Cloud9 Find a Way
Since Cloud9 joined the LCS in season three they have made their way to Worlds eight times. Out of those eight times, they have qualified out of groups six times. Even crazier-- five of those six times, they were the only team from North America to make it. They often represent NA’s last hope at the biggest international tournament.
How is it that they so consistently escape the group stage and make it to the quarterfinals? Why not take a trip back through the years to see just how this team is able to become NA’s final team time after time.
In Season 3, Cloud9 made it to the playoffs without competing in Group Stage. Back at the 2013 World Championship, the number one seed from China, Korea, North America, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao made it past groups automatically. Cloud9 won the NA LCS Summer Split in 2013. The other two North American teams, TSM and Team Vulcun, both placed fourth in their groups and failed to make it out.
In the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met FNATIC and were ousted with a two game to one scoreline. FNATIC would go on to be defeated by China’s Royal Club, who would then lose in the finals to SK Telecom T1, the first world championship T1 would win.
This is where the stories of Cloud9 making it out of groups start to get a little crazy. C9 entered the 2014 World Championship as the second seed from NA and were placed into Group D with Korea’s NaJin White Shield, Europe’s Alliance, and Brazil’s KaBuM! e-Sports. Entering the final day of the group stage, Cloud9 sat at two wins and two losses while NaJin White Shield had four wins and one loss, and Alliance had three wins and two losses. KaBuM! had no wins to their name with games against Cloud9 and Alliance remaining.
Cloud9 dispatched KaBuM! early in the day, tying Alliance’s record. The problem then became that Alliance had to play the winless KaBuM! while C9 had to contend with NaJin White Shield. It was thought that the dream was over, and Alliance would easily claim the second slot to advance. But in the KaBuM! vs. Alliance match, the miracle happened. The Brazilian team held strong and forced the European team into mistake after mistake, eventually taking them down.
Even with this amazing upset, Cloud9 still needed a win against the Korean powerhouse NaJin to advance without a tiebreaker. In a grueling 50 minute game, which saw the two teams trading objectives and kills early, Cloud9 finally broke through and shouted “For KaBuM!” as they took the enemy nexus. Cloud9 ensured advancement to the knockout stage with a four and two record.
Cloud9 were not the only North American team to make it out, however, as TSM advanced out of Group B in the second slot. Both teams would be eliminated in the quarterfinals with TSM falling to NaJin White Shield and C9 going down to Samsung Blue.
Photo courtesy of GameSpot.com
Cloud9 made significant changes to their roster throughout 2015 and 2016. In 2015, midlaner Hai “Hai” Du Lam retired from pro play and was replaced with Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen (who would later name swap to just Jensen). After a poor start, Hai returned, but instead replaced William “Meteos” Hartman in the jungle.
After failing to make it out of groups in 2015, (they only needed one win in the second week and failed to get out), even more changes came through. Meteos was back, splitting time with Lee “Rush” Yoo-jae in the jungle. Support also saw some changes with Michael “BunnyFuFuu” being brought in initially before eventually being replaced with Andy “Smoothie” Ta.
With a revamped roster, Cloud9 entered the 2016 World Championship as North America’s third seed behind TSM and CLG. C9 were placed into Group B with Korea’s SK Telecom T1, China’s I May, and the LMS’ Flash Wolves. Many thought the North American team would do pretty poorly in this group, with SKT and Flash Wolves the favorites to make it out.
Nobody told Cloud9 this, however, and the North American squad earned two wins in the first week. But because C9 can never make it easy for their fans, they lost their next games against SKT and Flash Wolves to set up a must win game against I May. The game took 50 minutes for Cloud9 to grind out a win over the Chinese team. Even with this win, they had to hope for a Flash Wolves loss just to avoid a tiebreaker scenario. Flash Wolves did end up losing and everything fell into place for C9, as it had in the past World Championships.
Once again, Cloud9 was the last hope for NA. However, they were matched up with Korea’s Samsung Gaming in the knockouts. Unfortunately, the magic fell to the wayside in the quarterfinals, and SSG quickly swept C9. SSG would eventually fall to SK Telecom T1 in the finals.
The 2017 World Championship started very similarly to the previous years. Cloud9 entered as the third seed once again, but had to fight through the newly introduced Play-In Stage. After not dropping a game, Cloud9 was placed in Group A in the Main Event. They were joined by Korea’s SK Telecom T1, China’s EDward Gaming, and the LMS’ ahq eSports Club (the same regions as 2016).
Once again, Cloud9 got off to a hot start with two wins and one loss in the first week. Keeping with the storyline of trying to give their fans heart attacks, Cloud9 dropped the first two games of the second week. This once again set up a must win game against ahq e-Sports and needed EDG to lose to SKT for them to escape.
