Friday, 31 August 2018

From Ultimate Zero To Cloud9: Bok "Reapered" Han-Gyu's Coach Of The Year Deserving Season.

When you take a look at Cloud9’s overall standings in both the Spring and Summer splits in the NALCS, if you were just scanning the results without having any knowledge of how the season went. You would have thought that it was another solid season for the organisation and that the opportunity of going to the 2018 Worlds is a possibility. However, the team have a tumultuous season that has seen Cloud9 reach lows that have caused back lash from expecting Cloud9 fans to highs that make you think that they are back to being the dominant force in North America they once were. Throughout all of this there is one constant that has become clear at the end of the Summer Split. “Reapered” should not only receive coach of the Split, but is rightfully in contention for coach of the year.

The best way to start this article is to demonstrate just how hard life as a head coach is in the North American Champion series. Only four of the original ten are still the head coach of the team they started the season with, these being Prolly of 100 Thieves, Zaboutine of Optic Gaming, Cain from Team Liquid and Reapered himself. In a league where results matter the Spring Split was a relative dream for Reapered, Cloud9 had been playing well and looked convincing on their way to being top of the league going into the playoffs. So when Cloud9’s form seemed to drop off a cliff in the final few matches leading into the playoffs, there was concern that the team had peaked too soon. Despite the week’s break to allow the team to refocus and try to create a perfect run in the playoffs, they were beaten 3-0 by eventual winners of the split, Team Liquid.

It was here, during the break between Spring and Summer that a transformation in direction occurred. Reapered alongside team owner Jack “Jack” Ettiene, announced that starters Jensen, Smoothie and Sneaky would be all dropped and replaced by rookie Support player Zayzel and veterans in mid laner Goldenglue and ADC Keith, after the Academy team players showed a better attitude to practice. It was a move that stunned the not only the organisations fans, who made their opinons known that replacing starters for unproven talent isn’t what a team of Cloud9’s stature should be doing but also the NALCS as it resulted in Svenskeren being the only veteran player with a vast amount of stage experience to help guide rookie of the Spring split Licorice. While it was an incredible show of faith in the C9 Academy players and a much needed wake up call to the three starters who had been benched, it was a move that held an incredible risk seeming as the team only had … Championship points going into the Summer Split and the team was now playing with two rookies, two veterans and a journeyman ADC as the main roster. The risk and reward approach was a gamble and it was a gamble that had a high potential of losing.

When the Summer split came around, the all in hand that Reapered played looked to be a bank breaker. Despite being in a position to win numerous times and solid performances from rookies Licorice and Zeyzal, plus Goldenglue looking like he was close to being the player that he'd been on the brink of being. Cloud9 started the split 1-5, were bottom of the NALCS standing and looked like their run of four consecutive appearances was going to come to an abrupt halt. However, the return of Jensen and Sneaky to the line started to right the ship and the introduction of Blaber proved to be the catalyst that Cloud9 needed to right the ship.

After the teams went 1-1 in Blabers first week as a starter and with the team at 3-6 overall. They went on a tear going an incredible 8-0 in the final four weeks. With wins versus 100Thieves, TSM, Fly Qyest and Echo Fox, the mid lane - jungle partnership showed signs of instant improvement, with Jensen playing Zilean in the mid lane and enabling Blaber's aggressive jungle style to come to the forefront with Kindred. The team rallied around one another, even against split winners Team Liquid, when Reapered made another bold move in playing Svenskeren and Goldenglue in the jungle and mid lane, so their weaknesses weren't exposed. This lead the team to finish second overall for the Summer split and earn themselves a playoff bye.

With a combined regular season record of 23-15, Reapered has the results turn in his favour with the teams late run of form. While he will be judged primarily on that and whether the team go to worlds or not, his ability to select and push talent from the C9 Academy deserves a lot of praise this season. Likely Rookie of the season Licorice's reliability was that of a veteran than a first timer, being both calm and game aware allowed C9 to focus on other areas of need. Licorice had a Summer KDA of 4.9, 52 total kills and only 29 death to finish second in those categories behind Ssumday, he also finished third with 6,167 CS for the split. This was a comprehensive improvement compared to the stats that won him, Rookie of the Spring split.

Zeyzal is another rookie this split that has come on leaps and bounds from there he started. While having the hero pool to not be affected by any potential target banning, Zeyzal's biggest improvement has been in his shot calling. They have gone from a team that could be to the final point ready to push towards the end game, but falling in the final team fight. To getting to thirty minutes and about to end the game. Zeyzal's confidence has grown on stage to the point that you can see that once Sneaky is fully comfortable with his new bot lane partner, he will likely be in contention for best North American Support.

Finally Blaber himself, has had an incredible first split as a rookie. Using his aggressive play style to full effect and coming into the line up after week five and Reapered announcing that there would be no more roster changes. Blaber's instant chemistry and synergy with Jensen was noticed from the offset and this showed when the now famed Zilean Mid, Kindred Jungle partnership was on show. Going 5-1 on Kindred, plus wins with Trundle and Camille, Blaber in his nine games leads the leagues Junglers on KDA with 4.2, CS Per Minute at 6 and third in kill participation at 76.9%. Despite himself saying he wasn't ready for the NALCS, Blaber under the guidance of Reapered has taken on the challenge set in front of him and set the bar for rookie Junglers to a new level.

In an eerie twist of fate, the Cloud9 LoL team has followed a path similar to that of it's sister team, the London Spitfire. Where they've had a good start, a rough middle and started to rebuild towards the end all under a Korean head coach. Reapered will be hoping that he can follow in their footsteps and win Summer Split and do well in the Gauntlet, to keep their Worlds dream alive.

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