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Cloud9 becomes the first Mid-Season Showdown Champions, but can they compete at MSI?

Poised to compete internationally for the first time since 2019, Cloud9 could either make waves or sink at MSI.

In their final game of the Mid-Season Showdown, Cloud9 narrowly defeated Team Liquid to crown themselves the Mid-Season Showdown champions and finally get the opportunity to represent North America internationally at MSI. Though this is certainly not an easy task considering the lineup that has qualified so far, can Cloud9 compete with some of the best teams in the world?

What Cloud9 did right

To project if and how Cloud9 could square off against the likes of Damwon KIA, we can only look to their most recent game against their undisputed domestic rival, Team Liquid. A few trends of Cloud9’s recent performance may bode well for the North American team.

Cloud9 had near perfect starts to almost every game, gaining an early lead in all 5 games through Blaber’s early lane impact. Though not able to properly snowball this lead perfectly in every game, Cloud9 executed on team fights well around objectives that eventually claimed them most games. This fight in game four exemplifies C9’s team fight prowess well:

The sheer mechanical skill of player like Perkz allow Cloud9 ample opportunity to find engages on priority targets, in this case a sleep onto Tactical. Critically, the jungle and support duo were able to find the followup, both playing hard engage threats almost the entire series and successfully finding picks. Though perhaps most importantly, when team fights extend, Cloud9 adapts to extend their lead. In this scenario, Perkz smartly wraps around and the core Cloud9 squad poise toward the jungle in anticipation of the re-engage. This smart team fighting will prove invaluable against aggressive teams like MAD Lions who have found incredible success in this fighting heavy meta.

Another asset Cloud9 flaunted in this finals series was their ability to pull out surprise picks and level one strategies in high stakes games. Most notably, Cloud9 entered game 5, the culmination of their entire Spring season and incredibly expensive offseason, with a daring strategy. 

This lane swap was absolutely disastrous for Team Liquid, and would be for any toplane dependent team as the sudden laneswap, and paired with the zombie Sion jungle quadrant clear strategy put Team Liquid on the backfoot. Being able to execute such a risky composition in a high stakes environment could put Cloud9 ahead when it matters the most.

Where Cloud9 could stumble

Quite adversely, Cloud9 showed some glaring issues that could hinder them in international competition. Cloud9’s early play, though ultimately advantageous for them, was incredibly telegraphed which makes them susceptible to being punished. Getting a gank on toplane in 5 out of 5 games, Blaber’s pathing is an obvious tell that toplane requires additional assistance to get in a winning position. 

This has two draws, one is that a great weakside player such as Khan or Nuguri may not fall for this same, repetitive trap. The second issue this brings up is that the bottom two lanes are made far more vulnerable. Though Perkz and the Zven and Vulcan botlane duo were perfectly self sustaining in the LCS, against better botlaners and midlaners Cloud9 may have to devote more resources evenly across the map.

A second worrying trend for Cloud9 comes by way of their raft execution. Nocturne has been sweeping the competitive scene as a viable pick in the jungle as well as solo lanes. The utility of the paranoia ult proves an asset for both pick and team fight centric compositions especially when paired with synergizing ADC picks. This pick is not infallible though, as in game 3 CoreJJ was largely able to secure Team Liquid their second win by picking Thresh as a direct counter.

Blaber largely wasted most of his paranoia ults attempting to catch out Tactical whenever CoreJJ was almost constantly at his side with a lantern ready as a peel option. Despite recognizing this counter and selecting another target, saving the paranoia for team fights, or waiting for CoreJJ to be spotted elsewhere on the map, Blaber kept throwing his Nocturne ultimates in hopeless scenarios. 

The G2 reunion

The reigning MSI Champion, Perkz, will finally get his chance to defend his title albeit with another team and in another region. The playoff buff was in full effect as in C9’s 3 winning games, Perkz had a 32.4% damage share, 39% kill share, and 658 DPM. The undisputed MVP in all three winning games, Perkz is coming into MSI hot.

His former G2 compatriot, Zven, similarly had a fantastic series. All season long, as well as in the postseason, Cloud9’s botlane have been a dominant force that proved themselves a clear cut above the rest. Providing a near constant secondary carry option, Zven has come a long way since his initial introduction into NA with TSM, and after having a dissapointing Summer of and being unable to compete at MSI in 2020, Zven might be returning to international play at just the right time.

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Image credit: Riot Games