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Cloud9 is playing for a spot in Worlds.
Last year, that wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. But as the team floated through the 2015 NA LCS Summer Split, ending with a 6-12 record, it wasn’t clear if they’d even be able to keep their spot in the NA LCS. So how did a team that seemed destined for the Promotion Tournament go on to become a team that could represent NA at Worlds? The short answer is Hai “Hai” Du Lam. But as we all know, an individual can only carry you so far in League of Legends.
After William “Meteos” Hartman stepped down ahead of Week 6, Hai returned to take up shot-calling for the besieged team, only this time from the jungle. But by that point, trust issues had already bubbled up within Cloud9. As such, Hai’s first steps involved reassuring his mid lane replacement, Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen, that the NA LCS rookie could rely on him.
“Before every single game I tell him I’ve got his back, and whatever he does I’ll be there with him,” says Hai. “I constantly give him updates on what I’m doing so he knows what he can and can’t do. So he’s a lot more confident in his play now, knowing that his team is behind him fully.” Their synergy helped Incarnation stay focused, and together, Cloud9 began gaining momentum.
With the team finally becoming a stronger unit in practice, their spirits seemed lifted. As they ventured into their Week 6 NA LCS game against the formidable Team Liquid, all eyes were on Hai as he locked in Rek’Sai. His performance wasn’t too flashy, yet he was able to influence the early game with several decisive calls, giving Cloud9, and Incarnati0n in particular, some much needed guidance.
They didn’t win that game, or the two after. But with Hai’s leadership, Cloud9 looked more coordinated than they had all Split. And together, the team continued taking the necessary steps towards fixing their problems.
C9’s next move involved a change within their support staff. They brought on a new coach, Royce “Bubbadub” Newcomb, from their Challenger Series squad Cloud9 Tempest, which served as a catalyst for even more improvement. According to Hai, one of the results of the change was dusting off Daerek “LemonNation” Hart’s notebook, giving the support more autonomy to make decisions during picks and bans. As a result? “Everyone’s morale went up,” he said.
And that includes Hai’s. As he’s settled into his new role, he’s been given the chance to play champions he enjoys — like Rengar, Nunu, and Shyvana — rather than settling on popular meta picks. “It’s definitely fun to do something new. But at the same time, I miss being able to play mid lane,” he says, admitting his mindset is different than other junglers. Setting himself apart, he’s utilized new builds in the NA LCS, experimenting with the uncommon Poacher’s Knife and Sated Devourer jungle enchantment, as he’s figured out what works best for him, his team, and his evolving play style.
A Radiant Finish
Everything finally came together for Cloud9 in Week 9. Sure they started off the week on a sour note losing to the 1-15 Team Dragon Knights (“People were giving crap to TDK because they have a bad record, and I thought they played pretty well,” said Hai). But after that speed bump, they went on to upset Team SoloMid when it mattered most. And followed it up with a season-saving win in their tiebreaker against Team 8.
Beating T8 was huge: the victory locked Cloud9 in 7th place, earning them entry into the 2016 Spring Split. On top of that, they got to keep the 70 Championship Points they earned in the 2015 Spring Split, securing their berth into the 2015 NA LCS Regional Qualifiers.
Hai breathes a sigh of relief at the notion that he was able to help his team stay in the LCS, and seems excited about what’s to come. With five additional weeks to practice alongside his team, and with the upswing they found towards the end of the Split, Cloud9 could ride their momentum to threaten other top teams heading into the gauntlet. They’ll play against Gravity in the first round, and should they make it through the Regional Qualifiers, we’ll see Hai and Cloud9 return to the Worlds stage once again.
“The issue is the competition is going to get harder from now on. I think we’re improving as well, but I feel like I need more practice in the jungle for us to take a game against the top teams in the world, as I feel like they might abuse the things I do more,” he says. Nevertheless, he can’t help but look forward to the opportunity. “I’m excited to play against everyone there to see who is good, who is bad, and if we can match up with them or not,” he says.
It won’t be easy, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the type of thing to stop Cloud9.
Watch Hai and Cloud9 take on Gravity in the 2015 NA LCS Regional Qualifier on August 29 at 12pm PDT, right here on Lolesports.