January 20th (PST) marked the beginning of 2017 LCS NA Spring Split. The opening match was between none other than Team SoloMid and Cloud9 - the matchup that was seen previously in the NA LCS 2016 Summer Grand Final, with the victor being TSM with a 3-1 record.
However, Cloud9 came back with a vengeance along with a new jungler Juan "Contractz" Garcia. With Contractz and Eonyeong "Impact" Jeong at the helm, C9 had their revenge against TSM with the score of 2-0.
After the match, we had a chance to speak with Impact about the opening match, new teammates and his life as a veteran in the LCS NA.
Let's hear what he has to say.
Congratulations on your win today! You must be very happy.
I'm very happy to have won our first match of the season against Team SoloMid with a 2-0 record, because we really wanted revenge after we've lost against TSM with a 1-3 record in the NA LCS 2016 Summer Grand Final.
Fans were wondering about what you've been doing after the World Championship, can you tell us a bit about it?
I went back to Korea to treat my wrist and get some rest. I couldn't play computer games in my home at Korea, so I played video games in the living room. However, even that was too much for my back, so I had no choice but to watch YouTube channels while lying down. I felt dead inside because I couldn't play any games. (Laughs)
I see, is your wrist better now?
In addition to having it treated, C9 assigned a personal trainer to me so that I can exercise regularly and stay healthy. It's much better than how it used to be, and C9 is making sure that it stays that way.
Pick and ban choices for today's games were not very different from the LCK matches. Could it be that the metagame has already been figured out? Also, what are your thoughts on the current metagame?
I'm sure the teams have the metagame somewhat figured out already, but I have a hunch that some teams got their ideas from the LCK picks. As for us, today's Shen pick was one of the things that we've tried on our own. In this metagame, while playing a DPS champ in the toplane is still a possibility, a tank is much more stable and valuable in a team.
Another thing that I want to mention is that it feels like junglers are a bit too powerful in this metagame. Once in a scrim, I was killed by the enemy jungler that dived into my tower on his own. It felt like I was cheated. The morale of the story is that junglers are currently very strong, and while it's easy for them to snowball a game into victory, their responsibility in a game has increased dramatically as well.
On the other hand, the botlane duo is also very important, because with how the metagame favors botlane duo with hard CCs, it became very easy to see a 2-0 exchange in the botlane. Since the botlane is linked closely to the Dragon, the current botlane metagame poses high risk but has high reward as well.
To sum up, I think the junglers and the botlane duo have a lot of responsibility in terms of winning in this metagame.
Today was the first match in the LCS NA with the 10-ban system. What are your thoughts about it?
I think it's a good system. However, there are rooms for improvement because I feel it's advantageous for the red team. As the red team gets the first and last pick during the second pick phase, even when they just ban the three usual suspects (Rengar, LeBlanc, Camille), they are unlikely to lose out in the draft phase.
It felt like the red team was losing out because they had to ban all the 'must-bans' before the change, but now it feels like the opposite. In my opinion, the current 10-ban system would need a bit of tweaking soon.
Still, the general effect and the intention of the new system is commendable. It was jarring at first, but now that we have clearer idea of the metagame, the strategic aspect of draft phase feels more impactful, and it's easier to have Plan Bs in case the draft doesn't go as planned.
Contractz and Andy "Smoothie" Ta showed a good performance today. What are your thought about the two?
Smoothie is a good player to begin with, but he was on a different level today. I've never seen him use Bullet Time that well during scrims, but his Bullet Time today was a game-winner.
As for Contractz, I already knew from scrims that he is a good player with solid mechanics and fundamentals. Of course, being a rookie, he does sometimes stumble and fall, but he can dominate the game on his good day. I can feel that he is improving over time as he works on fundamentals and teamwork.
Your Nautilus on Set 2 was definitely something. Were there any other memorable picks from either side?
Actually, I wasn't sure why TSM would pick Trundle in Set 2, because Rek'Sai goes well with a DPS toplaner, and Trundle is not a DPS champ. So, I thought we had a good chance of winning after seeing that pick.
The most memorable pick was actually Katarina. While it is often being compared to SK Telecom T1's Katarina pick, the surrounding factors are too different. In my opinion, SKT's Katarina was effective because SKT's composition had other DPS champs that could support Katarina, but TSM's composition today had no DPS champs other than Katarina. I think Katarina could have been more effective if the circumstances were better.
Many toplaners from Korea, such as Chanho "Ssumday" Kim, Hyeongseok "Looper" Jang and Hojong "Flame" Lee, came to the LCS NA. What do you think will happen when you face them in a match?
I haven't put much thought into it, but I personally think very highly of Looper. His laning phase, roaming phase and teamfight is very good. He is simply a good player. As for Ssumday, our past match history shows that I won more often than not, so I think I still have the upper hand. I'm not really sure about Flame, I think I'll need to see him play a match in the LCS NA before I can say.
It's been a while since you've moved into the USA, are there any Korean players in the NA LCS that you like to hang out with?
I like to hang out with Gwangjin "Piglet" Chae, and we sometimes go to noraebang together to sing. I knew Euijin "Reignover" Kim before I came to the States, so he is another good friend of mine. Among the newly-imported players, I know Donghyun "Arrow" Roh pretty well because we were in Xenics together before.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything else you want to say to your fans?
Even though this might be a new chapter for Cloud9, I want to go to the World Championship to see the fans from around the globe once again.
Also, if you are not watching the LCS NA, you really should. We do have our shortcomings, but we are trying very hard to be the best that we can, and I think it's an interesting league to begin with, especially after how the new ban system changed the metagame.