One of the dominant narratives in the 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer has been the rise of Cloud9. The team struggled early in the split, swapping out mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, bot laner Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, and then-support Andy “Smoothie” Ta. This evolved into a seven-man lineup with two mid/jungle duos that recently helped C9 Academy win the 2018 North American Academy Summer finals and is now contending for the summer LCS title.
We caught up with Cloud9 Academy and Cloud9 jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen following C9A’s Academy finals victory to talk about C9’s approach to the split, the roster swaps, and balancing a team environment.
Congratulations. This win is a bit different for you specifically since you have also played in LCS for so long. How does this feel for you?
It feels good still. I have a good relationship with all of my teammates on this team. Being able to help them achieve something they haven’t been able to do before, I know Goldenglue and Keith failed last split, I mean I’m just happy to be able to help them achieve this.
When you first learned about how the team was going to swap players around, even though you weren’t one of the ones who was initially subbed out, what did you think of this plan?
My initial response was that it was kind of unfair towards Jensen and Sneaky and Smoothie. We didn’t really get any warning about it. It was kind of sudden. Definitely after a while I felt that it was fine. Being able to motivate players is a really big deal. You shouldn’t really feel like a spot is just yours. You should get swapped out if you’re underperforming or not trying hard enough. So yeah, my initial response was that it wasn’t fair, but after a bit it saw it could definitely improve the players. It made Sneaky and Jensen play a lot better. Jack has already talked about it but our mentality on the team was just too relaxed really. So even when we lost last playoffs it was like nobody was getting frustrated or anything which is kind of a big thing that we needed. We needed somebody who really cares about winning. And I think the swaps reignited the flames in the players as well.
When you first came onto the Cloud9 lineup, you said that the team atmosphere in general was something that you really liked, so how do you find that balance between being super serious all the time and having fun with your friends playing the game?
Definitely there needs to be a balance between having fun and trying to win. When I joined the team, we were having a lot of fun and we were winning so it felt pretty great, you know? But on TSM we were just hard working, there was a lot of emotions and everyone would be pretty frustrated when we lost a scrim or something so it didn’t feel as fun but we were a lot better as a team. But on C9 we were having fun and we were winning at the time so it felt pretty great. I think what we lacked was being more emotional, I guess. Actually caring about the winning or the losing and not wanting to lose. Which is why we stagnated last split. This split has been a lot better in terms of just being more, I guess caring more about winning.
Obviously you’re a competitive person. You’ve been playing for a while. I’ve seen difficulties on Chinese and South Korean rosters when swaps happen and players have to get over the idea of being benched as opposed to rotating out where you will end up going back in. It still seems very difficult, especially when you have been competing for so long. Once that happens, you end up with something that C9 has right now with you and the team. As an experienced veteran player, how do you get over that initial frustration and the idea of “benching?”
I’ve been a pro ever since LCS started and being swapped out definitely kind of hurt me because I didn’t really feel like it was my fault that we were losing those games. But looking back on it, I’m not really hurt about getting swapped. I’m just grateful to Jack for picking me up and joining C9 because I didn’t really have many offers and I really wanted to stay in NA. C9 opened up to me and I’m just still so happy to be on C9 so that’s why when I got swapped out I didn’t get mad or ask to be moved to another team which I think a lot of players might have said that they wanted to swap to another team because they wanted to swap right now. I was thinking about the future and I still want to be on C9 next year and the year after that maybe. So I didn’t make a rash decision. Just being able to help C9 in any way I can, I just want to do that.
Do you think this is something that would happen without franchising?
No. If franchising wasn’t a thing, all of these swaps wouldn’t be happening for sure. You have a lot more leeway now because you’re not going to get relegated. It doesn’t matter as much if you lose a few games so I think that’s why swaps are more common right now.
Teams like FlyQuest and C9 improved over time but it was a slow process. How has that leeway affected teams’ improvement generally?
Yeah, I don’t really know if it’s going to make the teams a lot better in NA but maybe? It’s a lot better for the rookies because you can actually get play time now since you’re required to have an Academy team it’s like you’re required to kind of have two teams now. I think it definitely benefits for upcoming players.
How was it swapping between the two coaching staffs of C9 and C9A or do they work together as one staff?
It’s definitely different between the teams. Reapered isn’t coaching any of the Academy games it’s all West [Jonathan “Westrice” Nguyen] coaching so it’s just like having two different coaches where they talk about stuff at coach meetings in the morning about what both teams are doing but it’s not really game to game where we review and stuff.