Just like the previous year, Cloud9 managed to bottle the escape magic once again and took care of business against the LMS team. The North Americans waited with bated breath to see if Korea could help them make it out of groups yet again. After a 45 minute slugfest between the Chinese and Korean teams, SKT emerged victorious and ensured that the boys in blue would advance to the quarterfinals.
In the first round of the knockout stage, Cloud9 took on the Chinese squad Team WE and Cloud9 came out swinging. After dropping the first game in a very back and forth 50 minute game, C9 took the next two games to put them one game away from making the semifinals for the first time. The magic fell just short once again with Team WE taking the final two games and eliminating Cloud9 and North America from Worlds.
Photo courtesy of Riot Games
Another year, another third seed for Cloud9 going into 2018 Worlds. They had to once again fight through the Play-In Stage and safely made it through after a tight five game series against Gambit Esports. Upon qualifying for the Main Event, C9 were placed in Group B with the Chinese Royal Never Give Up, Europe’s Team Vitality, and Korea’s Gen.G.
To break off from the past two years, Cloud9 got off to a slow start in week one of the group. They lost two of the first three games and were tied for last in the group with Vitality. On the fifth day of the group stage, Group B played their final games, and Cloud9 turned up. They won all three of the games, ensuring their escape into the knockout stage yet again. They would go on to lose the seeding tiebreaker to RNG, but once again became NA’s last hope.
In the quarterfinals, Cloud9 were matched up with Korea’s Afreeca Freecs. The analyst desk only had one believer for the North American side, with Joshua “Jatt” Leesman predicting a three to two victory. Cloud9 went on to prove Jatt right in emphatic fashion. The North Americans tore through the Korean side, sweeping them in three straight games and reaching the semifinals for the first time of any NA team. A historic and momentous occasion that allowed NA fans to believe once more.
Unfortunately, it was all for naught when, in the semifinals, Europe’s FNATIC swept Cloud9. They managed to make it farther than ever, falling just short of a finals appearance. After making it to knockouts in five out of six years, they would not return to the knockout stage until 2021.
In very dramatic fashion, as is the normal style for Cloud9, they have once again made it through to the knockouts in 2021. The North American squad had a dreadful three loss start to Worlds and were expected to become merely a bump in the road for the advancing teams. Once again, Cloud9 flipped the script on its head in the second week.
In their fourth game, they convincingly defeated Europe’s Rogue for their first win at this Worlds. No one thought much of it, as Rogue and Cloud9 were considered the two weaker teams in Group A. The madness truly began when Cloud9 took down China’s FunPlus Phoenix, setting up a potential three-way tie in the group. Of course, since this is C9 and they thrive in chaos and magic, the tie materialized. The Boys in Blue joined Rogue and FunPlus Phoenix were locked up in a three-way tie for the final spot in Group A.
Rogue advanced past FPX to face Cloud9 for a third time. The game that took place between the two teams took years off of viewers' lives as they fought back and forth for the final advancement spot. It took 54 minutes, but finally Cloud9 emerged victorious to once again give the North America region hope.
Photo courtesy of Cloud9
Magic, Hope, and Heartbreak
Out of every major region, North America is the one that gets memed on the most. The teams consistently underperform on the international stage. Team SoloMid is the only other team to make it to the World Championship eight times from North America. TSM has only made it out of groups only three times, and one of those was in 2012, where they were North America’s first
seed and automatically made it out.
Despite pretty consistent roster changes, difficult groups, and having to fight through play-ins most times, Cloud9 always seem to find a way. So how does C9 find a way to make it out? They simply find a way to clutch up at the exact right moment, no matter the roster and get help from some other teams at the right moment.
In 2014, when KaBuM! gave the original C9 the opportunity, C9 managed to beat the favorites NaJin White Shield to secure their advancement. In 2016 they managed to secure a 50 minute must-win game against I May to make it out. The following year Cloud9 once again had their backs against the wall, needing a win against ahq e-Sports to get into the quarterfinals. It happened again. In 2018 they needed to win all three games in the second week in order to advance and they did just that. This year they needed to win two games in the second week and a tiebreaker against Rogue just to get to quarterfinals. Like all of the other years they managed to find that clutch gene to get there.
There is also some luck mixed in with the clutch wins. For instance if KaBuM! had not gotten their iconic win against Alliance in Season 4 who knows if Cloud9 would have gotten out. If C9 did not manage to sweep the second week in Season 8 they could have been left behind. But there is no denying that Cloud9 performs their best at Worlds when their backs are against the wall.
No other North American team so consistently validates North American League of Legends than Cloud9. This team consistently gives NA fans hope like no other team can. No matter the odds or the circumstances, they find a way to advance to the quarterfinals and even the semifinals. Maybe this year will be the year they go even farther than that.
Never count out Cloud9.