Cloud 9 fans be warned, this won't be pretty.
Hangyu Bok will forever be one of the greatest top-laners to ever play on Summoner's Rift. With the accolade of taking the first ever OGN Season on MiG Blaze, Reapered laid the foundation for future top-laners. Despite always being the guy who be followed by players of great ability, such as Flame on Azubu Blaze and Impact on SK Telecom T1, his ability as a player has never been questioned. However, his time as a coach should be questioned.
It took a little over a year for Reapered to return to the competitive League of Legends scene after leaving Jin Air, when he joined EDward Gaming's coach staff under the legendary coach, Ji Xing or more commonly known as Aaron. Reapered joined the roster for the start of LPL's Spring Play-offs where it was expected to be an EDG vs LGD finals and was one of the greatest LPL series to this date.
This was Reapered first showing. Well, not really a showing. It was Aaron controlling the pick-ban and it ended up coming down to Deft and Pawn 2v5ing a Baron fight and Deft getting a pentakill.
But then there was the 2015 Mid Season Invitational where EDward Gaming became the first and only team to be SK Telecom T1 in a series on an international stage. Reapered had to be prevalent somehow. Right? Well Aaron was behind the players and dictating the pick-ban again. Aaron ended up setting up SKT1 to pick LeBlanc for Faker, pulled Morgana as a counter and last picked Evelynn to counter a first-picked Urgot.
And we didn't see much of Reapered after that. He was listed as an assistant coach for much of the 2015 year, joining April 26 and "leaving" January 3, 2016. A lot of people cited his time of EDG as a reason for him to be considered a hot coaching pick-up but he didn't really do much. He was over-credited for a lot when in actuality, it was Aaron calling most of the shots for the roster.
So when Cloud 9 announced that they would be bringing Reapered as head coach, it was kind of a surprise. And similar to his tenure with EDG, he hasn't done much for Cloud 9.
It was rumored that Impact was the reason Reapered was signed. Which makes a lot of sense. There is a dynamic where certain players want certain coaches--how LeBron James wanted Tyronn Lue to be his coach*. Reapered does have a mind for the game as a player. He was in-control of a team named SK Telecom T1 before a guy named Impact took his spot and then went to Jin Air Green Wings. So there is that immediate connection.
*Just for clarification, Impact is not the LeBron James of competitive League of Legends. Just making that clear.
But its hard to buy into Reapered coming in as a head coach. He has a mind for the game, the problem is that the mind hasn't been used in a very long time. And it showed in his pick-ban. He ended up taking the role once held by LemonNation and Bubadub--two guys who have had great reads on the meta just the split before.
There was little progress in the summer for Cloud 9, finishing third in a fairly weak split for North American standards. When looking back at the split, NA really only had two big powerhouses: Team Solo Mid (35-6) and Immortals (33-10) but had a lot of 'middle-of-the-pack' teams, ranging from the 3rd to 7th spot.
So Reapered again, didn't have to show much. But a lot of people thought he brought more than he really did. The numbers don't lie, he actually hurt the team.
Stats taken from OracleElixir.com
Going into the 2016 Summer Split, the concerns came from the overall weakness in their top-lane and certain inconsistencies in the play of Rush--who still hadn't really developed as a professional jungler. The team brought on Impact to replace Balls and moved Meteos into the starting line-up for the purpose of allowing mid-laner Incarnati0n to continue playing as he was taking up an import slot. This shifted the overall team dynamic as veteran jungler Meteos was known for his heavy farming style and Impact worked well on a limited economy.
But again, the team didn't have to do much. You had roster conflicts across the board, Counter Logic Gaming was under-performing, teams just weren't that good. Cloud 9 was average. They weren't exposed for a pretty bad early game--sure it was third in the rankings but a big difference from their performance in the previous split. Their first tower percentage was horrendous in a time where tower gold was critical. They had the third longest average game time for a reason.
Something the statistics don't show is how talented a roster is. Most of Cloud 9's performance wasn't because of their macro play but because of their ability to team fight. You had mechanical beasts in Sneaky and Incarnati0n, Impact's 'safety-net' style of backing up big moves, Smoothie's impressive shot-calling and Meteos. But then again, you had Team Solo Mid and Immortals who were impressive in this area as well and Counter Logic Gaming was destined for worlds because of their spring victory.
When the meta shifted towards standard lanes, it was a gift sent from God for the roster as it allowed Impact to return to his Season 3 self and dominate the top-lane. Coaching didn't teach Impact to abuse an overaggressive Seraph or out-play Huni. Impact is just fucking good. Not as great as he was meant out to be for Worlds, a lot of the hype wasn't in reason. If you think about the play-off Regional Qualifier run Cloud 9 had, a lot of teams weren't adapting well to standard lanes whereas Cloud 9 had the mechanical talent and veteran leadership to adapt to it.
So, I rambled a lot but with merit.
Cloud 9 wasn't changed because of Reapered. They weren't helped because of Reapered. The statistics show, their early game diminished, they had to go to three games in series. If it wasn't for the shift to a standard lane meta and Impact going off, the team most likely wouldn't have made it to Worlds. It should have been Team Solo Mid, Counter Logic Gaming and Immortals. But they got lucky. Reapered got lucky.
