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LCS viewers were greeted with a surprise when Cloud9 announced that they would be swapping Diplex out for C9 Challengers midlaner EMENES ahead of this week's game. For some, the decision came as a surprise due to Cloud9’s current position towards the top of the standings, with a 7-2 standing before this past week’s games. However, for those that paid attention to the North American Challenger’s League, this transition for the C9 Challengers midlaner was one that was a natural progression for his exceptional performances in the development leagues.

Shortly after Cloud9’s win over TSM, longtime jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang spoke to LCS broadcast as he explained the team’s decision behind bringing EMENES onto the team and why they took a chance on him.

Robert "Blaber" Huang of Cloud9 is interviewed after competing during week 3 of the 2023 LCS Spring Split at the Riot Games Arena on February 9, 2023. (Photo by Robert Paul/Riot Games)

Blaber is Cloud9's longest-tenured League of Legends player.

When Blaber first came across EMENES, there were no doubts about the young South Korean midlaner’s natural talents for the games. However, the biggest questions he had about the player were about his previous behavioral issues playing for other teams in the past.

EMENES was benched from JDXL, Excel Esports’ European Regional Leagues team for behavioral issues during the 2022 season. While the team highlighted his “outstanding performances in both the spring and summer splits”, they could not ignore the other issues.

As a result, it was the biggest talking point when seeing if he could fit into Cloud9 in their first interaction.

“I think he just got really thrown off because my first question to him was like, why are you known to be so toxic,” Blaber truthfully revealed on the broadcast. “I just started asking him hard questions because I just don’t want to waste my time in the interview.”

In the interview, Blaber highlighted the circumstances around the initial interview with himself, Cloud9 owner Jack Etienne, and EMENES. He made note of the Korean translator available during the interview, as well as Cloud9’s sponsors all being there which resulted in nervous energy throughout their first interaction.

Shortly after, he explained that the nerves affected EMENES performance in that initial interview and resulted in numerous one-word answers, even with a Korean translator.

Initially unimpressed, Blaber explained to the broadcast that EMENES messaged him “30 seconds” after the interview asking if they could speak more. This is where Blaber really felt the push to bring him onto the team was needed.

“We kind of talked and he was talking to me in decent English and he was like, I don’t actually need a translator. I was just so nervous in that interview,” Blaber said. “So I kind of asked him questions and responded to me well, so I was like yeah, I’m willing to give him a shot.”

EMENES was the player of the game in Cloud9's win over TSM

EMENES was the player of the game in Cloud9's win over TSM

Cloud9 has a history of being able to help nurture previously toxic players and capitalize on their natural talents for the game. This is where Blaber highlighted Cloud9’s great team environment all throughout his five-plus years with the Cloud9 organization.

The Cloud9 jungler highlighted the team's great team environment through stories of Cloud9 bot laner Zachary “Sneaky” Scudero’s unwavering “positivity” throughout his time at Cloud9. He told the LCS broadcast of a time when Cloud9 “couldn’t beat TSM a single game”, but Sneaky still remained confident in the team. It was a mentality shift for Blaber, who was completely new to the professional scene at the time.

“You can look at players who go to teams and look like s*** and go to a different team and look good,” Blaber told Raz on the broadcast. “It’s like, it’s not because they were bad, you know? Some people play worse in worse environments and I think Cloud9 had a good one for all the years I’ve been here.”

With EMENES now a part of their LCS starting lineup, Cloud9 are hoping that this change will be the tipping point to push them into the next level of play as the team looks to win their second consecutive LCS title. With FlyQuest acting as this split’s frontrunner for the title, it will be interesting to see how this mid-split risk pays off in the long run.

Cloud9 ended week 5 of the LCS 2023 Spring Split with an 8-3 record and now have sole possession of second place in the regular season standings. They will look to secure their place in the top two as they take on 100 Thieves and Team Dignitas.