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The Value in Cheese – How Cloud 9 Set the Tone for their Game 5 Victory over Team Liquid

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One of the most mind-bending early games just took place, seemingly out of nowhere. Cloud9’s Game 5 strategy left fans and casters speechless. A set piece from the coaching staff gave Cloud9 an early advantage in Game 5. But it wasn’t just what it disrupted on the map. It was the value in what it did to disrupt Team Liquid’s mental.

A team that would be playing with a substitute jungler wasn’t expected to win the series. Team Liquid were practically playing with house money after defeating Team SoloMid the night before. But when you have a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4, expectations change.

Game 5 was meant to prove who was the best, who had what it took to go toe-for-toe with the best teams across the world. And Cloud9 caught everyone off guard.

The First Five Minutes

0:25

Cloud9 immediately pings the potential location of Jonathan “Armao” Armao’s pathing towards the top side of his jungle. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme place two wards in the bottom river and immediately recall. Team Liquid’s Edward “Tactical” Ra is late to get to his spot and no information is given up if Zven warded. Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in is spotted entering the river and Luka “Perkz” Perković is spotted moving from mid towards the top of the map.

1:08

Armao places the first ward of the game for Team Liquid just outside of the river brush and the ward is pinged out by Cloud9. As soon as the ward is pinged, Cloud9 begin to invade through the top river tri-bush. Robert “Blaber” Huang — who started the game with a red trinket compared to the typical yellow trinket start — is able to check for vision while Zven and Vulcan stagger their follows. Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami begins to rotate from the top of the map towards the bottom of the map.

1:30

Barney “Alphari” Morris is eager to greet the opening wave. With the knowledge that Alphari did not place a ward — likely to hold the trinket to prepare for an early gank — Cloud9’s bottom lane begins to run top. Alphari stays to secure the first minion of the game and proceeds to path towards the enemy turret. Vulcan uses both summoner spells to lock down Alphari and Zven is able to secure first blood.

Meanwhile, Fudge is beginning to secure his team’s blue buff and gromp camp. Blabber continues to clear the remaining pieces of Team Liquid’s top-side jungle.

1:50

As Alphari falls, CoreJJ begins to investigate the enemy’s bottom side of the rift. The timing of his pathing and the ward being placed by Cloud9’s marksman allows for Cloud9 to see his roam however it is already too late for Team Liquid. Fudge is able to take his team’s blue buff and gromp off of the map. CoreJJ places a ward in the final seconds of the Sion passive. Meanwhile, Blabber is able to secure both Team Liquid’s blue buff and gromp camp. At this point, Cloud9 have a near 600 gold lead.

2:35

Recognizing the loss of their top jungle, CoreJJ proceeds follow Armao into the top side of map. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen is poking Perkz and shoving in the third wave to potentially assist with Armao’s contest. CoreJJ, instead of helping Armao’s invade, begins to rotate towards the top lane — creating a  2 versus 2 match-up. Blabber is able to secure almost all of his raptors. Jensen recalls.

3:00

With the knowledge that Armao is still on the top side of the map, Zven and Vulcan sit in the river brush to thwart any attempt at Armao taking the top-side scuttle crab or potentially ganking the top lane. Armao is forced to rotate towards the bottom side of the map, where he invades into the jungle and secures the bottom side scuttle crab and looks to secure Cloud9’s wolves. Fudge places a ward in the tri-bush near his turret, to protect him from a dive.

3:45

Instead of clearing his krugs, Blabber attempts to contest the wolves’ camp however the camp is gone. Armao walks through the jungle with confidence as Tactical continues to pressure Fudge. Armao doesn’t have knowledge that Blabber is on the hunt until Blabber walks over his recently placed ward. Fudge’s tri-brush ward picks up Armao’s pathing and Perkz begins to collapse without notice from Team Liquid. Perkz’s aggressive play pays off as Cloud9 secure the second kill of the game. The gold lead for Cloud9 is now 1,200.

