Cloud9's victory over TSM on the first day of the third week of the 2019 LCS Spring Split was the best match of the young North American season. The old kings of NA battled back and forth in a 45-minute showdown. The game stayed close, with TSM managing to stay a half-step above Cloud9 as the late game progressed.
Once the game crested the 30 minute mark, superior execution in teamfighting turned the tide for Cloud9, highlighted by Eric "Licorice" Ritchie's debut on Sylas. Licorice was the first player in the LCS to unshackle Sylas, and he made all the difference for C9. Pivotal stolen ultimates from Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg's Lissandra, Andy "Smoothie" Ta's Zilean, and Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik's Sion turned the tide for Cloud9 as each fight balanced on a knife's edge.
Licorice sat down with Inven Global to discuss the Sylas pick, Cloud9's new Mid Laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer, and his first impressions of his sophomore season.
We're here with Licorice after an exciting victory over TSM. How important was this win in terms of your split's schedule?
Right now, every win is super important for us. The loss against Counter Logic Gaming was unexpected, so after that, we want to prove that we are still a top 2 team in North America. Every game really matters.
The highlight of this game was your Sylas pick, which was the first time we've seen the champion in NA. How long have you been practicing it?
I've been playing it for the past week, and maybe a bit before that in solo queue. I honestly didn't think I'd be playing Sylas today, but the draft phase went completely differently than what I thought was going to happen.
I think Sylas is a really fun champion to play. There's a lot of outplay potential and reaction timing-based plays that you can make.
What about the draft made optimal condition for Sylas?
TSM had so many ultimates that were valuable to steal. I probably stole the Lucian ult more than I should have due to how insane Lissandra, Sion, and Zilean ultimates are in team fights. The primary factor is whether the ultimate abilities the enemy champions possess are worth taking.
You took Kleptomancy in lane against Sion. Can you explain your rune choices on Sylas?
Yeah, it's just a ranged vs. tank matchup, so I took Kleptomancy as you would in any other similar matchup so I could get a whole lot of gold early. I went the safest possible rune setup with Kleptomancy, and then Resolve second with Second Wind and Revitalize. I just hit him for gold, and that's pretty much how the lane goes.
Sylas was played this week in the LEC. Did you watch any of those games before pulling him out on stage yourself?
Not really. I only saw bits and pieces of the games, but I do know that they all lost. Personally, I thought the pick was really strong, so I was fine with pulling it out.
We've seen players build Sylas both AP and Tank thus far. You went for more of the AP, but do you think there are situations where going for tankiness is better?
Honestly, I haven't played him enough to know, but I do like the build I went today. I build Hextech Protobelt-01 first and then capped my CDR as fast as possible, then focused on building AP. That build feels really good.
When we interviewed your Mid Laner, Nisqy, he mentioned that you two get along well and work on flex picks together. Will we see Cloud9 pull out Sylas in the Mid Lane soon?
You never know.
We'll keep an eye out for that. Has Nisqy changed the way the team plays since joining Cloud9
Nisqy's been around for a while, but he doesn't always know exactly what he wants to do in game. Seasoned veterans will always know what they want to do, and sometimes it's not the right thing for your team's style, and it can be hard to adjust. However, Nisqy is very open. Any way that we want to play the game, he will always be doing his best. I think he's a really good player and a great fit for the team so far.
Veterans are often more set in their ways because the way they has played has granted them success for more time. Now that you are in the second year of your career, how have you adjusted your play?
I think I'm a lot more confident this year, which is both good and bad. I've noticed that if I'm not nervous at all before a match, then I tend to not play as well. Last year, I was having the opposite problem and was too nervous before games sometimes. That's something I'm trying to fix. Apart from that, everything feels more natural in general.
Strong rookie years are often followed by sophomore slumps. Is that on your mind at all?
Not really. I have a really good gameday routine that I go through, and I've been doing that since the start of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split. It's been working really well for me so far, and I'm going to keep up with that. I'm not concerned about a sophomore slump. I think I will do really well again.
From your perspective, how has Broken Blade performed in his LCS debut thus far?
I met Broken Blade at All-Stars. He seems like a super good dude, I really like him. I've been watching a bit of TSM: Legends and he seems like a great fit for TSM's atmosphere. In addition, he's not afraid to make plays on stage, which is something I really like to see.
People will oftentimes go the other way and play way too timidly on stage in their first split, but he always wants to kill his lane opponent on stage. That's something I respect a lot.
Do you think we will see changes to the top lane meta on the new patch?
The top lane meta is pretty crazy right now. There are a lot of different strategies you can play. Huni just played the Spellthief's Edge Kleptomancy Zilean where he doesn't farm, for example. I think we will have to wait and see what sticks.
Thanks for the interview, Licorice. Do you have any personal goals for 2019?
I really want to win LCS. We weren't able to win LCS last year, but I think we can with our current team.