just have to see what happens this year because there are a lot of factors in play this year round.
¤ Is there anyone you want to meet when you go to Korea?
I think I mentioned I am going to bootcamp today (laughs). From the 16 hours of work with the team, I had no free time to think about anything really. Whenever I do have time, I spend it grabbing a quick smoke. Hopefully I will quit soon (laughs).
¤ What is your goal for this year’s Worlds?
I believe the reason we won today is because we were determined not to lose, whatever it takes. We didn’t want to have all our practice go to waste. I want my team to keep this mindset throughout our performance at Worlds. I do not believe we are even close to being the best team in the championship. We will, however, try our best and keep trying till we reach the end of our journey, wherever that may be. Beating some of the strongest teams in the league along the way won’t be too bad either. If I had to define our goal, it would be to make it to the semi finals. If we can go higher, I can’t complain (laughs).
¤ Can you say a few words to your hard working players on Cloud 9?
I am proud of every member of the team for training hard and outperforming my expectations. However, the championship is going to be a pain. There are not going to be any weak teams. You guys will probably have to practice without me, but I hope you guys show your best on the stage and make me even more proud than I am now.
¤ One last question before we end the interview. If your visa gets accepted at a later date, how will you communicate with the team?
I honestly have no idea, since I will be in China; even Youtube is not functional there. I will have to talk to Riot a bit more to make my visa my highest priority (laughs). I did, however, talk to Papasmithy about the visa problem. He said he got his visa all sorted in a day. I just hope for the best.
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