Led by the battle cries of jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang, Cloud9 bounced back from their first loss of the season to complete the first two weeks of the League Championship Series spring split with 3-1 record.
Cloud9 have yet to be together for two full weeks, but they’ve already cemented themselves as a top team in the LCS. Not only that, but their creative drafts have begun to inspire the meta across the globe, making them one of the most interesting teams to watch right now in competitive League of Legends.
Blaber is the longest-tenured member of Cloud9, the second-oldest player behind Park “Summit” Woo-tae and a native English speaker in a macro-oriented position — all of which sets him up to be a leader for Cloud9. The jungler and mid laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami are the only players returning from the 2021 roster, and the team also now has members that primarily speak Korean.
The majority of team communication is in English, Blaber said, but support Kim “Winsome” Dong-keon and bot laner Kim “Berserker” Min-cheo, for example, speak Korean to each other during the laning phase because it’s easier for them.
“I’m just basically the main communication as far as in-game right now,” Blaber said. “I feel like I’m kind of talking for the majority of the game just because it’s very hard for the three [new Cloud9 members] to really talk.”
Being a leader requires more than just in-game comms, though. Blaber, who is fourth in the LCS among junglers with a 4.7 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) so far this split, also acts as a liaison between his coaches and teammates, including breaking down coaching philosophies and instructions from head coach Nick “LS” De Cesare.
“I sometimes help communicate ideas to the Koreans from the coaching staff,” he said. “I want to take the extra step to teach them so that we’re all on the same page.”
Some of the principles that LS and the rest of the staff try to teach the team require that extra reinforcement, especially since the Cloud9 bot lane features two rookies. Winsome, 19, and Berserker, 18, both played in South Korea but are in their first split as Tier 1 players, and they are working with one of the most experimentally-minded coaches in League of Legends.
“It’s pretty funny watching LS teach the guys about freezing and trying all these unconventional picks and stuff like that,” Blaber said. “In the LCK, picking unconventionally is very uncommon. So it’s just something that we’ve been working on, and I think it’s been going pretty well.”
Blaber and Cloud9 shirk standard meta
Unconventional is the perfect word to describe Cloud9. They’ve played three enchanters mid lane in their four games, winning each of them. That’s partially due to LS’s philosophy as a coach, but also because playing with new compositions will help C9 develop better skills and game knowledge than playing entirely standard setups.
For Blaber — who has won multiple Most Valuable Player awards since he started in the LCS full time in the summer of 2018 — learning and playing the meta is never enough.
“It’s spring regular season Week 2, and everyone is only playing the same exact champs,” Blaber said. “I don’t actually know if this is the best, right? But we’re all willing to try it and see how it goes.”
Cloud9’s willingness to play a completely different style doesn’t just increase their chance for victory, but also makes Cloud9 a more exciting team to watch.
“I think the meta right now is really boring,” Blaber said, “but to be honest, I think I think most metas are generally boring because teams are unwilling to play new things.”
Despite the flexibility of the LCS schedule, strong teams tend to stick to standard compositions during the early portion of the split. Blaber said he could only assume it’s “because they don’t want to look bad on stage.”
“In my opinion, the top teams that will make playoffs regardless of how they do in Week 1 or 2 should be experimenting,” Blaber said.
Regardless of their reasoning, Blaber is excited to be on Cloud9 this year and helping set the pace for North America and global League of Legends. And having so many eyes on him, his coach and his team makes it all more exciting.
“For all the haters and the supporters, I’m honestly glad you’re there — we wouldn’t be here without you guys,” Blaber said. “I want people to want us to fail. I want people to want us to succeed. It’s what brings viewership and excitement to the games.”
Cloud9 play Counter Logic Gaming and TSM next week, two teams with a combined 0-8 record. Chances are, LS, Blaber and Cloud9 will have something new cooked up and ready to try by then too.