4:20

Off of the Armao death, Blabber invades the bottom side jungle of Team Liquid, looking to secure the raptors camp. Perkz places a control ward revealing a recently placed ward from Jensen. Team Liquid pings the ward placement however Jensen does not react to Blabber potentially being in the jungle. Blabber forgoes completing the camp and begins to gank mid. Jensen is able to escape.

The side-lanes are continuing to battle. Zven, Vulcan and CoreJJ recall — likely signaling the end of the lane swap. No turret plates are taken in either lane. Due to CoreJJ’s lane positioning, Alphari is not at a deficit in experience. Standard laning returns with Tactical having an experience advantage over Zven, however, is behind in gold. Jensen sits with an experience lead however is behind Perkz in gold.

It Wasn’t That Bad

Cloud9’s minute-over-minute lead didn’t necessarily take Team Liquid out of the game. It gave them a much-needed early game advantage however until 17 minutes, Team Liquid held their own. Early objectives would understandably be given up — the first two dragons along with a rift herald that Cloud9 would use to chunk down the mid turret. Plays would be made across the map: Perkz counter-ganking top-lane to secure a kill onto Alphari, CoreJJ getting caught out attempting to get vision into the bottom-side river. Team Liquid would even win an extended fight at 15 minutes into the game, securing the second rift herald.

Before the game-opening fight at 17:00 minutes, they were only down 1,400 gold. Despite seeing an increase in their gold deficit of 244 between minutes 10 and 15, they were seeing an improvement on their experience deficit by 214 points as a team.

Tactical would even have the highest gold in the game before the 17-minute fight.

That god damn 17-minute fight.

Team Liquid actually prepared for it incredibly well. First turret was still available and with second rift being in their possession they would force pressure into the mid-lane. Cloud9 didn’t have vision but did know that TL members were sitting in the brush connecting the mid-lane to the river. Vulcan throws caution to the wind and hex-flashes over the wall, finding Armao. CoreJJ follows up and counter-engages onto Vulcan and Blabber.

Tactical is beautifully protected by the wall while Jensen finds himself stuck between Zven in the mid-lane, the fight in the brush and Fudge — who is sprinting in from the top-lane. Like a matador taunting a bull, Jensen is able to flash away from Fudge, putting himself in a decent position as Team Liquid takes down Vulcan and Blabber early.

The 5 versus 3 situation suddenly becomes a disaster.

Armao thinks he is on a merry-go-round as he runs in circles, only to be killed by Perkz. Team Liquid appear to be ready to leave the fight however they look to re-engage. Ready to roll, Tactical dives onto Zven who beautifully distances himself from the TL carry while securing a kill onto CoreJJ. Fudge and Perkz are able to take down their respective laning counterparts in a 2 versus 2 brawl while Tactical continues to chase onto Zven. Simply untouchable, Zven escapes and Perkz sets his eyes onto Tactical, who goes down.

Now it’s over.

Cheese is a Good Complimentary Food

Cheese needs something to go with it. It’s one of those foods that you can eat alone and survive off of but it isn’t necessarily preferred.

Team Liquid did a really good job at limiting the damage of the initial cheese, finding themselves in a position to succeed. If it wasn’t for a misplayed fight, the end of the game could have looked a lot different.

But that’s also the value of cheese. It throws the game off.

It’s why Cloud9 at times stumbled but also why a critical mid-game loss completely pulls the game from the clutches of Team Liquid. Cloud9 had to follow-up the early game strategy with excellent performances from members on the team. Perkz had to make the aggressive plays early. Zven and Vulcan had to be smart with their approaches to rotations and fights. Blabber had to keep the pressure up. Team Liquid wore it on their sleeves in their post-series presser. The frustration that comes with a Game 5 like that is brutal.

The cheese also elevates misplays. Armao and CoreJJ’s blunders were huge. Mechanical errors Alphari and Tactical would have in fights weren’t helping.

Cheese doesn’t automatically win you the game.

And that should be the main takeaway of game 5. Cloud9’s slip-ups were pretty important and nearly lost them control of the game. It was a good strategy that put them in a decent position to win. But it wasn’t the end all be all of the game, it was just influential. It forced Alphari and Aramo into difficult positions that they did a decent job of pull themselves out from.

It was the frustration that it created that made it so important.


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