After mid lane swap, Fudge is taking big learnings back to LCS top lane with Cloud9

Fudge smiling on LCS stage for Cloud9Chris Bet for Riot Games

Cloud9 young gun Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami took a big step in LCS Spring 2022, rotating down the Rift into mid lane. While the mid lane experiment was rocky, the Australian is taking plenty of learnings back to top lane where he hopes to reign supreme with his new skills.

Fudge’s role swap was a bold call from Cloud9 that drew plenty of attention, both domestically and internationally. The storied LCS organization pulled no punches heading into LCS Spring 2022, drawing in Korean talent like top laner Park ‘Summit’ Woo-tae and AD Carry Kim ‘Berserker’ Min-cheol.

Obviously, to fit their new top laner in, the rest of the roster was shuffled around. With Fudge a core part of Cloud9’s long-term plan, the Academy prospect turned LCS star was pushed into the mid lane on short notice to fit around the new “Korea9” roster.

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Things, however, were turbulent from the get-go. Head coach Nick ‘LS’ de Cesare was let go just two weeks into the season, and with Spring wrapped up Cloud9 has binned Summit and Korean-American support Kim ‘Winsome’ Dong-keon after just one split. Former Academy star Jonah ‘Isles’ Rosario is also out the door.

It was a short-lived “experiment”, Fudge says, but one the top laner is taking to heart as he transitions back to his primary role for LCS Summer 2022.

Cloud9 summit sitting at tableChris Bet for Riot Games
The “Korea9” roster has fallen apart, with Summit now out of the picture.

The failure of Korea9

Cloud9 ⁠— or Korea9, depending on how active you are on social media ⁠— was a hot commodity heading into Spring. When they first stepped onto the Rift in Spring, there was an air of hope around them.

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With LS, they drafted innovative compositions. Fudge was the centerpiece of these, picking up supportive champions like Ivern and Soraka in the mid lane. The latter of which, while interesting to see, was a sign of “poor preparation” according to Fudge.

“I had never played Soraka before and we were in the practice room,” he described to Dexerto. “We were talking about specific champions like ‘if they ban Ivern what do we play’ because at that point we had literally practiced Ivern every scrim game other than I think three Kog’Maw mid games versus Viktor.”

“The experiment with Kog’Maw mid was definitely not the most well-prepared. It was a waste of scrim games. The idea behind it makes sense, but also I executed it poorly because I don’t play Kog’Maw a lot. I was also just starting to play mid lane. I had never practiced anything other than Ivern, and we weren’t going to play Kog’Maw, but we had a feeling that if we blind picked Soraka, they would play Viktor, and then we could maybe play Soraka.

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“We didn’t practice anything else, which is why back then I said our preparation hadn’t been very good because we only played one champion in mid lane for a whole week and I first timed Soraka. In Week 2 we played Irelia-Karthus versus TL, then in game 2 I first timed Zilean which I hadn’t played in scrims, and I was pretty upset about that. I wasn’t playing champions I was practicing.”

“There’s a lot of different things that were not very practiced.”

It was indicative of a Cloud9 struggling to shift from one gear to another in 2022. Their playstyle had flipped, something expected from a team coached by LS, well-known for his ardent views on how League of Legends should be played.

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However, while the new tech was fawned over by fans, cracks had already begun to show internally in Cloud9’s armor.

“The transition [from 2021 to 2022] was pretty messy,” Fudge admitted. “It didn’t feel like there was a lot of communication between the people coming in and the people already here, except for me communicating with LS and Max with LS very frequently.

“LS’ philosophy on the game is very different to the way other people think about the game, and he has very aggressive ways of speaking to people which doesn’t help when you don’t know them very well. With me, he can speak like that and I don’t care, but you have to be very good at speaking differently to new people, and it was hard for us as a team to work together to communicate better with each other.”

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Cloud9 coach LS praying on stage at LCS Spring 2022Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
LS’ dismissal just weeks into the Spring split sent shockwaves through the Cloud9 camp.

This led to a myriad of issues, and not just the straight-forward ones like overcoming the language barrier with three new Korean players.

The team struggled to stay on the same page ⁠— something quite evident in playoffs. While they experienced a honeymoon period following the dismissal of LS, the underlying tension still remained. Things were falling apart, internal ideologies were shifting, and that drastic change led to high highs at times but even lower lows.

“The reason we started differently was because a lot of the players didn’t actually think the champions they were playing were good. They played it because they wanted to try it, or they were willing to, but they didn’t believe the champions were good in their own heads. Which was why, once there was no pressure from the outside to force people into playing these specific champions, they played whatever they thought was good.”

“There was clear weaknesses we had [as well in playoffs], Summit was dying to a lot of ganks, Blaber and I were taking skirmishes that we’re just losing ⁠— the late game decision making could have been a lot better.”

However, the overall point of communication was one Fudge reflected on as the ultimate failure of the Korea9 roster that stumbled out in fourth.

