Let’s Talk About Cloud9′s Unique Worlds’ Position
Cloud9 comes into the quarterfinals of Worlds as the only surviving North American team in Worlds – the American LoL hope and dream. This article was originally going to be comparing Fnatic and Cloud9 while looking for analysis on who’s stronger, but because Cloud9 has almost no international experience and hasn’t been seen in competitive play for a few weeks, direct comparisons aren’t accurate enough. However, Cloud9 has developed into a unique position, making it fun to ask what in God’s name is going to happen versus Fnatic.
Top – Balls
Jungle – Meteos
Mid – Hai
Marksman – SneakyCastro
Support – Lemonnation
This is Cloud9’s first competitive game against a foreign team with their current line up. The team’s experience is limited to meeting CLG.EU twice and Balls’ experience from his Vulcun days. This is normally a huge deal; for example Lemondogs came in as a top European team, and they collapsed versus non-European teams. The culture shock might be avoided though: Cloud9 already adopts a lot of their style from the Korean metagame, they watch other regions closely, and their analyst Alex Penn, is definitely looking at foreign teams when doing research. They’ve also been able to scrim the foreign teams attending Worlds this past week, and regardless of whether or not they win or lose, they’re getting much needed foreign experience.
Cloud9 has a few interesting facets to their strategies that sets them apart from other teams. They’ve been described as having a passive style in regards to their jungler, Meteos. The described style bases itself around Meteos ignoring early ganks, farming to his heart’s content, and arriving in lanes once he’s reached a certain level. This is made viable if the lanes play fairly safe and wards are spammed to avoid ganks. The truth with Meteos is that he does tend to avoid fights not in the 2v1 lane before the five minute mark, but he will show presence in those lanes or to countergank if needed (if someone is out of position Metoes doesn’t mind pouncing on that either). He’s not focused on camping lanes trying to force a win, but he’s also not going to let an early fight go without his presence. He also makes sure to stay in good positioning for Dragon to punish any spotted roaming by the opposing team. This is a major difference between most popular junglers. Junglers from the LPL tend to be hyper aggressive and almost never farm, and Korean junglers aren’t far behind in aggression.
What really makes the passive play interesting for the Fnatic match isn’t the style itself, but the fact it’s become common knowledge that C9 plays this way. This means that if you’re Fnatic, you’ll want to plan around punishing the first few minutes of C9’s passive play. Either with aggressive counterjungling, ganking, or having a better scaling jungler farm. This would be a legitimate strategy if it wasn’t for the fact that C9 is well aware of what people think of them. So if C9 plans their games knowing what the enemy team expects, they can try to play around this. A lot of this odd metagame cycle comes down to how smart the research of a team is, and C9 does have a solid backbone for research. Add in that Cloud9 is not a cocky team – not qualifying for NA LCS in January humbled them greatly – and they’re going to be humble enough to actually change if they need to.
On the other hand Cloud9 is going to come into this match having seen every Fnatic game from group stages. The team has a chance to try and adapt to the picks and style of play Fnatic presented during their games, instead of trying to fix perceived strategies against themselves. As stated before, their last appearance in competitive play was on September 1st for the LCS NA Playoffs, so Fnatic gets to run off old tape and any scrims they had before their matchup was announced.
There will be an interesting distinction between Fnatic’s carry and big play notoriety and C9’s approach. If you think of the superstar of Cloud9, there isn’t the clear standout player that wins games on their own. As mentioned before, Meteos is amazing, but he doesn’t carry on his own, and Cloud9 isn’t “a superstar team.” They tend to carry as a team, and the games where a player gets out of control isn’t indicative of the norm. SneakyCastro, Hai, Balls, Meteos, and LemonNation all contribute to the team equally, and rather than put a player on a pedestal it’s all teamwork. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s different from what’s expected of other teams. By comparison Xpeke, Faker, Dande, Alex Ich, and Uzi are all players that tend to represent a team with their big plays and carry potential. While they don’t win a game on their own, quite often a deciding factor of the game will be the individual play of one of those players. Cloud9 doesn’t have that player, they take up that role as a group.
When it comes down to history and statistics Cloud9 is not in a position to win. Their LCS wins don’t mean much since the rest of North America’s gumption proved too weak to make it out of group stages. However, the degree to which they won in North America keeps them relevant. They were miles ahead of the rest of North America, so even if North America didn’t do well that doesn’t matter as much as it could. Theorizing and predictions can go far, but all that’s going to matter is what the teams bring to Worlds.