At the start of the split, there were few teams that had a better read on early elemental dragons than Team EnVyUs. With seemingly instant chemistry born from their three Korean players — Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong, jungler Kim “Procxin” Se-young and mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo — and their North American bottom lane of AD carry Benjamin “LOD” deMunck and support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, nV leapt out to a 5-1 series start in the first three weeks of the 2016 North American League Championship Series Summer.
Throughout the split, they would only go on to win three more series total after those first three weeks, plummeting down the standings. If the summer split had been in best of twos, best of ones, or simply defaulted to the points system used in Korea, or win rate as a tiebreaker, Apex Gaming would have taken nV’s place as Cloud9’s quarterfinals opponent.
What made nV so successful at first, in addition to their dragon focus, was their late game teamfighting. When substituting for Team Impulse in the 2016 NA LCS Spring split, Seraph and Procxin were always on the same page. As Procxin’s aggressive dive buddy, Seraph’s presence transformed the jungler’s more egregious overextensions into favorable TiP skirmishes. This coordination, along with their synergy with Ninja, became the foundation for nV’s summer roster. While it worked at first, especially with nV playing around Seraph with Ninja to control teamfights on supportive carries while LOD cleaned up, this devolved into a wait until late game strategy that left a myriad of opportunities for opponents to overwhelm nV in the early and mid game. Now Procxin’s engages look far more foolhardy than proactive, and the team hesitates to follow up, creating a disjointed look to what was once a strong 5v5 teamfighting team.
Since his time in China’s LoL Pro League, Ninja’s champion pool has been a strike against him. While on Team WE, Ninja overly-relied on off-meta picks of Anivia and Ezreal prior to stepping down so that mid laner Su “Xiye” Hanwei and AD carry Jin “Mystic” Seong-jun could play for the team at the IEM Season IX World Championship. In his few games with Team Dragon Knights in the 2015 NA LCS Summer split — he joined the team late due to visa issues — he played a total of eight different champions in a mere nine games with varying rates of success.
This past split, Ninja has stuck to Karma, Lissandra, Viktor and his signature Anivia as his primary picks but has always, even in his days in China, shown a willingness to at least try out new champions. nV’s more recent choices for Ninja — an outdated Swain pick, insistence on the Karma mid — appear a bit off and act as a microcosm for a larger problem. Their drafts have either been a bit too far behind the current meta — placing Seraph on top lane Lulu in their last meeting with C9 was a head-scratcher — or have tried to shoehorn in newer picks like the Kog’Maw for LOD without designing a full composition that can make it a resounding success. Combined with their recent lack of cohesion and struggles to win series, it’s difficult to see nV pulling out a win against Cloud9 unless they’ve undergone a massive transformation in their time off.
nV still play the long game — they have the longest average game time in the 2016 NA LCS Summer split at 37.9 — but C9 aren’t too far behind them with the third-highest average game time in the region at 36.7. For a known early game team that wants to accrue laning advantages and smash their opponents, C9 can be an incredibly hesitant team, relying on their opponents to make a mistake, giving them an opening to fight. nV are likely to give them many openings, eliminating their hesitation.
When the two teams last met, C9 crushed nV 2-0 with fantastic statlines for their individual players across the board. As nV’s team dynamic has fallen, C9’s has only become stronger. William “Meteos” Hartman has fully re-acclimated himself to the jungle position while top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has redeemed himself after a mediocre spring split with NRG eSports to become one of C9’s best teamfighters. He has the power to turn a losing fight into a shooting gallery for mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Jensen alone can carry a fight, and he did while the team was still coming together earlier in the split, but now he has support from all sides, furthering C9’s teamfighting prowess.
C9’s weaknesses come in the form of more minute details — when to fight, where to assign their empty lane farm, which objectives to focus — rather than a structural lack of team dynamic. Occasionally Cloud9 still look like a loose collection of strong solo queue players, but even at their worst, they should be able to fall back on their natural talent to carry them over nV. At their best, this should be an easy 3-0 for C9, barring an unforeseen collapse on the part of C9 or massive improvement to their team dynamic from nV.
Perhaps if nV had continued to evolve, adapt, and grow as a team beyond their initial strong start to the split, this quarterfinals matchup would appear closer — a contest between one of the better late game teamfighting teams in nV against a team more focused on snowballing early advantages like C9. Yet, based on the recent performance of both teams, this looks like a fairly simple C9 victory.
Team EnVyUs player to watch
Kim “Procxin” Se-young
Before any actual games had been played in the 2016 NA LCS Summer split, a major question for nV was that of Procxin. Known for his ill-timed invades and overly-aggressive initiations to kick off teamfights while on TiP, Procxin is a player that may win you the game with a series of mechanical outplays, and then lose you the next with visible errors, poor communication, and a lack of follow-up. If nV is to have a chance at defeating C9, Procxin will have to be on the same page as the rest of his team and not become a liability in the mid to late game with poor engages.
Cloud9 player to watch
Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi
This is a fantastic meta for Sneaky with his signature Ashe still a top-tier pick as well as Jhin, which Sneaky introduced to the NA LCS last split. He'll be going up against LOD, who has been surprisingly good despite his team's decline. Both AD carries are integral to their team's fights with the first (Sneaky at 75.1 percent) and second (LOD at 74.6 percent) highest kill participation of any NA AD carry. Where nV favors late-game hard carries for LOD, even if they're slightly off-meta like Ezreal, this is Sneaky's time to shine on more utility focused champions like the aforementioned Ashe and Jhin.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.