How Cloud9 Really Performed At League Of Legends Worlds
After being on the receiving end of a swift 3-0 pounding by the hands of Korea’s third seed, Gen.G, Cloud9’s 2021 League of Legends World Championship run has ended.
A tournament journey that had them start out as the only League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) team in the play-in, culminated in a final goodbye in the quarterfinals. This post group stage trip by the team was the only one from the North American region and the only other from the Western region as a whole.
Going into the tournament - alongside their North American brethren - Cloud9 had their own set of expectations. Cloud9 were looking to right the wrongs of the past. This past goes back to the 2020 season in which, like this season, they dominated the spring split, won it and gave themselves their first-ever MSI trip. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MSI didn’t happen; Cloud9 missed out on something they sought for years. This same season culminated with the organisation missing their first-ever Worlds.
This year though, their righting of the wrongs began by mirroring their past performances during the spring split. Once again, they dominated the split, won the finals after getting revenge against Team Liquid for their 3-2 finals loss in the LCS Lock In tournament and got another MSI trip. This time, MSI did happen. At MSI, the team woefully underperformed, and like many of the region’s teams in the past after the midseason tournament, underwent an “MSI hangover” leading to inconsistencies during the summer split. Even with those inconsistencies, the team still managed to qualify for Worlds as the third seed, righting the wrong.
In order to begin their Worlds 2021 run, Cloud9 first had to fight their way through the play-in stage, a place that the organisation is not unfamiliar with seeing its past.
Cloud9 were put into what was thought to be the more contested of the two play-in groups at Worlds. A group that contained Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe, Turkey’s Galatasaray Esports, the PCS’ Beyond Gaming and an international mainstay, the CIS’ Unicorns of Love. It was doable, but it had high potential to not be easy.
Once the tournament play started though, the doable started to show up as Cloud9 cleaned house with their first three opponents: DetonatioN FocusMe, Beyond Gaming and Galatasaray Esports. They were poised to go perfect and gain easy access into the main stage of the tournament until past known quantity, Unicorns of Love, reigned on their parade prior to taking an early exit from Worlds. This meant that Cloud9 now had to play against DetonatioN FocusMe in a tiebreaker—the winner got auto qualified into the group stage while the loser had to play through a knockout stage.
Unfortunately for Cloud9, the Japanese representatives got hot at the right time and took the tiebreaker. This loss forced Cloud9 to have to wait for the winner of PEACE and Red Canid’s (from the other group) in the qualification round. Cloud9 ended up completely demolishing PEACE in the qualification round with a swift and decisive 3-0.
Cloud9 got placed into the group stage’s Group A. This group had two of the tournament favourites and previous world champions in Korea’s DAMWON Kia and China’s FunPlus Pheonix. The group was rounded out by Europe’s Rogue who weren’t a pushover either. This structuring made it really tough-looking for the American representatives going into play, and it showed to be true in the first round-robin.
Once in the second round-robin though, that began to change. The team began to show some life, punished a FunPlus Phoenix team that could not muster up a win in that same round-robin and put themselves in the position to get through. A win in a tiebreaker over Rogue sealed the deal and got them to the place the organisation has been so consistent at making - the quarterfinals.
There were two variations of Cloud9s shown in this group stage. There was the Cloud9 of the first round-robin that showed the inconsistencies from their losses in the play-in stage, leading to a 3-0. And there was the Cloud9 of the second round-robin that seemingly put one and one together, finally taking their strong early-game leads, pushing the envelope and catching some wins.
This kind of shoring up of their inconsistencies led pundits, analysts and fans to believe that if they got the right draw in the quarterfinals they could take their run even further. That’s where a draw of Gen.G comes into play.
Excitements of a possible Cloud9 trip into the semifinals were high, if the Cloud9 that showed up in their wins in both the play-in and group stage showed up in this playoff match, they might’ve been able to do it. Unfortunately for them, not only did the inconsistent Cloud9 show up with off-basis picks that weren’t befitting them but a surprisingly strong Gen.G showed up as well.
A big reason as to why Cloud9 were seen as possible winners were due to Gen.G’s known style of passiveness while even though they possess strong individual players in their roster, they couldn’t seem to quite piece things together, until this Worlds.
This led to the North American team getting swiftly swept, yearning for more. For all intents and purposes, the team did well this year. A Lock-In finals visit, almost getting their second reverse sweep of the tournament, yet another dominant spring split leading to a championship win and an MSI trip, and a Worlds trip. They righted the wrongs and then some. Only time will tell if they can take what they learned from this year and apply it to the upcoming 2022 season.