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After their win over 100 Thieves, I spoke with Cloud9’s support Andy “Smoothie” Ta about a shifting support meta, integrating new members into an established team, and if Echo Fox are for real.

Miles Yim: Let’s talk about your win over 100 Thieves. What did you like, what didn’t you like?

Smoothie: Well, coming off a loss yesterday to Echo Fox, we were pretty upset obviously because we were up a lot of gold that game too I’m pretty sure. At least it felt like it. So we came in today with a fresh mindset, reset from yesterday, and I think we played pretty well overall. We could have played a lot more decisive I think, but we definitely did play to a higher standard than yesterday.

Focusing more on 100 Thieves, they’re a new org with familiar faces. You’ve faced [Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and Cody “Cody Sun” Sun] before, but never together. How did you feel the bot lane matchup went?

Yeah, Cody Sun and aphro, they’ve always been pretty solid players. I think aphro is a really good leader obviously. If you hear his Mic Checks or him just talking generally, he’s a really well-spoken person and a really decisive shotcaller. Playing against him is always a good test of my shotcalling. Cody Sun, I think he’s a really strong player too. He definitely doesn’t get enough credit. Everyone thinks of the Worlds performance where he Trist-jumped and killed his whole team, which kinda sucks, but it’s only one game. Same with [Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen], people just forget all the accomplishments he’s done. [Cody] got to finals last split and he’s a really good player, so I hope people don’t underestimate him this year. I think they’re a really strong team.

You played Taric this game, a pick that’s getting a lot of attention in NA LCS so far this year. You played a lot of Taric last year too; what do you like about Taric as a support, and what does the pick do for your team?

Well, I’m not going to say too much obviously, but Taric as a champ has been on of my go-to champs for a long time. He’s really safe, he’s really tanky, and he brings really strong teamfighting because of his ulti. I’m really comfortable playing with him, so whenever I can, I like to play him a lot. The champ just brings a lot to the table in terms of raw teamfighting. If you’re really confident in your team, and you’re really decisive, then having a Taric on your team is just too good. But the meta right now, you can play whatever you want as long as it’s tanky. Ranged supports don’t really fit right now because you just die in lane. You’re versus an Alistar, anything actually, and you just die. You can’t really poke them out fast enough. I think Taric just fits the meta really well.

Tanks do seem plug-and-play in the support role lately. We saw Clutch Gaming play Orrn support last week, and now you faced a Shen against 100 Thieves. How does that matchup work, since you don’t normally see a Shen bot?

Yeah, anything tanky can work, as I said earlier. I was kinda the person in NA who started connoisseur-ing Shen support, in soloqueue at least. I played so much Shen, and I know its weaknesses and strengths really well, so I’m really comfortable playing against it. I think the champion is strong, but right now with [Unsealed] Spellbook, a lot of teams that play Shen are having a hard time playing versus it. Because you can just go TP on the other side, and be able to follow up on the Shen ulti, which usually is really good because you can be on the other side of the map instantly. Shen has to make plays on the other side of the map top win. But I think the champion is strong, except he is really, really predicable in his playstyle. You just have to be careful of sidelanes.

Courtesy of Riot Games

You mentioned Sven earlier, a new member of the team. I’ve noticed that he’s been dying a lot in game [Note: Sven leads the NA LCS in deaths with 18], but his deaths seem somehow productive. You’re winning, after all. Do you have a similar observation?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I can’t say every single death is going to be a good death per se, but he has a good way of playing the game, a good mental, going into every match. Obviously, if he makes a mechanical misplay, then you know, it happens, one death isn’t going to end the game straight up. Unless it’s a super carry matchup top lane, that’s pretty rough. But I think Sven is really good in that he knows what he wants to do, he always has a plan that we can follow. He’s a veteran player, he’s been on TSM for two years. He actually fit into our team really fast. I respect him a lot, I think he’s really good.

Speaking of junglers, let’s talk about the one you saw across the Rift. [William “Meteos” Hartman] has some history with Cloud9; did you take advantage of that history at all when preparing?

No, actually. I love playing versus Meteos. He was one of my former teammates, and you gotta crush him. But I don’t think we really prepared anything special. It’s more that we just…He always wants to play champions that are good for his team. He’s always been the type of person that didn’t want to play stuff that he wouldn’t want; like if he was a mid laner, he wouldn’t want like a Warwick on his team. He just plays champions that feel really good and are strong in the meta. He’s got a pretty big champ pool, so you can’t really prepare special stuff for Meteos.

[Eric “Licorice” Ritchie] is another new face on the team, a big question mark for you guys entering the split. In this game, you saw the Gnar for [Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho] and got Licorice Camille. What was behind that choice?

