With the Spring Split coming to an end in the competitive LoL scene - after a short vacation - teams go straight in to prepare for their upcoming Summer. And one way that numerous teams choose to shape up their team chemistry is to go for a boot camp.
After hearing that the Cloud9 LoL team visited Korea again for a boot camp, we couldn't help but reach out to them to hear more about their 2019 from the players themselves. We were fortunate enough to be invited to the Cloud9 residence set up near Yongsan district, Seoul. There, we sat with C9's top laner, Erice "Licorice" Ritchie, and bottom laner, Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi for an hour-long interview.
The following is the interview with Sneaky and Licorice.
Related: Cloud9 Signs Reignover as Their Coach for the Upcoming Summer
When did you come into Korea for this boot camp?
Licorice: We got here about a week ago. Some came here a bit earlier.
How is this boot camp different compared to your previous ones?
Licorice: The style of the boot camp we’re doing right now is basically the same as the one we did at the start of this year. So, this is the second time we’ve done it where it’s a lot more focused on playing solo queue. We’d scrim one day and play solo queue the next day. I really enjoy it.
Sneaky: It’s a little bit different because when we usually come to Korea, it’s to prepare for Worlds. We’d scrim all the teams that are participating in the Worlds. But, now we scrim teams such as EDG, SANDBOX. We do have teams to scrim but not the teams that are on a ‘super-high’ level. So, overall it's a different kind of feeling. We’re playing more solo queue which is interesting since it’s more helping our mechanics more so than our team play. We don’t scrim every day and we do have some time to rest as well.
So, is the schedule more flexible compared to the one you guys had right before the 2018 Worlds?
Sneaky + Licorice: Yeah, it’s much more flexible.
Licorice: We are allowed to hang around Seoul but in the first week I really didn’t leave the apartment at all. I was just playing a lot of League. But basically, on the days we’re not scrimming we’re free to do whatever.
Let’s talk about your life before jumping into the pro scene. How were you like before focusing on competitive gaming?
Sneaky: I was in my first year of college. I was going towards getting my degree in computer science. I wasn’t very far so I didn’t need to give up everything. But if I didn’t do competitive gaming, I would have been focusing on that. Before that, in high school, I was playing games a lot.
Licorice: I graduated high school and I deferred my acceptance to UBC. I took a year off and ended up being picked up by Cloud9 for their Challenger team sub. And I ended up being picked up for the Challenger League at the end of that year.
What kind of games did you play other than League of Legends?
Sneaky: I’ve always played like a ton of different stuff just whatever I can get my hands on. It’s not that I had tons of money to spend so I kind of picked and chose. I played World of Warcraft and Warcraft III… I was mainly playing Warcraft III, just the custom modes.
Licorice: I didn’t really know that there was a competitive gaming scene until I started playing League. I saw that it was being advertised inside the client and thought ‘that’d be cool’. But before that, I played a lot of Call of Duty when I was a kid. I played some Super Smash Bros. and a little bit of World of Warcraft but nothing super competitive.
What was the first rank you received in LoL?
Licorice: I did my placements and received Silver 1.
Sneaky: I was in Season 1 and it was the ELO rank… So, I was on 1,500 or something. I feel like mine was kind of cheating because I played Heroes of Newerth before I played League. That’s why League was really easy for me. I ended my first season in 1900 which was the highest bracket, Platinum at that time.
So, compared to the solo queues back in its early days… Is it easier to scale up in ranks these days or has it become more difficult?
Sneaky: It’s hard to say… Over the years, you change yourself addition to how the solo queue environment changes. Back in Season 3 and 4, I was on rank 1 or at least I would make it to top 10 in the ladder. But, it was a different environment since now I’m streaming a lot. I change ladders so often because I have to go to Korea, NA, and EU. I just lose my rank. I was 600 LP in NA before I went over here and that’s going to be gone when I go back. It happens a lot.
Well, I would say that everyone evolves in their own way in solo queue. Recently something I’ve noticed is how often people are using their Flash simply to just get on you. They’re not going to kill you. They just take your health bar with a Flash. Sometimes you’ll have to respond with a Flash and if not, you might die.
What took you guys to become a pro gamer? Were there like a specific motivation or some kind of catalyst that made you become one?
