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C9 Smoothie: We'll have our issues fixed next week

2016’s Worlds has begun with some incredible upsets and triumphs, tragedies and stomps. Cloud9 has had a rough start to their Group, losing one game to the tournament favorite ROX Tigers and then taking over an hour to take down the Flash Wolves.

But if Cloud9 has proven anything over their history, it’s that they thrive when they’re backed into a corner and early losses only seem to encourage them. While Impact has garnered the most praise of the “new” Cloud9, support Andy “Smoothie” Ta has proven himself to be a worthy replacement to both LemonNation and Hai. Smoothie is enjoying his first time at Worlds after his first full Split on Cloud9, and we had the chance to catch up with him after his match against the Flash Wolves.

Next man up

There are countless players who have bounced between Challenger and LCS teams, trying to find a home; Smoothie was lucky enough to score a spot on the Cloud9 roster after their Summer restructuring. Originally, Smoothie shared the spot with Bunny Fufuu, but as the Split rolled on, the team prioritized him and Bunny stepped aside.

“It obviously feels good to be [at Worlds],” Smoothie says. “Being on C9, being a Worlds player now, it obviously feels good to be here. But there was a lot of stress coming into it. It takes a lot of work to get good. Everyone has to be super dedicated and stuff. I think my team is really good at that and even if they don’t show it, they are really dedicated and talented players overall.”

Cloud9 has famously bounced back from adversity before, and Smoothie was able to adjust to that mindset and fit in with the team thanks to his history as a player.

“I went from the NACS to the LCS back to the NACS and I think it really humbled me.

I thought I was a beast when I first joined TDK, but I realized it was just mechanics and I really didn’t know how to play the game at all.

Andy "Smoothie" Ta

That finally showed when I joined Team Liquid, I came in blind and I really didn’t know how to play the game from a macro standpoint.”

Smoothie is one of the players who is vocal about the impact a coach has had on his performance. Smoothie was sent back to the Challenger circuit with Team Liquid Academy. “I learned a lot from Locodoco, and he taught me all the macro I know now. Learning this stuff made me more motivated and I had the foundation to learn as a player. Eventually it just paid off and once I got an opportunity with C9, it also showed itself.”

Among the Legends

Smoothie has spent his first full Split keeping his head down and working hard. Cloud9 are considered underdogs coming into this international tournament, and most of the acclaim has gone to Impact and Sneaky. Smoothie, on the other hand, has been staying back and quietly supporting - even if it means he has to sacrifice his own performance for the team.

“Competing against international supports, a lot of them are just really talented. They are absolute monsters and really know the role, better than I do. But I all can really do is learn and improve for next time. This is a really good experience. For example, players like Wolf and Mata and other mechanically skilled players, especially Mata for me, trade a lot harder. I get pressured a lot harder by international supports than those in NA, they show me things I never thought could happen in a lane. These things are helping me get better as a player.”

While Cloud9 have had an early loss, they know better than most teams that early performance doesn’t guarantee results. Last year, Cloud9 had a strong first week in Worlds, using a push strategy that took international teams off guard. The second week saw the rest of the teams adjusting and sweeping Cloud9 out of the group.

Smoothie predicts an opposite result this year: a rough start, and then a successful recovery.

I think we have a lot of issues to fix, but I think by next week, most of them will be fixed. Right now it’s mostly individual mistakes, and I think we lose focus. Once we address those mistakes, we’ll start playing well again.

Andy "Smoothie" Ta

When it comes to the other North American teams in the tournament, Smoothie has a mixed opinion. “I think TSM has a 80-90% chance of getting out of the group. They’re a really strong team right now. I don’t really know about CLG. My brain says no because their group has G2 and Rox, the favorites to get out of the group, but maybe CLG just does better on stage than in scrims. They’re kind of on and off for me.”

Right tool for the job

Part of finding success in their next games will be understanding the current support power picks. “Karma is an insane laner; she’ll constantly poke you under turret and you can’t do anything, but Nami can heal you through that. Nami provides an answer to Karma and brings a lot of lane pressure and CC.” Nami has already been scoring a surprising amount of picks and bans, and the support meta is warping around her. “Soraka can be a band-aid against Nami in the laning phase. The biggest [sleeper pick] is probably Alistar right now. You see Mata and Wolf play him, but more players will start picking him up soon. I think he’s really strong, but he needs the right lane matchup to really get going in game. I think his roaming and the CC he brings to a team is insane.”

Crowd control is a much-needed quality for teams in the tournament at the moment. “In this meta, there really isn’t much hard CC. There’s a lot of Lee Sin, Rumble, and Kennen... Unless you get a good Insec with Lee Sin, it’s really hard to get an engage. If you’re playing a champ like Soraka, who has no real engage or any at all, it becomes really hard to do something. Like in our game, we had Kennen who kind of has engage, but needs a flank. The game just stalls out really, really long and it gets hard to close out.”

Another important necessity for Cloud9 to advance will be understanding the competition. Smoothie shares his thoughts on the tournament favourites: “ROX, SKT, and EDG are probably the top contenders. Aside from those three, RNG, TSM, and maybe G2 have impressed me so far.”

It’s been clear so far in Worlds that teams cannot count the Wildcard regions out: “We haven’t prepped for wildcard teams before, but I think most teams wouldn’t fully underestimate them. I think maybe ROX messed around in their games, giving away leads they shouldn’t have, but I don’t think they’re completely bad. They can definitely contend to take games off teams and I don’t think we would prepare any less for them, compared to other teams. Going easy on one team really isn’t good.”

In many ways, World 2016 is another step in the Cloud9 journey, but it feels less like a culmination of the team’s story. While other teams have been preparing for Worlds and appear to be in their prime, Cloud9 spent much of the Summer Split learning how to make their new composition click. It was only in the Playoffs that they began to work like a well-oiled machine.

This is Smoothie’s first Worlds, and the best Cloud9 has looked in a long time. As they stand on the international stage to represent North America at Worlds, Smoothie talks about the work that they still need to do as a squad and the personal progress that he needs to make. This is not the end of the Cloud9 story; it’s another chapter leading up to the peak. As the tournament progresses, there’s still opportunity and ability to make sure that this chapter ends in triumph.

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