Without Hai, North American League of Legends would be completely different.
Hai is the NA LCS’s original shotcaller. The league’s first real leader whose unique
shotcalling style and macro play got Cloud9 into the LCS and revolutionized the league itself.
And years later, when Cloud9 were staring at relegation, they needed Hai because without
him, the team looked lost, directionless, grasping desperately for some kind of leader
to put them back together.
"He's basically the puppeteer of Cloud9. He is the chess master."
While he’ll always be known as the heart and soul of Cloud9 League of Legends, he's
recently taken on a leadership role with some of the league’s newer organizations.
Hai is a League of Legends mastermind, and when his shotcalling was at its peak, there
was no way an NA team could beat him.
This is his story.
Hai “Hai” Du Lam was born on September 20, 1992 in Grandville, Michigan,
and took to video games along with his brothers.
Hai played WarCraft 3, Counter Strike, DotA and WoW before discovering League of Legends in 2010.
By the time he was in college, Hai was near the top of the solo queue ladder, and a hot
commodity for teams looking to make a mark on the competitive scene with a star jungler.
Hai formed team NoFear, which was quickly signed by Orbit Gaming, but later turned to
Reddit for funding after they left the org.
"Uh, basically our owner's a scumbag. So, we kind of peaced out.
And, we went on Reddit and asked people if they could help us get here, and they sent us here."
Hai’s big personality and cocky attitude earned him a lot of fans.
But the team struggled on LAN.
After some key losses, Hai left for Cloud9, alongside his right-hand man, Daerek “Lemonnation”
Hart, and made it all the way to the first ever NA LCS qualifier.
But the team fell out of the tournament in the group stage, and were dropped by Cloud9.
They were too cocky and needed to rebuild.
"We learned a lot from that tournament.
Let me start off saying that, we went into that tournament expecting we were going to
qualify and make it through."
Hai switched to the mid lane, and he and Lemon eventually recruited Balls, Meteos and Sneaky
to fill out the team, with Hai calling the shots.
It was Hai’s last chance.
"Since I couldn't attend school I had one more shot to try and qualify.
And I told myself if I didn't make it to that one I would just attend school again
in that summer/fall. So I pretty much just said if I don't qualify I'll go back to school.
And if I do, then we'll see where it takes me."
Hai was the brains of the operation, while Lemonnation was his right hand man, executing
his orders in the bottom lane.
The rest of the players were the muscle Together they were the squad that stole the LCS
out from under the established teams.
The team cruised through the qualifier under the Quantic Gaming banner to earn an LCS spot.
And were re-signed by Cloud9 ahead of their LCS debut.
Cloud9 bulldozed their way through the 2013 NA LCS summer split, going 25-3 in the regular
season, and swept bot Team Dignitas and Team Solo Mid in the playoffs.
The league was young, but no team in its first season was quite as dominant as Hai’s Cloud9.
"You guys are flying as high as can be possible in the LCS. How do you remain humble?
How do you not let it get to your head?"
"Um, we always just talk to each other and tell each other not to get cocky and not to get complacent
and just remember that anything can happen it doesn't matter how good our record is
it just matter how good we perform each game. So as captain I always just tell us to chill down, relax.
It doesn't matter our record, it doesn't matter our win streak.
Just take it a game at a time as always."
Hai was developing strategies for the team that were so far ahead of anything that North
America had come up with, looking to other regions for inspiration
"We watch the Koreans and just do what they do, because they won the world all-star thing
and we think that they play the best."
They brought the macro game in NA to new levels.
No one saw Cloud9 coming.
And while they couldn't quite make their strategies work at Worlds that year,
the team returned to crush NA again in Spring 2014.
C9 picked up an equally impressive 24-4 record in the regular season,
and yet another 3-0 victory over TSM in the playoffs.
But that’s when tragedy struck.
Hai was rushed to the ER and found out that his lung had collapsed.
Winning the spring split meant that Cloud9 was headed to All-Stars Paris,
but Hai wasn’t going anywhere.