Licorice: For me, not really. I’ve always naturally been better than most people in video games. Although I also played a lot of them ever since I was really young, I was just better in League when I first started. I played a lot and eventually was able to get a high enough rank to participate in trials for teams.
Sneaky: I had Voyboy [as a role model] at the time. He was streaming and getting to play Leauge for his career. I was in college and I had the looming thought of the classes, homework, and stuff like that. I was really jealous that he would never have to do any of that; you’d only have to focus on League.
Eventually, you guys ended up in the same team, C9. How was the first impression of each other?
Licorice: I think it would be very different for both of us. When I first joined the team, I was like a ‘nobody’ and everyone would be watching Sneaky stream. He was usually number 1 or 2 on Twitch. Seeing him in person was weird since he was someone I’ve only been seeing online. I was like, “Whoa, it’s pretty weird.” (laughs) I was just kind of nervous.
Sneaky: I’m not sure if I had a too big of a first impression. He came to the team after 2017 Worlds when Impact left. We were letting him go and said, “Go to TL. Get the big money!” (laughs) And Jack was talking up Licorice. He said, “This guy went to Korea pretty much on his own. He’s just grinding. He has a really high rank and has a super good attitude.” I didn’t actually know that he was on our Challenger team. (laughs) It was cool and interesting for sure.
Going into this Spring, C9 sent Jensen off to another team. Besides that, you guys didn’t have any big changes in the starting lineup. Nisqy also filled in for Jensen pretty well. Were you confident in playing up to the performance you guys displayed last year in Worlds?
Sneaky: I would say we were pretty confident. We did the Korean boot camp as well so it felt that we were extra prepared compared to other teams. We tried to build our synergy up with Nisqy. Throughout the split we did really well. We only lost to TL for the most part and dropped a few games that could’ve eventually mattered. If we didn’t drop the game against Echo Fox and CLG… If we won 1 game against TL than we could’ve finished on 1st place. Overall, it was a pretty decent season. The end kind of sucked obviously.
I know it must have been frustrating to lose against TSM this playoffs. What was the main reason for that defeat? Was it more related to the players’ mentality or was it more about the performance in general?
Sneaky: I think it’s hard to say… You go into it and if we’d just lost 0-3… But, it’s a lot different when you lose after going up 2 games.
Licorice: We were winning the 3rd game too.
Sneaky: That game was really hard though.
Licorice: Yeah, the game was difficult. We got Baron and had the position to win but we just lost. And the next game was not really good as it was compared to the rest of the games. Then game 5 we were up with the lead but just couldn’t convert it to a win.
Sneaky: It’s hard to say exactly what made us not to win. It could’ve been mentality or it could’ve been the lack of game knowledge. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was. There were a lot of mistakes we made as a team.
Looking back at your 2019 Spring, either than yourself, who would you pick as the unsung hero on the team?
Sneaky: I’d have to give it to Svenskeren. He’s playing really well. I was going to say Licorice since he almost got the MVP. Didn’t he get 2nd in votes?
Licorice: I think I got 3rd. I feel like I’d no way beat Bjergsen. (laughs) CoreJJ got the MVP… Well, I voted for Bjergsen.
Sneaky: Out of top lane, you had the most votes.
In the MSI, your former teammate Impact performed very well for TL. How is it like to watch him perform solidly in international tournaments?
Sneaky: I always like to see my old teammates do well. In the regular season, I would like to beat them. However, it would be really bad to see Impact and Jensen leave the team and don’t do anything. To see them do well makes sure that they were really good teammates. It’s happy to see them perform well.
And as a top laner yourself, what would be the strengths of Impact?
Licorice: Impact is just very confident in how he wants to play the game and how he thinks about the game which is really good to play with. He’s very solid and if something goes wrong he knows what he wants to change to fix it. Maybe he doesn’t always have the right view on it but I think for the most part he is right. I think it’s really easy to play around him.
Your next international tournament will be the Rift Rivals. Do you have any expectations for it?
Sneaky: Rift Rivals is cool but I guess there isn’t a lot of rewards. We do want to win but everything isn’t on the line. Maybe it’s more about getting that pride of winning EU.
In the 2018 Worlds, Cloud9 was one of the best performing teams. And, there was some drama to it since the team started from the Play-Ins. What did that tournament mean to both of you?
