Reincarnated: How Hai’s return helped Incarnati0n to embrace his own play style

A look at how Hai's return as a jungler for Cloud9 helped Incarnati0n to embrace his play style

May 2015 marked a new era for Cloud9 since their rebranding, as the team completed their first official roster change by replacing long-time captain Hai with Danish solo queue star Incarnati0n. This was a much needed change after another second place finish in the NALCS playoffs, where it was made apparent that the team’s solidarity was compromised. Hai was also plagued with a re-occurring wrist injury that accelerated his decline in a role that was rapidly changing from patch to patch. With Incarnati0n, the team and fans hoped that the new addition would reinvigorate a struggling squad. Others believed the team would suffer growing pains without Hai’s shot calling. But no one could have anticipated what was to come.

Misuse and Unmet Expectations

Incarnati0n’s first LCS match was the hyped up encounter versus Bjergsen and Team SoloMid. Curiously, the team had put their new midlaner on Kog’maw, a weak early lane champion, for his debut appearance against Bjergsen – not the best plan. While Cloud9 pulled out a win after falling massively behind early, Incarnati0n had a horrid time in lane going down 40 minions and 700 gold at 10 minutes to Bjergsen’s Viktor. Fortunately for Cloud9, TSM failed to capitalize on their huge gold advantage, and the team was able to turtle their way into the late game with the Kog’maw.

At the time, the community chalked up the early game performance to LAN jitters or to the lane matchup between Kog’maw and Viktor. But, the win overshadowed the deeper issues within the team.

After their win versus TSM, Cloud9 endured their worst run in LCS history with a 3-7 record. In an interview, Lemonnation cited the lack of team synergy and shot calling issues as the main problems for the team. While that is certainly true, the problem goes a bit deeper. As mentioned in this article, the first 10 games of the split saw Cloud9 repeatedly forcing Incarnati0n on meta champions, such as Kog’maw, Varus, Azir, and Viktor. These champions are not his forte, and the team decision to put him on those champions pushed the player outside his comfort zone.

 AKP = Average Kill Participation  DPM = Damage Per Minute [email protected] = Gold Difference at 10 minutes EGPM = Earned Gold per Minute 

The table above compares Incarnati0n’s first 10 games with the midlane average in the LCS. In comparison, Incarnati0n had mostly average or below average statistics. Specifically, the midlaner’s laning stats were not impressive (-1 creep score differential at10 minutes, -54g at 10 minutes), something the community (or the team, for that matter) expected out of someone with Incarnati0n’s solo queue reputation. The LCS rookie’s damage stats may seem respectable at first (612 damage per minute; Average = 598 damage) but not so striking when you consider Incarnati0n only played high DPM champions, such as Kog’maw and Azir. And despite doing 36% of his team’s damage, Incarnati0n often failed to carry fights in the mid game and late game on these champions (1, 2).

Not only was Incarnati0n a new addition to the team, but also had no previous competitive experience at the LCS level. Even with scrim and solo queue practice on the above meta champions, the idea of putting a competitive rookie on champions he was not comfortable on, when instead he could be playing champions he was known to win lane with, is puzzling. It would have been understandable if the team had found success around other areas of the map, but, without Hai, the team suffered from poor shot calling and synergy issues.

We Need You, Captain!

A few days before week 6 of LCS, Meteos made the decision to step down from the starting lineup. At the same time, Cloud9 announced Hai’s return to the roster – as the team’s jungler. 

Hai’s return offered Cloud9 much needed shot calling in a less mechanical role. More importantly, however, the re-addition of Hai brought the enthusiasm and attitude the team had lacked previously. Hai’s concept of having fun opened up the possibility for Incarnati0n to return to his roots – and that is exactly what happened. Whether by coincidence or not, Incarnati0n began returning to his Zed, his Twisted Fate, his Orianna, his Lulu. In the 9 games since Hai re-joined the lineup, Incarnati0n played his favorite champions in 8 out of the 9 games. For comparison, the Danish rookie played none in his first 10 games before Hai joined. 

But did the change in picks help?

Never Forget Your Roots

The table below compares Incarnati0n’s first 10 games with Meteos on the team versus the last 9 games with Hai on the team.

 AKP = Average Kill Participation  DPM = Damage Per Minute [email protected] = Gold Difference at 10 minutes EGPM = Earned Gold per Minute 

Compared to his first 10 games, Incarnati0n had lower DPM (612 damage vs. 496 damage), but that is only because he began playing lower DPM champions like Lulu, Twisted Fate, and Ahri. The real striking difference is in laning. At 10 minutes, the Danish rookie started convincingly winning lane through creep score and gold (10 CS at 10 minutes, 291 gold at 10 minutes). For comparison, Bjergsen on average is 8 minions and 161 gold up at 10 minutes. The difference is not huge, but it suggests that Incarnati0n’s laning and individual performance is on par with the best player in the NALCS.

Hai’s addition, however, did more than just encourage Incarnati0n to play his best champions. 

 AKP = Average Kill Participation  DPM = Damage Per Minute [email protected] = Gold Difference at 10 minutes EGPM = Earned Gold per Minute WPM = Wards Placed Per Minute

In the table above, you can see a huge difference in play style between Meteos and Hai. Hai had the 2nd highest damage dealt per minute (301 damage) and team damage share (16%) of all LCS junglers – behind only Team Impulse’s Rush. This is because Hai preferred playing high DPM junglers, such as Shyvana, Rengar, and Nidalee. Due to these jungle choices, however, Hai had the lowest wards placed per minute (0.56) out of all LCS junglers, yet the team still performed better with a 4-5 record (note: CLG as a team place the lowest wards per minute and placed 2nd in the split).

Hai’s play style was also very focused on helping laners (when he was not on his Devourer Shyvana). One example is his Nidalee game versus CLG, where Hai was continually pressuring Pobelter through ganks and poke, which gave Incarnati0n and the team the bigger map advantage. This was something that the team sorely lacked with Meteos on the team. With Hai, Cloud9 added another damage threat to the team that can relieve pressure off of Incarnati0n. On top of that, the midfielder no longer has to solo carry team fights on champions he has less experience with. 


I think there is irony in the fact that the team was pushing for Incarnati0n, a mechanically proficient midlaner, to play meta champions, like the team tried with Hai, yet still failed. It is even more ironic that Hai’s return to the lineup encouraged his midlane successor to go back to playing comfort picks. As a result, the team  performed better and the team captain undoubtedly served as the catalyst for Cloud9’s upswing during the second half of the split to clinch the priceless 7th placed spot. Things are starting to look better now that the team is set to participate in the NA Regional Qualifier for Worlds.

With Incarnati0n’s potential unlocked and a month’s preparation before the gauntlet, Hai has a chance to defy the odds by leading his team and his successor to Worlds – a worthy way of (re)ending a playing career for one of North America’s greatest players.


If you have any comments or questions about this article feel free to tweet me @Empyre19

Stats provided by OraclesElixir.com. Photos provided by lolesports.com