All eyes were on Hai this weekend as he made his grand return to the North American LCS. Being an emergency sub for C9, Hai took Meteos’s place in the jungle as the team felt that Hai’s shot-calling was the key to a unified team play which C9 has previously excelled in. Due to his retirement after this year’s Spring’s Split, Hai was left as a bench player for C9 as EU solo queue superstar, Incarnation took his place. However, ever since Hai’s departure, the team had performed sub-par throughout the summer split, now ranking among the bottom teams and are in contention for auto-relegation.Therefore, with Hai’s return, C9 and LCS fans are asking the million dollar question: Where does C9 stand right now?
Let’s break it down from the very beginning: Hai used to be the mid-laner for C9 and was often criticized for his poor mechanics when it came down to how he matched up with other mid-laners in North America. This is a problem that persists with any position that Hai takes, especially in the jungle role where he has had little practice with this meta consisting of champions such as Rek’Sai and Gragas. Therefore, it’s understandable that his mechanical play may not be top-notch. Additionally, Hai’s assets lie in his shot-calling ability which ultimately translated C9 player’s sub-optimal mechanical play into a huge team success the past few seasons. Therefore, the things we must review for this past weekend is where the team stands as a whole, outside of their individual mechanics and see where Hai made an impact, positive or negative.
Day 1: Cloud9 vs Team Liquid
The game starts out incredibly promising as Hai orchestrates an impressive power play after trading turrets with Team Liquid. The fight starts out with both mid-laners roaming bottom and both top-laners committing with a teleport to the bottom lane. Although Balls gets taken out for first blood, Incarnation’s zoning on Piglet created a favorable fight for C9 as they effectively took the ADC on TL out of the fight. After a beautiful engage from LemonNation to burst out both Fenix’s Yasuo and XSpecial’s Annie, C9 was able to clean up claiming the lives all 5 of Team Liquid members after an efficient tower dive. It’s important to note that this dive must have been attributed to Hai’s shot-calling. Although we don’t have audio proof to confirm, C9 has been looking lackluster all split with their commitments to big teamfights.
“They seemed really decisive which was different from when we played them earlier, which was really different,” stated Christian “iWillDominate” Rivera, jungler for Team Liquid. “Before when we played them earlier they were making split calls, but this game I felt that they were all really good about committing to the same team fight and stuff like that so I think that’s really Hai’s influence on the team.”
After seizing a large advantage, Cloud9 utilized their split push pressure, through Fizz, Twisted Fate and Tristana, to gain small advantages on the map slowly increasing their lead. However, all was thrown away as C9 attempted to secure the Baron, underestimating Liquid’s potential to kill. After picking off both LemonNation and Balls, Team Liquid secured a Baron and made moves to take back the game ultimately resulting in another loss for Cloud9.
Day 2: Team 8 vs Cloud9
Day 2 started much more bleak for our friends in the skies as Team 8 appeared to have effective control of the early game, creating favorable trades while allowing Nien to grow in power on his Corki. Team 8 used their early-game pressure to their advantage setting Balls and Sneaky behind while claiming towers and dragons all across the map.
The game changed at 23 minutes when C9 was able to catch 4 members of Team 8 after all five members tried to commit to the outer mid tower, being punished by LemonNation’s Alistar. Once again, C9’s team play flipped the odds into their favor for a temporary amount of time which they cleverly used to regain board advantage by pushing out lanes, regaining vision and applying pressure to towers. Ultimately that fight bought C9 two towers and dragon to putting them ahead in gold and matching Team 8’s Dragon buffs.
Once again, however, as the game was looking bright, one fight changed it all. Ten minutes later, Team 8 was able to regain back a majority of their lost vision and stall out C9 in order to complete more items. As Nien completed his Quicksilver Sash on Graves and Goldenglue completed Zhonyas on the hyped Runeglaive Ezreal, the Zed counterpick began to look bleak. As Zed was split pushing in the top lane, Team 8 effectively engaged on Cloud9 first taking out Hai, which resulted in Balls, LemonNation and Sneaky all being taken out while Incarnation was left to fend for himself after Team 8 secured Baron. Ultimately, once again, resulting in C9’s loss.
With Hai’s return, Cloud9 looks a lot more like their old self, with follow-ups to their engages and power behind their team compositions. Hai was able to pressure the map himself with just his presence and made plays for Cloud9 more unified and crisp, demonstrating the strength of their team comps while masterfully taking advantages when available. The puppet master appears to have made a strong impact on the team and although there weren’t any victories this week, this resulted in a promising start for Cloud9 to climb out of the bottom of the pit.
Mechanics were the reason why Hai left and it seems as if there has been little improvement on his part. Sure his presence impacted some lanes, but mis-engages on his tunneling Rek’Sai coupled with all his missed Sonic Waves while playing Lee Sin often resulted in failed ganks that he could only translate to other objectives or a wave of CS for his laner. Hai had little impact kill wise, only participating in 6/13 kills in the game against Liquid and 4/7 kills in the game against Team 8 meaning that the damage dealers, for the most part, were left to fend for themselves. Additionally, with everyone being dependent on what Hai’s shotcalling, each player on C9 is stifled until told otherwise, which worked out for the majority of the game against Team Liquid. But as we saw with Incarnation’s mis-positioning while split-pushing in the game against T8, it often means that there’s a singular strategy to winning their games making a difficult situation when C9 loses a late-game fight.
C9 is now a bottom tier team in the NA LCS. Although their loyal fan base are sticking to their guns, there’s a large possibility that the once prominent team may be hitting relegations soon. Whether or not Meteos will be making a return or if there will be other roster changes, looking at you Incanation (The R left out intentionally), remains to be seen. What we do know, however, is that time is running out. And unless any improvement comes with Hai’s return, we might be looking at a roster reset to bring back the original Cloud9 team. Hai demonstrated major improvements in terms of benefitting the team and it appears that his presence on the microphone alone unifies the team effectively. But at the end of the day, there’s only one winner and one loser and with another 0-2 week, Cloud9 needs some solutions and they need them fast.