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Hopping on Cloud9: Why Bunny's Happier Than Ever

The 2016 NA Spring Split has been host to explosive team fights, skin-of-your-teeth victories, jaw-dropping comebacks and Baron steals that left our heads spinning. Even though this has arguably been the most competitive Split yet, there’s still the unfortunate fact that only one team can come out ahead to claim the crown. Every team is scrambling to keep up with the roster changes, imports, coach additions and other changes centered around getting to number one. At the end of the day, only one team is left standing.

In this cutthroat, competitive environment, it’s odd to see a team like Cloud9. The organization was once the most dominant in North America, claiming two back-to-back titles and maintaining the longest win streak of 13 wins to this very day. They’re still aiming for the top, and still looking to remain competitive. However, they’re taking a long view when it comes to planning and building their team up (as proven by their new initiative to scout, foster and train North American talent.)

If you want proof of this attitude, look no further than Michael "Bunny FuFuu" Kurylo. The former Gravity player, known for his Thresh play and solid mechanics, is one of the most highly rated native NA supports. He’s spent most of this season on the bench, taking a back seat to Hai. But he still rolls up on stage after every game, showing off a bright smile. 

Most players would be furious in taking a backseat role on one of NA’s most well known teams, but Bunny’s completely content. Part of it is Cloud9’s inclusive ideals, great infrastructure and team environment.

The rest of it is Bunny’s attitude.

“Going into [Cloud9], I was really good friends with all the guys,” he says about his early goals when approached by the team. “I knew either way, whether I’m playing or not, I’m still going to be learning a lot through either watching Hai, or being there and playing in the scrims.”

Bunny has been shadowing legendary shot caller Hai, sitting in on scrims and training, and being an effective part of the team. While he’s not on stage, he’s still very much an essential part of the six man roster for Spring. He’s unbothered by not being in the chair at game time: “I had on-stage experience, so that wasn’t the same problem it would be for a rookie.”

Cloud9 originally planned to swap Hai and Bunny out regularly, as evidenced by the early games with the Split. Unfortunately, the team looked lost without Hai on the field, and Bunny’s mechanical prowess wasn’t translating into results. The joke was often that a Bunny game on Saturday would lead to a loss, and a Hai victory on Sunday. It takes a sturdy spirit to not be beaten down by this constant criticism. Luckily, Bunny’s more than able to let negative comments roll off his shoulders.

“There was a learning curve for the whole split,” he says. “But I’m still keeping my skill up as a player. I’m there for all the big moments.”

While part of Bunny’s current happiness is due to his indefatigable spirit, a huge amount of credit needs to go to the team itself. Cloud9 is a team where players put the organization first, and in turn, the organization watches their back. Hai and Meteos, both crucial parts of the original roster that rampaged over North America, both stepped down from mid and jungle when they felt like they were no longer an asset. Hai stepped back up as both a jungler and a support, and Meteos is still a crucial part of the team, as proven by his presence during Cloud9’s playoff games against TSM.

This attitude persists throughout Cloud9’s day, leading to an incredibly positive environment. “Cloud 9's not like any other team I've played on in the past. We'd have games in scrims where we'd lose all 7-8 games, but we'd still have way better attitudes about it than on other teams where we'd win, and that definitely contributes," Bunny says.

By fostering an environment where players take care of themselves — and each other — Cloud9 has fulfilled an alternate win condition. Even though they didn’t take the title this Split, they have big plans for the future, and they don’t suffer the turbulence that’s afflicted other teams after a big loss. Perhaps most importantly, the team always seems to be happy. It’s rare that you see so many smiles on the LCS stage, but nothing seems to keep the boys in blue down. The philosophy goes down to the core, even influencing their name — gaming should feel like you’re floating on Cloud9. Even though the team got knocked out of the quarterfinals, they have one of the largest fan bases. A happy team is a goal worth striving for, and possibly a more valuable one than taking the top title.

With the news that Hai will be fostering North American talent in the Challenger scene, the LCS lineup suddenly looks uncertain. While it's unclear who will be taking what role, and teams are not allowed to confirm this information due to Riot guidelines, Bunny remains optimistic about whatever comes next.

"My goals for the upcoming Split are probably to really improve myself, because last Split didn't go so well,” he says, but remains positive. “Everything I learned in the last six months, I want to apply to the upcoming split.”

For all the criticism he’s received, he doesn’t seem bothered — after all, Cloud9 and Bunny fans are happy that he is happy. He sent this message to them: “Thanks for all the nice comments that I've been receiving through my time on Cloud9, and I'll work on applying all of this for the Summer Split.”

While it’s impossible to predict the future for Cloud9, one thing is certain — they seem to be having the most fun in the LCS, win or lose. They’ve truly built a roster that new North American talent will be happy to call home.

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