“I wouldn’t put the blame on one person, I think everyone did a really bad job at helping each other. People weren’t willing to go out of their comfort zones to have really hard conversations.”

The identity of a role swap

There were, however, a couple of shining lights in Cloud9’s Spring split. One was Berserker bringing his skills from the LCK to NA and transitioning well as a lane-dominant AD carry.

The second was Fudge’s relatively successful lane swap.

With the picks like Ivern and Soraka out of the way, he found his way onto control mages under Max Waldo ⁠— something he felt more comfortable on when initially swapping into the role. It led to some standout performances, especially on champions like Orianna, and his stats didn’t look like a mid lane rookie.

He ended the split with a 5.76 KDA, second best in role behind Liquid’s Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg. He had a low gold share for a mid laner ⁠— just 21.3% ⁠— but the lower resource play didn’t come with less impact, and in Cloud9’s shining games that came to the forefront as he let his side lanes (or Blaber in jungle) snowball.

“I like playing mid lane a lot,” he said. “Mid lane as a role is much more cerebral than mechanical. Right now, whenever I play mid lane, I don’t feel like there’s insane mechanical outplays happening more so than just very small outplays in terms of the macro of the game.

“It doesn’t feel like there’s many chances to smash your opponent 1v1 and go up 40 CS and solo kill them. It’s control mages [in the meta]: Viktor, Orianna, Syndra, Ryze, Twisted Fate. These champions are sort of boring, they don’t play into a lot of mechanical skill, but they show when you’re smart at the game overall which I enjoy. I’m a player that likes to think very deeply around ideas about the game rather than headbutting my way through.

“I do think I improved a lot in one split. I felt like at the start I was literally a ninth-place mid laner and by the end I was top 4.”

On the shift back to top lane though, there were some major learnings to be had in the mid lane that he’ll he taking with him on his return. Fudge pointed to the small things, like gaining a better understanding of jungle and support timers for roams.

This knowledge is something that’s underrated in his eyes, and he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on the gap he believes exists between him and the rest of the LCS pack.

“I play a lot smarter rather than brute forcing things, which I think a lot of the top laners in the LCS do. I’d say they’re dumb in general. They don’t play around the whole map state. I’m not even referring to anyone specifically, it feels like every top laner in the league.

“My skill set as a top laner is very rare, which is why I think I’m a lot better at top lane. I’m a lot closer to a lot of the mid laners in terms of the way I think, but I play the top lane champions mechanically better.”

“I think a lot of top laners are bad at understanding jungle and support which is why me being a mid laner and understanding all three roles [jungle, support, mid] a lot better will help me a lot as a top laner. I don’t have the same weaknesses as other top lane players.”

Fudge looking up at camera LCS summer 2021 cloud9Oshin Tudayan for Riot Games
Fudge’s swap to mid lane ended up being a success in his eyes despite a lack of results.

Missing MSI, and bouncing back in Summer

Cloud9 are trying to get started in Summer on the right foot. With rumors abound of their roster ⁠— including a role-swapped Jesper ‘Zven’ Svenningsen in support ⁠— there’s a bit more trepidation around their moves after an explosive off-season fizzled out.

However, while core parts are changing with a Fudge return to the top lane, he believes it covers over a lot of their Spring weaknesses.

“The team dynamic will be a lot different with me being top lane, but I don’t think the team will be all that different. The players will be different skill levels, but we’ll operate pretty similarly mainly to do with review and practice and the way we think.

“The main thing will be working on being able to communicate directly to each other honestly. That’s something we struggled with a lot in Spring, not just because of us not wanting to, but also language issues. That’s something very important we’ll have to work on because it felt like people had problems but they weren’t willing to open up about them.”

The Spring failure comes with the bitter cost of missing out on MSI. For Fudge, MSI 2022 is a difficult topic of discussion ⁠— especially as he has both NA and OCE to cheer for in Group C.

If you ask him where his allegiance lies, it’s hard to get a straight answer.

“My heart lies with EG honestly,” he exclaimed. “I’m friends with all the Chiefs guys and they lost to ORDER, so I don’t want them to win. I don’t have regional pride, I have pride with my friends and they lost. I’ll be sure to tell Vulcan to sh*t on Corporal.”

Then, a slight backflip: “I don’t think either team is going to do very well at MSI though. I assume EG will make it to top six, but maybe they’ll pull a Pentanet and come out swinging. That’d be funny. Actually, I kind of want ORDER to win against EG but I don’t expect them to.”

With all eyes now on Worlds for the new-look Cloud9 heading into Summer, the top laner is confident the team’s worst is now behind them. Much simpler goals in terms of cohesion and positive team relationships will lead them back to the top of the LCS ⁠— not just good skill on paper.

“You never know what’s going to happen, maybe I’m not going to be as good as I was. It’s possible I’m going to be insane on these champions mechanically, we don’t know,” he mused.

“I’m sort of trying to focus on making sure we’re direct with each other rather than thinking too much about player skill. It’s about working together a lot better than we had in the past.”