Well, we had a plan going into the game. Camille versus Gnar is a really volatile matchup in that if one side gets an advantage, that advantage will snowball really hard. So this game, we put a lot of resources top side to help out Licorice. We even had double TP in the bot lane; we were always ready to help out our top laner if he needed it. He played really well versus [Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon] and Ssumday, who are probably the runners-up, if not the best top laners in NA right now. I think there’s a lot of potential, and as long as we can keep helping him out when he needs help, and playing our game, I think it’ll be good. He’s really mechanically gifted. I think it’ll be a good process for us.

We just saw Echo Fox go the distance against Team SoloMid, coming back from a huge deficit to win. You were in TSM’s position in your game, a big gold lead with the base still to break down, and the game seemed to stall out despite your advantage. What do you think caused that slowdown, something in the meta?

In that game, I don’t think the meta was the problem. We had an insane lead, and I think the biggest factor of us not closing the game out faster was our decisiveness. We were trying to hit the Tier 3 turrets versus Ezreal poke, and we were just getting poked out when we could’ve probably just dived them. That was a really big point, we could’ve just Sejuani ulti’d anybody and they would’ve died. [Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen] was at least two items up over Malzahar at all points in the game, and [Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi] was probably an item or two up as well. With that lead, we should be able to do anything we want, and I don’t think we were decisive enough at the end of the day.

You guys go 1-1 on the weekend, losing to an Echo Fox team that’s playing really well. Do you think they’re for real?

Personally, I think they’re going to have a strong start right now. Obviously they’re 4-0, so they’ve already started pretty strong. But I think when other teams start to catch up…Even us right now, we’re not that great, honestly. We’re struggling a lot in scrims to play a really clean game, we’re making a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t make. It takes time for a team to grow. Look at TSM. They lost today with a 10k gold lead. That’s going to change, for sure. TSM always finds its way to get back to form after a slump, and I expect them to be really good again. TL is really strong, and I think 100 Thieves is really strong; same with us. I just think that, at the end of the day, we’re going to be pretty good, and Echo Fox will maybe fall off. I don’t think they’ll be insanely good or anything.

Tell me what makes you feel that way about Echo Fox. They seem to have strong players across the board, why do you think they’ll fall off?

Yeah, I mean, going back to what I said earlier, teams need time to ramp up right now. The rosters are really new. I’ve never played on C9 with more than one person on the roster getting replaced. It’s just been a really big culture shock for me and the team. Echo Fox, they probably got along really well at first, they’re all really free spirits, all fun with each other. I’m not sure, maybe they just got a really good start. But if you look at that game, their bot lane couldn’t really play the game. But I’m not going to say too much.

Courtesy of Riot Games

Similarly, 100 Thieves is a new-look org on a hot start. Do you think they’ll be there come playoff time?

Yeah, definitely. I think 100 Thieves has a lot of potential. That’s probably the biggest buzzword in LCS, CLG’s ‘potential’ and stuff. But I really do think they’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of leaders on that team. Meteos, when he was on our team, talked a lot and brought a lot to shotcalling too. aphro is really strong in decisiveness and shotcalling, and they have strong individual players. Ssumday is really, really good, one of the best, if not the best top laners in NA. That team will go far.

I’m remembering the Worlds meta, and how dominated by Ardent Censer it was. Are you glad we’ve moved away from that back into more tanky, melee supports?

For me, I don’t really care what meta we’re in. I’m going to be the best in whatever meta I play. I played so many games in every meta, it’s not going to be a really big deal changing from ranged to melee. I think next patch will actually be a lot more ranged-dominant since Relic Shield won’t be able to be bought by ADCs. With that, I don’t really care. Riot can bring anything they want to the bot lane, I’ll just learn it and be the best at it.

That brings up an interesting point. Professional players have to play in the past for a little while compared to the rest of us. Patch 8.2 has been live for a week or so, yet you had to play this week’s games on 8.1. What is it like, negotiating those two playstates?

Well, I don’t really look to far ahead. I always focus on the now, and always improving on what I know. For example, learning the melee support meta this season was kinda on the more difficult side. It’s obviously the same champions, but you had to find a good balance between when to play defensive and when to play aggressive because a lot of these champions, laning phase isn’t super volatile, it’s just farming. In some occasions, your just stronger than the other person, and you can just all-in. Finding a good balance between when to all-in and when to just play defensive is hard. But I think coming into the new patch, we’ll be really strong again. Even now, we’re still pretty strong. I think it’ll be good for us.

The NA LCS can be found streaming on Twitch, YouTube, and at lolesports.com.