I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a Cloud9 fan. I own several shirts, host a podcast, and am a frequent participant in the C9 community. Through the good and bad, I have always supported the organization in whatever they did. Recently, my faith was fully tested. Months ago, Cloud9 looked to be on top of the world with large successes across multiple platforms. This all changed when, due to recent events, the team began hemorrhaging talent and spiraling out of control.
A Brief History Lesson
At the beginning of 2018, it felt like the year of Cloud9. Cloud9’s Counter-Strike team made history by becoming the first American team to win a major title. The London Spitfire had won the first stage of Overwatch League by besting the seemingly unstoppable New York Excelsior. C9’s League of Legends team looked strong with a dominant performance for the first half of the Spring Split. Even C9’s smaller teams were putting up consistently strong results. All around, Cloud9 was looking to go strong into 2018 with many asking if they were going to show any signs of stopping.
This incredible, indescribable feeling of success and unity only lasted about two weeks, unfortunately. Slowly but surely, troubles began to form.
The largest overarching theme for C9’s issues this year has been a lack of roster consistency. Each team (LoL, CS:GO, and Spitfire) has seemingly been on a metaphorical carousel, constantly revolving in a circle and making little progress.
CS:GO is the worst offender, as the team has not had a full, stable roster for months. Say what you will about the situation of Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip and Tarik “tarik” Celik’s departure (I personally can only find incredibly harsh things to say), one thing that is clear is that the team has not found a solution to their problems due to their absence.
Cloud9 looked to bounce back by adding more structure to the squad through compLexity Gaming’s former in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta. Sadly, the addition of FNS only wasted everyone’s time and further set back the program. His leadership role never seemed to really take root. This begged the question as to why one would even take in a new in-game leader in the first place. There definitely seemed to be a clashing for leadership between him and tarik that prevented the team’s progress and only caused more problems. Combined with an overall downgrading of firepower, C9 CS:GO stood dead in the water where they continue to remain.
London Spitfire and C9 LoL have also had similar situations. Both teams have lost players seemingly out of the blue and have struggled because of it. Cloud9’s biggest issue of late has been their inability to hold on to star power. Every announcement of a player leaving only further drove the narrative that C9 no longer knew what to do, and I was beginning to lose faith in them.
Hindsight being 20/20, it is easy to say that C9’s recent move have not been the best. Though some decisions were able to work out, others blew up and caused continued problems. Despite these harsh setbacks, I believe the team can still look forward, but it will not be an easy hill to climb.
First and foremost, the org needs to finalize a CS:GO roster, and they need it done yesterday. The fact that the team has gone so long with an incomplete roster is unacceptable. While C9 might be able to pay out the big bucks, their reputation can’t get them as far as it could have months ago. Cloud9’s mismanagement and foot dragging has resulted in a downgrade of social capital.
The team has been forced to use loaner players Maikil “Golden” Selim and Martin “STYKO” Styk for their most recent couple of events. Though Golden has shown promise as C9’s potential new leader, I feel like C9 should continue to search for new additions. Nothing personal towards STYKO, but I feel like he is not what the team needs. While he can perform his role adequately, he does not bring the kind of explosiveness previous players possessed.
Also, as much as it pains me to say this, I believe they should seriously consider retiring Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham. Though he has been one of the faces for the organization for so long, his post-Boston performance has been very inconsistent. I will not deny his incredible skill and all he has done for the team, but at this point, inconsistency is something C9 cannot afford. While it is not the happiest of options, I believe that it would be better to lop off a finger to save the whole hand. If C9 does want to return to the top (which I believe they can), they need to quit tiptoeing around the subject of roster moves and make decisive cuts and additions.
Moving on to League of Legends, their problem is somewhat different. Though C9 LoL’s recent turnaround has saved them from a disastrous season, there are still problems that lie ahead. While big players like Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi are available for the moment, C9’s sour roster experiments could have left a poor taste in their mouths. I believe it is a huge possibility that C9 will need to break the bank in order to preserve their LoL team from implosion.
Cloud9’s attitude toward player atmosphere is very admirable when compared to other organizations. If a player is not happy or receives a career advancing offer, Cloud9 has no qualms with releasing them in order to retain a comfortable team atmosphere. For their veteran and rookie players alike, there is no telling what could happen to them at the end of the season. If C9 wants to retain talent, they need strive for big results and big paychecks.
Now, I myself have not agreed with some of the recent decisions. However, I do feel like the intentions of these crisis-driven decisions were very sound. Fans seem to easily forget how poorly the LoL team had played during the second half of the 2018 Spring Split. If I was in the coaches’ position, I definitely would have made similar choices.
You can’t look at C9’s pillar teams and say that there’s nothing wrong. Yes, how the situation was handled was not ideal, but it does not warrant the kind of toxic behavior that was displayed for the past few months.
Not Dead Yet
C9 has been down and out, but that isn’t to say they are not moving in the right direction. C9’s most recent activity has given an optimistic wind to the sails of many fans. The London Spitfire, a team I was heavily critical of due to their many struggles in Stages 3 and 4, managed to turn things around and make history by winning the Overwatch League’s inaugural season championship. The League of Legends roster has risen above the turmoils with a reenergized roster with playoffs in their sights.
Both London and LoL’s struggles primarily came through a lack of synergy commonly found in large, shifting rosters. Surprise, surprise, things began to turn around when they decided to only play with a dedicated set of people. I believe things would have been solved sooner had C9 looked to their Rocket League team. C9 Rocket League has been able to consistently take top 4 finishes at major LAN events because their roster has been able to remain consistent.
Looking farther forward, Cloud9 must be more diligent in their decision making. Fiascoes like the LoL roster benching or CS:GO’s lack of a roster cannot be repeated. Cloud9 is a prestigious organization and should carry themselves as such. While this year will definitely be a teachable moment for the organization, I believe it will be a permanent black mark on their otherwise clean record.
At the end of the day, despite extremely rough patches, I still believe in C9. While there are many teams out there, there is no team like it. As stated earlier, I’m not afraid to afraid to admit that I’m a Cloud9 fan – I probably always will be.
The present has been bleak, but the future for Cloud9 is definitely shining through the grey clouds. I am excited to see what the team will do next.
What are your thoughts on Cloud9’s most recent season? Are you worried about their future? As always, join the conversation and let us know!