So when people listed him in contention for Coach of the Split, I vomited. Here are some of the quotes writers of theScore eSports made when talking about Cloud 9's Reapered:
Under Reapered, C9 was finally able to move forward with a new team. At first, they looked like a shaky assembly of solo queue players, but C9 continued to improve throughout the split, and now prepare to take on Immortals in the 2016 NA LCS Summer semifinals. Their third place regular season finish was identical to their 2016 NA LCS Spring regular season placement, but where that team was eliminated by TSM in the quarterfinals, this C9 team looks far more cohesive and strong. Multiple C9 players have spoken highly of him, even going as far as to say that they didn’t know how much influence a coach could have. Even if they lose to Immortals this weekend, I think they’ve shown a large amount of growth during the split and much of that can likely be attributed to Reapered.
Reapered helped Cloud9 improve a lot over the course of the split. They had a mid-season lull but worked through it, and I saw growth in their communication and game planning, as well as notable improvement in how they made use of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong in the top lane, drawing more on him as a point of strength in their lineup rather than leaving him stranded as a sacrificial lamb. Cloud9’s tactics have gotten better and better, and Reapered’s handiwork is evident.
They bring up the man who deserves the credit for Cloud 9's improvement: Impact. Jung Eon-yeon's stellar performance throughout the year went unnoticed until the qualifiers. To give a comparison, he could be compared to Tim Duncan--where he usually doesn't make the flashiest of plays but always performs for the betterment of the team.
Impact's biggest contribution came with his ability to work with a smaller economy than Balls. Taking less than 2.1% of the team's overall creeps after 15 minutes, adds up in allowing for the damage dealers of Jensen and Sneaky to get their 6th item just a bit faster. Despite struggling in the early portions of the lane due to jungle focus and understanding of Meteos's style, the numbers even out to where Impact can make use of less for the greater of the team. I also like to use the phrase of Impact being a 'safety-net' because of his ability to save the overaggressive instincts of players or of calls, as mostly seen during his tenure on Team Impulse when he balanced well with Rush's solo queue tendencies.
Cloud 9 as a team statistically hasn't improved. But they saw minor improvements in the player roles, not because of Reapered's coaching but because of who they brought in. In a world where Hai Lam exited peacefully, Reapered would just be scene as a mediocre coach. But because of Hai's integral role in the shot-calling of the team, Reapered is made to look outstanding because of misconception that he fixed Cloud 9--when in actuality, he didn't do shit.
Cloud 9 recently announced that they would be picking up former NaJin Black Shield support and CJ Entus coach Cain--the CJ Entus that was just recently relegated from the LCK. And the move doesn't really make sense. Cain wasn't successful as a coach under the CJ brand. The roster was filled with talent and was considered relegation material because of bad coaching. And its questionable as to what worth he brings to the table. He was a decent support when he played for NaJin Black Shield and was benched while on Najin e-mFire. It certainly isn't because of his pick-ban ability.
Let's actually talk about the pick-ban of Cloud 9.
The 2016 World Championship for Cloud 9 wasn't a tournament to remember. It exposed a lot of issues in the pick-ban of Reapered. Cloud 9 went pratically untouched with criticism from the western fans because they managed to make it out of groups, in a fairly weak group and more of the focus was shifted to Team Solo Mid, Counter Logic Gaming and Gamers2 for their lackluster performance.
The first big distinction in the play of Cloud 9 was their choice of champion in the top-lane from the regional qualifiers.
While there were certain buffs and nerfs, the style in champion pools is drastically different. In the regional qualifiers, Impact's 'top die' was comprimised mostly by his play on Ekko and Gnar--two champions that appeared throughout the World Championships. Instead, they were replaced by the use of Rumble, Kennen and Jayce--all of which Impact never really excelled on. In fact, the sole win of Kennen was a 70 minute game that Cloud 9 won based off of Sneaky's clutch dodges. Jensen also was put onto new champions such as Orianna and Ryze where he didn't perform up to par and wasn't impressive.
In their games against Samsung and SK Telecom T1, the team was exposed attempting to play towards the meta and got smashed by teams with better macro-strategy and didn't make the same late game team fight mistakes like their NA counterparts or Flash Wolves. Despite having the second longest average game time behind their counterpart in the 70 minute fiesta, Cloud 9 couldn't excel with their late game team-fights and that should be put onto their poor coaching.
So I've ripped enough into Reapered.
Despite the inclination for people to believe that because a team finishes high in the standings it translate to good coaching, Cloud 9 didn't succeed because of Reapered. He wasn't the great coach made out to be, he didn't change Cloud 9 for the better. Fans should be skeptical in the buying in of Reapered and his new assistant coach Cain because they have failed to prove their worth in change for the better. Their coaching tenures haven't been as great as they are being made out to be and deserve to be on thin ice headed into the 2017 season. Their two-year deals make little sense given their previous results and I question the decisions of Cloud 9's management in making the correct moves with the recent news of investors.
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