"Wow this sucks, and then I started thinking about, okay, with this condition, the nemo thorax
am I able going to go to Paris?"
"Their first thought is, these guys are competitors, like oh my god this guy can't go to all-stars with us.
What are we going to do?"And I'm like, don't worry about that right now, like let's get Hai healthy."
Collapsed lungs are life-threatening if not treated quickly,
"They took out most of my left lung I think, they cut out like this much of my lung, I don't really know."
but Hai pulled through, even streaming League of Legends from his hospital bed
while hooked up to a breathing machine.
"From the moment he got injured, he gave me the list of mids that he wanted to represent him."
"Throughout every single game he was sending me messages, 'tell the guys this, they need to hear this.'"
Without Hai, Cloud9 floundered at all-stars losing 2-0 to OMG in the semifinals.
Hai returned to C9 or the summer season, but, the team began to struggle.
Cloud9 still took first in the regular season, but they posted an 18-10 record, and were tied
for first with LMQ. The gap was closing.
"Hai here we are again, three splits in a row, regular season first place. How does that feel?"
"It feels great, but this wasn't the normal CLG so it was kind of like a weird feeling.
I don't feel like we earned it as much but I'll still take it I guess."
And once playoffs rolled around, TSM, were finally able to hand Cloud9 their first NA
series loss, beating them in the grand finals 3-2.
But Cloud9 were still great.
Though younger, foreign mid laners like Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian
were more mechanically sound than Hai, he was still the mastermind behind C9’s
macro play, and developed a reputation for micromanaging his players.
"It's really funny because I've actually played alongside Hai in ranked games before
and in ranked fives and he micro-manages everybody and when he's in the mindset of
we're better than these guys, he's constantly telling you things like:
'go here, do this, test that' and he's making sure that you're pushing up, going back
you always know what you need to do. So he's basically the puppeteer of Cloud9.
He is the chess master, and when he's in his mindset and he's in his groove, you definitely see it."
Hai’s shotcalling became his signature.
Other teams would make sweeping, general calls, while Hai would give his players strict directions
on what they should be doing.
C9 made history at Worlds that year when they became the first North American team to take
a game off of a Korean team after beating NaJin White Shield in the group stage.
C9 did it again by taking a game off of tournament favorites Samsung Blue in the quarterfinals,
but went on to lose a nail-biting Game 4 in a heartbreaking base push.
Hai returned to NA, but he and Cloud9 weren’t what they used to be.
A wrist injury was making it harder for him to play, C9 placed second in 2015 NA LCS Spring playoffs,
losing 3-1 to TSM.
Hai was becoming a relic.
His unique shotcalling style wasn’t being adopted by other teams, his mechanics were
falling behind, and his wrist was hurting more and more.
"As you can see I have like pain on my wrist and issues with that. So, just like, looking at the amount of
solo-queue games my teammates would play and the amount I could play it's made me feel bad
just because they're putting a lot of effort to try to get better and I can't match that effort.
Just because my body won't let me
So he decided it was time for a change.
On April 22, 2015 Cloud9 announced that Hai had retired,
Just a few days after losing to TSM in the playoffs.
"I don't know very many people in the world that are happy with being forced to retire from an injury.
Where they still have the drive and the fire to keep competing. Getting a retirement
sent to you due to not being able to play is depressing in the sense that, you're still good enough to play
you still want to play, people still want to play with you. But there are issues outside of your command
I guess, that are stopping you from doing it. That just sucks, to not be able to do what you love to do and are
able to do because of something outside of the game."
According to Hai’s brother, Hai cried when he left the C9 house.
He left the family he had built two years ago.
He left the team he led to victory time and time again.
He left the crew that shocked the NA LCS and the World.
Cloud9 brought on Nicolai “Incarnati0n” Jensen on to replace Hai in the mid lane.
And C9 took the first game of the split off of TSM,
But things got bad fast. Cloud9 were 3-7 by week 5. Putting them dangerously close to relegation.
