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Q&A: Cloud9 coach Reapered on team dynamics and coaching in NA compared to China and Korea

Cloud9 has finished third in consecutive regular season splits of the North American League Championship Series, and it achieved that task in the summer after undergoing some pretty heavy changes.

The team underwent a roster overhaul between splits, with only Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi the only starters remaining from the spring, and it also added a new coach, Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu, a former coach and player in Korea and China.

Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Reapered, who spoke through team interpreter Seunghwan “Robin” Lee, during Week 8 of the LCS to talk about his transition to coaching a North American team.

Vince Nairn: You joined Cloud9 as the coach, and it was an interesting scenario because there were a lot of changes on the roster. How did you try to get acclimated right away and try to get everyone on the same page?

Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu: I’m still in the process of doing that (laughs). But anyway, Cloud9 is an old team with a lot of past glories. Right now, with this roster, it’s almost a new team. There are players that have been off stage for a while. There are players that have been on different teams. Even right now, we’re trying to get everyone on the same page. We’re just trying really hard to do just that.

VN: What were the first things you recognized when you first met with the team? What were the important parts to try and get everybody going, as close as you could?

BHG: I’m teaching them how to communicate in game. Whether it’s out of game or in game, my first impression I had with the five players was that there was a bunch of solo queue-type players. Because it’s a team game, I try to teach them how to communicate in game, as a team. Even outside the game, because it’s a game of five different personalities, I try to get them to be able to communicate without much friction outside of the game.

Our team appears like it’s a team full of roses and daffodils, and we’re all friendly with each other, and that is true. Even inside the team. I don’t know about before, though. As long as I’ve seen so far (has been good), and I didn’t want to ruin that atmosphere.

VN: Your career has been pretty full and successful in not only Korea, but also in China. What made you want to come to North America and take on a new challenge?

BHG: Both in Korea and China, I tried very hard. I think that’s why I got the results. I thought, coming to America, I would have a lot more freedom in my job. Also, as long as I hold up to my responsibilities and be more responsible with my job, I would be more respected. Those are the reasons I thought coming to the States would be a good idea.

VN: What are some of the differences between this region, compared to the other regions?

BHG: I played both a player and a coach in Korea and I was also in China and Korea. Now, I’m in the States. The most difficult thing about these kind of questions, if you move to a new region and stay there for like a month or two, you become localized. It’s kind of hard to tell the difference between other regions (laughs).

VN: How did you decide you wanted to get into coaching?

BHG: So, even when I was a player in Korea, I’ve always been half coach. Because back in Season 2, when the Korean server was just released, who could’ve even coached at the time? So, nobody could actually coach because it was a new game. At that time, there were no former pros. Players are the ones that understand the game the best. I think I was half player and half coach for two years. Even afterwards, I actually did not think of getting into coaching because coaches did not get paid well back then in Korea. I was thinking of getting into casting because I can use my game knowledge really well, and it pays pretty good, too.

When I was moving to China, there was that paradigm shift where coaches are more important to this game. When I was moving to China, coaches were treated very well. When I was coming to the States, I was treated very well, too.

VN: How do you feel about the evolution of coaching in League of Legends and how it’s progressed? Do you think that more (Western) teams are starting to see the value in coaches?

BHG: I think it’s a necessary and obvious change. It’s a game that five people play together. There’s no way five people that are sort of randomly put together can learn to instantly communicate and be on the same page and make sure that someone that’s pissed off can cool down. That’s when coaches and the staff become really important. They’re the ones that can reduce the friction and create harmony between the five teammates, and make them synergize on-stage. They perform better, and other teams naturally go, “Hey! This team brings in more staff to make sure their players aren’t aggravated towards each other. It’s working, so let’s try that.” That’s the evolution of coaching, I guess.


VN: For a while, C9 was reliant on Hai for a lot of things. This split, how has the LCS team been able to adapt to not having him in game?

BHG: This has been something we’ve been working on since I arrived. It’s true that to make those shot calls, superior game sense is important. Even if you don’t have that, you can still make calls. If everyone keeps talking about information that only they know about on the map, then you combine that with the information on the map that everyone can see, then naturally, you arrive at a call that can be made. Of course, that information can lead to multiple different calls. My role is to say, “I think, of the choices, this is the direction we should take when we next meet this situation.” I think that’s how a team’s shot-calling should go toward, which is information-based decision making.

VN Do you still follow the LCK? How do you feel about some of the teams?

BHG: I’m watching both the LPL and the LCK. The team I’m cheering for in LCK is the Afreeca Freecs (laughs). They’re a fun team! They’re very similar to our team, in regards to atmosphere — not play style or anything — but they all play the game while having fun. They look like they’re friends. I like that atmosphere. I cheer for Afreeca. For LPL, I was only on one team, so easy. EDG.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games.