Cloud9 entered Week 3 of the 2019 LCS Spring Split in a 5-way tie for 3rd place. Sitting at 2-2, Cloud9 faced off against TSM in the third match of Saturday's schedule. The 45-minute showdown ended in Cloud9's victory was highlighted by Eric "Licorice" Ritchie's performance on Sylas, bringing successful innovation to the LCS in trademark C9 fashion.
Cloud9 and Clutch Gaming faced off on Sunday, and after Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon's Spellthief's Edge Kleptomancy Zilean Top Lane to open Saturday's matches, the top lane matchup was expected to bring a ton of flavor. However, the show was stolen by Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi's Ezreal. The Bot Laner had an impressive weekend on the Prodigal Explorer, finishing 16/1/17 in two victories as C9 solidified its 2nd place spot.
Sneaky joined InvenGlobal after Cloud9's fourth victory to discuss his start to the year, new Mid Laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer's addition to the team identity , and the lunacy of Spellthief's Edge Top Lane.
It's great to see you, Sneaky. Last time we caught up was All-Stars in Las Vegas. What have you been up to since then?
From All-Stars, I went straight to Korea for our bootcamp. I had a week-long break around Christmas time, so I went back home to Florida. I came back to California after that and have been practicing ever since, so it's been good.
Was it nice being home for the holidays?
Yeah, it was. Usually I get to stay home longer in the off-season, but I think that was my fault because initially, I stayed in California after Worlds ended last year. Normally, I would go straight back home, but since I didn't this time, I was only there for Christmas.
When did Cloud9 start practicing?
If you include December, we've been practicing for almost two months now. We've been playing consistently in the weeks of January leading up to the LCS.
How are you feeling about C9's performance in the LCS thus far?
Pretty good. This is our first 2-0 week, which means a lot, because I think we should have gone 2-0 last week before we lost to Counter Logic Gaming. It's pretty good to stay up in the standings and not drop any games to other teams. The only team we should have lost to was Team Liquid, but that's only in the circumstance that we play our most perfect split possible. Obviously, every team wants to do that, and in our instance, it would mean we get a playoff bye in a top 2 seed.
Your victory today against Clutch Gaming was far more convincing than yesterday's victory against TSM. Is that more indicative of C9's execution, or the difficulty of the game itself based on the team you were playing?
I think it was just an easier game. We seemed to have a lot more pressure when compared to yesterday. This game was still a bit slow to start — the first turret didn't fall until almost 20:00 — but then things exploded right after that. CG tried to dive me and Zeyzal when we were top, and we just ended up killing everyone. We already had two mountain drakes, so we closed it out quickly.
The game was a bit slow early, but we were contesting all of the dragons, which felt good. The one time CG tried to come in and contest, they essentially killed themselves. Yesterday, we weren't really getting any good fights because TSM's comp was so hard to kill, so this game felt pretty good.
Your composition was also harder to execute yesterday when compared to today's draft. It seems that there are varying degrees of levels of execution for various compositions.
Yeah, I'd usually say that's true for most metas. There's always a snowball-centric comp that can do really well once ahead. Usually it revolves around poke, but poke is especially reliable this year.
You see a lot of Jayce, Ezreal, and Zoe because poke seems even easier to succeed with since the minion changes. The minions got faster and do more damage, so the minions kill each other in the lane at a higher rate. It's so much easier to just play in two lanes when you don't have to care about the side lane, because you'll never get those huge waves crashing that you'll have to catch. The most that you'll lose at any point is about a wave and a half of creeps.
The minion changes have had a large effect on the meta, but earlier this week, we saw a strategy that involved no minions at all by Clutch Gaming's Huni. Because of how the no-CS, Spellthief's Edge Kleptomancy Top Laners enable poke, do you think we will see this become a meta standard?
I want to say that's not going to be a thing. It's really stupid. Huni starts E as Zilean, then he starts auto attacking with the speed boost. Then he levels up, gets W to reset his E, and repeats the process. He's not even trying to kill anyone, he's just being annoying and getting gold. I think Huni would have ended up with more gold if he had just taken Kleptomancy and farmed. He probably had less pressure, too.
