A head full of clouds
The Story of LoL Team Cloud9 – Part 2
In Part 1 of our story of LoL team Cloud9, we found out that the biggest esports organization was once only a small amateur team trying to qualify for the LCS. Only a year later, that small team became the most dominant team in the North America region. However, too many roster changes put a halt to their domination spree. Stay tuned and find out how Cloud9 managed to recover from the roster limbo and became the most dominant team not only in NA, but in the whole world.
Completely New Cloud9
Cloud9 received the invitation to IEM World Championship in Katowice as the best performing NA team on the international level. That was a big opportunity for them but it wasn't meant to be – they had to withdraw from the competition due to internal team problems.
What followed was more than shocking. Cloud9 made two major roster changes that changed the course of their entire gameplay. William “Meteos” Hartman stepped down as a starting jungler and was replaced by Juan "Contractz" Artruro Garcia, a young player from Cloud9 Challenger. Another addition to the team was an ex-Apex Gaming top-laner – Jeon "Ray" Ji-won. With Meteos gone, Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi was he only remaining member of the original Cloud9 roster.
Surprisingly, the new squad started the Spring Split with a great form and eight straight victories. However, it was impossible to keep up that pace and eventually, they lost 4 games. However, they finished the Spring Split in second place with a 14-4 score.
As the second-placed team, Cloud9 went directly to the semi-finals where they had to face Pheonix1 and their former jungler – Meteos. It was a Bo5 match but Cloud9 once again showed dominance and swept them 3-0. In the Grand Finals, they met with their old rivals – TSM. It was a very close matchup and it all came down to Game 5. Unfortunately, Cloud9 failed in crucial team fights and TSM took the game, the match, and the championship title. And it was all so, so close.
A Season to Remember
The Summer Split started relatively poorly and Cloud9 had a messy 6-4 record which put them in fourth place behind their rivals TSM and two more teams – Immortals and CLG.
Since they were second at the previous split, Cloud9 still got invited to the first EU/NA Rift Rivals, another big international opportunity for the team. Results were not stellar – out of three NA teams that were invited, Cloud9 finished dead last and never made it out of the Group Stage.
They returned to the domestic championship only to lose 2 more games and get knocked down to 6th place in Week 6. The biggest problem was the top lane position – Cloud9 were constantly switching between Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong and Ray. They knew they had to decide fast and improve their gameplay if they wanted to qualify for Worlds. And they did – Impact became the permanent top-laner and things started to get better. Luckily, they had the easiest remaining schedule, won six consecutive games, and finished the season in 4th place. But the stars did not align for Worlds – at the quarter-finals, Team Dignitas swept them with 3-1 and that was it – Cloud9 were eliminated from the competition.
They were able to go to the Regional Finals thanks to their Championship Points earned during the Spring Split. There, they won against CLG and qualified for their fifth consecutive World Championship.
Their bad form was finally corrected just in time for Worlds and they swept the Group Stage without dropping a single game. In the main event, they had some troubles against SKT but still managed to get into the Knockout Stage. However, the Knockout Stage wasn’t so kind and they were immediately eliminated by Team We.
- READ MORE: The story of T1 – Part 1
From 10th Place to Worlds
Ever since 2014, Cloud9 had been unable to get anything better than second place in the NA LCS Spring. TSM always stopped them in the Finals and won. The players lacked moral and didn’t perform as well as the Cloud9 Academy players.
The org decided to enter the season with the mixed roster mostly composed of academy players while the stars were moved down to play for C9 Academy. That decision did not yield the desired results and by Week 5, Cloud9 had a 3-7 record while C9 Academy had 11-1 record... who would have guessed, right? Therefore, Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and Sneaky were brought back from the academy to do damage control.
The team started winning games once again and dominating through the league with an aggressive playstyle that NA hadn't seen before. Everything was good until Cloud9 had to play a match that would decide everything, a match against Team Liquid. Even though they had won against Team Liquid the last time they played them with Robert "Blaber" Huang and Jensen, this time, Cloud9 did something no one expected. It was another roster change in the same season, just prior to the match.
No one saw this move coming but the two players trained together and it worked – they won. With so many outstanding moves and roster changes, Cloud9 went from a 3-7 record in Week 5 to 11-7 in Week 9, earning a spot in the playoffs. They lost in the Quarter Finals against Team Liquid but it was still a good result compared to the beginning of the season.
Subs for the Win
No one understood what Cloud9 were doing but their strategy worked. They were showing that the deep bench and good substitutes can bring a change to every match. Just before the Summer Season started, they brought in Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer, Yuri "Keith" Jew, and Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidam as three new players for their sub tactics.
In the Summer playoffs, Cloud9 celebrated as they beat TSM for the first time since 2014. They won 3-2 after switching their mid-jungle duo which changed the whole pace of the game to C9’s advantage. Unfortunately, they lost in the finals against Team Liquid.
The only way to get to the Worlds was a victory in the Regional Finals once again and Cloud9 had to play against deadly TSM... once again. The two rivals were fighting for the last spot in NA for Worlds. This time, though, things were different – Cloud9 won 3-0 and went to their sixth Worlds in a row.
They used the same tactic at Worlds and it still worked. C9 finished the Group Stage with a 4-0 record and advanced to the main event where they were seeded into Group B. Although Group B contained Royal Never Give Up, Gen.G and Team Vitality, Cloud9 still made it out as the second-placed team and went to the Quarter Finals.
No matter what they did, the quarter-finals were always the end of their journey in every Worlds they had played and Cloud9 were determined to break that circle. This time, they played against Afreeca Freecs and won 3-0, thus becoming the first North American team to ever make it into the Semi-Finals. There, they lost against fnatic but it was still the biggest accomplishment for this team at Worlds.
Second, Second, Second…
With the beginning of 2019, the team decided to trade Jansen to Team Liquid. To replace him, they acquired a European player – Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer.
The team was placed second in the regular season with a 14-4 record but lost in the Semi-Finals of playoffs against TSM. The Summer Split went a similar way and they were once again second with a 12-6 record. Second place got them directly into the Semi-Finals where they won against Counter Logistic Gaming only to lose against Team Liquid in the Grand Finals which once again placed them in second.
With two second places, Cloud9 secured a spot at Worlds 2019 but they couldn’t go as the first seed. At Worlds, they didn’t even make it out of the Group Stage and went home very disappointed.
Where are Cloud9 Now?
With the end of 2019, Sneaky retired from the active roster and became a permanent streamer. On top of that, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and Zeyzal also departed from the team and it was uncertain if Cloud9 even stood a chance in the league.
Many skeptics believed that this was the end of Cloud9's League of Legends team and that the same thing would happen to them as it happened to their CS:GO team.
- READ MORE: The Story of Cloud9 – Part 1
However, Cloud9 made just the opposite. They went on the most dominant performance in LCS History so far. Cloud9 is currently the best team in NA, only losing to TSM in the regular spring season and with one loss against Evil Geniuses in the playoffs.
They won the Spring Split title with a 17-1 record in the regular season and swept FlyQuest in the Finals to win Spring Split Championship Series. Their first LCS title since 2014 and we can expect a new era of dominance if they continue to play like this.