From an amateur fixture in 2016, to World Champions in 2018, to staring relegation in the face in 2019, what does Cloud9 need to do to succeed in Season 10?
Back in August 2016, in week 14 of the Rocket Royale North America, teams Chronix and Lucky Bounce were placed in the same group, as they went head to head for a $300 prize pool. Casually sweeping under the radar as the Season 1 of RLCS concluded just two weeks before, these two amateur teams flew bonnet first at each other, not knowing they were about to unearth one of the greatest dynasties Rocket League esports has ever seen.
In a hard-fought battle, Canadian Mariano Arruda’s side, Chronix, overcame Lucky Bounce, leaving their all-American side tormented with frustration as they were placed in the losers bracket, and ultimately crashing out of the amateur competition in ninth place. The tie could have swung either way, with just a single goal separating the two, respect between the sided was earned, and friendships formed. Falling at the semi-finals, Chronix were squished and failed to make the money, leaving some talented players hungry for success. Just a week later, both teams underwent roster changes, seeing a player from each side coming together to create their own side, Iris.
Mariano ‘SquishyMuffinz’ Arruda of Chronix, paired with Kyle ‘Torment’ Storer to form Iris, alongside Brandon ‘Lachinio’ Lachin, who came in as their third. The young trio originally went under the name ‘Yogurt’, as they entered their first competitive tournament in November, tearing up the Mock-It eSports Weekly Cup, earning $500 in the process. The duo of Squishy and Torment was blossoming and progressed to win an array of events over the course of 2016, as up-and-coming players such as Dillon Rizzo and Jason ‘Klassux’ Klass stood in for Lachino. Ultimately, the final piece of the puzzle was found in January 2017, as Jesus ‘Gimmick’ Power was pulled in to bolster the ranks. Iris had their roster complete, with SquishyMuffinz, Gimmick and Torment complimenting their incalculable potential.
Through thick and thin the trio pulled together, moving from Iris to ‘The Muffin Men’ where they put their name on the map. Entering DreamHack Atlanta, this unknown trio shocked the world as they turned over three of the best teams in the world, in NRG, G2 and Gale Force, as they took home the $20,000 prize, and a trophy that would rocket them to the top of esport, and the word on everyone’s lips. This led them to picked up by monster organisation Cloud9 just a year after that monumental amateur fixture.
Out of nowhere, their rapid success was elevated, as they began conquering the North American scene, merely a month after signing with Cloud9, finishing RLCS Season 4 as North American champions, and the third-best team in the world. The trio had a perfect balance, with Squishy and Gimmick as stylists and attacking prowess, using their ground-breaking initiative and mechanics to complement each other, and Torment holding down the fort, being the axis in which the stylistics revolved around. This side would go on to huge things over the next few years.
Advancing from strength to strength, Cloud9 was able to cement themselves as leading forces in Rocket League, as their roster solidified. With rival teams chopping and changing their sides, Gimmick, Torment and Squishy remained together and Season 6 saw them reach their potential as the best players in the world. Coming face to face once again with the Gale Force roster, now under Dignitas, in the RLCS Season 6 Grand Final, the two major consistent rosters set the bar too high for competitors to keep up. Ultimately Cloud9 proved too creative and mechanical on the day, sweeping Dignitas aside to become world champions. The trio that had formed as amateurs had arisen from the ground to be crowned the best in the world, in just under two years together.
What sets Cloud9 aside, is that they remain as a solid trio, and are the longest-lasting team without changes to their roster, although question marks have now arisen as to whether this needs to change.
Although they remained as some as the most technically gifted teams in Rocket League, Cloud9 suffered through a torrid Season 8, finishing in the relegation zone, and having to qualify for the RLCS Season 9 through the Promotions Playoffs, a complete plummet from where they were just two seasons before. In a similar timeframe to their rise, Cloud 9 was spiralling as a team, and a rotten start to Season 9 led to rumours fly wild at where their problems lay, with Torment being heavily singled out. The previous world champs started the season 1-4, with their only win coming against the bottom of the table side Flight, and things were looking seriously bleak. Rumours came in the Torment could be on his way out, with Pittsburgh Knights’ Mist, eUnited’s Hockser, or Rogue’s Firstkiller being drafted in as a replacement. Cloud9, however, put these rumours to rest with four consecutive wins towards the back end of Season 9, pushing them to 5th in the table, and 6th overall in the finals.
They seemed to be back on track, but with this unusual off-season that we find ourselves in, could the longest-serving roster be due a change, or do they simply need to adapt to the new formations?
With poor performances at the Spring Series and Johniboi_i’s Fusion RL event, Cloud9 have once again been placed under the microscope, with many feeling that the previous world champions need to change their roster to survive, however, this may not be the case.
Over the last two seasons, the formation of RLCS sides have changed, and Cloud9 appear to be stuck with moving times, although they have the correct personnel. The formation of having one rather defensive player allowing the two more explosive attacking players has been a remedy of success for years, especially when we look at Cloud 9 and Dignitas/Gale Force, who adapted a similar strategy, with Turboplosa being the more reserved, and Kaydop and ViolentPanda pushing forward. Allowing two players to rotate around the vocal point that is Torment (for Cloud9) has seen Gimmick and Squishy pick up numerous accolades for their goal-scoring and playmaking, however, in the current climate, Torment has been singled out and overran.
Teams in recent times have thrown caution to the wind and will play on a rotational basis with all three players attacking and defending as a unit, with more of a left, right and centre position. Whereas previously teams will attack in a V-styled shape, teams now attack in diagonal lines, depending on where the ball is on the pitch, and it seems Cloud9’s unwillingness to adapt to this is their downfall. Often being outnumbered in defence or too defensive and not scoring goals, Gimmick, Torment and Squishy haven’t found the right balance.
Teams like Dignitas have split, due to the same reason, with Turboplosa leaving to joining NRG, and Kaydop joining Renault Vitality. Turboplosa, the player arguably most like Torment in RLCS, has now adapted well into NRG’s formations which are very current, showing that players can adapt. Torment is still one of the top players in the game, and with Cloud9 clearly wanting to keep their day one roster intact, he will have to change style, alongside Squishy and Gimmick, to become the force that they once were.
An intriguing team with still so much potential, Cloud9 is risking being stuck in the past. The future remains bright for the tremendously talented trio, but to succeed in today's game, they may need to look at moving with the times.
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Image via DreamHack