RIP Cloud9’s winstreak. But the dream isn’t over just yet

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As the halfway mark of the split passed, Cloud9 looked untouchable. The North American superteam was noted for putting in more work this off-season than most, having overcome every team in the League at least once on their way to the top.

Assembling an all-star squad of players that drew more than their fair share of raised eyebrows this off-season (notably botlaners Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme), the team that once housed fan-favourite Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi abandoned all branding opportunities in favor of focusing on a chance at the title.

Cloud9’s start to the split couldn’t have been more spectacular.

Systematically dispatching every opponent that stood in their way – including reigning champions Team Liquid and fellow superteams TSM and Dignitas – the organisation silenced all of their doubters with just a few weeks of one-sided gameplay. In particular, jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang came into his own during the 2019-2020 off-season, bringing a trademark aggression that other junglers in North America sorely lacked and filling the shoes of his predecessor – Summer MVP Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen – admirably.

With Week 7, however, C9’s undefeated streak would be torn into pieces – with a convincing victory from their notably inconsistent former rivals in TSM. Does this mean that TL have multiple challengers coming for their throne atop of North America? Let’s take a look at how some of the other potential contenders are faring, and how one C9 loss has potentially blown the top of the standings wide open.

Consistently inconsistent

TSM are an enigma. In fact, during this split, the team has only ever had 0-2 or 2-0 weekends. Whether this is indicative of the purported emotional, hot-blooded play-style Josh “Dardoch” Hartnett brings to the table, or just momentum coming full swing, TSM are fortunately now in an odd-numbered week where they find themselves up two wins on their record.

A 26-minute curb stomp, TSM completely dominated C9 straight out the gate. From strict lane phase 1v1s, to jungle and support rotations, to insane miracle teamfights – everything came up in favour of the apparent underdogs. 

Clayton “CaptainFlowers” Raines summarized the game with a decisive casting call: “If it bleeds, you can kill it.”

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TSM’s split so far had drawn continued ire from fans and analysts alike, with the team attempting to pull opponents along at their own breakneck pace but tripping over themselves along the way. Overextensions, overaggressions, and big throws had marred TSM’s losses throughout this split. Throughout their upset against C9, however, all aggression was calculated – and, more importantly, coordinated. For every Sergen “BrokenBlade” Çelik dive into the backline, there was a Vincent “Biofrost” Wang follow-up play.

Regardless of how this game played out, let’s take a look at what it means for the split – and the implications it has for the rest of the teams in the league.

Maybe FlyQuest aren’t second best

FlyQuest’s continued claim staked for second place has been a constant point of contention throughout the split so far. Looked at as having no real top talent in any role, rather just being incredibly consistent in their above average play – something that other teams in the League could certainly benefit from – FLY are the most perplexing playoffs seed that the LCS has right now.

TSM’s surging performance suggests that now the superteam in the making – alongside other supposedly top teams currently experiencing a bumpy ride *cough* Team Liquid *cough* – can easily surpass FLY’s skill ceiling if they just maintain some semblance of consistency.

I wouldn’t write off FLY’s split completely, but having your main redeeming factor be that you aren’t as much of an uncoordinated mess as the rest of the League isn’t exactly a great look.

Since this article is first and foremost about C9, it feels unfair to not mention Evil Geniuses. The returning franchise had a tumultuous start to the split, but thanks to finding their footing are now skyrocketing up the standings alongside fellow new-but-old-comers Immortals. While these teams certainly aren’t a shoe-in to make a splash in – or even make – playoffs, EG in particular being the home of so many former C9 franchise players means that perhaps we’ll see a similarly dominant playstyle develop.

An abundance of competition for Team Liquid

The best part of all of these shenanigans – in particular, C9’s insane run so far – is that now TL have a legitimate contender for the crown. Often bemoaning the lack of domestic challenge NA’s undisputed number one team faced in 2018 and 2019, 2020 has seen them tumble dramatically down the standings.

The big question is: will they find their footing? And if they do, will it be enough to beat peak form Cloud9?

I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

C9 had been the team to meet TL in North America’s last domestic finals – hosted in Detroit, Michigan – for Summer 2019. Unfortunately, the team would yet again fall short at the finish line, with TL firmly establishing why they were North America’s reckoning and the team to beat.

With Cloud9 now skyrocketing up the standings while Team Liquid falls to pieces, we have a rivalry in the making that could actually drive the competition in North America almost unbelievable amounts. The aforementioned loss to TSM aside, C9 have looked nothing short of untouchable in their games this split – and perhaps a random loss while winding down is the wake-up call this team needed.

Not all doom and gloom for C9’s hard work

With this week’s convincing victory over playoffs contenders Golden Guardians, Cloud9 have established themselves as still being the team to beat when it comes to the LCS. Sure, they had that blip in the radar versus TSM, but their dominant performance today should have assuaged any doubts that fans may have been plagued with following Saturday’s disappointment.

The team have locked in their guaranteed first-place seeding for playoffs with two weeks of competition remaining, giving them the luxury of taking a small break or unwinding a bit while the rest of the league frantically scramble to climb the standings. Given the way that Cloud9 treated this off-season though – the one that had their botlane travel to Korea and play 250 games together in an incredibly short time frame – expect them to shoot for that elusive 17-1 record.

Cloud9 are dedicated, driven, and undoubtedly talented – but without a trophy, they haven’t usurped Team Liquid’s position on the top of North America quite yet.

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