The stage is set at Oracle Arena for the 2018 NA LCS Summer Finals. Cloud9 and Team Liquid will engage in an epic showdown on Sunday, September 9 at 2:00 PM local time.
Cloud9 heads into the finals with three rookies on the roster. However, what they lack in experience they make up for in numbers. The seven-man roster masterminded by “f**king smart” Coach of the split Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu will bring more than a few tricks up their sleeve. Team Liquid, known for playing towards comfort, will have to be ready to adjust in ways that TSM was unable to last week.
However, the stakes are high for Cloud9. If it is unable to win, its only chance at Worlds qualification is as the #3 seed through the 2018 NA Regional Gauntlet. Cloud9 is no stranger to such pressure, especially the roster’s longest-tenured player, AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi.
I was able to catch up with Sneaky over the phone a few days before their match against Team Liquid to get his thoughts on Cloud9’s upcoming challenges.
Sneaky, thanks for making the time to speak with me. This is your first NA LCS Finals appearance where you will not be facing TSM. How are you feeling heading into the matchup against TL on Sunday?
I’m feeling pretty good. We played Team Liquid twice this season with me on the team. It was closer to the end of the season, but we were able to beat them both times.
That doesn’t matter as much this time around since we are in a best of 5 format, but it does mean that they are beatable. I think if we can keep up our level of play and improve on before, we can take them down.
Do you think Team Liquid will be a bigger challenge in a best of 5 series?
Oh yeah, they’ll definitely be harder to beat in a best of 5. Obviously, there are limited strategies in best of 1s. I don’t think any of our bo1 wins are cheese, but sometimes you can get a win because the other team doesn’t have a chance to adapt to your strategy.
In a best of 5 setting, teams have more chances to adjust and adapt to certain picks. Your opponents may have an answer to whatever you won the first game with, and maybe their level of play is better than yours outside of the one game you got the best of them.
Cloud9 heads into the Finals with 3 rookies on the starting roster. As a veteran known for his level-headedness, have you been able to help them prepare for their first big stage Finals?
I haven’t done too much out of the ordinary to help them prepare, but our scrim sets are different than the regular season. We usually play 5 games in a row as opposed to taking a break after three games like normal scrim blocks. It can help to get used to the length of a best of 5 series, but mentality-wise, it’s pretty hard to teach to someone who’s never been in one.
In the series against TSM, we were trying to help our rookies keep their composure in high-pressure situations to the best of our abilities.
You spent almost half the split on Cloud9 Academy. Was the transition back to the NA LCS difficult for you?
It’s definitely a lot different playing in the NA Academy League. It feels like there’s a lot less pressure on each game since you’re in your own home and playing on your PC. You go from a scrim early in the day straight into the lobby. It takes a lot less time than LCS.
When you go to play at NA LCS, there’s all this prep time. You have to go into makeup, then you go sit around and wait for the games to finish before yours. When you’re at home playing Academy, you can just do whatever you want and hop into the lobby and you’re ready. There’s a whole lot less pressure that can change the atmosphere. However, I don’t really think it was difficult for me to re-adjust to the NA LCS.
You also started laning with Zeyzal on Cloud9 Academy, who is now on the main roster. In addition, Goldenglue and Svenskeren have carved out their own unique roles on the main roster. How has C9 Academy helped them develop as players?
I think it’s helped them a lot. There’s never been a league where there are multiple teams helping each other, and that’s what Academy can be if done right. You have ten people in one organization working together and playing different scrims. You can pool your results for a much larger sample size on matchups and other stuff.
Obviously, it’s different, because Academy has potentially lower-level play, but in our case, Cloud9 Academy got a lot of scrims with LCS teams. I think our academy team scrimmed OpTic’s main roster the entire season, which is pretty insane. They got a lot of good practice.
As someone with significant experience playing against Doublelift in the Finals, is there anything specific on your mind for your matchup in the Bot Lane?
I think it’s a bit different this time around. I don’t know if Doublelift has always been this Bot centric, but it definitely feels like a lot of Team Liquid’s strategies this split has been centered around him. A lot of our strategy might be about not getting behind in the Bot Lane, so he can’t get ahead. Their whole game plan could get thrown off that way.
Easier said than done, of course. Inside the game, there’s a lot of factors that go into the situation. If we have a terrible matchup, they could gain big advantages. Or sometimes, even if you know it’s coming, a team can play really well and execute on a strategy and it’s really hard to avoid.
When Doublelift was on TSM or even last split with TL, I never took notice of the team playing around him this much. But in the general sense, they do play around Doublelift a lot, and our best strategy is to be able to counteract that.
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.