From 10th place to qualifying for finals, to an impressive gauntlet run to Worlds and now, getting out of the group stage of death to enter Worlds quarter finals. This is the story of Cloud9’s miracle run to Worlds 2018. Not to be confused with the Cloud9 miracle gauntlet run of 2015.
This all started with Cloud9’s coach, Bok “Reapered” Han-Gyu. Reapered knew that at the state of the Cloud9 team before the NA LCS Summer Split, they would not make it to the Play-offs. ADC Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, Mid laner Nicolaj Jensen and Support Andy “Smoothie” Ta were demotivated in scrims and they were not performing as well as they should have.
On the other side of the coin, the Cloud9 Academy team was crushing teams in the Academy league and Reapered saw three extremely motivated players doing well. So just two days before the opening of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split, Reapered benched Sneaky, Jensen and Smoothie to the Cloud9 Academy team and replaced them with Greyson “GoldenGlue” Gilmer at the mid lane, ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam as Support.
“We saw that the existing LCS roster just wasn’t working. Their teamwork was off, their synergy was off. They didn’t seem to be hungry to learn as much as they should be, and the Academy team was doing great strives as the same time.” – Jack Etienne
Fans were shocked with the roster change. Many fans of the veterans, Jensen and Sneaky, protested immediately upon hearing the news. Reapered however, did not fear the fans. He truly believed that this was the best move for the organization overall and he had the full support of the organization founder, Jack Etienne. With that, Cloud9 started the season with a team mostly made up of rookies and saying that Cloud9 had a rocky start was a massive understatement.
Disastrous Early Season
Fast forward four weeks. Cloud9 only had 2 wins out of 8 games and the future was bleak. Not only were the games with the rookies not going well, they were also tied for last place with Optic Gaming. This was not an indication that Goldenglue, Keith and Zeyzal are terrible players. In hindsight, they can in fact do really well, but there was a missing piece and the Cloud9 team just could not meld into a single coherent unit. Cloud9 was throwing leads and even with a lead, they are not able to close out games.
Meanwhile, in the Academy league, veterans Jensen and Sneaky were crushing the Academy league mercilessly. At that point, Cloud9 Academy’s standing was 11-1. It is true that you can consider them smurfing in the Academy league, but having a one hundred percent win rate? It was proof that Jensen and Sneaky weren’t feeling good about being benched and they really wanted their spot back in the LCS team. Fire reignited in Jensen and Sneaky, and Reapered brought them back from the Academy team along with Robert “Blaber” Huang for the jungle.
C9 now had a 7 man roster and with the rookies brought in earlier staying on and substitution will be made whenever the team needed it.
- Top: Licorice
- Jungle: Swenskeren, Blaber
- Mid: Goldenglue, Jensen
- ADC: Sneaky
- Support: Zeyzal
Things starting to fell into place. Cloud9 started to win games once again.
But why? Why did Cloud9 start to win games again? They are still mostly made out of rookies – the very same rookies that had the disastrous start. Reapered bringing back Jensen and Sneaky does help but the key player that made all the difference is probably Blaber. Blaber is hungry all the time and is always itching to kill a player in the rift. The term aggressive is probably putting it mildly. You know who else is also really aggressive? Jensen.
Jensen and Blaber work well because they are both aggressive. A mid lane kill is sure to happen with this duo running down mid. Professional League of Legends games can sometimes feel stale and boring because teams are afraid of making mistakes as they can easily cost the game in 2018’s meta. Now comes Blaber and Jensen with their devil-may-care attitude and their attempts to go for as many kills as they can. I think not many teams are ready to play against that. Now, Blaber is a rookie after all and some times, what the team needs are a highly coordinated and meticulous mid jungle duo. This is where Goldenglue and Svenskeren comes in.
Svenskeren and Goldenglue may not topped the charts in damage and kills like Jensen and Blaber but what they do bring to the table are synergy. Their coordination are world class and they care more about macro play rather than kills. Most pros will argue that it is more important to play at a high level macro play. However, it is also important to always beat the player that is right in front of you right now. That is exactly why Jensen have always been the starting player for mid lane. Jensen is a mechanically gifted player, beating most mid laners in the NA LCS.
However, the winds are shifting east. When Reapered needed the team to take it slow and steady, especially against teams that they cannot be aggressive on, Reapered subbed in Svenskeran and Goldenglue. With Svenskeren meticulous jungling and his synergy with Goldenglue, the mid jungle duo played a slower, controlled game. They provide a different perspective than the usual aggression that Blaber and Jensen provides and they still managed to get important kills together. Jensen and Blaber can do it alone.
With two distinctive styles in the mid jungle lane, Reapered are able to decide the strategy best to win games with. The flexibility and total champion pool makes it really difficult for their opponent to prepare for Cloud9 and with that, Cloud9 shot up the standings.
Only Uphill from Here
And shot up the standings they did. In the last few weeks, Cloud9 cruised through the split until the playoff against TSM. Three games in, TSM was winning 2 to 1 games. They were on match point and Cloud9 had their backs to the wall. Reapered with all his infinite wisdom, swapped out Jensen Blaber and brought in Goldenglue and Svenskeren to slow down the pace of the game. Goldenglue’s first playoff match was the most important match of his career where he had to win the next two games in order to carry Cloud9 to the finals.
And carry he did! Well sort of. The games were insane. Cloud9 was way more dominant throughout games 4 and 5. Both games were short and clean and extremely one-sided. Cloud9 finally stood on top of TSM and was heading to the finals.
This split was amazing for Cloud9. Starting from last place and now they are going to the finals against Team Liquid which unfortunately they did not win against. However, Cloud9 still made it to World’s Championship 2018 group stages where Cloud9 exploded. Spoiler alert: Cloud9 made it out of groups!
Cloud9 not only made it out of groups, they were the only NA team that made it out of groups. The infamous group of death no less, compromising of Royal Never Give Up, one of the two teams that is in contention to win Worlds; Vitality, one of the best EU team; and of course GenG, last year’s Champion. Cloud9 was NA’s last hope… Again. As the second seed of Group B coming into the quarterfinals, they drew Afreeca Freecs as their first showdown match. By the time the day of the game arrived, both RNG and KT Rolster was eliminated from the Quarterfinals by losing to IG and G2 eSports. An outcome that no one could predict at all. Worlds 2018 have been dubbed “The Worlds of Upsets”.
Keeping to the “The Worlds of Upsets” trend, Cloud9 knocked out Afreeca Freecs. Rather easily too, I might add. For the first time in League of Legends World Championship history, an NA team defeated a Korean team in a Best of Five match. This was not the only history in the making on that day. With the last Korean team knocked out, for the first time since Korea joined the World Championship tournament, there was always a Korean team in the worlds finals. However, this year, there isn’t even a Korean team in Semifinals.
UPDATE: With Cloud9 now in the Semi finals against Vitality, a Western team is guaranteed to be in the Finals this year. It’s finally no longer a Korean vs Korean finals and I sincerely hope that Cloud9 bests Vitality to make it to Finals.
Cloud9 has always been and probably always will be one of the best teams to be a fan. Their games are often the best to watch in terms of entertainment value and their story will always top other teams. Case in point, they are a 10th place team in the Worlds Semifinals and this is their second miracle run to Worlds. The first was during 2015!
Will this year be the year Cloud9 makes it to the World Finals? They definitely have a chance! Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments!