It’s no secret Cloud9
have had a rough go of things at MSI. During the group stage, it seemed like C9 shook off their rough streak by taking a 3-0 day including a hard-fought victory against DWG KIA
. However, going into the Rumble Stage, Cloud9 seems to be having an even worse start. 4 games, 4 losses. The first two days weren’t kind to North America’s representative at MSI, but they’ve since been able to pick things up and find a win. Cloud9 aren’t out of contention yet, but things are looking grim. How did things get so bad, and what needs to change for C9 to take more games?
Houston, we have a problem
Clearly, C9 have some deep-rooted issues. The blame seems to be directed toward Blaber
, which is a fair assessment. Perkz has been quiet through most of MSI, and Blaber’s made some poor decisions that have led to C9’s defeat in games they could have easily won. These are fair assessments, but there seems to be more to the story than that. Neither player seems to be in top form, but there’s more to it than individual play.
Some League games are lost slowly. One team edges out the other with consistent play, better rotations, and solid teamfights. It can be hard to pinpoint where exactly the game was lost in those cases.
Most of Cloud9’s losses, however, are throws. There’s a specific point where the game is thrown. Sometimes it’s a big enough throw that your own org changes its Twitter name to make fun of your decision.
Going into the Rumble stage, C9’s initial game into RNG on Day 1 looked promising
. They had a heartbreakingly close game, one that was in C9’s favor. They were up on kills, and their strong teamfighting comp allowed Cloud9 to force objectives. Unfortunately, RNG realized they weren’t going to win the game by playing C9’s game, and they decided to try a different strategy.
It’s hard to be mad about how this game concluded. RNG made a good call, but C9’s coordination looked about as good as it did in their win against DWG KIA during the Group Stage.
This is a throw. Cloud9 didn’t have a way back into the game after they fumbled this early fight, and they earned the name Crab9 with how hard they prioritized river control early on.
It’s important to notice that Blaber went into this fight with fairly low heat, and he was unable to build up that bonus damage before he died. Perkz also used his Q before placing his W, putting his Q on a much longer cooldown than it would have been if he used the correct ability order. Everyone makes mistakes, but these small misplays are indicative of the fact that C9 aren’t picking champs they’re comfortable with. Adapting to the meta and using flex picks to gain a draft advantage are both good strategies, don’t get me wrong. However, Cloud9 doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp of these champions, and it shows. Moreover, the changing meta has effects beyond what’s picked on your side. Learning how to play your strongest champions into new threats can be a massive hurdle.
Blaber’s had a generally good record on Udyr, but his comfort pick hasn’t been immune to the sort of mistakes that cost C9 games.
This is the moment C9 lost against PSG on Day 2 of the Rumble Stage.
Blaber’s frontline presence was a crucial part of C9’s teamfight in this draft, and the fact that he pushed up so far here resulted in PSG winning the teamfight and taking an easy Baron. Saying Blaber was overextended is an understatement, and his poor awareness of where he was in relation to the rest of his team cost Cloud9 the game. As easy as it is to blame Blaber here, though, I think this points to a larger problem on C9.
A change in priority
Changing the meta for such a massive event is always going to be controversial, but it’s hard to deny how stagnant the Season 11 jungle meta was. Hecarim, Udyr, Nidalee, and Lillia are the most prioritized junglers on the tail end of the Spring Split leading into the LCS’s Mid-Season showdown. It was rare to see much else, and changes in jungle picks often came about as a result of the other options being banned. These picks are fairly low CC, and it was easy for Blaber to run circles around the competition.
Now, Blaber has to fight into Morgana and Rumble. Both jungle picks add heavy CC, something Blaber likely isn’t used to a jungler providing. Morgana’s CC chain destroys Udyr, and Rumble’s ultimate has a heavy slow that makes life difficult for a champion like Udyr. That extra control over teamfights has effectively crippled the playstyle that made Blaber the MVP in NA. Plays he used to be able to get away with are being heavily punished by teams that know to focus down Blaber, and the change in the MSI meta seems to have hit Blaber hard.
It’s easy to say Blaber’s bad, but the reality is that he’s had to try and adopt a playstyle that’s a bit more backline-oriented based around the picks that are meta at the moment. This shift has been hard for C9 to work around, and it shows in C9’s occasional misplays and overzealous engagements. That may also be part of the reason why Perkz has been picking more passive mid laners. It’s hard to go for picks like Yone and Lucian that want a strong 2v2 with their jungler when Blaber doesn’t have the confidence to fight early game. He may have had that confidence at one point, but C9’s repeated failures likely shook Blaber’s confidence
The final blow
Cloud9 had to win against DWG KIA on Day 3 to have a reasonable shot at securing a spot in the finals. Considering PSG’s surprisingly strong performance in the Rumble Stage, C9 going 1-5 would be a crippling blow that’s almost impossible to come back from. Unfortunately, Cloud9 narrowly lost
. It was a back-and-forth game, one that had these teams fighting each other all over the map even from the first minutes of the game. The observers were having a hard time keeping up with which part of the map a skirmish was taking place on, and C9 fought like their tournament lives depended on it. However, DWG KIA scraped out a gold lead where it mattered.
This is from around the 15-minute mark into their match, and you may notice how much of a gap there is in gold between mid and top lane. ShowMaker had a massive CS advantage over Perkz, and Gangplank’s passive combined with the extra assist over Fudge gave Khan the edge despite the fact that Khan got heavily pressured in the early game. It’s no secret that DWG KIA’s macro game is strong, but Cloud9 still took some great teamfights.
This fight C9 won on Baron seemed like it could have been the point where C9 took control of the game. Zven was definitely the MVP here, and Damwon’s spread-out positioning was easily taken advantage of by Tristana’s ability to reset Rocket Jump and pick apart the enemy. C9 tried to use their momentum to go for Elder Dragon, but DWG KIA adapted and identified Zven’s important role in the last fight.
As soon as Zven got blown up by Khan’s barrel, this game was over for C9. DWG KIA’s late game was too strong, and C9 weren’t able to get away with winning the game despite securing the Elder Drake.
Now, Cloud9’s chances of getting to Finals are slim. In fact, MAD Lions are now NA’s best shot at breaking into MSI’s final stage. PSG’s win against MAD Lion’s widened the gap even further. Not only do C9 have to win all their games from here on out, but PSG or MAD taking a game off of DWG KIA or RNG will put C9 even further away from any chance of advancing.
Things aren’t looking good, and there’s no quick fix for Cloud9. Simply put, other teams have adapted to the meta better than they have. Some egregious mistakes and miscalculations on C9 have put them so far behind that it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This may be it for NA, and it’ll be a long plane ride home for Cloud9.