Cloud9’s well-oiled machine off to a strong LCS start

After a scrim during the last week of January, Cloud9’s League of Legends team gathers in the living room of its gaming house for feedback with it’s two coaches Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and Jang “Cain” Nu-ri. Also present is the translator and manager of the team, Lee “Robin” Seung-hwan, who takes a seat among the players to translate the conversation between the coaching staff and the players, which consists of both Korean and English speakers.

What follows is a rapid fire conversation as Robin translates the words of the coaching staff simultaneously, and immediately letting the coaches know what the players have to say. He also makes sure that anything top laner Jeong “Impact” Eon-young says goes to the players as well, creating a three-way conversation that could cause even the most attentive followers to lose themselves in the constant flow of multiple languages.

Yet the players and coaches navigate the rapid fire conversation with clarity and move on to the next part of their day. It looks chaotic to an outsider, but for Cloud9 the routine is second nature at this point. Cloud9 is a well-oiled machine.

Currently on a six match winning streak to begin the spring split of the North American League of Legends Championship Series, Cloud9 has been the talk of the LCS through three weeks. It started with taking out the previous split’s champions, Team SoloMid, with a shocking 2-0 in the opening match of the season. Cloud9’s continued success to this point denotes a sense of solidarity that is still missing in some of the teams, and part of it has to be the roster.

The roster that reached the quarterfinals of last year’s world championship remains mostly unchanged, with the previous synergy of the players still intact. As multiple teams have experienced major roster changes, and thus experiencing the growing pains of new talent, Cloud9 was one of the few that skipped this step. The only change was with the jungle, as C9 tabbed rookie Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia to take the place of veteran William “Meteos” Hartman.

Contractz has been one of the best junglers in the region through three weeks, performing seamlessly with his more experienced teammates. Contractz told Slingshot that he had no trouble joining in the family atmosphere of Cloud9, which doesn’t hurt when it comes to teamwork.

“There wasn’t any awkward points when I was transitioning,” he said. “It’s super family oriented. Everyone’s super nice and cheerful. Troll at times, which is really funny. It’s overall just a really good environment, atmosphere to be in.”

Mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen also admitted that he had his doubts about his new jungler, but after spending some time with Contractz, he seems more than pleased — not because Contractz was a copy of Meteos, but much more malleable, creating a healthy relationship among teammates.

“I think I have an easier time getting along with Contractz,” he told Slingshot. “He’s also really young so I can kinda teach him, in a way, like how I think the game should be played. We get along really well, so it’s just easier for me to communicate with him, and I’d say we’re playing really well together.”

Reapered deserves a share of the credit for the team’s seamless nature. The veteran Korean coach, who was a player for SK Telecom T1 in 2012-13 and has also coached in China, has brought a calming presence to Cloud9. Despite the language barrier, Reapered has been able to get through to the players. He talks about trying to improve their professional experience, and his philosophy since joining the team last year has been successful.

As team harmony doesn’t seem to be an issue, it is no wonder that they can transition that atmosphere onto the rift. Conversation and understanding seems to be at the center of Cloud9’s synergy, and this much is also reflected in the coaching staff as Reapered said that everything that the team does circles around an agreement.

I rarely say no to whatever the players tell me that they want to do, as long as it follows the line of common sense,” he told Slingshot. “With that as a condition, if a player comes to me and says he wants to drink and asks me if they can look at the reviews or feedback later, I say that they can, as long as they show up on practice time, and as long as the drinking doesn’t impact practice.

“Even when I’m talking with them, I don’t really interject. I understand that an argument can happen, but I try to direct the main reason why the argument came to be in the first place, like a play in a game or something, and tell them that the origin point of the argument is the problem, and that the argument that comes after is only a symptom. So if the players find that to be fair, they fix it and work around it. I don’t really find any difficulties when it comes to talking or telling the players anything.”

A system such as this necessitates an immense amount of trust and respect, which Cloud9 clearly seems to have. Each member of Cloud9’s team and staff reflect a clear understanding of what their roles are, and in that paradigm, the current system can exist in intimidating efficiency. With a perfect blend of old talent and new, they have risen — at least for now — to the first place spot in North America.

As for the question of Cloud9’s continued success, it comes down to one of two things. Either Cloud9 finds a road block in its system and thus stalls, or the other teams slowly reach their own levels of peak efficiency to rival Cloud9. At the moment, Cloud9 looks to be the cream of the crop, and it’ll be interesting to see who will rise to the challenge. But the infrastructure that has helped C9 get off to this start doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games

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