As the offseason for the LCS continues and the final rosters are being revealed for many teams, some still have questions lingering. One of those is Cloud9, who has made major offseason roster changes including a new top laner, moving Fudge to the mid lane and overhauling the bot lane.
The only non-settled position on Cloud9 currently is Support, where Winsome and Isles will be battling it out to get the starting spot. But who’s the better choice for this new version of Cloud9?
Ashton Stansel: I don’t think there’s any question that Winsome is the better choice. Given both players are North American residents, Winsome because he was born here and Isles because he is from Oceania, which gives NA residency as of last year, so there’s no preference based on that. Winsome played well in LCK Academy last year, ending up in second place.
Winsome could also be good for team communication. The team is now fielding two Korean players in Summit and Berserker. Winsome, who grew up as a child in North America before moving to Korea, could be helpful for communication between the Korean and American halves of the team.
Sam Zelin: The biggest reason I’d start Isles over Winsome is the category of relevant experience. Sure, Winsome may have performed well in the LCK’s academy league last year, but Isles performed well in the NA academy format. In the 2021 season, Isles was a part of the Spring Split team that took first in the league, and then followed this up with a second place finish in summer.
While Winsome also has a couple of first and second place finishes under his belt, the Korean and North American systems are drastically different, and even though Korea has perennially performed better than North America internationally, there’s no evidence yet to say whether or not Winsome’s skill level will translate to the infrastructure of Cloud9 or the LCS as a whole.
Ashton: That’s true that there are differences in playstyle between North American and Korean teams but given that Cloud9 will be at least 50% Korean this split, depending on which support starts and which side of the line you consider Winsome part of, that may be the playstyle they’re going for. This feels increasingly likely when you look at the recently announced hiring of LS as a head coach given his coaching history is almost exclusively Korean lineups.
Given both players only have experience in a scene below tier one; the LCS academy is the tier two for the region while the LCK is the tier three below Challenger, I don’t think we can really say how either will perform in tier one environments. Yes, Isles was very good in Academy last year, but Academy in North America is potentially not at the same challenge level as the academy system in Korea given the large difference in historical performance between the two regions.
Sam: While it is true that Isles’ only experience in the North American scene is below the top tier of competition, that statement fails to consider his entire career. As one of the perennial top teams in North America, Cloud9’s goals are always ultimately focused on international success. When it comes to international experience, Isles has some while Winsome does not. As the representative from the Oceanic Pro League in 2020, Isles’ squad Legacy Esports was seeded into the World Championship play-in round.
Sure, the play-ins are not the peak of competition, but Legacy ended the group stage with a 3-2 record, only losing to Team Liquid, once in regulation and once in a tiebreaker for first place in the group. Isles and Legacy took a victory from a major region team, MAD Lions of the LEC, as well as defeating Turkey’s Supermassive and Brazil’s INTZ. Unfortunately, Legacy fell to China’s LGD, barring them from Main Stage play, but the bottom line here is that when it comes down to Cloud9’s two new supports, only one has tasted even a sliver of international success.