By way of winning the 2023 LCS Spring Split and as North America’s subsequent first seed, Cloud9, forgo the Play-In stage of the Mid-Season Invitational to enter in the bracket stage outright. In doing so, they waited for the first phase to end before finding out their first opponent once the bracket stage kicked off, which ended up being China’s Bilibili Gaming.
However, in their first series of MSI 2023 for the five-time reigning LCS champions, C9 fell to BLG 3-0 to drop to the lower bracket after the first hurdle. Even after the team looked promising early on in each game by way of their early-game aggression towards the BLG, by losing to BLG, C9 awaits a showdown with either fellow NA colleagues Golden Guardians or JD Gaming, the LPL champions.
Shortly after the series with BLG, BLIX talked to C9 head coach Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez to get his insight on what went wrong for the team against BLG and more.
Taking on BLG
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Mithy. I also want to offer my commiserations on that series against BLG. It wasn't the kind of display that you wanted your team to put out, but even so, I want to know your initial thoughts on the team's defeat at the start of the bracket stage?
Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez: Yeah, BLG is a great team. I think they do a lot of small things better than we do and I think we matched them blow-for-blow and a few things. The games were relatively close to start with, but like I said, with the small things in the mid-game (such as in the fights) and some snowball-y things from early-game, everything dragged on along the game and we ended up with quite big disadvantages and it was hard to keep matching them.
BLIX: As you alluded, that was the general theme of what we saw throughout this entire series. C9 was the one that went out in front with their aggression in the early-game but they weren't able to transition that into the mid and also late-game. Diving more into that aspect, what was the main cause as to why this team wasn't able to put up that same sort of initiative in the later parts of all the games in the series?
Mithy: Well, it was mostly that our side lanes were falling behind and whenever we were standing off in mid, they were taking advantage of us. Like I said, it was the small things. Their vision game was better and it was more pressuring. Their side laning was more efficient, and the overall pressure of the game and team fights was in their favor.
They just built off the small little things on every single little detail and it was just hard at some point.
BLIX: Of course, it's going to be one of the biggest things that you're going to look at when it comes to looking ahead and wanting to continue the team's journey in MSI. To that end, do you feel like observing and reworking the team's macro game is going to be the big focus for this team moving forward for their next series? Or is it going to be giving that a bit of focus while also trying to maintain their strengths?
Mithy: I mean, it's not just macro. It's not really talking about what we can do better, I think it's each individual's decision-making and how that affects the big picture. There's a lot of things that go on in a League game at a high level and some of it is instinctive and some of it [are stuff] you have to think about. I think, for us, the meta in this event has been hard to figure out what is strong and what we're comfortable playing.
It's been a process and I think we're still in that process; by having some time now to see some official games on top of our scrims, maybe we will have a better idea of what it is that we want to focus on and what we want to consider as our strengths and kind of lean on that. We'll see.
The MSI meta
BLIX: I want to piggyback on your answer that you just talked about and how you're still trying to figure out the meta as one of the teams that are finally beginning their participation in this competition. How have you felt the players' understanding of the meta so far simultaneously?
Mithy: It's hard to get a very good read because every team does things differently. It's not very set in stone because we haven't been in the same patch for a while and things have really changed from our own region to coming over here. Some things are valued much higher and we can see why. My players have been playing twice as much as they usually play. They're grinding 14-plus hours every day trying to figure out what's good and getting good at what's good. It's just a process, and it's a struggle.
You're always coming into any international tournament on the back foot. That's just how it is, right? They play on a much better server, and they're great players, don't get me wrong, but they just kind of funneled themselves into being so good. We just have to catch up and try to stay open-minded and learn as much as we can from them and try to adapt, patch things up, and give it another shot.
BLIX: As you said in the final two words of that answer, you’ll have another shot in the lower bracket. It's part of the new format that MSI has as compared to past years. It's a whole different ball game when it comes to this event nowadays. With you losing to BLG, does it provide that sense of comfort knowing that you guys have another chance to continue improving for your next series in this new format?
Mithy: Of course, anything is better than the old format, to be honest with you, so I'm just happy that we get to play best-of series and we can get to see who the better team is and have us try to adapt, try to mold ourselves towards one opponent, and view our struggles, view us fail, view us do well, and view us come back. I just feel that's a lot more exciting for League of Legends and it means a lot more to the game, so I'm just super excited with this new format.
It can be better in certain ways. I'm sure everyone sits down and can do a better job of making it better, but it's already been a huge step up from the old one, so yeah, I just hope Worlds is similar to this.
BLIX: I want to look at your coaching with this team. So far as your stint in C9 has gone, you've been with certain players for a long time such as Fudge, Zven and Blaber which goes back to all of 2021 and this year. What is the process like in continuing to find that adaptation with those long-standing members in particular with that time together considered?
Mithy: Oh, I mean, it's very easy. They're all very grown-up professionals that understand how to have a conversation that might be difficult at times and they're just very open-minded. They're happy to talk [about] the game and happy to get better at the game. They work super hard. They're just great people to work with. So
BLIX: Is there also any difficulty considering the fact that you guys have been together for a long time?
Mithy: Not right now. No. I mean, a long time is relative too, right? But yeah, I don't feel like it's been that long.
Returning to London
BLIX: I want to take you down memory lane and I want to ask if you remember the last time you've been in London so far as your professional career has been? [Mithy: Yeah, I remember.] Yes, it was back in Worlds 2015. You played with Origen and made it to the semi-finals by beating Flash Wolves 3-1. You being here sort of serves like a call back to your progression as both a player, coach, and your career in LoL in general. What's it like returning back to the city and how do you look back at your previous time in the city?
Mithy: Well, I've been to this city quite a few times. I have friends here. I came here for my visa last December. I hop on and off of London quite a few times. I think it's a wonderful city. I like the British accent personally, so I don't mind that. When it comes to the city, I think it's the most multicultural city I've ever been in and I just think it's super amazing. I wish there were more places like this around the world. I don't like the weather.
I am an island boy and I definitely don't appreciate the weather and that's why I love LA, but when it comes to the positives of London, it's a relic.
BLIX: What was your biggest takeaway from that run in 2015 with Origen and how have you been able to use that experience for this go around as the coach of C9 this year?
Mithy: I mean, things have changed a lot. Experience is experience. I think there's a lot of growth, like individual growth and personal growth, that comes with age and time and I wouldn't necessarily say that I have used my experience from last time winning or something to change something now, I think League has changed a lot since then and it's very hard to look back at that and be like, 'Okay, well what we did here and it's gonna work now.' It's not really like that.
Looking ahead to next series
BLIX: That said, you got another match looming between JDG or GG. All fingers point toward GG as your next opponent, but there's still a chance you might face JDG in the lower bracket. Still, what are your thoughts on potentially facing either of those two teams regardless of what happens?
Mithy: Yeah, let's just say we are rooting for NA because it's great for our region and it's very important to us that NA does good overall. But realistically speaking, I think we're probably going to be playing GG in the loser's bracket, and I'm very excited about that. It would have been nicer to play a European team, don't get me wrong. I think that would have been a lot more hype and a lot nicer overall, but yeah, we get a rematch of the [LCS] finals so that's exciting.
I think we got to stand our ground and keep the spot of the best team in NA for now, at least. It's gonna be exciting and I'm happy that we get to play against them.