nav logo

Hit enter to search or ESC to close

It was a beautiful day on Saturday in Los Angeles. The skies were clear. The temperature was a bit over 70 with a light wind, almost as if the city was calling for me to leave my apartment and enjoy the splendors of life.

I could have gone to Disneyland with friends. I could have gone to the movies. I could have even made plans on a soul-sucking dating app to go on a first date with someone, eating sushi or drinking overpriced coffee.

Yet, as the afternoon rolled on, there was only one place in the world I wanted (and could) be: in front of my television, watching the League of Legends Championship Series in preparation for the first Cloud9 game of the regular season.

It was the debut of the South Korean trio the famed North American organization had signed in the offseason. Kim “Winsome” Dong-keon, Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol and Park “Summit” Woo-tae’s inaugural games were all intriguing in their own way, but the reason I couldn’t watch the game later was the man standing behind them calling the shots — head coach Nick “LS” De Cesare.

For over a decade, LS has crafted a career through almost every avenue you can find in esports. He competed in professional StarCraft II tournaments, coached a minor-league League of Legends team in South Korea and even commentated professionally. Through it all, he’s continued to be one of the more renowned personalities in the League of Legends community, establishing himself as one of the premier Western streamers for the most popular game in the world.

And whereas others have climbed their way to the top by celebrating in the collective hivemind, LS has remained staunch in his ideologies about playing League of Legends. When others go down the road most often traveled, LS, well — he’ll shrug his shoulders and put the car in reverse, not even driving in the same direction as his peers.

“I obviously [think] we will be drafting and playing in a way that makes us the black sheep of not just LCS, but probably all major regions,” he answered in a Q&A on Reddit before the season. In the same back-and-forth with fans, he announced his intentions to aim for a deep run at the League of Legends World Championship playoffs, putting himself out there as he’s done time and time again in his career.

Cloud9 with LS at the helm are more than just a winning streak or blowout wins

In his first game as a head coach of a major league team, his promise to be the black sheep of the League of Legends world came to fruition. Cloud9 took friendly jungle champion Ivern and threw him into the mid lane alongside role-swapping starter Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, building a shield and heal composition in tandem with Winsome’s Sona to bolster the team’s carries.

Although the draft initially seemed foolish – Ivern’s wave clear began to look like someone trying to cut through wood with a spork – it was part of the plan. Once the team grouped for a fight around the dragon, the puzzle pieces came together with the extra healing and shields tipping the scales in C9’s favor. A game that a few minutes ago seemed close turned into a straightforward 26-minute victory, C9’s opponent, Golden Guardians, having no answer for a team whose carries had more lives than a Zilean with Guardian’s Angel.

On Sunday, the lunacy continued, this time Fudge with picking up enchanter Soraka in the mid lane against one of the league’s top sides in Evil Geniuses. The game went as if almost LS wrote the script before the contest even started, EG finding success early, but like Golden Guardians, succumbing to the unkillable carries of C9. Soraka stopped worrying about the mid lane and embraced her true calling: being a one-woman walking ambulance.

Soraka became the carrot EG would chase around in team fights, throwing everything at the banana-chucking support to delete her before she could heal her entire team. They did succeed in the end, but at the cost of the whole game, EG left with little to nothing to deal with the rest of the standing members of C9 after blowing everything to destroy their medical team.

Beyond the wins — C9 coming together to take a bow after their opening 2-0 weekend — there’s something more to this 2022 version. We’ve seen C9 and other teams before them manufacture lengthy winning streaks. This wasn’t anywhere close to the most crushing debut of a team even in LCS history; that award is still in possession of the 2016 Immortals who came into the league looking like they wouldn’t lose a single game in North America (they didn’t even make worlds).

Cloud9 with LS at the helm is more than just a winning streak or blowout wins. It’s must-see entertainment. At a time we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the LCS and are coming up on our thirteenth world championship, it’s difficult to call a regular season League of Legends game important in 2022 unless it’s the two best teams in the competition facing off. As someone who tries to watch most of the major region games for my job, I won’t lie to you — things can blend together, a 2-1 win for Hanwha Life in South Korea feeling no different than a game I watched in Europe the morning before.

2022 Cloud9 are appointment viewing

That’s not this current C9 team. Every time they take the stage, LS pacing behind them like a chess player looking to make a decisive move, there’s an air of excitement of what could happen. While there are assured to be some games where C9’s drafts are stock standard, the possibility of seeing a champion you don’t often see in pro play or in a position you’re not expecting is always on the table.

In a day and age where some commentators can predict the draft of both teams before initial bans even conclude, 2022 Cloud9 are appointment viewing. As North American viewership numbers slide, the injection of a team where the unpredictable is the norm with a confident, polarizing coach behind them is just what the region needs.

Whether you love the ideals of LS or tuning in with the hopes of seeing them crash and burn, there’s little argument that he and the team built around exciting players like Berserker and two-time league MVP Robert “Blaber” Huang aren’t a good thing for the scene as a whole.

At its core, esports or traditional sports are all about stories and watching these narratives develop throughout a weekend, a season, or even sometimes, years.

There are heroes, villains, conquests to glory and falls of anguish. We see legends rise above through their philosophies and talent while seeing others with the same conviction left behind in the dust.

To some, LS is a charismatic genius and cult of personality, bringing the good word of League of Legends to the sullied. To others, LS is a stubborn commentator out of his depth, a paper prince who will buckle at the first sign of trouble.

Regardless of what side you’re on, both end up at the same result — they’re going to be watching.

More News