For a team who has had tremendous consistency on the international stage, Cloud9 has never been a group favorite. Throughout the organization’s storied history, the team has only missed one World’s quarterfinal. While one would expect a level of respect and confidence for such an impressive track record, C9 has surprisingly never experienced such luxury. Each year, through one factor or another, the boys in blue are routinely dismissed while less proven teams are given heavy favor. What is it about Cloud9 that has them continuously shattering the community’s expectations?
Cloud9 has always been the international underdog for the North American region. When compared to other teams, both domestic and foreign, Cloud9 comes nowhere close to the pedigrees of their peers.
Cloud9’s lack of domestic success has most definitely hurt their reputation. Despite not having the most stellar international results, Team SoloMid, for example, was always regarded as the only team to have any chance at giving North America a top four placement. Meanwhile, Cloud9 was more often than not coming into the tournament as the third seed after their annual participation in the regional qualifier.
Groups of death
To make matters worse for Cloud9, their group stage draws have never been ideal either. While the first and second seeds of North America were usually lucky enough to score well rounded groups, Cloud9 had to face the likes of SK Telecom or the hottest squad to come out of China.
This year was no different, as Cloud9 had the tough task of facing against Gen.G (last year’s world champion, Royal Never Give Up (the favorites to win this year’s championship) and Vitality (Europe’s second seed Cinderella story).
Confidence was low as the team entered the group stage. While Cloud9 was able to leverage their youthful aggression to advance from the play-in portion of the tournament, their results were less than hopeful. The team struggled to play effectively, usually winning matches through crazy fights or enemy blunders. Fans and analysts alike predicted little advancement for NA’s biggest hope.
Once the matches for the group stage were underway, Cloud9’s start was initially slow. The team’s early game showed a lot of promise, but was cut short by mistakes in the later stages of the game. C9 did not do themselves any favors through their bot lane strategy. Though their star marksman player, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, is a skilled Kai’Sa player, the unfavorable matchups and lack of jungle presence made it very difficult for him to gain any sort of relevancy.
Luckily for Cloud9, their chances of advancement were not completely lost. Despite their own struggles, the competition created a three-way tie with RNG and Vitality. Should C9 clean house in the final day of groups, they would secure a spot to the round of 8.
Time to shine
On the final day of Group B’s matches, tensions were high. Each team had pride and a quarterfinals spot on the line. If C9 was going to advance, they would need to bring their A-game.
Through their matches against Gen.G, RNG and Vitality, Cloud9’s game changed substantially. Instead of adhering to the established meta, Cloud9 chose to draft towards their historic strength: all out brawling. C9’s aggressive new direction completely caught their competition off guard. Gen.G and RNG’s tempo focused approach was unable to get off the ground due to Cloud9’s constant skirmishing. With each win, C9’s goal of quarterfinals became more and more a reality.
Going all the way?
At the end of the day, Cloud9 was able to secure themselves a spot in the quarterfinals. Though they were not able to beat RNG in the first seed tie-breaker, the team is able to hold their heads high. For years, Cloud9 had been criticized for being carried out of groups by relying on better teams to do the heavy lifting. This year, however, Cloud9 was able to not only go toe-to-toe against some of the best; but they were able to do so by their own skill and teamwork.
Can the team go further than quarterfinals? Could Cloud9 win the esports triple crown? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!
Featured Image courtesy of Riot Games. Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr