Cloud9 defeated Golden Guardians in Week 8 of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split, securing their eighth win and boasting a positive win percentage for the first time all split.
While the team-wide improvements and brilliant coaching from Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu deserve credit for the mid-summer turnaround, perhaps no factor has been greater than the promotion of Robert “Blaber” Huang into a starting role. The aggressive young Jungler has quickly made a name for himself, balancing on a knife’s edge to the tune of a 6-1 record in his first seven games in the NA LCS.
Inven Global sat down with Blaber following Cloud9’s victory to discuss the team’s improvements and his individual growth since joining the main roster.
Alright, we’re here with Cloud9 Jungler Blaber following C9’s sixth win in seven games. This has been a complete and total turn-around from the first half of summer, what’s changed for you guys?
I always felt that our old roster was one of the best in North America, but this summer, we’ve had problems closing games out. I feel like now we’re able to close out games a lot better. I don’t know exactly why. It could be because of me joining the main roster, but I really think it’s been a team effort and all the players deserve credit.
It’s undeniable that you guys have been far more decisive since you became the starting Jungler for Cloud9. What do you think Cloud9 was lacking before and what do you bring to the team?
Before I was a starter, our team would struggle to make plays and capitalize on incremental leads. I don’t think there was a lot of proactivity. I’m not completely sure how I’ve specifically made a difference for the team, but sometimes just jumping in 1v5 unites our team under one goal: Save me. That’s how Zeyzal describes it at least.
Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it’s like our game against Echo Fox where it looks like I’m inting and all of my aggression gets completely countered. I think overall, though, I bring proactivity to the team in ways that we were lacking at the beginning of the split.
Debuting in the NA LCS as a rookie is a challenge all on its own, but on top of that, you’re the “GO” button for a team that employs Sneaky and Jensen. Have the circumstances of your debut put pressure on you?
I felt really pressured in my first week. I was super nervous before my first game. I knew the stakes—if we don’t make playoffs this summer, we lose any chance at the 2018 World Championship. Do or die.
After our first week, despite going 1-1, I felt a lot less pressure despite us still only being 3-7. I wasn’t nervous anymore. When I go for a play, it’s not something I think about in the big picture of the team. I’m not actively trying to think of being a decisive, hyper-aggressive player. I’m just looking for opportunities, even if that opportunity takes me into the enemy base.
Playing with Jensen and Sneaky is amazing. I’ve looked up to them since I started playing the game, so having them as teammates is just unreal. I feel I’m working pretty well with them right now.
The performance speaks for itself, absolutely. When you first were signed to Cloud9 out of the 2017 North American Scouting Grounds, was it made aware to you that you could have a chance to start on the main roster this year?
When I got signed to Cloud9 following Scouting Grounds, they already had Wiggily as their starting Jungler on Cloud9 Academy. I wasn’t planning on starting in the spring anyways since I had six months of school I wanted to finish.
After I finished up school, I was looking for a team to start for when I was presented with the opportunity to start for Cloud9 Academy. Initially, my plan was to play in the North American Academy League for six months to a year before even attempting to compete at the LCS level.
That all changed when I was asked around four weeks into the Summer Split to try out as the starter for the NA LCS squad. I asked our academy coach, Westrice, if he thought I was ready or not. I personally didn’t think I was ready, but I wanted to try and see if I could make things happen. So far, I’ve been doing pretty well so I’ve stayed confident.
So you had a plan for how you wanted things to go, but in game, it always seems like you’re improvising and playing intuitively. Would you consider yourself more of a meticulous planner or a free-flowing improviser?
I’m definitely better at improvising. I don’t plan much in my life, I kind of just go with the flow. I planned on staying in Academy originally because I figured I’d have to prove myself for much longer that level. There are a lot of talented junglers at the academy level, and I thought Wiggily was pretty good when starting for Cloud9 Academy, so I didn’t expect things to progress this quickly.
What do you think has made the transition to NA LCS so easy for you as an individual?
When I first started scrimming with the NA LCS team, I was a GIGA-inter. I had horrible vision control and my communication wasn’t consistent. I was going through the games like a solo queue player.
My vision control still isn’t that good right now, but it’s definitely something I’ve worked to improve a lot since joining Cloud9. Zeyzal has helped me a lot. He often directs where we should get vision, so it makes me easy to follow-up when he wants to get more vision for our team. Jensen has also helped me learn how to efficiently pressure the Mid Lane and help spread that advantage across the map.
I’m still lacking a bit on playing safe, obviously. There were several times in game today where I would have died if Zeyzal hadn’t saved me. I have to get better at watching out for those situations before I get myself into them.
Zeyzal’s got big shoes to fill, but since stepping in for Smoothie he has been great. Has it been helpful for you guys to build your chemistry together before helping to establish the identity of the main roster for Cloud9?
I’ve been friends with Zeyzal for a long time now, even before we joined Cloud9. Because we’re so close, he’s not afraid to give me criticism. He’s pretty aggressive and doesn’t sugarcoat things, but I really respect Zeyzal as a player and know that he’s really smart. It’s easy for me to not take what he says to heart because I know he wants to help me improve.
Since I like to go for risky plays, Zeyzal helps to call me off the ones that don’t look good for him. He’s been helping me find the balance between retaining my own identity while improving to fit what the team needs.
In an interview last month with Inven Global, Licorice mentioned your tendency to go in without saying anything at times. How has your team helped fit you as a Jungler?
Like I said before when I see an opportunity, I take it impulsively. There’s not a lot of measured-out thought involved, and while snap decision making can be helpful, more often than not I’m so focused on my own play I’m not necessarily communicating what I’m trying to accomplish for our team in that instance.
My team has gotten used to calling things for me, like “Blaber’s fighting! Blaber’s fighting!” and then helping me buy time for the rest of our team to collapse.
Are there any aggressive Junglers in North America that you look to model yourself after?
For most of my career, I’ve looked up to Dardoch, but more recently it’s been Grig and Svenskeren. Grig is a really good friend of mine, and Svenskeren is my teammate, so I have good resources to talk about jungle a lot.
Is there a Jungler in the world that you would love to play against?
Usually, I watch Score play for KT Rolster. He’s a Jungler I’ve taken a close look at for the past year because he’s always in the right place at the right time and he can play any style that his team needs. I definitely have a lot to improve on with tank junglers. There’s a difference between knowing how to play a tank champion in the jungle and actually making an impact as a tank jungler, you know?
How has Reapered helped you develop your skills at the LCS level?
I think Reapered is one of the best coaches out there. I haven’t had a ton of coaches, but his style is very different. He’s not afraid to tell me I’m bad at something. If I think I’m good at a champion, and he thinks I’m bad at it, he’s going to let me know and tell me what I need to improve on.
Reapered will “bench” certain champions in my pool and not allow me to play them until I improve at certain aspects of playing that champion at the top level. He’s not afraid to give me criticism, and that’s really been helping me improve at a quick rate. I think as of right now he’s having me focus on my strengths to get us to playoffs.
That’s certainly been working for you guys as of late. Blaber, thanks again so much for the interview and congratulations on your success. Is there anything you would like to say to the Cloud9 fans?
Thanks for all of the support, everyone. Hopefully, we will make playoffs and Worlds.