On Saturday, Cloud9 defeated TSM in playoffs for the first time since 2014. With Svenskeren and Goldenglue coming in to save the team from a 1-2 deficit, Cloud9 defeated TSM 3-2 to contest Team Liquid for the crown.
After the match, Cloud9 head coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu was happy to share his thoughts on beating TSM for the first time, how he thought about the 7-man roster, and how thankful he is for winning the coach of the split award.
Congratulations! This is the first time you won against TSM in a Bo5. How do you feel?
First, I’m really happy that we won. Goldenglue and Svenskeren had a hard time early-mid season. I’m really happy and thankful that they found their original form and brought it out to gain victory.
TSM had been Cloud9’s natural enemy in the playoffs. Was that on your mind?
Yes, it was. We lost to them twice in the finals before; I think it was an important factor in our performance being better than before. I tried to motivate my players with those two final losses.
What did you concentrate on the most when preparing for today’s match?
The first priority was to prepare two different styles so that the opponent feels like their playing against two different teams when playing the starters and the subs. Another thing was that I wanted to make use of TSM’s weaknesses that I saw in the game today. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well in game 3. That’s a bit regretful.
So did the game go as expected?
No. It was a lot harder than I thought. We did win 3-2, but we wanted to have a high-mobility game by using Quinn; that didn’t work very well. After losing game 1, we thought that the problems were solvable, and we still thought that we could win that, so we tried again, but lost again. I think the mistake in judgment was the reason that we had to walk a rough path.
Quinn is a comfort pick for Sneaky, but he’s almost the only player that plays Quinn in the NA.
It depends on the condition, and Quinn herself is a very unique champion. She’s a champion that is very mobile, which gives her an advantage in getting vision with her W and controlling sidelanes. But maybe because of the pressure at the arena, and since the other players started a fight while she was trying to control the sidelanes, I thought, ‘Okay, so they don’t give Quinn enough time to be active. They’re impetuous.’
It was the first Bo5 for Blaber. Was he nervous?
When I talked to him, he said that he was really nervous. In a 2v2 at mid lane in game 3, there was a call that Shen’s ult was coming in, but there was a misplay, and he said that his head ached after that; that it was hard to concentrate. So I just thought, ‘That could happen. He’s a rookie.’
The 7-man roster seems to be a big advantage for Cloud9.
Yes. It is. One of the things that I wanted to emphasize to the players was that we’re winning as one team, with the 7-man roster. The starters have the responsibility of being starters. Starters are important, but the bench members are also very important. They cannot lose a single game.
But, there’s a big advantage for them as well. They watch the game with me and we share opinions while watching the game. We don’t only adjust our picks & bans, but we point out what we see during the whole game, like where the opponent’s weaknesses are, how we should work it out in the draft, or that the opponent isn’t doing well in a specific part.
We continuously talk about that and give feedback. The 7-man roster is a big advantage for us.
Were you going to sub in Goldenglue and Svenskeren if you were cornered to a match point?
Yes. Definitely. That was determined beforehand.
The picks & bans seemed to be aimed at Grig, banning out Olaf, Trundle, and Sejuani.
Yes, they were. Since Grig is a rookie, he has a small champion pool. Of course, any champion can be played, but it’s really important to have a comfort pick or a confident pick on stage. We were targeting that in the early games, but since it didn’t work out well, we changed it.
Also, TSM seemed like that they really like the purple (red) side, so we tried that, but it wasn’t good. (Laughs)
Are there any other flex picks hidden under your sleeve besides Zilean?
We do have many hidden flex picks other than Zilean, but there’s a meta that exists in Bo5. For example, in today’s match, Varus got two wins, so the value of the Varus pick in the last game went up high. We have many picks to rotate within those type of matches.
Judging from the screen, it seemed like Svenskeren wanted to play Lee Sin, but you made him change his pick. I also heard that you ban some of the players’ champions so that they can’t play them.
Many coaches always say this, but there are a lot of things that coaches learn over the season. I’ve learned a lot since last Worlds and during the Spring and Summer Splits. There are things that I’ve improved on and I’ve learned more about the players.
So there’s a standard. If this champion isn’t up to my standards; if the performance of the player playing that champion doesn’t meet my standards, I just bench that champion. (Laughs)
And Sven did want to play Graves. He just said ‘I’ll just put up Lee Sin for a while.’ (Laughs) I guess it’s because he had played for TSM and his best pick was Lee Sin.
It seems that you tweet things out often, and this time you tweeted that What's your purpose? Is it just 'poking the bear'?
I just try to hype the match up for the fans. Not as far as trash talk, but maybe just some spice so that the fans can enjoy it more. If I do, there will be more to talk about it and the people who watch may be more into the game. So I made a ‘fun’ tweet so that the fans could have more fun.
Looking back at the season, what do you think was good, and what wasn’t?
I always knew that these players have the potential to do better. I tried several things to bring out that potential, like roster changes, and I think that was good.
I guess what wasn’t [good] was the process of that happening. It was the first time I was benching players myself, and it had me look back on myself as well.
What was one of the biggest improvements you made over the season as a coach?
I started to separate what the players like to do, and what they’re good at. You know, they’re not always good at what they prefer. Also, ever since we started playing Zilean, many called us a team that’s good at ‘cheese’ that works in NA.
As a matter of fact, we prepared matches like that since the last Worlds. I was like, ‘Textbook doesn’t work? Then we’ll play what we’re good at.’ or ‘Let’s try this since their weakness is this style.’ This isn’t ‘Cheese’. It’s something called preparing well. (Laughs)
Because of that, I needed to think and study a lot more about League of Legends.
Rapidstar joined the team as assistant coach this season. How did he help out over the season?
I wanted to work with Rapidstar for quite a while. Since he worked under kkOma before, he was really good. What’s really important is that he’s a person who’s capable of being a head coach on another team, but he’s here pairing up with me, constantly giving me his input. Personally, I have very strong opinions, but Rapidstar knows how to tell me things without hurting my feelings. I think we’re a good duo.
From last place to a bye in the playoffs. You earned yourself the coach of the split award, and are arguably recognized as the best coach of the NA LCS. How do you feel?
Well, I think I really deserve it. Because I’m f***ing smart. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Ummm... Is that all?
(Laughs) Just kidding. Well, I’m not fully kidding; I always tell my players that if you want to become the best, you need to be confident. You need to know how to live up to your words.
Since there were many mistakes that I made early in the season, I wanted to prove myself -- I tried to overcome the struggles; I put in so much effort to do that, and I’m happy that I won it. I’ll thankfully receive it as a reward for my struggles.
Lastly, a final statement to the fans regarding the finals?
It was a long season. I’m very grateful to the fans that you all stayed with us, and I’m happy to repay all your support with results. Whoever comes up in the finals, I’ll make sure we win easily.
Who do you think you’ll play against?
I guess Team Liquid. Our record against each other is too one-sided. I’m still confident even if Team Liquid comes up.