C9 EMENES reveals he broke under pressure at LCS Summer Finals

Carver Fisher
Cloud9 EMENES broke under pressure LCS Finals

Dexerto sat down with EMENES moments after Cloud9’s loss at the hands of NRG. Though he still thinks he is one of the best players in the world, the C9 mid laner revealed that pressure got to him when it mattered most.

It’s fair to say Cloud9 was a shoo-in for the LCS Summer 2023 trophy. The team managed to win Spring 2023 Finals in decisive fashion despite, at the time, newcomer Jang ‘EMENES’ Min-soo having just joined halfway through the split. There were those who were skeptical of him at the time, but he silenced his detractors with a decisive win in the Grand Finals in Spring.

Cloud9 would then go on to dominate in the Summer Split, not dropping a single match through the entirety of the playoffs up until the finals. When they swept NRG Esports to secure their spot in the Grand Finals, most fans and analysts were confident that it’d be yet another C9 win.

Then NRG took Cloud9 down handily and won the Grand Finals.

In the moments after the team’s loss, EMENES lamented his performance. His biggest opponent in the series seemed to be himself, as he expressed in an interview with Dexerto.

Losing focus when it matters most

Compared to dominating solo queue, being a strong pro player is a whole different game. There’s a reason that some players who are solo queue monsters never quite make the jump to pro play, or they get there and never manage to have the amount of success that is expected of them. Vitality jungler Zhou ‘Bo’ Yang-Bo comes to mind here.

Regardless of how good a player you are, you have to be able to show up on game day. There are some players who thrive in the high-pressure environment that pro play provides. Some to the point where their performance is drastically improved in playoffs and at international competition compared to the regular season.

NRG is one such team that really stepped it up, taking down both Cloud9 and Team Liquid despite having a middling showing in the regular season.

While EMENES clearly has it in him to do well in these high-pressure situations, he didn’t show that in the Summer Finals and is well aware he wasn’t playing at his best.

“I do respect [NRG] as a team and how they play as a team. But I don’t personally think they’re that good. When I was playing the game, I could see their weaknesses. But the fact I couldn’t do anything… There was a lot of pressure because I couldn’t do anything about them.”

This wasn’t for lack of trying, either. It was most evident in Game 4 where EMENES had a strong start on Yone and being up 4 kills. However, he’d go on to die 4 times in a row and miss many of his abilities in crucial teamfights, ultimately throwing his lead. What could have been a massive turnaround for Cloud9 in the series wound up being one of EMENES’ weakest showings.

“The games we played, games 2, 3, 4, wasn’t [a draft] we prepared too much. Because I felt pressure to make plays, it resulted in aggressive plays, more aggressive than how I play normally,” he said.

EMENES then shed some light on the elements outside of the game that impacted his ability to play.

“For me, factors outside of the game like my mentality and getting ready for the game as a professional player are things I need to work on. In the series, I missed a lot of skillshots, and I think that’s due to the pressure I felt.”

The Cloud9 mid laner went on to clarify that this pressure wasn’t from being in a big arena with tons of viewers, but more from trying and failing to focus on the game when things weren’t going in his favor.

“I’ve never felt pressure because there are so many people watching me. It’s mostly about – when I’m in-game, I’m thinking about some… not useless, but not very important things while I’m playing the game. That’s really what I need to work on.”

So, for example, in game 1 and 2 I was able to focus on the game. But after we lost game 2, I thought a lot about, ‘Oh, how can I win this game?’ I just had a lot of thoughts. I tried to keep my mental, tried to stabilize my mentality, but it just didn’t happen.”

Game 2 in particular had a moment that’d be hard to not tilt from.

In short, EMENES mental boomed. That one loss to NRG may have sent him on a downward spiral in the series. Despite that, however, he was still in good spirits just a short time after the loss.

EMENES remains confident despite the loss

It takes a lot of confidence to claim that you’re still one of the best players in the world after a loss like the one Cloud9 took against NRG, and EMENES has that confidence.

“To be honest, I really think I’m one of the best players in the world. Compared to how I played in Spring, I believe I’ve improved dramatically,” he claimed.

Considering that EMENES won the LCS Finals in Spring and earned himself a trip to international competition in record time, saying that he’s drastically improved means a lot. Though the other four members of Cloud9 were clearly a solid foundation, having your mid laner firing on all cylinders is incredibly important if you want to have a roster that can win a championship.

In Spring, it seemed like he was the real deal. While the way Summer ended has shaken that belief a bit, one set gone wrong doesn’t erase a year of greatness.

EMENES’ road to the LCS had its fair share of bumps along the way, and he’s no stranger to facing adversity. He went from team to team in minor regions, always having the mechanical skill to dominate the competition but never quite finding the right fit. However, even during that time, EMENES thought he was better than those he was facing and ultimately knew he could make it if he put his mind to it.

“When I look at players who I think are not much better than me, it’s like, ‘Oh, I can do better than them.’ So, that’s why I work hard.”

While Cloud9 is clearly the best fit so far, he clearly hasn’t overcome the mental obstacle standing in front of him. And, though he wasn’t happy with the way things ultimately ended in Summer, he didn’t seem deterred by the loss. With Cloud9 going to Worlds regardless of the Finals’ result, this set could end up being a harsh lesson learned at the perfect time.

Dexerto asked EMENES how he feels about the sentiment from others that he used to be a toxic player before joining Cloud9. While that sentiment has long passed, we were curious about what he’d like to be known for, and what he’d like to be remembered for by the time his career ends.

He paused for several seconds to ponder his answer and ultimately came up with this:

“I don’t really care about what other people think about me. I just want to play my heart out and have no regrets.”

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