Despite Cloud 9’s success in Summer split of Season 3, their play style was the subject of a great deal of criticism from their peers and analysts regarding their early game and weak lanes. With Spring split of Season 4 came a transformation in Cloud 9’s play. The team emphasized early aggression, stating they wished to take control of their own destiny rather than letting the win come to them with superior strategy.
Such a dramatic shift brought predictions of a less successful split from the team, but playoffs came and went with Cloud 9 coming in only one game under their Season 3 25/3 Summer record. I spoke with Hai about Cloud 9’s mindset for the season, their shift in strategy, and the team’s performance coming out of the Spring Split.
How has the environment in the LCS changed in season 4? Does it feel more competitive than last season?
Hai: When we joined the LCS, every team had pretty bad practice regimes and it showed because we dominated them. We did things differently from every other team, even our pick/ban strategy was new. When we brought all those things into the LCS, the teams had to adapt and change otherwise they'd continue to get dumpstered.
This last split, you could see the other teams doing what we started. Bringing their own notebooks, planning out pick/bans more in-depth, changing how they prioritize champion select and how they practice. Bringing in analysts and playing more solo que.
So with all that being done, teams have become much better.
How did this regiment develop? Was it just what worked best for Cloud 9 or did you have any influences?
Hai: As far as practice goes, we were the only team that highly valued Solo Q as good practice. We loved playing it so that came naturally. For picks and bans, Lemon more or less started that a while back. So things kind of just came natural to us.
Cloud 9 repeated its 3 game shutout of TSM in the playoffs. Do you feel like the games were closer this split?
Hai: I don't really remember how much harder/easier the games were, I would like to say they were definitely harder though.
In the 4.5 meta 4v0 lanes were very common and favored teams with the greatest map movements, which is something Cloud 9 is known for and to which TSM was having trouble adapting. All 3 matches against TSM, however, were standard lane matchups, which is TSM’s comfort zone. Can you comment on the decision behind this strategy?
Hai: In the games against TSM, we were Blue for ⅔ of the matches. If a 4v0 is going to happen it is initiated by the red side team. For our red game, we did a poor invade which locked us into the 2v2 situation.
Members of Cloud 9 answered most questions regarding their expectations of a repeat of the season 3 25/3 score by saying they believed with was partially luck and unlikely to happen again. Was this due to the other teams stepping up their practice?
Hai: As every other team became stronger, we did as well. I don't think any team should ever go into a split thinking they will be so dominant. We just happened to be able to play better than our opponents this time again and got a similar score, albeit each game was much harder.
Another big subject for Cloud 9 this split has been earlier aggression. How do you feel about the teams progress over the course of the split?
Hai: I think we became much better at being more aggressive early game. Last split we didn't have a need to be aggressive early as we could be passive and just win. As the meta changed and the world showed us the flaws of that play style, we adapted. Meteos has become an amazing early game jungler now and our lanes have vastly improved over this split.
A common criticism of Cloud 9 during Season 3 was weak individual lanes, but Spring has shown all of Cloud 9’s lanes stepping up their game. Has laning or personal play also been a focus of improvement?
Hai: People always criticized our individual laning, but that was due to low pressure from jungler while we were playing too aggressive without having pressure. So, while we weren't bad laners, we were just dumb laners. We've become much smarter since then.
One of the main criticisms of you personally has been your limited champion pool. It looks like you took great pains to expand your pick diversity this season. The rest of the team has also been making a wider variety of picks. Was this also an emphasis or just a result or your teams adaptation?
Hai: At worlds I did not play two of the popular champions at the time, Orianna and Ahri. That came to hurt me as we banned it every game. Granted, we didn't have to ban them so it was a poor pick/ban plan from us as well but it didn't help that I didn't play them. So once again, I haven't made a giant effort to make my champion pool bigger, we just became smarter with priority of champions and picks/bans.
Do you think picking in meta or avoiding having a single player getting banned has been more important this season?
Hai: Picking in meta is more important.
Do you have new goals prepared for the Summer split?
Hai: I have a goal of hitting Rank 1 in challenger lol but it's pretty far away, as far as the actual LCS I want to avoid relegation first and foremost, worrying about worlds can come after that.
Any shoutouts to our fans or sponsors?
Hai: I want to thank our sponsors, HyperX, Logitech, Alienware, Lol-Class, NEEDforSEAT, Homejoy, and sideqik. Thanks everyone for the support, please cheer for us at All Stars and the next split!