At a point in the early game, Huni was down 0 CS to 25, but was leading in gold.
Yeah, but if you looked at ten minutes, Ezreal had Kleptomancy as well, and was 700 gold ahead of Zilean while CS'ing normally. By taking Kleptomancy, you should have a gold lead in lane almost by default. The only advantage from doing this Spellthief's Edge strategy is that you get more wards. That's the only reason I ever see it being good. If it becomes too popular, I think Riot will nerf or take it down it some way, because it's too stupid.
Could this strategy potentially lead to a rebirth of the Funnel meta from last year?
It's up there in terms of uniqueness, but I don't think it's similar at all in terms of relative effectiveness. You have to be playing a strong laning champion for it to work, and it has to be a champion that can take Spellthief's Edge and not be terrible. It's just a cheese strategy that I don't think will be around for long.
Knowing C9, that means you guys will probably be playing it next week.
On a more serious note, how has your team development been going with Nisqy in the Mid Lane?
We're always trying to improve on things together as a team, as opposed to just Nisqy himself, but in review, there are things that we tell him about the way we think we want to play. He hasn't been on the team very long, but the core of this team has been together for a while. We've somewhat established the ways we want to blow open leads and use Baron, so we give suggestions that play towards our strengths as a team and he's very open to that.
Nisqy is really accepting of how we want to play. He has a good champion pool, he's been communicating a lot, and he's playing pretty well.
How does having Nisqy in the team change the team's style when compared to playing with Jensen in years past?
The only stylistic difference is that Nisqy calls for jungle less than Jensen, which means we potentially have less leads through mid lane. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a difference. Also, champion-pool wise, Nisqy excels on different champions than Jensen does. It will change with the meta, too, of course, but the meta has stayed pretty similar since the 2018 World Championship.
Nisqy has a good champion pool. Zoe is one of his really strong picks, for example. Jensen's favorite pick was Zilean...well, I don't know if it was his favorite, but he's pretty good on it and we played well with it. Nisqy has tried it too, but it's up to him whether he really likes a champion or not.
Zilean was certainly Reapered's favorite champion for Jensen, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see it again soon. With Jensen moving to TL, this marks another new lineup that you have been a part of in C9. Do you feel that you've had to change your style as the team's identity has changed over the years?
I feel like I will have to occasionally change up the specifics of what I'm doing, but I play team fights pretty similarly most of the time. It's more about how often you're moving to make a play, and what you're giving up for it. For example, are you giving up a wave to go for a fight that your team thinks it can win, or are you pushing the wave first before moving, etc. That's the most I'll change with my own play.
For example, I was initially building synergy with Smoothie, there would be times that I'd push out a side lane, and it'd be very dark on my side of the map in terms of vision control. Smoothie would be getting control for everyone else, and I would just get killed on the darker side of the map. In that way, I had to build synergy with the team by adjusting to make sure I would stay safe in those situations, either with me playing further back while Smoothie warded, or getting vision on my side first if it's prudent.
Recently, I haven't had to make too many changes because Nisqy is our only new player, and he's pretty similar to Jensen. My champion pool will change based on what I feel is strongest at that moment and plays towards my comfort. Stylistically, I play about the same as I did last year at Worlds.
Do you think Cloud9 is a top tier team in LCS with Team Liquid?
Yeah, for sure. I don't really see anyone else up there at the moment. I would have said TSM and Clutch Gaming were contenders before today, and FlyQuest was doing alright before they went 0-2 this weekend. It's hard to say; it changes every week, honestly.
We've only seen teams play about six games on stage, so it is hard to make predictions. Are there any teams that you think could make a run at the top of the table in North America
Before this game, I would have said Clutch, but nothing really seems obvious. This year, everyone is a lot weaker currently than the top 2 teams. I think if there is a dark horse, it will be a dark horse! You can't really call it.