Season 4 has been a tumultuous year for top laners. The meta has shifted dramatically from the AP bullies of pre-worlds Season 3 to carries, then tanks, and back to bullies again. The changes to teleport, 3v1, and jungle follow created an environment where top laners were forced to constantly adapt from their previously isolated play style.
Through all these changes, Cloud 9’s Balls put up strong numbers and displayed tremendous proficiency over a huge number of champions. We took some time to speak with Balls and about these meta changes and his ability to remain relevant across so many metas.
You have previously said that the way you play top lane matches is just farming up but you consistently pull cs leads ahead of your lane opponents, even in disadvantageous match ups. Is it really just as simple as perfectly last hitting?
Balls: Sometimes my cs is higher because my opponents died to ganks or get 1 vs 2 and I pull ahead. I think most of it is from my opponents misplaying and being too scared therefore they miss cs while i hit everything. It also depends on matchups. If I'm on a winning matchup, I usually pull ahead almost every time.
During season 3, you were well known for your AP caster top laners but Season 4 brought about tanky top laner and carry top metas. What about you or your play has allowed you to remain so proficient despite the meta shifts in your lane?
Balls: I used to play a lot of bruisers in solo queue before so it wasn't like I've never played tanks before. It was just that the meta in season 3 was only ap so I learned ap top laners for that reason.
Many players have criticized the teleport top lane meta for removing its competitive edge. What are your feelings regarding it?
Balls: I think the teleport meta makes the game a bit more interesting since it makes it so that everyone has to play around the teleport and can force random fights or surprise them with ganks.
Do you think current meta of top lane champions has been influenced by top laners taking teleport?
Balls: I don't think teleport affects the current meta of top lane, I think teleport is just there so that the top laner can make more plays around the map. The better the champion, the more plays you can make with it.
When teleporting in professional play, does the team call for the teleport or do you have to split your attention to other lanes more?
Balls: Right now, I have to pay attention to the other lanes if i want to make some teleport plays, but sometimes my team makes calls for me to tp to this spot etc. It is all situational.
You have managed to stay extremely relevant despite the top lane meta essentially going full circle since S3. Is there anything about your play style that has let you adapt so successfully?
Balls: I think I've been really successful because I still enjoy the game and just practice the champs a lot in soloq/scrims and also do research on them by myself on my own time.
The current prevalence of lane swapping has forced top laners to become extremely adaptive to the state of the game. Since your strength can vary widely depending on how much you have been starved, did this change your mindset during play?
Balls: I don't think it matters to me much when I get starved because the other top laner should also be equal so it just depends who can be more useful from that point on.
Cloud 9 hit a bit of a rough patch in early Summer split when the top follow was at its peak, what were the difficulties of adopting this new strategy?
Balls: It was really hard to adapt the the new patch because we had no idea how to fix it, but then it just comes down to playing even more and trying to learn what you can actually improve on or just see what other teams are doing right that we were doing wrong and copy it.
Now that we have come full circle back to bully tops, do you feel like you are back in your element?
Balls: I think this is probably the best meta for me currently since all these lane bully champions are my favorite champs and I can carry if I manage to win my lane.
Thank you for answering my questions. Would you like to give a any shoutouts?
Balls: Thanks to our sponsors, HyperX, Logitech, Alienware, Lol-Class, NEEDforSEAT, Homejoy, sideqik, and Kinguin.