When Cloud9 fell flat at the Mid-Season Invitational
, narrowly qualifying for the Rumble stage of the event, it was evident that changes needed to be made to North America’s greatest team. It wouldn’t be so simple as changing a player who looked mediocre in Spring, however. A previous point of inconsistency, Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami
was fantastic at the international event, carrying games alongside the C9
Throughout both Spring and MSI, the only reliable factor of this C9 line-up seemed to be the aforementioned botlane. Both Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen
and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme
demonstrated all-star performances time and time again, often dictating the game's pace through sheer 2v2 dominance.
Together, the C9 marksman and support had, respectively, the 1st and 3rd best KDAs throughout the LCS’ Mid-Season Showdown. It was also this 2v2 finesse that led to C9’s sole victory over eventual MSI champions Royal Never Give Up, with Zven’s Kai’Sa reaching unprecedented heights through a deathless game (6/0/7) and Vulcan finding multiple engages time and time again.
The duo has shown they are world-class both domestically and internationally, and most fans and analysts looked to the rest of a floundering C9 squad as potential candidates for replacement.
That was, however, until Zven — currently the best marksman in NA based on both statistics and accolades — was be demoted to Academy a week before the LCS started.
Long Live the k1ng
Despite this being his first showing on the LCS stage, k1ng is no stranger to international competition. The veteran botlaner donned the Dire Wolves’ colors for the majority of his career, playing competitively since Season 5 — and essentially having a competitive career as long as Zven’s. K1ng would lead the Dire Wolves to MSI 2017, Worlds 2017, MSI 2018, and Worlds 2018, before joining forces with Fudge on Mammoth ahead of Worlds 2019.
The best marksman remaining in the Oceanic region would then follow in the footsteps of Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui
and FBI and try his hand over in NA for the 2020 season. While visa issues and the ongoing global pandemic meant that k1ng would be unable to take to the stage, online or offline, for C9 throughout Summer 2020, the organization recognized his capabilities and stuck with the botlaner until he could make his return this Spring.
Playing a grand total of eight different champions throughout Spring, and posting positive win rates on all but Kai’Sa (who he would then go 0-2 with to open his LCS debut weekend), k1ng has showcased that he can go toe-to-toe with the best in the business.
The newest member of C9’s LCS squad may have led C9A to a finals finish at the LCS Proving Grounds 2021 Spring, but he has his work cut out for him on the big stage as C9 look to return to the World Championship after last year’s anomaly cut their ambitions short.
Can k1ng be the one to take them there? Let’s look at his performances throughout the opening weekend and find out.
Spring k1ng, Summer Subject
So far, it has been a humble beginning for k1ng’s LCS career. As highlighted before, C9 with the new marksman in their roster opened up their Split with 2 crippling defeats. The most painful of these was versus what many would consider the worst team in the league in Golden Guardians
. That isn’t to say that the weekend was a complete disaster for C9 (or k1ng’s Kai’Sa win rate) as the team was able to pick up a convincing victory over Spring Finals opponent Team Liquid
There aren’t many botlanes that have gone up against Jo “CoreJJ” Yongin
’s Leona and lived to tell the tale, let alone escaped unscathed — and yet that’s exactly what C9’s “new” botlane did.
The TL matchup is especially poetic, as not only are C9’s fellow Spring finalists running into roster turmoil with their superstars (Barney “Alphari” Morris
is currently benched in favor of Thomas “Jenkins” Tran
), but this ongoing botlane scenario especially calls back to last year’s TL. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, NA’s most accomplished and long-standing botlaner, was benched during Spring 2020 in favor of Edward “Tactical” Ra from Team Liquid Academy.
Suffice to say, putting up Perfect KDAs is one thing, but being able to do it on dive-heavy champions like Kai’Sa and Nautilus is another entirely. The C9 botlane was an especially impressive cohesive unit this game, and not just through KDA: k1ng’s vision score of 62 rivals most junglers and midlaners. When ahead, the C9 botlane spreads their influence all over the map, compensating for any inconsistencies presented by the rest of the squad.
But what happens when the issues plaguing the remainder of the map are too great to patch up? Or, perhaps, if the C9 botlane never gets a footing in the lane to begin with?
While C9’s loss to GG was certainly a close game
— k1ng racked up 8 kills but ultimately was unable to capitalize — the team’s systematic dismantling at the hands of 100 Thieves was painful to say the very least. In fact, the newest face to the C9 team, whose competitive career took an unscheduled 6+ month hiatus, was the only member to put up a halfway decent KDA here, unable to make up for the 0/7/0 Renekton-shaped wound bleeding resources out of their middle lane.
Currently, k1ng mirrors Zven’s statistics from Spring. Zven averaged 23.8% of C9’s gold share throughout the split, and k1ng presently sits at 23.7%. Zven played Kai’Sa the most out of all champions — 20 games on the champion throughout Spring, with second-most being Tristana at a cool 7 — while k1ng has exclusively played the marksman throughout his LCS career so far.
There were games in C9’s Spring, as well as the entirety of their MSI, that the botlane were unable to carry despite their own individual leads. If k1ng is being developed into Zven 2.0, then perhaps C9’s issues from MSI will persist beyond, and changes need to be made elsewhere.
For now, however, the C9 marksman looks like the best-performing player on a roster that took home the Spring title. This is no easy feat, but C9’s aspirations should be much grander than just replicating their Spring performances - can k1ng keep up?
Time will tell for the C9 botlaner, and the coming weeks will be crucial to see just how this player continues to develop alongside his all-star teammates.