Despite massive criticism and controversy surrounding the top lane, Cloud9’s rookie prodigy, Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, is doing everything in his power to breathe fresh life into a position that has often gone overlooked over the course of the past few years. Even though he’s only played on the professional stage for just 6 weeks, Licorice is proving that the supposed rules of top lane are crumbling before us, and that the future is now.

         Throughout the first 12 games of Cloud9’s season, Licorice has been the most welcome surprise in recent memory, as nearly every question mark going into 2018 has been answered already. organization’s immediate success, Licorice provides homegrown talent and potential longevity that will be key factors for C9 not only in 2018, but for seasons to come. Licorice’s new-wave playstyle meshes perfectly with a new class of LCS pros, and before our very eyes, he’s evolving into one of the most impactful rookies ever.

         If you were to line up all 10 NA LCS top laners side by side, Licorice would stand out immensely. A player with nearly no experience, but almost a perfect track record with very few blemishes is a thing of wonder, as nearly every other top laner pales in comparison in terms of performance after the first six weeks of the season.

         Watching the young legacy of Licorice unfold is an incredibly unique case, as it is very rare to see rookies hit the ground running in the LCS, but with Licorice, it’s safe to say he’s already playing like a veteran. Through 12 games, he’s posted a KP of 69.1%, good enough for 3rd best in the league among 10 eligible top laners. His Kled alone stands tall with a KDA of 21.0, the highest among all top laners on a champion with multiple games played. Although Licorice might not be considered the number one top laner in the league as of right now, he’s been showing shades of greatness and potential throughout the course of the season, and the promise of long-term success is on the horizon. If Licorice can keep up the pace that he already plays at, it’s only a matter of time until he is one of the best top laners in the entire region.

         However, without looking too far into the future, it’s still important to realize that Licorice is putting up a monster split this Spring. After a strong performance over Colin “Solo” Earnest and Clutch Gaming last Sunday, Licorice definitively dominated any competition that would have stood in his way for a Rookie of the Split title. And now, with only 6 games left to play, he will play a massive role in securing a playoff bye for C9 as the season winds down. 4 out of Cloud9’s final 6 games are against teams with a record below under .500, and as the team sits just 1 game back of 1st place Echo Fox, it is imperative that C9 wins all four games. Matchups against OpTic, FlyQuest, CLG, and Golden Guardians should be definitive on-paper victories for a C9 squad that has had very few mishaps thus far. There are nearly no excuses to not have a dominant finish to the season, as C9’s record was a perfect 6-0 against all of their remaining opponents during the first half of the season.

         With matchups against Liquid and TSM looming in the background, C9 will need to prove that they can hold their own against fellow playoff teams. 2 losses to Echo Fox as well as a one sided stomp at the hands of 100 Thieves are the only shortcomings on the résumé of a team that has looked incredibly effective through the first two thirds of the split. 

         However, a playoff berth is all but locked up for C9, and the main goal for the team should be to hold on to the top 2 seed that they currently inhabit. A team this talented and capable should have no issue sustaining success and letting that success translate into a deep playoff run. With Licorice commanding the top lane, the team has a solid foundation to build upon their winning ways, and with 4 severely talented players holding down the remainder of the roster, Cloud9’s chances of making a run at yet another North American title are incredibly high, as long as they can topple their fellow contenders. This iteration of Cloud9 is one of the best teams that the organization has ever assembled, and after plenty of questions regarding C9’s offseason, it’s safe to say that the one enormous question mark in the top lane has been answered to the fullest extent. Licorice is evolving into a cornerstone before our very eyes, and the future of Cloud9 is brighter than ever.

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