Where Cloud9 used to look like a well-oiled machine, they were now lost without Hai's shotcalling.
"Meteos is still very much adapting to being the shotcaller and adapting to like know what to do
in every situation and kind of having the kind of dominant voice that Hai did.
Like Hai was, first off Hai was extremely loud and he was also very like decisive in his calls.
Like it's like, 'do this shit right now,' and very loud."
Cloud9 needed to stave off relegation. Cloud9 needed someone to bring the team together
and lead them to victory.
Cloud9 needed Hai.
"During that LCS season where I wasn't playing, they weren't doing too well. I think they were like two-
six or two-eight or something like that, when Jack messaged me. He didn't message me to sub-in or
to play or anything like that. He just wanted me to watch their gameplay. But Meteos wasn't feeling well at the
time, I guess. So he asked if he could step down for one game. And Jack was like, 'you know I know you haven't
played jungle, I know you haven't played in a while.
But, if you're interested we'd really appreciate if you sub-in one game.'"
The organization called in Hai for one last job.
Meteos was benched and Hai was back in the jungle, the position he played before qualifying for the NA LCS.
All of a sudden, it was clear exactly how much Hai’s shotcalling mattered.
The team was still lagging behind the rest of the league mechanically, but they managed to
pick up three more wins, staving off relegations and earning a spot in the regional finals.
Hai had another shot at worlds.
"It wasn't my decision to come back playing, but I knew all my teammates really wanted to go.
Jack really wanted to go, like everyone worked hard. And like there's no way I'm going to have my selfish needs
or like wants rather, to hold back the team. So I've put that away and tried to put my best foot forward to
try and bring us to worlds. And I told Jensen that I would do my best to bring them to Worlds if he can carry me
at Worlds. So I did my job and now it's his turn to do his job."
Cloud9 entered the gauntlet as the underdogs. Mechanically, the team was behind the curve.
Hai had a wrist injury, and was playing a position he hadn’t played professionally in years.
But that didn’t shake his confidence.
"Alright so, they lost their last game, and we won our last game which just happened.
So we have the momentum going going with us. Hopefully we'll carry that through into next game and
complete our six step process. Step five is beat Team 8 in the tie-breaker and step six is world domination.
We're a little far from there, but you know, it's a six step process."
C9 went down 2-0 against Gravity Gaming in their first series of the Gauntlet. They looked lost.
They looked lost. But Hai showed them the way.
And then, he did it again.
"Alright, I held my promise. I brought you to Worlds."
Hai came back and took a shaky, messy team all the way
through the gauntlet and back to the international stage.
At Worlds, people were ready to doubt Cloud9, and chalk their win up to luck.
"What I'm looking at what I think of AHQ, they play this very, like, the play like gamble.
There's almost zero consistency, that's how they play they always gamble. And I feel like this type of
play style is good against a worse team. As an LMS the don't really have any, like there's only the top two teams.
And against Cloud9, I feel it's perfect because they are a bad team."
"They are, they are a bad team and that's how it is right now. And you can say, 'okay they went through the
gauntlet.' But at the same time that was not a challenging gauntlet. I mean, the teams that were
in that gauntlet had absolutely fallen apart by that point. It was basically just Cloud9 picking up the pieces."
But C9 got off to an incredible start, with a 3-0, undefeated week.
Taking games off fnatic, AHQ and Invictus Gaming.
The team was pulling out surprise picks, like Hai’s Lee Sin and Jensen’s Veigar.
But they were playing with the swagger of the old Cloud9, the undefeatable Cloud9.
"Well, I came in to this not thinking I was the underdog because for me I need to think that we are the best
team for me to make the calls that a winning team would do. So if you go into a game not thinking you're
going to win, I'll probably make like a bad call and not like. I don't know, I just assume I'm better than them
even if we're not, so I can make the correct calls."
But other teams in the group figured them out. All of the shotcalling in the world didn’t make their second week
easier, and Cloud9 lost four games in a row, including a tiebreaker, missing playoffs for the first time in
the team’s history.
