Is Cloud9 Legit After Winning the 2020 LCS Spring Split?
We finally have a brand-new LCS champion. After watching Team Liquid dominate for two years in a row, it’s exciting to see someone else take over. The ease at which C9 blew all opposition out of the water during the 2020 Spring Split brings us to an interesting question: Is Cloud9 legit? If you’ve been watching competitive League for a while, you’re surely well acquainted with this fascinating feeling you get when observing a bona fide titan at work. It is as if you’re watching history being made in real time, fully cognizant of the fact that in a couple of years, this is the moment everyone will be referring to.
Such is the story of C9 during the 2020 Spring Split. Their run so far has been nothing short of historic, and they’ve got the record to prove it: seventeen wins and just a single loss throughout the nine weeks of regular season play. They’ve accomplished such a staggering feat with relative ease — almost too much of it. This incarnation of Cloud9 is so bafflingly dominant and strong, it feels like they’re from an entirely different region, as if they were just imported as a whole.
In fact, we’ve never seen anything like it. To say that their statistics so far have been mind-blowing would truly be an understatement. Their numbers tell the same tale. This is the most dominant team that has ever graced the LCS stage. Now, they also have a trophy to show for their hard work and dedication. C9 winning the 2020 Spring Split was a long time coming which, in turn, makes this whole journey that much more satisfying — they deserve every bit of praise they’re getting.
Six years have passed since Cloud9 was an LCS champion, and those days happened so long ago that many of the people watching now probably don’t even remember. Back then, League was a slightly different place, with different faces and rules at play. It was back when the legendary shot caller Hai Du Lam led the team to victory; the time of Daerek “LemonNation” Hart’s notebook and the friendship between William “Meteos” Hartman and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi.
Cloud9 fans often refer to this as the golden age and with good reason. This team had a different energy about them, and they found their wins through the most unexpected means. As time went on, however, Cloud9 changed and adapted, although never to the point where you couldn’t recognize their beloved and patented DNA.
The 2020 Spring Split ushered a change across the region and it affected C9 as well. For the first time, we saw a line-up without any OG member. While it certainly did come as a shock early on, it wasn’t without its benefits.
This incarnation of Cloud9 is so good and adept in the current meta that watching them play makes you feel like North America is a competitive region. But it isn’t, and there’s a bevy of reasons why.
Still, watching them dominate and flex over their opposition has been a thing of beauty. Heck, you can even argue that they’re getting away with murder! Things shouldn’t be this easy at the highest levels of play! While one can argue that North America isn’t the most competitive region around, it’s still populated with a long list of spectacular players, imports, and even homegrown standouts like Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and many others.
Herein lies the main counter-argument whenever someone tries to discredit Cloud9’s success.
The LCS Level of Play
Sure, Cloud9 is legit. They’re playing insanely good League of Legends, but is it that hard to dominate beyond reason when there’s no actual opposition to speak of? It’s no secret that North America, as a region, kind of regressed over the last couple of months.
Either that, or it remained at the same level as before with Cloud9 improving leaps and bounds in a staggeringly short amount of time. They’re the only organization that has consistently managed to perform up to expectations on the international stage, and this is the first time in a long while that they were able to transition those kinds of results to home soil as well.
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what happened. What is certain, however, is that Cloud9 is peerless at the moment. No one can challenge them across the map, trade heavy blows, or match their flexibility, drafting prowess, or sheer team fighting ingenuity.
When they’re in the zone, you can give them a gold deficit, an in-game nightmare scenario and there’s still a good chance they’d come out on top. Just when a team thinks they’ve got them trapped in close corridors, without an escape route or option for salvation, Cloud9 manages to seemingly bend the rules of the game and pull off the unthinkable. How can they do this on such a frequent basis? The first half of it is individual talent. The second half, which is equally as important, is their sensational team fighting, target selection, layering of CC, and the fact that they fight with supreme confidence regardless of the odds.
It’s the LPL mindset. When an LPL giant goes for a play, they do so with reckless abandon. Because of this, a play that previously seemed to have a 30/70 success rate, instantly becomes a favorable trade. For a brief moment, you think they’re insane for embarking on such a ludicrous path until they do what you didn’t even think was possible. That’s perhaps the main reason why they’ve won the World Championship over the last two years.
Well, that, and a ton of talent. These two things go hand-in-hand.
But to bring things back to the boys in black and blue, it’s important to note that their dominance isn’t happening in a vacuum. If you’re not Cloud9 and you get demolished in 25 minutes, you have the luxury to go back home, whip up a drawing board, load the VOD, and analyze to your heart’s content. There’s so much that can be learned from a defeat, regardless if it was a close, razor-thin decision or a complete blowout.
Some teams just can’t improve that much on their own — they either lack the talent or the right coaching staff. But if you have someone in front of you who’s doing all of these things better than you ever did, then suddenly you have a weekly masterclass which you can dissect and selectively choose the things you want to incorporate into your arsenal. You can look at the way they set-up plays, focus on objectives, when they rotate, who gets priority in the draft (and why), you can analyze their play, pathing, target selection, early/mid/late game tendencies, and so on.
As time goes on, Cloud9 is bound to become incrementally less dominant. That’s what happens when there’s such a large gap between them and the rest of the region — others can improve, but C9 has to slightly plateau.
Iron sharpens iron, after all.
Many fans are saying that Cloud9 wouldn’t be as strong or dominant if they were playing in Europe, but that’s just not true. The LEC was, is, and probably always will be a top-heavy region. Now sure, they have better rookies, and the region as a whole is improving at a rapid pace, but there’s a reason why only two teams reigned supreme in the LEC throughout history: G2 Esports and Fnatic.
Europe is brimming with talent, but it is also a region dominated by just two “kings.”
And year after year, some fans and analysts expect things to change, and yet they never do. We always hear the same narratives and questions. Is this the year Origen breaks through? It isn’t. Will Rogue challenge the LEC status quo? They won’t. It’s always Fnatic and G2 Esports, for better or worse.
The LEC is more competitive only if we judge a book by its cover. Europe might not have as many fiestas, but it’s unfair to label Cloud9’s historic dominance as a fluke because of the region in which it happened. No one did it to G2 Esports back when they brought Rasmus “Caps” Winther from Fnatic, and yet they steamrolled through Europe in the same fashion.
While Europe is a stronger region overall, its strength and pedigree come mostly from the same teams. Cloud9, in that regard, was always unique. They never adhered to the North American meta or style of play, nor did they imitate. That’s why they consistently managed to leave a mark and will continue to do so.
Six long years were necessary for Cloud9 to assemble a roster worthy of claiming the LCS throne. Not only did they succeed, but if things pan out as well as they could, we might be in for yet another multi-year-long dynasty (and if Cloud9 maintains this level of play, absolutely no one will complain).
It’s still too early to predict anything with confidence, but the potential is certainly there. They’ve earned the hype and we cannot wait to see them back in action. Hopefully, that’ll be against the best teams the world of competitive League has to offer.