While the duo of Robert “Blaber” Huang and Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer are garnering all the headlines for their synergy and unmatched dominance, the difference in top lane has gone under the radar. Is this because Eric “Licorice” Ritchie isn’t dominating the top lane? Not even close. In five of their eight games the opposing top laners have had the most deaths on their respective teams. Only Dignitas’ Samson “Lourlo” Jackson, 100 Thieves’ Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Golden Guardians’ Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell managed to evade death. Is Licorice really the bee’s knees or is he a product of his environment?
Plain and simple Licorice is a beast during laning phase. Sure there are memes about him losing 1v1’s, but that is more due to the aggressive playstyle mandated by head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu for all of Cloud9. On average Licorice is ahead in CS at 15 minutes by 19, with only Kumo besting Licorice by the 15 minute mark so far this split.
Licorice lives on an island in the top lane, and flourishes in that environment. Blaber rarely looks to gank top lane without help unlike most junglers. While he did make a solo appearance during the match against CLG; most of the time Blaber only ganks when assisted by Nisqy. Even with this lack of jungle pressure from Blaber, and more pressure from their opposing jungler, Licorice rarely loses lane. He did lose his top tower first against Dignitas. For that play Dignitas moved Johnson “Johnsun” Nguyen and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black to top and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett using the Rift Herald on the tower. Meaning it takes at least 3 members and the Rift Herald to chase Licorice off from defending his tower.
Post Laning Phase
Cloud9’s frenetic and chaos-inducing style shines as soon as top lane swaps to bottom lane. While Licorice is matching the opponents split push, both Blaber and Nisqy look for ways to attack the opposing top laner.
Using their ultra mobile and sometimes global-movement spells to surprise their enemies. They crush them before they can get help. An example of this is when Cloud9 played Immortals and the constant pressure on Kieran “Allorim” Logue. By the time Allorim and Licorice swapped to the bottom lane, Allorim was already 0/3/0. Two of the three deaths were Blaber and Nisqy making their way to the top, as well as a solo kill by Licorice. Allorim eventually racked up 7 deaths and the first four, FOUR, were solo deaths with no teammates nearby.
During their match against Evil Geniuses, Kumo was repeatedly chased off the waves by Licorice. A large part of this was due to Licorice’s Jayce range and Kumo’s melee Volibear. But what forced Kumo to leave the lane was Licorice’s burst, not him slowing chipping away at Kumo’s health. Again Cloud9 would send Nisqy and Blaber to collapse on him, but Kumo had much better luck dodging death. Volibear’s inherent tankiness and health regeneration helped to stop some damage, allowing him to escape to safety.
“Success” Against Licorice
Cloud9 did not see Lourlo as big of a threat as other top laners. They focused a lot of their attention and resources to keeping Johnsun and Aphromoo suppressed. Not to mention Licorice put Lourlo behind in gold, effectively removing any threat from Lourlo. At the 10 minute mark Licorice was nearly 40 CS ahead, which equates to a lead of over 850 gold, not including any kills or assists. Due to Johnsun and Aphromoo roaming the map and emerging as the win condition, Lourlo did not a pose a threat to Cloud9.
Ssumday is easily the second best top laner after the golden boy Licorice. After swapping to bottom lane, Ssumday would only show to clear the wave. After quickly clearing it, he would duck into the jungle to move forward. This allows him to catch Cloud9 before they show up and kill him. Briefly disappearing also prevents Cloud9 from knowing where to attack. They could all start moving to the bottom lane for a gank and then Ssumday sees them by the blue buff, allowing him to safely escape.
Hauntzer has always been an underrated top lane presence. From his time as a deadly top ward on TSM to his seemingly random games of domination. This game against Cloud9 was no different, roaming the Rift on Ornn gives him extra health and armor, helping him prevent death. On top of being very hard to kill, Cloud9 did not plan to keep Hauntzer down. Ornn does not pose a huge damage threat, his passive ability to make items is the reason he is drafted. The main game plan was to counter what is Cloud9’s most effective strategy, Mid-Jungle roams. Jungler Can “Closer” Çelik and mid lane Tanner “Damonte” Damonte combined for half of their Golden Guardians’ 20 deaths. Hauntzer just wasn’t as important to Cloud9, which is a shame because he does deserve the attention.
“From Our Haus to Yours”