As Cloud9 continues to rampage through the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split, support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme has been particularly outspoken surrounding a proposal to potentially remove the LCS import rule. Vulcan's outspokenness does not come as a surprise — Vulcan put himself on the map as a top prospect in the 2017 NA Scouting Grounds, and as one of the best supports in the 2021 LCS, is a shining example of successful domestic talent development.
After Cloud9 won its first match of the year against Evil Geniuses this weekend, Vulcan spoke to Inven Global about contributing factors to C9's strong play, went in-depth on his thoughts regarding any adjustment or removal of the LCS import restrictions, and pondered on the potential role of the LCS Players Association in the current situation surrounding the import rule.
Congratulations on getting your first win against Evil Geniuses in 2021. Did you learn things from previous losses against EG that helped you win today?
Honestly, regardless of the result, playing against a team like EG makes us more comfortable against that type of team. EG is a bit of a cheesy team who will go for things other teams won't like looking for a quick pick despite being down in numbers. Those types of plays can very much go south for them as long as we cover our bases and keep our basics intact.
This is what we aimed to do today, and because we had a much better draft than EG today, I think it's hard to say how well we were able to execute our game plan. Overall, I'd say the fact that we lost to EG before definitely helped us get the better of them today.
One of the highlights of this match was your engages on Rell, who was a champion previously evaluated as not strong enough for competitive play. What makes Rell one of the best tanky engage support champions in the current meta?
At first, I was not on the Rell hype train. I thought the champion was quite bad because it felt like the angles were pretty hard to engage with, but I definitely changed my mind over time. I feel like Rell is a strong support right now, so that's why we first picked it today. As to Rell's strengths as a champion, I think she's very good at peeling because you can use crowd control people around you and protect your AD carry.
In addition, I think Rell is the strongest engage support right now because players aren't as used to it as other older options that fit the same mold like Alistar. Alistar has been out for ten years, everyone knows how to play against him, but not everyone knows how to play against Rell yet. Because of this, you're able to find a lot more angles to engage fights.
Rell is a bit cheesy in that regard, but at the same time, the engage is pretty instant and hard to play against. I love playing those kinds of champions, so I think Rell fits me pretty well.
Now that we have seen you play against every full LCS roster, are there any teams or players who have stood out to you as a challenge to the first place C9?
I think Team Liquid is always the team we look at as our main competitor because, in my mind, TL has the highest ceiling of any other LCS team. That being said, I'm pretty impressed by Dignitas' record. I didn't expect DIG to be this high in the standings, and even though our game against them wasn't very difficult, I feel like it's pretty impressive they've been able to win so many games against other top teams.
DIG has surprised me, but I don't think they are a threat to us. I think that's reserved mainly for Team Liquid.
You've been particularly outspoken in the discussion regarding the LCS import rule. As someone who has gone from a 2017 North American Scouting Grounds prospect, to Academy hopeful, to LCS star, do you feel an extra responsibility to speak up on behalf of NA talent as proof that it can be cultivated and developed?
Yeah, that's one of the biggest reasons why I feel I have to be more vocal about this issue. In my mind, I would never have been promoted to the LCS if the import rule didn't exist.
On Clutch Gaming, I was a rookie who did pretty good, but not insanely good, in the Academy League. CG ended up giving me a chance, and I don't think that's a chance I would have gotten if there was no import rule. We already had 3 South Korean players on our roster in the 2019 LCS Spring Split, and it would have been easy for CG to just go with a full Korean lineup.
I feel like removing all import restrictions would take away a lot of opportunities from North American players, and I think it would take away from the identity of the region. It would just mean that we are giving up. I see a lot of the LCS owners mentioning revenue as a big issue and/or viewership decline, but I don't think that's related to competitive performance.
The Ligue Française de League of Legends is inferior in skill to the LCS, yet the LFL has more viewers than LCS, so I think LCS needs to step up their product and have better content around the league. I feel like the LCS is not that attractive of a product to viewers, and you can import more players, but there are other underlying issues like solo queue and ping problems that need to be figured out before we're worried about having too many NA players on our LCS teams.
Despite being able to scrim on the 10 ping of the Tournament Realm, do you think the solo queue ping due to the server being in Chicago, IL is still a major detriment to LCS players?
Yeah, it really is. You develop muscle memory, but then, the timing is different. When the timing is always different in solo queue, it's harder to dodge abilities than it is on the TR. This leads to slowly developing two different 'playstyles' because if you can't dodge something in solo queue that you could dodge on TR, you're going to play that situation differently. Muscle memory is a pretty big part of the game, so you can build habits from playing solo queue on this higher ping.
Most of the time, players play more solo queue games than scrim games, so you end up spending a lot more time playing on higher ping. Anyone from other regions playing solo queue on relatively lower ping won't have that same disadvantage of building bad habits, and I feel like this is a pretty big factor for North America not doing well historically at international competitions.
The LCSPA n has been surprisingly silent throughout the entire conversation surrounding imports. Do you think the LCSPA has a responsibility to be a part of this conversation?
I think they should be, but I guess I don't really know what kind of power they have. I don't know to what extent they'd be able to help in this situation, but in my mind, the LCSPA should for sure have a role in this discussion. I don't know how impactful they are or could be, and I also know that the PA is going through leadership changes currently, so they might have to figure that out before making a statement or doing anything else. I think the LCSPA should help NA players in this case.
As an outspoken example of developed domestic talent, could you see yourself in a role within the Players Association in the future?
I think I'd have to put more thought into that. I haven't really been that interested in it in the past, but I'm starting to seed the potential need for a NA player stepping up in a bigger role in this way. I'm not against the idea in the future, but I don't know, I kind of just want to play for now. That being said, if I see it's becoming a requirement for me or someone else to do it, I'll feel out if I'd have to do it, and if so, I guess I'd be happy to be the one who does it. That's how I see it.
Until then, we'll have to settle for your usual standard of excellence on Summoner's Rift. Thanks for the interview, Vulcan. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Thanks to the C9 fans for always cheering for us. Hopefully, we bring back another Spring trophy for you guys.
All images by: Oshin Tudayan for Riot Games