Clapping the Opponent - Analyzing Cloud9 Jensen to Climb the Ranked Ladder
Fri 29th Sep 2017 - 10:50am
After building a reputation on the EUW server, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen moved to North America to become the Cloud9 midlaner. His name quickly became associated with flashy plays and lane dominance. The flashy plays earned respect from fans and impressive statistics pulled analysts onto his side. His name is respected internationally, especially considering his escape from a group with Faker in it. Many fans debate him as one of the best midlaners in the West and I’m going to explain why. The specialties of Jensen’s playstyle are lane aggression and teamfighting. He is not only capable of rendering his lane opponent useless, but is also consistent at putting out continuous damage while staying safe in teamfights. These factors of his play can be learned from and replicated in solo queue.
It would be easy to create an extensive highlight reel of Jensen solokilling his lane opponents in competitive play. Enemy teams must be prepared to play around his lane aggression before they even walk onto the rift. With an average CS differential of 8.9 at ten minutes in the most recent season of competitive play, Jensen is accustomed to smashing lane. Jensen can not only play around abilities to maximize his own farming, he punishes every creep that his opponent tries to take.
Jensen can be seen here preparing to punish Ahri's attempt at freezing with a full Orianna combo.
This is the first lesson that can be applied to solo queue. Regardless of lane, it is usually possible to punish every single creep that the opponent goes for. In botlane, ranged supports can poke, or at least get in an auto, every time the enemy ADC goes for the farming auto attack. Midlane you can punish with abilities or simply auto attacks to conserve mana. This harassment not only ticks away at the enemy health, it makes them more hesitant to go for later farm. If they want to kill a cannon minion, and you position aggressively to punish it with a full ability combo, they may be forced to concede the gold.
In top and midlane, matchups can determine how far these trades may be pushed. For example, if you are playing a ranged champion like Lucian, and your opponent is playing Kassadin, it is likely possible to get multiple autos for every creep they walk up to. Some manaless characters can get full ability rotations off once a wave, and this is why Zed is considered such an effective lane bully. Once you take these punishments several times, the enemy laner is forced to make a decision. They can either recall and concede experience and gold, or attempt to stay in lane and give you the option of punishing with an all-in.
Westdoor attempted to catch this wave under his turret, and Jensen quickly captured the opportunity to finish him off.
The second main lesson of lane aggression to learn is knowing capabilities. How much damage can you do? How much damage can you take from your lane opponent? Does the enemy laner have a defensive summoner and, if so, how will that impact your damage output? This is a very advanced concept but having a general idea of it will advance your laning by a large margin. If you are half health versus a Leblanc who just turned level 6 and has Ignite off cooldown, recalling is most likely the best option. As seen in the last image, if your opponent is overstaying under turret and you have Flash then you can probably punish them for staying. The better your grasp is of this concept, the less likely it is that you will be outplayed. One of the closest competitive solokills in recent memory came from Jensen having a strong understanding of his damage output.
Jensen throws the final auto attack to finish off soon-to-be worlds finalist Crown.
Not only did Jensen win the fight and earn the solokill, he did not waste his Flash. He knew his capabilities well enough that he never panicked, earning him the kill. Considering the magic resist being built, along with the healing that Cassiopeia gets from her Twin Fangs, there was a lot to consider before taking this all-in.
The biggest downside of playing aggressive in lane comes from the enemy jungler. While pushing forward and positioning aggressively to deny farm, you put yourself at a much easier position to be ganked. In addition, your lane opponent will be more likely to ping for assistance if they are being demolished. Getting killed by one of these ganks puts you in a worse position than playing safe to begin with, so outplaying the ganks is essential. Sometimes it comes in the form of dodging a skillshot like Elise Cocoon, sometimes it is knowing your own power and killing them both. Several of Jensen’s flashiest plays come from outplaying ganks.
Jensen knows his damage capabilities confidently enough to turn this gank around and earn a kill.
Outplaying the ganks doesn’t always require living. Sometimes the best play is to save summoners and pull resources from the enemy team. Even if you are in a position where it is impossible to live, you should try to make it as proactive as possible. Don’t waste summoner spells, try to force the summoners of your opponents. Sometimes it may seem like you are completely doomed, only for you to miraculously survive. This screenshot may seem like a lie, but Jensen survived this gank.
Viktor's Gravity Field stuns the enemy champions long enough for Jensen to escape to the waiting Braum.
As laning phase ends, Summoner's Rift transforms into a chessboard of objectives and five-on-five brawls. As a midlaner, your goals vary based upon what role you are playing. With damage-per-second (DPS) champions, you are looking to deal as much damage as possible while staying safe. With tanks, you are looking to make plays and peel for your carries. With supportive midlaners, you are poking and keeping your carries alive. Jensen is more than capable of all roles, but many say he specializes in control mages.
Not only can he zone well with champions like Azir and Veigar, he is able to put out continuous damage while staying safe in the fights. DPS champions are the most consistent role for carrying in solo queue. Most other roles rely on teammates, so to avoid variance many players gravitate towards dealing the damage themselves. As previously mentioned, the goal of DPS midlaners are to stay as safe as possible while also doing damage. With some control mages, it is possible to deal damage at a distance with which the opponents won’t know where you are.
Jensen kills Adrian from behind the safety of his frontline.
The difficulty of staying safe depends on what character you are playing. Champions like Cassiopeia and Ryze are forced to get close in order to deal damage. Meanwhile Azir can stay at an absurd range while dealing his maximum DPS. The key to this playstyle revolves around cooldowns and ranges. When you can keep track of enemy abilities, it is easier to know when to walk forward aggressively. If the enemy Maokai hasn’t used his Twisted Advance combo, walking forward will surely lead to death. Ranges are also important for cooldowns.
In this screenshot, you can see Jensen playing defensively until Ahri uses her charm. After he knows the ability is on cooldown, he walks forward. Playing around this cooldown prevents the possibility of getting picked. Ryze is a character with a short range, so he is not following the Thresh around the wall because he knows his range puts him at a likelihood to be hit by crowd control. If he was playing someone like Orianna or Azir, he would be able to deal damage from his current position. These is an example where dealing damage is not worth the chance of being picked off by crowd control.
Playing around cooldowns isn't enough to be a top tier DPS player, because it is important to continuously deal DPS. When looking to maximize damage, focus is important. If you are in a position where you can damage a carry without being focused by frontline, the damage can be crucial. If the frontline is positioning aggressively, then you should be focused on kiting them and not trying to enter range to damage the carries. Once the initial cooldowns in a teamfight are used, it can be the job of a carry to make clutch plays to end the game. Sometimes Flashing forward is key, sometimes it is simply saving cooldowns until the crucial moment.
Jensen breaks the siege with a clutch Orianna ultimate.
These clutch plays and teamfighting are one of the most important aspects of solo queue as a DPS midlaner. Once your game gets later, death timers grow longer and individual teamfights can erase everything that has happened up to that point. A single clutch play can wipe the enemy team long enough to come back from any deficit. It can also crush any opportunity that the enemy team has to get back into the game. Even if the game's tempo is pushed toward the enemy team, it only takes one clutch play to remove Baron buff from all enemy champions.
When learning from Jensen, you can improve your game for the early and later phases. If you can execute the lane aggression, you will build an early game advantage that can lead to snowballing. If you can stay safe while pushing high DPS numbers, you will win the late game and be able to close it out. When looking to get better at something, a logical approach is simply imitating the professionals. Jensen is one of the greatest that North America has to offer, so emulating him will help you gain solo queue success. Remember that even Jensen doesn’t win them all and keep the plays flashy!
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