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Cloud9 fans were all smiles on Friday, March 24 at the Riot Games Arena in Santa Monica, CA, and for good reason – the boys in blue had just secured a 3-1 victory over Counter Logic Gaming in their first match of the 2023 League Championship Series Spring Playoffs. With the win, Cloud9 locked in a top 3 finish in the post-season, and if they can defeat FlyQuest this week, they’ll qualify for the finals and the Mid-Season Invitational as one of two North American representatives.

Cloud9 jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang sat down with Esports Illustrated after the win over Counter Logic Gaming to share his thoughts on the series, how recent changes to the jungle have the role in competitive play, and Cloud9’s placings in the All-Pro awards for the LCS Spring Split.

3-1 is a convincing scoreline, but all four games were pretty competitive from both sides up to a point where a definitive teamfight seemed to turn the tide. How did the series end up playing out compared to your initial expectations?

Honestly, I’m not sure what happened today. We played horribly compared to our normal standards and what I expect from our performance. I think I personally played really badly. I felt like my energy today was low; I don’t know why. I also felt like I made a lot of misplays, but as a team, we didn’t play very well either. This series did not feel good to me even though we won. Obviously, I’m happy we won, but … If we play like this, we won’t beat FlyQuest.

I know the series ended less than an hour ago, but have you already been able to pinpoint what led to what was, in your opinion, an underperformance?

Like I said, I don’t think the mistakes we made today are normal for us as a team. I think we had really poor objective control today, when normally, that is one of our strengths. We started objectives too soon, mainly me. I don’t know why I did that. Also, it felt like we were taking bad fights on enemy move timers. Like, today, Dhokla wasn’t farming at all. He was just grouping and I kept getting caught on his timers. So yeah, I’m pretty unhappy about making those mistakes, but I think that we will play better next week. I’m confident that it’ll be good.

Do you think it could have simply been due to a bumpy adjustment to the best-of-five format? Up until now, this roster has only played best-of-one matches.

It could be due to different environment, but honestly, I’m not quite sure why we underperformed today. I don’t think we played horribly, right? I think we played okay, but we played in a way that was uncharacteristic of how we’ve played in the past and in practice this week. It could be new champions coming into the meta. I played Maokai today, but I also played Maokai earlier in the year, so it’s not something that’s new to me.

I’m not entirely sure why we misplayed today. I think CLG played pretty well in some of the games, and I think we also played well at some points of the games. I don’t want to be too hard on ourselves or say that CLG are really bad or anything like that, but I do think we made a lot of mistakes.

You mentioned the Maokai pick, which was something that dominated the early season but has been nerfed and lost priority in the meta compared to picks like Lee Sin, Wukong, and Viego. However, we’ve now seen both you and FlyQuest jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu bring back the Maokai in the Spring Playoffs. Is Maokai still being viable indicative of the jungle role still being relatively static despite other champions being seen in recent patches?

Yeah, I think jungle honestly hasn’t changed that much. The counter-jungling buffs feel nice, but honestly, those are good for Maokai, too. He can one-shot the enemy Raptors now, so it’s not like the changes are bad for Maokai. I think he’s pretty OP right now. I think we’ll probably see a pretty high priority on Maokai on stage when we play FLY, but maybe they don’t care about it. Or maybe we won’t care about it next week. We’ll see, but the priority of Maokai has been high in other regions for a while now, so I guess we’re just slowly picking up on it.

Cloud9 was the only team to have all five starters named to an All-Pro team, and you were awarded 1st All-Pro in your role alongside your top laner Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami and AD carry Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol. Did you expect All-Pro honors to end up the way they did?

I definitely expected Fudge to be 1st and I would have felt that Berserker was robbed if he wasn’t 1st. For me, I thought Spica had a good split and I wasn’t quite sure where I would place. Obviously, I’m happy I was put on 1st All-Pro, but I don’t think I played amazingly this split or something. I think I played well, but it wasn’t exceptional.

With EMENES, it’s hard to know – some people may not have voted for him because he only played half the split but some may have voted for him because he played really well. I think Zven’s been playing really well; he and Vulcan are #1 and #2 in my book. After Vulcan, I was honestly considering declining to vote for supports. I couldn’t vote for Zven because he’s my teammate, but I didn’t know who else to put. I think those two have been the best supports in the league. 

Where to watch the LCS 2023 Spring Split

Cloud9's series against FlyQuest will take on place on Thursday, Mar. 30. Viewers will be able to tune into the LCS 2023 Spring Split playoffs through the LCS Twitch and YouTube channels.