What led to both teams missing worlds?
Two perennial World Championship attendees, T1 and Cloud9, both missed the international event this year after finishing first in their respective region's Spring Playoffs. The two teams will not attend an international event this year because of COVID-19 and the terrible end to their Summer Splits.
T1 ended the LCK Spring Split in dominant fashion. The team finished the regular season in second-place, tied with first-place Gen.G in a season record, but lost out on the title because of points. T1 beat Gen.G in both of its regular-season series and went on to 3-0 the regular-season champions in the playoff finals.
Cloud9 had a dominant Spring Split, only losing two games in the regular season and playoffs combined. The LCS has been historically less skilled in terms of talent, but a team has never had a run as impressive as Cloud9 did in the spring.
With all of these accolades and statistics to prove both teams' worthiness to appear at an international event, what went wrong in the summer that left T1 and Cloud9 out of the World Championships?
Meta and Team Changes
The meta changes between splits may not have been the downfall of either team, but it was definitely a factor in their fall from grace. The increasing priority on Mages and the drop off of certain bot lane picks definitely has an impact on both teams.
For T1, this meant that Park "Teddy" Jin-seong and Lee "Effort" Sang-ho could no longer sit back on Miss Fortune and Nautilus in lane and transition smoothly to the mid-game. Both players had significant struggles at times in the Summer Split, to the point that Teddy was subbed out for Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong, a rookie, in the Regional Gauntlet.
Meta problems also extended into the mid lane to the point where Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok had to be subbed out for Lee "Clozer" Ju-hyeon, another rookie. This change was a little more jarring, but an apparent need for the team. Faker held his own in the Summer Split on champions like Azir, LeBanc, and Orianna, but seemed to struggle with the champions who were stronger and had more consistently aggressive play styles in the Spring Split, like Zoe and Akali.
The top lane was the only standout position for T1 in the Summer Split with Kim "Canna" Chang-dong coming third in regular-season MVP points. The 20-year-old played 14 and 15 different champions in the Spring and Summer Splits, and was even dubbed the "Solo Kill King" by LCK fans.
Cloud9, on the other hand, stayed fairly consistent in its dominance of the LCS even with the meta shifts. The only big changes that seemed to affect the team were the jungle and bot lane changes. Robert "Blaber" Huang was still a consistent performer, but he lacked the same presence in champion select as he did in the spring. Teams no longer consistently banned Blaber's Olaf, as the champion was no longer a priority in the jungle.
The bot lane also remained consistent, but the team slowly fell away from champions that gave Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme the freedom to engage and start fights. Cloud9 opted to play a safer scaling lane with Ezreal and Yuumi as opposed to giving the Canadian support the champions he thrived in the spring like Tahm Kench and Nautilus.
- Read More - LCS Teams That Missed Worlds
Despite these setbacks, both teams ended the regular season with a chance at qualifying for the World Championships. T1 retained its 90 Championship Points from winning the previous Split and just had to make it past Gen.G in the playoffs to qualify for the tournament off of the points system. Cloud9 just had to win two best-of-five series in the Summer Split Playoffs to finish in the top three to qualify for the event.
Failing at the end
Both teams had a significant collapse in their respective postseasons. While there were definite struggles to begin with in the regular season, especially for T1, a strong finish in the postseason would have punched both team's tickets to the World Championships. Both teams just need two series wins to get the chance at the Summoner's Cup.
T1 had the most amount of chances to make it to the event. In the LCK's king-of-the-hill bracket-style playoffs, the team just needed to defeat the fifth-seeded Afreeca Freecs, and third-seeded Gen.G. The three-time World Champion organisation failed to make it past the Afreeca Freecs, losing 2-1 in the first round. T1 had one more shot at making it to international play in the LCK regional gauntlet. There, the team would have to run the table and win the entire tournament to qualify for the World Championship. T1 started the bracket by exercising its demons against the Afreeca Freecs, beating them 3-1, before getting swept by the team that they had dominated the previous split in the Regional Finals, Gen.G.
Cloud9 had two chances to make it to the international event as well, but did not have the luxury of Championship Points to help its chances. The LCS changed its World Championship qualification format at the start of the season meaning Cloud9's only chance at qualifying was making top three in the Summer Split Playoffs.
The team was immediately knocked down into the lower bracket by FlyQuest, making its qualification chances much harder, before rebounding against Evil Geniuses. The squad, much like T1, only needed to win one more series to qualify, but came up short. Cloud9 lost to TSM 1-3 in its final series of the year.
Cloud9 and T1 both missed out on an international event this year by one series. Both teams experienced different ups and downs across the Summer Split. T1 with its roster swaps across four different positions and Cloud9 with its incredible starts and its wiper of an ending. While both teams were robbed of a Mid Season Invitational, most analysts agree that neither team would have better represented their region than the teams that have already qualified for the World Championships.
Images via Riot Games