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Cloud9 makes yet another miracle run out of Worlds groups

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Cloud9 (C9) took charge of their own destiny—with a little help from EU—winning thrice on the day to book a ticket to the 2021 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship knockout stage. Ending with a 3-4 groups record, the team had to completely reverse the cards from their disastrous start to the Worlds main event.

When the Worlds group stages kicked off earlier this week, things went south immediately for NA’s third seed. Group A, which many touted as the “group of death”, pit them up against the defending champions Damwon Gaming KIA, Chinese powerhouse FunPlus Phoenix (FPX), and Rogue who topped LEC’s summer split regular season standings.

C9’s forgettable first round

Right off the bat, C9 stumbled against Europe’s representatives. The 32-minute defeat came at the hands of Steven “Hans Sama” Liv’s Lucian and Kacper “Inspired” Słoma’s Qiyana. Together, they combined for 11 of the team’s 16 kills, while Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus’ Nami posted an 87.5% kill participation (KP).

The first loss wasn’t so damaging, although certainly NA fans started getting worried. But it was the second game against FPX that felt like a death blow, considering that they had yet to face Damwon. It was an insane, heartbreaker of a game. On Ryze, Luka “Perkz” Perković’s incredible early game built C9 a sizable lead, only to turn into a late-game disasterclass. Their poor decision-making allowed LPL’s representatives to claw their way back, even closing out the game with a gold deficit.

That 0-2 start put pressure on C9 to pull off an upset win against LCK’s top seed. Of course, their “plot armor” hadn’t kicked in yet. NA’s representatives fell in unconvincing fashion, managing to grab only one turret that game. Heo “ShowMaker” Su and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha put together impressive showings on Twisted Fate and Graves, respectively. Damwon ultimately proved too strong for just about everyone, as they ended up going undefeated in the group stage.

Cloud9’s chances of advancing to the Worlds knockout stage were slim to none. By the end of the first round robin, Damwon were up 3-0, while FPX’s 2-1 record put them at second in the standings. The winless C9 were at the very bottom. Between the memes and the criticism, however, the 0-3 record did end up becoming their comfort zone.

A bit of belief

For the second round robin, everyone on the team stepped up on the day, pulling off a sensational run that began with crushing Rogue. In that 25-minute victory, C9 allowed the European squad to take only one turret. With an 88% KP on Lillia, Robert “Blaber” Huang did a 360 on his shaky first round performances, while Perkz went 5/1/10 on Irelia.

NA’s representatives kept their knockout hopes alive by overwhelming FPX, 18 kills to 4 in another sub-30-minute game. Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami and Perkz both went deathless that game on Jayce and Twisted Fate, respectively. The latter also contributed 14 assists, making plays everywhere on the map alongside Blaber’s 6/1/9 Xin Zhao and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme’s Rakan with a nearly 90% KP.

Rogue, for their part, handed FPX another loss—thank you, EU—to tie their records at 2-4. Everything was coming together nicely, and you could not script a more exhilarating narrative. At that point, you just had to believe that Cloud9 would make it out of their Worlds group.

The NA squad was in control of their destiny, and they could earn a knockout stage berth by defeating Korea’s titleholders. Although they put up a much better fight against Damwon this time around, a baron steal and late-game teamfights still sealed the win for the LCK powerhouse. Even with the loss, C9 had shown how strong they could be and were undaunted now.

NA and tiebreakers

After Rogue beat out FPX for a second time, it all boiled down to a classic NA versus EU matchup. The game was nothing short of a thrilling back-and-forth affair between the two sides. Around 30 minutes into the game, the gold was nearly dead even: C9 had a slim turret advantage, while Rogue had slightly more kills and two dragons. With two more kills, the LEC representatives evened the turrets at 5-5, but a gutsy baron call swung the momentum in C9’s favor.

They found the fight they were looking for right after. Blaber on Lee Sin kicked Hans Sama’s Jhin into a spinning Wukong helmed by Fudge, shutting down Rogue’s AD Carry to open up the fight. Despite building a gold lead with the Baron push and securing three Infernal drakes, the NA squad couldn’t reach the nexus just yet. Another 10 minutes later, Rogue put together a stellar fight of their own that eventually led to a baron secure.

One decisive moment came at the 47-minute mark, as Perkz’s LeBlanc picked off Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu’s Jayce. With the long death timers that late into the game, C9 grabbed the Infernal soul and the baron to claim Rogue’s inhibitors. In the longest match so far at Worlds 2021, a brilliant engage from Vulcan’s Alistar and PerkZ evading death in a teamfight near the dragon pit scored Cloud9 an ace so they could march right into Rogue’s base. After 54 minutes, NA’s representatives survived the group of death in empathic fashion, pulling off the region’s first tiebreaker win at Worlds.

As of late, C9 is no stranger to falling early and pulling themselves over the line in the end. Perhaps they just like spicing things up a bit. Then again, Cloud9 has a knack for making it out of groups, having done so 6 of the 8 times they’ve appeared at Worlds. Now fans will look forward to the team getting another shot at the knockout stage, though it remains to be seen who they will face, with the rest of the groups still yet to conclude.