Cloud9 defeated Golden Guardians in Week 6, Day 1 of the 2019 LCS Spring Split, extending their win streak to seven heading into Day 2. Cloud9 also made its first substitution of the 2019 LCS, bringing in Robert "Blaber" Huang in place of Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen in the Jungle.
Blaber's aggression was a revelation for Cloud9 last summer, as he ended up being the sparkplug the team needed to get back on its feet. However, Blaber's inexperience was made all too apparent at the 2018 World Championship, and Svenskeren started the majority of the games and has continued to do so. Still, Cloud9's roster swaps is part of Head Coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu's multi-faceted unorthodox approach that makes Cloud9 such a force come playoffs.
Blaber sat down with Inven Global following his victory to discuss his first game back in the LCS, his relationship with Svenskeren, and his growth from his LCS debut until now.
We're here with Blaber after his 2019 debut on the LCS stage. How do you feel about your play?
I don't think I played super well. I think I did okay, but regardless, I'm super happy to be back on stage with Cloud9 and I'm looking forward to playing more, if possible.
How did you find out you were going to be playing on stage this week?
I didn't know I was going to be playing today at first, but this week, Reapered told me that I would have a tryout to play with the main team. Svenskeren and I split scrims from the beginning of the week. I still played for Cloud9 Academy in this week's games because I've been playing with them for a while now.
I didn't find out I was playing until last night. Reapered just walked in my room at 1am and said "you know you're playing LCS tomorrow, right?" And I was like, "Uhhh..yeah!"
You played Rek'Sai today, which is a very strong champion on this patch. Was the champion pick part of the reason you started today?
I mean, I'm always down to play Rek'Sai if it's open. I have picks into it too, obviously, but I don't think she's necessarily overpowered in this meta. I think she's just a pick I'm really comfortable on. I used to be a Rek'Sai one-trick when I first climbed to Challenger, but I don't think champion pool was the main reason I started. I think the main reason I started was to prepare for playoffs with substitutions.
C9 ended up pulling this game out convincingly, but things were a bit disjointed in the early game. What do you think happened?
Golden Guardians' composition had a really strong early game. All three of my lanes were weaker than theirs, except maybe Bot Lane. Mid and Top were getting shoved in. Elise, Leblanc, Kalista, and Jayce are all very early-game oriented champions, and I messed up my pathing in addition to that.
I thought Elise was going to start at Red Buff, but that didn't make sense in hindsight, because they had Jayce, and would certainly be looking for a dive in Top Lane. Licorice told me they were stacking a huge wave and I knew they were going to invade me. That put me pretty far behind, but I was able to come back.
You've made your name on mechanical skill and wanton aggression. Do you think GGS drafted early game champions to try and stifle you?
Potentially. I think they drafted Jayce as a flex, because I think Contractz plays it in the Jungle, too. Elise is a good champion into Rek'Sai, so maybe that's how they were trying to stop my aggression. Our composition heavily out-scaled theirs, so we were just farming the dragons and waiting.
What was playing on stage today like compared to playing with the team on stage last year?
No, I think we still play the same way. The only difference is that we played more towards Jensen when he was in the lineup. When I play with Nisqy, we play more away from him than towards him. We can play around Mid Lane if we need to if it's a pressure point, but generally we go towards Bot or Top.
More often than not, he's roaming to a side lane with you.
Right. Before, it was Zeyzal and I going mid to help Jensen, so I guess that's the main difference.
Did you expect to be on C9 Academy when the year started?
Yeah, I definitely expected it. I was debating whether I wanted to play another split on Cloud9 Academy, or whether I wanted to go somewhere else and maybe look for an LCS spot. In the end, I decided to stay with C9, and I pretty much knew I was going to play in the North American Academy League. Svenskeren had a really insane performance at the 2018 World Championship, and my performance was not the greatest, to say the least.
I personally didn't feel that great after worlds because I didn't play my best, so I wanted to use this time to improve myself again and try to be a better player on C9.
How has playing on Cloud9 Academy been going this year? Have you been able to work on things you felt like you were exposed for at worlds?
I don't know if I would say I got exposed at worlds, but I felt that I myself didn't play that well. I made mistakes — everyone remembers the Jarvan mistake against Gen.G around Baron:
Other small stuff happened too that people didn't see as much, though, like me not putting as much pressure as I usually would in game. I was playing with less confidence, and I guess that was because it was at Worlds. I wanted to work on those things, as well as my mechanics.
Do you feel that you can get more experience out of an LCS game than you can a game in Academy?
It definitely feels way different playing on stage. I feel like I get more valuable practice in playing on stage. When I'm playing academy games, I'm in my scrim room and not even in uniform. I don't feel as pressured when playing in the NA Academy League because of this, and also, the level of play is much higher in LCS. I definitely feel a lot more pressure in LCS, so it helps me grow a lot more.
Does the environment of being on stage make you more nervous or put you in a better competitive zone mentally?
Right now, I don't think playing on stage affects me. I wasn't particularly nervous going into this game, I just thought it was cool I was getting to play on stage again. I was excited. Of course it's going to make me a bit more nervous than compared to academy games, but today was just like any other LCS game.
Have you been able to take anything away from Svenskeren's play with the main roster this split?
Me and Svenskeren talk a lot about jungle matchups, pathing, and item builds. We're pretty close when it comes to that type of stuff. We're not competing with each other and we're always trying to help each other. We talked about Rek'Sai a lot when she came back in the meta, as well as some other picks. Svenskeren's a really good player, so when he tells me something, I always listen and I respect it a lot.
Do the two of you have different perspectives from being at two very different points in your career?
We definitely have different style. In terms of perspective, I have a lot of interesting ideas that he doesn't really like sometimes *laughs* and he'll tell me, "That idea doesn't sound that great." Or he'll be sarcastic like, "YEAH! SOUNDS GOOD! I'LL TRY IT OUT!" That's how I know he's memeing me.
We definitely bring different stuff to the table for our team. When Svenskeren is in, he controls a lot of the macro and generally knows where to be at the right time. For me, I just like...go in. Zeyzal and I have some special, weird synergy, so we try to utilize coordinated aggression to control vision.
In our last interview, we talked about your synergy with Zeyzal. Has he changed at all as a player since you last played with him on stage?
Zeyzal and I are really close, so we duo queue a lot. I've only been scrimming with the team for about four days, and those are only half-days, so I haven't noticed a ton of changes in his team play.
Beforehand, I would call for some insane play, and Zeyzal would say, 'Yeah i'm down for it.' and then we would go in and both die. Now, if it's really bad, he knows when to call me off when we can't do something. He's good at helping me adapt and holds me back a lot of the time.
How has your mindset changed from your first game in the LCS when compared to now?
When I first started, I was really nervous about my first time playing LCS. I was just hoping to not get stomped. I was confident in my play, but still, the first time playing in LCS is always tough.
When I first came into the main roster, we weren't winning and were like in 10th place. We were already losing games, so I was ready to try my best and there wasn't much to loss. Coming in to play your first game when the team is 8-2 has you thinking, 'Man I hope I don't lose this for the team!' The pressure is different, but it's still there. Before today, Cloud9 was on a six game winning streak, but Reapered trusted me with that.
Now that you've had a chance to play in LCS again, are there any junglers in North America that impress you?
The Junglers that are performing the best are Svenskeren and Santorin. Those are the two that pop out to me.
Thanks so much for the interview, Blaber. Great to see you play today, is there anything you'd like to say to the C9 fans?
Thanks for cheering for me. Hopefully I'll be able to play some more in the future.