Days before the beginning of the 2018 NA LCS Summer season, Cloud9 released a bombshell roster update. For the first week of the summer season, the C9 starting roster would not be featuring team mainstays Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta. Instead, Cloud9 Academy players Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, Yuri “Keith” Jew and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam would be playing in their stead.
The atmosphere inside the various C9 spaces quickly broke out in pandemonium. Some refused to believe it due to the team’s reputation for making memes right before a season. Others renounced the team almost instantaneously. Within a few hours, the “NotMyC9” hashtag was used for many to voice their displeasure in the decision to exclude their favorite players. Those that were not in denial or uncontrollably angry simply looked up to the heavens and asked why.
Whatever the reasoning behind the move may be, Cloud9 debuted a fresh, potentially permanent, new look. Here is how the Academy and LCS teams did in Week 1.
Back to school
First, we have Sneaky, Jensen and Smoothie grabbing some action in the Academy League. Their matches for the week pitted the fan favorite players against the Academy rosters of FlyQuest and Counter Logic Gaming.
In both the FlyQuest and CLG matches, the team started strong with dominant laning phases. While this wasn’t unexpected, it felt good to see that the “OG” players had not lost any skill. It almost didn’t seem fair to pit young, burgeoning players against the likes of some of the region’s best talent. Meanwhile, rookies Robert “Blaber” Huang and Ziqing “Colin” “Shiro” Zhao displayed some impressive skill of their own. Shiro
showed incredible tenacity on Riven despite his team making some less than optimal decisions. As for Blabber, his pathing and team synergy looked like a true LCS player in the making.
This feeling did not last long, sadly. Outside of lane, their play was a completely different story. The coordination issues that plagued C9 last split seem to have followed their veteran players all the way to the Academy circuit. There were several moments where the team seemed to rush into things without thinking of potential consequences. During the FlyQuest match, the team had actually put themselves into a losing position due to their mid-game decision making. Had it not been for Shiro and Blabber’s grit, C9 Academy would have certainly lost. During the CLG game, C9 seemed to throw themselves at their opponents despite their lack of damage or gold difference. For a team sporting world-renowned players, they did not seem to fair all too well against less experienced rookies. This left a sour taste and worrisome thoughts over the Cloud9 fanbase. People began to question if Jack and Reapered were right about the swap after all.
Stepping up to the stage
Looking toward the weekend’s LCS matches, many eyes were on the new C9 roster. The act of bringing in hard-working Academy talent to the big stage was magnified by the fact that the new C9 starters were replacing brand associated names. Many were ready to criticize and many were hoping to praise as the squad dropped into the Rift for the first time of the summer season.
Before minions spawn, Cloud9 digs themselves a hole by having three caught out in immediate succession. At that moment, you could feel the hate, sadness and sickened joy as Keith, Zeyzal and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen all went down before three-minutes. Confidence for the team was already low, but the game’s start made it sink even lower. Despite their poor start, the team actually performed fairly well. Goldenglue was able to put up a Jensen-esque performance against Clutch’s own star midlaner. In the top lane, Eric “Licorice” Ritchie was also doing an extraordinary job of controlling his opponent and the map at large. At various points in the match, the game actually looked fairly winnable for Cloud9. Sadly, the team wasn’t able to overcome their poor start and other mistakes. In the end, Cloud9 fell to Clutch Gaming.
All was not lost, however. The next day Cloud9 came to play against Optic Gaming. While the match was not the quickest, it was definitely a dominant win. Outside of a few mistakes, the team as a whole definitely seemed to perform at a step above their previous match. Keith and Licorice especially stood out, as they displayed a suffocating performance on Lucian and Shen, respectively. Eventually, Cloud9’s staunch patience was rewarded with a merry win over the Optic roster.
Both squads broke even at 1-1, meaning the verdict on which team is better is still out. The old three are holding on to the issues that made them struggle in spring, while the young guns are trying to find themselves against huge odds and hostility. Both teams certainly have the potential for greatness. Whether
or not they achieve that greatness ultimately depends on their skill and their ability to play together as a team.
Whatever the outcome may be, we’ll cast our eyes in the sky next week as C9 battles Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and themselves. Stay tuned for more!
Featured Image courtesy of Riot Games. Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr