Cloud9's unexpected and epic run to the semifinals at Worlds last year was the product of a crazy experiment by coach Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu. In a gambit to motivate his team, he benched nearly the entire starting roster at the beginning of the summer split. It worked—the starters came back with fury and took the team further than NA had gone in a long time.
But there was a cost to Reapered's process, and that was starting mid laner Nicolaj Jensen, who left the following offseason for Team Liquid. Their replacement was another European mid: Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer from Splyce.
Nisqy had played in NA before, but he was nowhere near as well-known. The team did well enough last spring in his first split back in the region, and earned a second place playoff seed. But then they lost to TSM in the semifinals, another in a long list of domestic playoff failures for the proud org.
"We have to try more," Nisqy said about the playoff loss in an interview with Upcomer. "We were not giving 300 percent."
There will be no grand roster experiment to motivate the team this summer. But there are clear things the team needs to work on. For most of last split, they contended with Team Liquid for the top spot. But instead, it was TSM, behind another phenomenal performance from mid laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, who took Nisqy and C9 in a stunning reverse sweep.
C9 have had a long time to stew over that loss. Nisqy says the team treated the match too much like the regular season, where they had no problem beating TSM. And he shouldered a lot of the blame for letting Bjergsen pop off on Akali to get TSM going.
"Right after finals, we all agreed we need to play more champions," he said. "Akali, Irelia were not champions we were playing. Adapting is one thing I personally should have done. Mid laners play different, if I adapted well to how Bjerg was playing, I'm pretty sure we could have won."
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The interesting thing is that, right after that Akali game from Bjergsen, Nisqy responded with Zed. In fact, Cloud9 had tried all sorts of champion combinations the whole split. But they just weren't able to lock in on the specific style they wanted to play in time. It was like they tried to adapt, but rather than trying to surge ahead, they were instead playing catchup.
If there is one NA team that historically does well at finding their style, it's C9. Their hallmark at Worlds has been to abuse their personal strengths to the limit. Things like Ezreal jungle, Glacial Augment Ahri, all came from C9. And their still experimenting in the Summer Split. Sure, Nisqy's latest innovation, Yasuo, was unsuccessful, but both he and the team remain undeterred.
Nisqy sounds confident the team will figure that out how to capture the magic in the Summer Split. He still thinks only TSM and TL are C9's threats in the region, which gives them some room to experiment. In fact, he's surprised that more teams aren't trying to do different things.
"If a team finds their playstyle and play really well around it, they could be really strong," Nisqy said. "But in NA, most teams are trying to play the safe way, safe champions, and teamfighting rather than finding their own playstyle and being good at it."
Still, he wants C9 to do more. He wants to take more risks like teams like Invictus Gaming and G2, even though he laughingly admits that IG "really inted" in their loss to Team Liquid at MSI. But that's the style he sees as key to success at this point in competitive League in 2019
"One thing we learned is playing around limits," Nisqy said. "Fighting more, taking more risks rather than trying to go for the 100 percent play. That's what the best teams in the world are doing right now. At C9, we're not scared to try anything else, even random picks. From what we saw at MSI, G2 played Pyke top and now everyone's spamming it."
Nisqy understands that winning NA will be an uphill climb this summer. He noted that Liquid have so few weaknesses as a unit. But he's not afraid in the least. If anything, losing in the Spring semis has made him even more bold. That's a style the team and its fans can surely get along with.