The NA LCQ finally concludes; Cloud9's path to Champions
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After waiting over two weeks for the region to crown a winner, the North American VALORANT Champions Tour Last Chance Qualifier has concluded with Cloud9, and their new in-game leader Anthony “vanity” Malaspina, coming out as champions. The team defeated Rise 3-0 in their sixth VCT match as a full squad, as vanity joined the team two months before the LCQ began. The former Version1 IGL was a big part of the team’s recent success, Erick “Xeppaa” Bach said. Xeppaa competed with vanity in Counter-Strike in 2020 and the two are now teammates again on Cloud9.

“He was a big part of why we started winning and honestly a great leader to our team,” Xeppa said. “That’s something we were missing when I joined the team.”

Vanity couldn’t describe how the win and subsequent Champions qualification felt to him in the moment, there were too many emotions to process. The last time he qualified for an international event, VCT Masters: Reykjavík, the IGL was in his bedroom at home. With Cloud9, he was together with his team. He said it brought back memories of his run at the VALORANT LAN.

“The emotions, it’s pretty similar to like when we went on stage in Iceland against Liquid when nobody thought we could win,” he said. “It’s just surreal I guess.”

The win and qualification was a long time coming for some of the members of Cloud9, like Mitch “mitch” Semago, who has been with the team since their beta tournament days. Nathan “leaf” Orf and Son “xeta” Seon-ho, while not as tenured as mitch, started 2021 with Cloud9 and have been with the team through its up’s and down’s. Cloud9 was one of the best North American teams during VALORANT’s beta and pre-VCT period, when current Sentinels player Tyson “TenZ” Ngo headlined the squad.

In the VCT era of the esport, Cloud9 was only really relevant (participating in the VCT main events) in Stage 2, where they made deep runs at Challengers 1 and 2 with current Extra Salt IGL Ricky “floppy” Kemery. The team then placed third at the Masters: Reykjavík qualifier in Challengers Finals, missing the international event by one placement.

“A lot of heartbreaks, a lot of finals lost, a lot of qualifiers lost against, you know, vanity,” mitch said as his teammates chuckled in the post-game press conference. “So it definitely feels great to finally make one after all the hard work for the past year and a half with Cloud9.”

The team has gone through many roster changes since its inception in 2020, and has finally made the leap to international competition. Every player said they were excited for competition, for the chance to get to play against the best teams in the world. For xeta, the Korean player will get a chance to meet up with his former teammates from his Cloud9 Korea and CS days.

“It’s really a huge thing for me,” xeta said. “So that’s why I’m so happy right now, so we can meet again.”

But at the end of the day, the players seemed to be happy just to have completed the event after its multiple delays.

“It feels pretty nice,” leaf said about finishing the tournament. “We were sitting in one of the [Riot Games] RVs when the f***ing FaZe vs. Rise match got canceled at LAN or whatever. And then obviously, the second BO3, the Rise BO3, got canceled for the day, because [Phat “supamen” Le]’s power went out. So basically, we waited like two and a half weeks total to play a match. Like all time and delays and stuff. So it was definitely nice to finally play matches that don’t take three hours to start or get completely canceled.”

“So, at least hopefully, champions will be better,” leaf continued.

Cloud9 will represent North America alongside Envy and Sentinels at Champions in Berlin starting on Dec. 5.

Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.
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