Three years as a pro, and three years at the League of Legends World Championship. Since joining Cloud9 in 2015 as its ace, Denmark native Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen has been searching for his own legacy.
At every turn, his countryman and rival, Team SoloMid's Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, has set roadblocks. Bjergsen has been there to stop Jensen at the domestic level and internationally. While Jensen has performed at an admirable level, even making the quarterfinals last year, he has failed to break through into world-class status among the superstars of the mid lane position.
This year, Jensen is no longer a fresh-faced rookie -- he even has the beard to prove it. And that experience means he wants more. Not to just advance further in the tournament through lucky draws, but something greater: to establish himself and C9 as legitimate contenders.
"Personally speaking, I don't think it matters too much if you make quarters or semis," he said after his team's 3-1 qualification for the world championship with C9's victory over Counter Logic Gaming in the Regional Final. "I think it really just depends on what kind of teams you beat."
Jensen spoke about how last year's best-performing Western team, H2K Gaming from Europe, got to the semifinals of the event but was unceremoniously dumped from the tournament in a one-sided affair against South Korea's Samsung Galaxy. H2K got to the semis without facing any South Korean sides and instead played wild card squad Albus NoX Luna in the quarterfinals and knocked the CIS champion out in similar fashion to how Samsung dealt with H2K.
To Jensen, that kind of victory is hollow. He wants the team to feel like it accomplished something, even if he doesn't hoist the Summoner's Cup. Jensen wants to defeat one of the three South Korean teams heading to China, to trip up a world title favorite from the country that has won the past four World Championships.
"Our coaching staff has expanded," compared to previous years, Jensen said. "I think generally, we really want to win; this lineup really wants to win, so it feels like we're putting in a lot more effort. But again, all the [South] Korean teams, they do the same as us ... but generally speaking, they do it better, so we'll see how it goes.
"I don't want to say anything ridiculous like we'll beat the [South] Koreans, because generally speaking it doesn't happen too often, but I do think we have a better chance this time around."
While Jensen isn't boisterous about his goal of upsetting a South Korean squad in China, C9's owner, Jack Etienne, is brimming with confidence. The Regional tournament has been a tradition for Cloud9 the past three years, and advancing out of the gauntlet as North America's No. 3 seed has, too. Etienne has another tradition during the event: This year, just as he had done in previous years, the owner planned on boot camp and purchased flights to South Korea for his entire team and staff before the finals were even decided. C9 was in the air on a 13-hour flight hours after a back-and-forth series that could have sent the club packing for the offseason instead of toward Asia.
Etienne, though, believed in his team and was repaid for it.
"Having Jack as an owner is great," Jensen said. "He's always extremely supportive and goes out of his way to help the players if there is something wrong. He just puts a lot of trust in us, and he's never really done anything bad. So far, I've been really happy having Jack as my owner, which is probably why I'm going to be staying with Cloud9 for a while."