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Sneaky on ending relegation: “Organizations have come in just trying to be super strong. There’s been shifts of orgs, but no one really came in for a long time to up the whole level of the scene.”

Sneaky says relegation doesn't serve the same purpose it used to in League of Legends.
Cloud9's Sneaky (Zachary Scuderi) says relegation doesn't serve the same purpose it used to in League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot.

Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Cloud9’s Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi during the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) to talk about the between-split break, meta changes and unwinding after the LCS.

Andrew Kim: What has Cloud9 has been doing during the off time between the spring and summer split? Did you guys try anything new? How did you prepare for this split?

Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi: We haven’t really changed anything in the way we work. In the offseason, we haven’t really played with Impact yet because he was taking a bit of an extended break. So he came back a week before, and we haven’t really played with him yet. I think after this week we’ll be practicing with Impact again, so we can go back to our “mixing up” strategy. Besides that, we just normally play scrims, try to figure out what’s best, the whole usual routine.

AK: Cloud9 didn’t start well (in Week 1), but what do you think was the reason for that, and what do you expect going forward?

ZS: I think we should be fine for the whole season because this is just the first week and we didn’t start off strong, but you don’t always have to start off strong. I almost always say that losses give you the kick you need to really understand what you need to be doing: what isn’t working, what you should be doing better. That kind of stuff. I think it should be an interesting start to the season. I do have another part to add to the changing thing in scrims. There actually was a pretty big shift, but it was for everyone, not just Cloud9. Cloud9 used to get up at like 10:30, and start scrims at 12 and play until like 7, but now I think every team moved back two hours, so now we wake up at 8:30 and start scrims at 10. Some teams may wake up earlier and try to do stuff, but we usually get up at 8:30. It’s 10-to-5 now instead of 12-to-7, which the main reason for is on LCS days we can get a warm up scrim in. So it’s a lot easier that way. Before the new schedule, we’d always wake up at 10 and we wouldn’t have nearly as much time to get a scrim in before the games, but now we have a very good amount of time and it’ll help us stay awake for LCS games.

AK: With the new changes in the game with the new Rift Herald, new item changes, and in the bottom lane there’s Xayah and Rakan. Do you have any thoughts about the changes?

ZS: I like the Rift Herald change a lot. The old one I thought was super bad because I could play and literally never touch that thing. It was super tanky, took forever to kill. It has no benefit to me at all. I picked up the buff like, once in the entire Rift Herald’s old existence because the first time I picked it up I was like, “Hmm, let’s see how good this is.” I walked around, it wasn’t charging because I was always near my support or jungler, and then I finally get a proc off and it’s like “Oh, my damage is halved from the proc because I’m a ranged champion,” so I thought I was never going to get this thing again. I basically just avoided that thing completely, but the new Rift Herald is a new big objective to fight over because it’s almost basically a free turret. Sometimes you can get more, sometimes you can get denied that free turret, but most of the time, it’s a free turret. So it’s pretty good. You can open up mid easily, which opens up the whole rest of the map. Sometimes you can run down two turrets with it. It’s a nice change.

Xayah and Rakan are interesting too because they have a ton of synergy together. Xayah’s W becomes pretty insane with Rakan around, and Rakan’s E becomes two times the range, so he can be off-screen and fly into Xayah, which I think Aphro was showing us yesterday. It’s an interesting combo.

AK: One of the things I have to ask you about is Riot’s decision to franchise and remove relegation. There’s a lot of conversation in the community saying that it’s either good or bad, but what are your thoughts on the potential future of the NA LCS with no relegations?

ZS: Specifically to the relegation argument, I think teams that are in the lower bracket of the standings, they’re not going to be having really good games anyway. They’ll be trying, but I think maybe now they’ll have more room to even try more stuff that they normally wouldn’t. I think all the teams are required to have a Challenger team so you have 10 people, and maybe if a team’s doing really bad in the split you can actually switch out the roster and figure out maybe it’s just this five people who don’t work together. I think there’s a lot of potential there. I don’t think relegation going away is going to matter that much. For a long time, there were always teams coming up to try and make it big (through Challenger). I think LMQ was a really weird one with an all-Chinese team, came up really strong and made the scene better. Cloud9, we did that. Since then, there hasn’t really been any big impact (in that way). Organizations have come in just trying to be super strong. There’s been shifts of orgs, but no one really came in for a long time to up the whole level of the scene. I think it’s a good change because I think the biggest part is the stability of it. You’re not under risk of relegation or anything, so a lot more sponsors can commit more fully to the scene.

AK: Another thing I want to ask you about is Echo Fox’s decision to only scrim their sister team, they signed what the fans are calling the “meme team” as their Challenger team. It’s kind of interesting to see another organization try the whole “we’re going to scrim our own team and prevent strategies from getting leaked organizations” thing. Do you think this management strategy can work in North America?

ZS: Specifically for Echo Fox I don’t know what they’re thinking because there’s no way that team’s going to do anything, like be at a competitive level. They don’t have the right roles, you know? Who plays support? Who plays jungle? They don’t have either of those roles, so it’s a complete mismatch of people. I think it’s a pure PR thing. They just picked up a bunch of streamers that can play the game in Challenger. That’s also weird because if they also try to pick up a competitive Challenger roster, it doesn’t really mean much because their team can’t get into the LCS anyways. So it’ll be hard to actually pick up a roster that wants to get in. If they have the money to pick up all of those guys, then it’s fine but I think the LCS teams strictly scrimming thing is super odd. Scrimming one team is OK. You’ll get a lot of information if they’re good, but there comes points where they’ll just get into habits, and you’re just going to get used to those habits and you won’t be seeing a lot of things that the other teams will be doing because you’re only scrimming each other. Maybe you could be a super team, go insane, but I don’t think it’s going to work out honestly.

AK: When it comes to winding down after a good or bad game, trying to maintain your focus for your peak mental and physical conditioning, what kind of things do you do in order to put that self-maintenance?

ZS: It kind of depends. If I have a good game, then there’s not really much that I need to do, just stay focused, think about the next game, talk about mistakes in the last game. There’s not too much to do when you have a good game, but when you have a loss, it can be hard for some people because depending on how you lose, like maybe the game was really frustrating for you, maybe there was something that you thought you could be doing or the team could be doing better but you just weren’t. Your lack of skill could just be frustrating in general. Say you screwed up a bunch of times and you get really annoyed. It’s hard. You have to take it slow, realize that was the game, it’s over, and just go onto the next one. You have to do it in solo queue after every game. If you lost a game, you just queue up for another one. It’s different for every person. Some people handle it really harshly. If they lose a game it’s like, “Oh I lost to this guy” and ego comes out into play. I think if you drop your ego, realize that “Hey, maybe they’re just a really good team,” you can keep moving forward and try to play your best.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot