Cloud9 have found themselves stuck between a Malphite and a hard place after losing to 100 Thieves in the League of Legends Championship Series 2021 Championship lower bracket finals on Saturday. However, C9 themselves are the Malphite, and the hard place is Europe, the one World Championship location where they have always failed.
Cloud9 have made it to the League World Championship every year but one since they entered the LCS in 2013. And each year Worlds takes place in Europe, they fail to make it out of the group stage. Conversely, each year Worlds has been elsewhere, Cloud9 have advanced to the brackets. That’s all anecdotal narrative, but with Cloud9’s failure at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational held in Iceland, a pattern has begun to emerge.
Cloud9 will start their journey at Worlds this year from the Play-In Stage, which the team is used to. In the three years they attended Worlds since the creation of the play-ins, they attended the pre-tournament twice, each time advancing through to the main stage and then making it from groups to the brackets. In 2019, in Europe, they went as NA’s second seed, beginning in the Group Stage, and failed to advance.
Regardless of their track record at the World Championship, Cloud9 head coach Alfonso “Mithy” Rodríguez said the team plans to make the most of the extra games no matter who they face on Summoner’s Rift.
“We’ll prepare the same way we prepare for any other team, I don’t think there’s any difference,” Mithy said in a postgame press conference. “I do think that playing in the play-ins will benefit us a lot.”
Mithy acknowledged fighting through to the main event won’t be easy due to the increased level of play across the globe, and his jungler, Robert “Blaber” Huang, agreed they will need to take every game seriously.
“I don’t think losing here changes my mindset or my teammates’ mindsets on how we’re going to prepare for play-ins,” Blaber said. “I think the play-ins teams are looking stronger every year and I don’t think any of us are going to disrespect them.”
Cloud9 knows they have work to do, especially after 100 Thieves exposed some of Cloud9’s flaws regarding the early game, overall positioning around objectives and in teamfights. Even regarding their one win, Mithy expressed concern.
“I felt like we were a bit desperate in Game 3, and we were not actually playing as a team,” Mithy said. “I don’t think it’s the best way to play, but I think it’s good that there’s confidence.”
That said, Cloud9 are still moving forward with performing well at Worlds at the front of their mind and are already calling out which main event teams they’d like to face. C9 support, Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme, singled out Fnatic as a team he hopes to compete against, specifically so he can share the Rift with Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer again, Cloud9’s former mid laner. Luka “Perkz” Perković, meanwhile, called out DWG KIA as his most anticipated match, referencing his rivalry with the team from his time on G2 Esports.
The 2021 World Championship doesn’t yet have an announced start date or specific location, but it is rapidly approaching. Cloud9 have a few weeks to take a breather, travel and prepare. The good news, for them, is they have shown measured confidence in their ability to do so and outperform their recent past at MSI.