Licorice: For me, it was my first international tournament ever. I wanted to be able to be at least playing at the same level I was playing in NA. I didn’t want to have that reputation of being one of those players where you go to international stages and just doesn’t do as well. So for me, it was mainly about gaining confidence and experience. And I do think that I did pretty well with that.
Sneaky: It was the best Worlds so far I played in. The next best one would have been 2014. I guess 2017 was a close series but 2014 felt better for us.
2018 was a really good tournament. We started from the Play-Ins which didn’t make us look too good since we almost lost games against DetonatioN FocusMe. And after the b05 against Gambit, people thought, “C9 isn’t looking too good…” (laughs) There were those memes on NA about their performance during the 2nd week; NA just loses all games in the 2nd week. But that time we did the absolute best.
It might be a bit too early to say this but let’s assume that C9 makes it to the 2019 Worlds. If you had the chance to change or fix one thing from the 2018 Worlds what would it be?
Licorice: Well it would be not starting from the Play-Ins by winning NA this Summer. We were in Korea for a month and a half playing in Worlds and it was a bit challenging. It would be better as a player to get a 1st place seed and a have a more ‘standard’ path.
Let’s move on to your careers. If you had the chance, which region would you prefer to move to?
Sneaky: The only region I would move to would be EU. I know that most players have an understanding of English so that would be the easiest region for me. Well, I think it’s really difficult for NA players to go outside their region. If any NA player goes to a Korean team, it’s obvious that he’d have to learn Korean. You can’t get away with only English which would be so hard for some people.
Licorice: I don’t have any reasons why I won’t move to EU. So, for me, it would be joining any Korean team… I don’t think it’s very likely. (laughs) Going to SKT and playing with Faker would be nice. (laughs)
Have you guys ever thought about your retirement? What would you be after finishing your competitive gaming career?
Licorice: It hasn’t really been a thought yet. I haven’t been performing as a pro for very long and I’m still trying to be a ‘good’ player. I don’t know how long it’s going to last but I’m just going to keep on doing it and see what opportunities I’ll get afterward.
Sneaky: I haven’t thought about retirement either. To me, it never really seems a thing that people should be thinking since the only reason a player should retire is when he just doesn’t enjoy the game anymore. If you lose motivation for playing solo queue, it means that you won’t be really focusing on the game too much. You won’t be enjoying scrims too. If I get to that point myself, for sure I would retire. Until then… Well, if I lose my hands or something… (laughs) I would keep on playing.
Well, would you still remain in the esports scene?
Sneaky: Yeah, I think so. I have a little bit more options compared to other players because I do streaming a lot. I would definitely remain whether it’s sticking with Cloud9 with some sort of role there or trying to be a coach.
Have you ever thought about becoming a full-time cosplayer?
Sneaky: It would be pretty hard since cosplaying, in general, takes a lot of work. But, if streaming doesn’t work… If cosplaying works better than streaming I would consider it. (laughs) (Q: (To Licorice): Have you ever thought about becoming a cosplayer?)
Licorice: (laughs) Um… I did it once. I was K/DA Evelynn. It was a good experience for me but I don’t see cosplaying in my future.
Sneaky: He didn’t have the full outfit so it’s a bit hard to tell. It was still pretty good I guess. The glasses really pulled it together.
What kind of improvement do you want to make before the Summer Split starts?
Licorice: I think for myself I want to be a more confident player inside the game and be more willing to carry the team. Before, I think I was a player that plays the game and do what only happens inside the game. I want to be more proactive as a player.
Do you have any personal goals for this Summer?
Licorice: I was chosen as the best top laner but at the same time I wasn’t way better than everyone else. It wasn’t like “I’m Faker!” and solo killing every opponent. (laughs) So, for the upcoming split, I want to work harder and become way better than everyone else. I want to make that huge gap where people would think, “He’ll probably do better than whoever he’s playing against.”
Sneaky: It changes every split. Last Spring, the situation was way worse. So, going into Summer I thought that I had to win every single game I play. This time, obviously our goals are to win but there would be a lot of individual steps on the way we’ll have to make. There are a lot of things as a team that comes up as problems that we’ll have to fix. Now that we have Reignover [as coach], it might be faster. (laughs)
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