After finishing fifth during the North American League Championship Series Spring Split, some felt Cloud 9 would perform well in the Summer Split and make their way to Korea for Worlds.
Cloud 9 looked good sitting at 7-1 after week four of the Spring Split, hanging around the top of the standings. Towards the end of the split, Cloud 9 fell apart, posting a 5-7 record after their hot start and proceeding to fall to Team Liquid in the split’s playoff quarterfinals. After very promising play from the Rookie of the Split, Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Cloud 9 was looking to improve upon their fifth-place finish.
Instead of coming out strong, C9 decided to bench three starting players: Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, Nikolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Andy “Smoothie” Ta. After shuffling the line-up around multiple times, C9 looked the part of a doormat after being 1-5 and in last place at the end of week three in the Summer Split. In week four, they decided to bring Sneaky back up from their academy team. By the time the trade deadline had passed, the team had figured itself out. Keeping Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam as the starting support and trading Smoothie to Echo Fox worked out very well, as did bringing Robert “Blaberfish” Huang up from the academy team.
C9 began its ascension from last place by going 1-1 in weeks four and five. They proceeded to win eight games in a row, making an astounding run to second in the standings. They made this run by using a roster of seven players, generally starting Blaberfish and Jensen in the jungle and mid lane, respectively, and then choosing whether they wanted to substitute Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen into the jungle, and/or Greyson “goldenglue” Gilmer in the mid lane. The team then won their playoff match against Team SoloMid before eventually falling to Team Liquid in the NA LCS Summer Split Playoff Finals. After starting as awful as they did, C9 worked their way into the picture as a possible team to make it to Worlds. All they needed to do was win one more best-of-five series against TSM, and they would be going to Worlds.
Predicted to be a very close series, C9 instead made quick work of TSM by defeating them 3-0 and securing their spot in worlds.
In their Play-In Stage, Cloud 9 went 4-0 matched up against DetonatioN FocusMe from Japan and KaBuM! e-Sports from Brazil. This allowed them to move on to the Group Stage at Worlds, where C9 got matched into the group of death.
Royal Never Give Up from China, Gen.G from Korea, who were the defending champions as world champions from 2017, and Team Vitality from Europe. The majority of League of Legends analysts believed Team Vitality and C9 would not make it out of groups. Their predictions ended up being wrong as C9 went 4-2 in the group stage, even taking a game off of RNG, one of the favorites to win Worlds.
By finishing second in the group, Cloud 9 qualified for the bracket stage, which is the top 8 teams in the world. They drew Afreeca Freecs, the second seed team from Korea. Predicted to be a close series, Cloud 9 again proved the world wrong by defeating Afreeca 3-0 and moving on to the semifinals.
Once in the semifinals, Cloud 9 had a fantastic chance to move on to the finals, playing against the first seed from Europe, Fnatic. Sadly, the team’s hopes of winning Worlds would end here after a strong showing from Fnatic which ended in C9 losing to Fnatic 3-0.
Not the ending to the season they would have wanted, but looking at their success from this season and their team, they look poised to be a powerhouse in the years to come. With Licorice looking like the face of the team and Blaberfish and Zeyzal ready to keep showing their talent and promise, the roster looks well-rounded with veterans Sneaky and Jensen ready to help these young players become the face of the team.