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C9 leaf: “Xeppaa could be the best player in North America”

Scott Robertson

The hottest looking team at the VCT NA Challengers Finals hasn’t been 100 Thieves or Sentinels, but Cloud9 Blue. After zero appearances at any Challengers events in stage two and a handful of roster moves, Cloud9 Blue is the winner of five of its last six series. The team’s one loss? Sentinels, and they get a chance at redemption with a spot at the Masters Two LAN in Iceland on the line.

C9 leaf

Leaf's Reyna ace was one of several impressive Cloud9 Blue highlights against NRG. Image via Riot Games/Cloud9.

Following the team’s second straight 2-0 win at the Challengers Final, this time over NRG, Nathan “leaf” Orf took the time to chat with us. The NA CS veteran talked about the team’s overall confidence, the impressive play of poiz and floppy, and his sky-high expectations for former CS:GO teammate Xeppaa.

Hotspawn: Congratulations on the win over NRG. How are you feeling?

leaf: Feeling fucking great, man. That was a nutty series.

Hotspawn: Great all-around team performance, four players with 200+ ACS and losing only one round while defending. Did you guys feel more confident than usual heading into your defensive side already ahead?

Leaf: Confidence is a huge thing for us. When the only rounds you lose are like 1v1’s and post-plants, you know in your heart you could literally just 13-0 them if a couple of bullets went a different way. So we were very, very confident heading into our defense, and it showed when we were aggro-ing like every fucking round. It was insane.

Hotspawn: Floppy had a lot of clutch moments and highlights in map one versus NRG. How great is it to have a teammate who can switch to a new game and produce this quickly?

Leaf: It’s amazing. It’s honestly insane; I didn’t expect him to win as many clutches as he did because he’s playing against people who have been playing since beta. And he has like two and a half weeks of playing actual competitive VALORANT. But he’s a very smart CS player, and that really carries over in this game. He knows what to do and what people are going to think even if he doesn’t know what every ability does. When he gets in those 2v1s and 1v1s, he knows what they’re thinking; he was a really good clutcher in CS.

Hotspawn: Speaking of clutches, we have to talk about your Reyna ace late on Ascent. The caster called it the perfect Reyna situation, and you delivered. How’d you do it?

Leaf: I honestly didn’t know the Sova on-site was 1hp. That was kind of luck cause I shot one bullet at him, and he insta-died. But I heard the other two running through door, and I knew Phoenix was gonna flash, so I dodged the flash and Jett dashed, and I owned both of them. They didn’t have a chance.

Hotspawn: A much closer affair on Ascent, but you guys finished them off late. What adjustments or changes did you make in the second half to stop them from gaining any more momentum?

Leaf: After our tactical timeout, we said to ourselves we needed to play like we did against Envy. It was kind of the same scenario where we were up in the half, but then it got tied because we started playing more slow and predictable. Once we realized they were over-rotating, we started winning more rounds just off of that.

Hotspawn: Your duelist duo partner in poiz has a unique competitive background in that there isn’t much of one. What’s the most impressive aspect of his development you’ve seen playing with him?

Leaf: He still doesn’t have the best of comms, but like you said, that’s because he doesn’t have much of a competitive history. He’s gotten way better at playing with the team and understanding his role. And now that he knows what he’s doing, he’s only gotten more confident.

Hotspawn: In his interview yesterday, he said the whole team made an effort to bring up his confidence, but what exactly does that process entail?

Leaf: Helping him learn what to do in specific scenarios has been very important. Like in a 2v2 to always be doubled up, stuff like that. When he first played, he was always peeking people and diving in on retakes, but that’s something we’ve all gotten better at. But his confidence stems from his aim, so you put him on a pure entry role. Entries get set up a lot more than in CS:GO; it’s not easier to be an entry, but it’s easier to be confident.

Hotspawn: Another current teammate is a former teammate, Xeppaa, from your CS days with Chaos. What do you see him providing to the team in the future?

Leaf: It’s definitely a long-term thing with him. We planned on playing him in stage three at some point, but we have to lose to really give him a chance to play. Which kind of sucks for him. I feel bad for him, but I think in the long-term, it’ll be insane because I think he has some of the best aim in NA. And he’s only improved since I played with him because he’s a fast learner and adaptable. He’s perfect for this game because he has what every good player has in CS.

Hotspawn: So if Cloud9 Blue wins tomorrow against 100T or Sentinels and then plays well in Iceland, does the team have to make a decision about bringing him in and breaking apart something great?

Leaf: In my personal opinion, I think he’d be the best player in NA if he played. I still want him. I don’t want him to be a sixth man. It would just be a waste of talent. It’s gonna be hard if we make a deep run and qualify for Iceland, then it certifies that we’re good, but I don’t think it would ruin it. I think our five with Xeppaa would be insane, like only Sentinels and 100 Thieves could challenge us [in NA].