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The Lasting Impact of the 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

What is ‘Scouting Grounds’?

The 2017 North American Scouting Ground occurred from November 26 2017 to December 2 2017, culminating with the Scouting Grounds Draft. Scouting Grounds is used for League Championship Series (LCS) teams to find domestic, North American, talents. The 2017 tournament and draft was the second annual instance. The event consists of 20 Challenger level players divided into four teams, represented by the four elemental Dragons; Infernal, Cloud, Ocean and Mountain. The final series ended with an Ocean victory over Infernal with Mountain defeating Cloud for Third Place.

The 2017 draft is significant because of the 10 players drafted, 4 have played in the LCS with 3 of the 4 having played for Cloud9 with Mingyi “Spica” Lu as the outlier. Four other players are currently on an Academy roster with the remaining two selecting to attend college over starting their professional careers. Colin “Kumo” (at the time of draft his username was League) Zhao, Robert “Blaber” (blaberfish2 at the draft) Huang and Philipe “Vulcan” Laflamme were all drafted at this Scouting Grounds. This year had more players drafted that eventually appeared in the LCS than any of the other four years.

League (Kumo)

Kumo Shiro League Cloud9 Evil Geniuses Top
Kumo Courtesy of Gamepedia

FlyQuest, as a result of random selection, held the first pick for the draft. Cloud9 bought the first pick off FlyQuest and selected Top Laner League. After being drafted, possibly to avoid confusion, League changed his name to Shiro and shortly after changed it again to Kumo. Kumo spent the entirety of 2018 with Cloud9 Academy and made his main roster debut in 2019, where he split time on the Academy roster as well.

His time with Cloud9 ended when he was part of the trade that sent himself, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam to the new organization Evil Geniuses. This trade brought an extra $2 million to the Cloud9 organization that Cloud9 CEO Jack Entiene then used for his biggest 2019 offseason acquisition.

Blaberfish2 (Blaber)

Blaber blaberfish2 Cloud9 Jungle
Blaber Courtesy of Gamepedia

Cloud9’s only non-acquired pick was the ninth pick, the second to last pick of the draft. Cloud9 used this pick to select Jungler blaberfish2. In blaberfish2’s first official split, 2018 Spring, he spent as a backup to Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin on Cloud9 Academy. Upon Wiggily leaving for Counter Logic Gaming Academy after 2018 Spring, blaberfish2 took over the starting spot. The Summer 2018 split brought both much-needed experience and change for blaberfish2. Two weeks before the start of the season blaberfish2 changed his name to Blaber.

During 2018 Summer the main Cloud9 roster struggled, halfway through the split they sat in last place. Last place is never ideal for anyone, and this led to Cloud9 intermittently subbing in their Academy roster. This move sparked something in Cloud9 and resulted in a World Championship berth and a semi-final appearance for Cloud9, the furthest a North American team had progressed since season one.

Throughout 2019 the main Cloud9 and the Cloud9 Academy rosters were used interchangeably. Again, Cloud9 made it to Worlds but this time did not get out of the Group Stage. This showing led to the trade with Evil Geniuses. After the trade, Blaber took over the full time starting Jungler role.

Vulcan

Originally, the fourth pick in the 2017 Scouting Grounds Draft belonged to Golden Guardians but they sold the pick to a new organization, Clutch Gaming. They soon selected the standout support Vulcan, the only support taken in the 2017 Draft. Vulcan spent the entire 2018 season with Clutch Academy. As a team they made it to the playoffs but lost in the Quarterfinals to FlyQuest Academy.

Vulcan Cloud9 Support
Vulcan Courtesy of Gamepedia

Upon Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, the starting Support for Clutch Gaming, leaving for now-defunct Echo Fox, Vulcan assumed starting the Support role. After a disappointing ninth-place finish in 2019 Spring, Clutch and Vulcan bounced back with a fourth-place finish. This gave Clutch enough Championship points to enter the Regional Qualifier for a World Championship berth. In an amazing comeback, Clutch reverse swept Team SoloMid in the Regional Finals to qualify for Worlds. Clutch Gaming matched the results of the rest of the LCS participants failing to advance passed the Groups Stage.

Worlds 2019 wasn’t a complete failure for Vulcan, as he caught the eye of Jack Etiene, the CEO of Cloud9. Jack became infatuated with Vulcan and pushed to acquire him at any cost. Upon Free Agency opening on November 18, 2019, Jack leveraged part of the $2 million from Evil Geniuses to acquire Vulcan from Clutch Gaming. With that Jack got his guy and Cloud9 cemented itself with a promising new Support.

2020 Cloud9

With Blaber and Vulcan both coming off their first Worlds experience, Cloud9 prepared to make their return. Both Blaber and Vulcan have played with each other before, for Team Ocean during the 2017 Scouting Grounds Tournament. Although the tournament only lasted a week, the chemistry between these two is visible.

Although some think Scouting Grounds is seen as insignificant or not as important by some, Cloud9 has shown it is possible to build through this draft. The effects of the 2017 edition will have lasting effects both on and off the Rift.

All information sourced from the 2017 Scouting Grounds page on Gamepedia

Information on the Cloud9-Evil Geniuses trade can be found here.

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