C9 Yay on LOCK//IN format, facing Paper Rex and adjusting to Cloud9 cover image

C9 Yay on LOCK//IN format, facing Paper Rex and adjusting to Cloud9

El Diablo has his sights locked on VCT LOCK//IN.

VCT LOCK//IN São Paulo is just around the corner with teams preparing to travel to the first competitive VALORANT event of the year. One of those teams looking to make a sudden impact is Cloud9. Self-dubbed the 'heavy hitters', Cloud9 boasts a strong roster. And with that star power comes steep expectations.

One of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason was Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker. El Diablo made the jump to Cloud9 from OpTic Gaming ahead of the 2023 VCT season. The North American talent is considered one of the best players in the world.

Ahead of traveling to Brazil, Jordan "Marn" Marney sat down with C9 yay for an exclusive interview.

"From a player perspective, double elimination is always better"

One of the hottest topics coming into the first LAN of the year is the tournament format. With the sheer number of teams competing at LOCK//IN (32), Riot was left in a tricky situation of trying to fit everything in without the tournament running for weeks.

This came with the decision for the format to be one giant single-elimination bracket. The tournament format would see half of the competition eliminated after their first best-of-three - not ideal for rosters flying hundreds of miles for a single series.

Yay expressed his thoughts on the tournament format, citing this will not be a good representation of how teams will perform over the course of the year.

"From a player perspective, double elimination is always superior. From personal experience, any team can have an off day or tactics/comps that may surprise people. Not to mention, in this situation you're coming into a tournament with a new meta, new maps, new agents, and new team/teammates. I think this tournament won't be a good representation of teams' performances in the future."

A tough opening match for Cloud9

<em>Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games</em>
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

The brutality of the single-elimination bracket will be on full display immediately. Cloud9 will face off against Paper Rex in the first round of the tournament, a series many would have expected to be seen at the latter stages. Paper Rex and Cloud9 are two teams at the top of many analysts' power rankings. Sadly, one will be going back on an early flight home.

Paper Rex is a chaotic side that will keep you on your toes for the entirety of the map. The Singaporean side enjoys playing compositions that throw the best teams in the world off their game. With the tournament format being single elimination, this will be a big test for Paper Rex, do they slow down because you only have one chance, or go all in on the chaos?

Regardless, Yay is looking forward to the chance of playing one of the top teams in the world:

"Paper Rex is an incredibly chaotic team at points. They're sometimes hyper-aggressive and play a lot of off-meta comps/tactics. Personally, I'd rather play them later on in the tournament. Either way, I'm hoping for a good match and they're always a ton of fun to play!"

Learning from Red Bull Home Ground

<em>Image courtesy of Cloud9</em>
Image courtesy of Cloud9

This will be the second time Cloud9 will have played together at a LAN. In December, Cloud9 competed in the Red Bull Home Ground event. This was the first opportunity for the NA squad to get some miles into their new squad and iron out the kinks.

Cloud9 would ultimately fall in the finals to 100 Thieves in what was an impressive 3-0 sweep. Despite the loss, C9 yay left the tournament feeling positive about the direction of Cloud9.

"It was our first event as a team so it was just a learning experience on how my teammates are/communicating in a match environment. It really sucks we ended up losing, but it left me feeling pretty confident about the future. Hopefully, we're able to showcase it coming up!"

The expectations of being the best

<em>OpTic Gaming celebrates with a trophy lift after their victory at the VALORANT Masters Finals on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)</em>
OpTic Gaming celebrates with a trophy lift after their victory at the VALORANT Masters Finals on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

Making the jump to Cloud9 was a big step for yay. The VALORANT star departed from a roster that was consistently one of the best teams in the world. OpTic was without question the brightest spark for North America last year, winning an international title and taking the region to its first Champions final.

With Cloud9, the expectations remain the same for yay. C9 is spending the big bucks to put together a championship-winning roster, and now those players have to perform to the same heights as OpTic. Yay in his closing thoughts wanted to let the C9 faithful know he plans on bringing the same success to the organization

"I hope to help bring some of the same success I've had before to this organization as well. There are a lot of expectations and I hope we'll be able to make you guys proud."

So how is yay adjusting to Cloud9?

<em>Image courtesy of Cloud9</em>
Image courtesy of Cloud9

Like with any team, at first it is always difficult to transition to what was a well-oiled machine in OpTic and start over. What worked on one team may not be transferrable to another. OpTic Gaming brought the best out of yay, and yay brought the best out of OpTic.

Under Pujan "FNS" Mehta's leadership, the roster was able to reach new heights as yay was propelled to the top of the VALORANT mountain. Now it is time for yay to find a system that works on Cloud9. Anthony "vanity" Malaspina is another great shot-caller in NA and it will be exciting to how everything comes together.

When asked about the transition, yay looked back proudly at the time he had on OpTic but is excited for the journey ahead with Cloud9.

"There were a lot of good memories as we had so much success with that roster (OpTic). It's been a big adjustment, although I think any team change really is. I've brought some ideas/concepts over, but for the most part, I try not to focus on a ton of what worked."

"I think with any new roster/leadership what may have worked for X team will not necessarily work for another. That's why it's important to focus on yourself and make it the best you can while having your own style."

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