The League of Legends Championship Series has existed since 2013. It has gone through multiple format changes, franchising and the slow transition into new branding as longtime veterans change teams or gracefully exit into management and streaming roles.
At the forefront of this transition for the 2020 spring split is LCS legacy organization, Cloud9. Former Cloud9 bot laner Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi was the face of C9 when all of the other members of the original 2013 lineup -- An "Balls" Le, William "Meteos" Hartman, Hai "Hai" Du Lam and Daerek "LemonNation" Hart -- had left the team or retired. This past offseason he stepped down as C9's starting bot laner, and although he hasn't ruled out a return to professional play, it probably won't be on the team where he made his name.
"He was there for so long, there were so many things that were built around him, so we just have to figure out how to play and how we want to interact with each other," C9 top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie said. "It's very fresh, and I think it's really good to have any time together just bootcamping and work things out as a team."
Over the past two years, Licorice has gone from fresh-faced rookie to seasoned veteran. On this new C9 lineup, Licorice is one of the most experienced players due to two world championship appearances and two LCS finals appearances.
"It's something that, it's very new to me, this idea of leadership and being a leader on the team," Licorice said. "I was a rookie and it was like, 'OK, I'm a rookie, I'll do what people tell me to do,' and now it's like, 'OK, I should be a leader now.' So it's something I'm working on a lot. It's something that's not very easy for me right now, but I feel that personally I can be good at it, so I'm pretty happy that I'm being put in this position and I have a lot of room to grow."
C9 2020 spring lineup:
Top laner -- Eric "Licorice" Ritchie
Jungler -- Robert "Blaber" Huang
Mid laner -- Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer
Bot laner -- Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen
Support -- Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme
C9 2019 summer lineup:
Top laner -- Licorice
Jungler -- Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen
Mid laner -- Nisqy
Bot laner -- Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi
Support -- Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidam
"Licorice has two worlds appearances, and he's been to semifinals, same as me," new C9 bot laner Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen said. "[Robert] 'Blaber' [Huang] also has two worlds appearances, Nisqy has also been to worlds, so they have experience, but they're not super experienced. They don't have any titles or LCS trophies. If I do well I think I can help this team. I can help them improve faster. I can help them not make the same mistakes I made when I was their 'esports age.' I'm still motivated and hungry to play, and I know they are [too], so it's a good mix of experience."
Zven, who joined the team after spending the past two years with Team SoloMid, will take over for Sneaky in the new C9 bot lane, partnered with former Clutch Gaming support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme. Vulcan had a breakout performance at the 2019 world championship with Clutch, now known as Dignitas, and had fully expected to stay with Dignitas for 2020 until he received a call that C9 had requested him.
To see the entire 2020 LCS spring split schedule, click here.
"I was really shocked at first because of the amount of times that I got told I would stay on Dignitas," Vulcan said. "But I really wanted to be on Cloud9, so I told them that I was OK to be traded."
Vulcan and Zven should provide an extra punch to the C9 bot side, matching with new starting jungler Blaber's early aggression. Blaber was a key part of C9's rotating roster in 2018 that saw the team's first worlds semifinals appearance, substituting in for former C9 jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen. After a 2019 season with fewer LCS starts, Blaber is now ready to prove that he's an LCS-caliber starting jungler with this new C9 lineup in 2020 and cited the starting role as a reason why he has less pressure, not more, going into the upcoming split.
"I felt a lot more pressure swapping with Dennis just because every time I'm subbed in, if I don't perform well it's like, 'Why is this guy playing?'" Blaber said. "I'm super excited for the opportunity I got. I think both Dennis and I were ready to stop splitting time, so I'm just super excited."
"Blaber is a very aggressive player," Zven said. "Sometimes it's a bit much, so we want to keep that aggression but make it less coin-flippy. Overall, C9 looks to fight a lot. [Bok ] 'Reapered' [Han-gyu] always enforces how can we attack our opponents. He always says, 'It's more than just surviving. You have to figure out how to attack our opponents.' And I think Blaber is the enabler of that aggression. He starts the plays, and then Licorice and Nisqy are both willing to play champions that can engage or start fights."
Aggression was the first thing on all of the C9 players' minds when asked to describe what C9 would look like in 2020.
"We're going to be really aggressive," Blaber said. "Vulcan is super aggressive. I think it will be exciting."
"Right now we're kind of spring split Clutch Gaming, but at a higher level where we're pretty aggressive in the fights that we're taking," Vulcan said. "For a little bit we'll be the aggressive team that can beat anyone mechanically, and then we're all trying to push us towards being a stronger macro team."
As C9 transitions away from their last legacy player in Sneaky, the roster that the organization has chosen is an odd mixture of veterans and young players with worlds appearances under their belts and untapped potential.
"Right now I'd like to say our team dynamic is, 'Everyone works really hard and we're improving a lot and trying to be good at accepting criticism and working on our mistakes individually and together,'" Licorice said. "I think that a lot of that is also the classic honeymoon phase for esports teams, so I think that our hardest times as a team are definitely in front of us and they're not behind us already. That is going to be the real test for what team we're going to be. I'm hopeful right now that we can be a really, really good team in and out of the game, but we'll just have to wait and see."