Hai returned to NA defeated but vindicated.
His team got dismantled at Worlds, but he showed that he was the driving force behind most of their success.
His micro-management shotcalling style completely changed the team, for better and worse.
Hai was moved to support for the 2016 spring split,
and Cloud9 said they were going to split time between him and Michael “BunnyFuFuu” Kurlyenko,
but after Bunny started in two losses that split, C9 started Hai for the rest of the games.
It was again, the shotcalling. without Hai they were a mess.
"They fell down to ninth place without him, and then decided they had to take out Meteos
just to get Hai back in there, on the team, doing that shotcalling. I mean they had a 58 per cent win-rate with
Hai that year, and a 30 per cent win-rate without him.
And even though they did the impossible with him in charge, Cloud9 needed to learn how to play without him.
Hai was the mastermind behind the team, but he was also a crutch they kept leaning on.
Cloud9 placed 5th-6th in the playoffs that split, better than they did without Hai,
but a far cry from their former dominance.
The team needed to lose him. They needed to rebuild and push Hai and his crew far away from their starting roster.
Hai, Lemonnation and Balls were moved to Cloud9’s challenger roster.
They were bumped down to the lower divisions, their team could easily bulldoze the minor leagues,
and even earn an extra LCS spot that Cloud9 could would sell, and then maybe do it all over again.
Hai wasn’t going to retire again. He knew he was good. He wanted back on the big stage.
"Just yesterday I'm sitting in this chair right here and I'm watching Worlds, I'm seeing people play and I'm like,
you, know it brings a bit of envy out of me. Whereas if I was a bit better at the game I would be able to be there
and play. And that's like a goal of every player to be on that stage. And that's definitely still something
that I want."
C9C won the challenger series that split and earned that LCS spot.
Once again, they leveraged their veteran experience to run circles around the younger players in the league.
Lemon and Balls wanted back in, they wanted another chance to prove they were worth it.
But Hai? Hai claimed he was ready to retire.
"I feel kind of old you know. My wrist kind of hurt, my back kind of hurts, and I've played a lot already.
But, for my teammates, I'm pretty sure all four of them want to continue playing and I think they want to play on
a team together. So maybe you'll see those four with someone else. But, I'm getting old man."
That is, until the right offer came around.
"I think I might have said that I wasn't interested in playing and that is true to and extent.
It's more about who I was going to play for and who with. If there was a good group of team or a good group
of players, and an organization that I felt as, if I could believe in. I could definitely see myself playing.
But, at the time you know, I couldn't see myself necessarily leaving Cloud 9 at the time.
And after qualifying, Jack came to me and told me I had this opportunity to help build a new organization,
which is now FlyQuest."
A new organization that bought Cloud9’s second LCS spot for the 2017 season.
Hai had finally left Cloud9, but this time, he did it with his friends, he wasn't forced off.
FlyQuest may have not had a spectacular 2017, but they were a respectable, middle-of-the-pack team
built on veteran knowledge, and Hai’s shotcalling.
By the time 2018 rolled around, it seemed unlikely that Hai would stick around again.
The franchised NA LCS brought in new team owners, plenty of cash, and star players from around the world.
And yet, there was Hai, now leading the Golden Guardians.
Golden Guardians got off to an even worse start than FlyQuest, but that doesn't necessarily
tarnish Hai’s career. At this point, it seems unlikely that Hai will ever leave the LCS,
at least, not until he literally can’t play anymore.
"When am I going to retire? Ah, shit. Well, you see that has to be a secret. Because, one,
I don't even know the answer to that. I got nothing for you there. Who knows, when I get tired of the game
or when I don't want to play anymore. But for now, I want to keep playing and I still like playing, so.
Hai is the mastermind behind C9, NA’s most famous, and infamous shotcaller, and the guy who just can’t quit.
He’s risen, fallen, returned and qualified for the LCS twice. He’s led three teams, won two championships,
and he’s still hanging on.
Hai might be the most tenacious person in League of Legends, and he’s not going anywhere.