For the third time in three years, Cloud9 has successfully navigated the North American League Championship Series Regional Qualifier to claim North America’s third seed at the World Championship. With a 3-1 victory over Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9 remain the only organization to ever win the gauntlet in NA.
Despite their early exit in the Summer Playoffs where they fell to Team Dignitas 3-1 in the opening round, it would have been unwise to write off Cloud9 as the gauntlet approached. A team filled with experienced veterans and led by an MVP finalist in Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Cloud9 had finished second in the Spring Split and just narrowly missed already qualifying for Worlds through championship points.
Winners of the past two gauntlets, C9 are no strangers to having to earn their spot at Worlds through the Regional Qualifiers. In 2015, Cloud9 swept the gauntlet from the lowest seed, a magical run that cemented the legend and legacy of Hai “Hai” Du Lam who had returned to the team as a jungler.
Unlike in previous years, their abundance of championship points would mean Cloud9 would only need to win one series to earn their spot at Worlds. CLG would dispatch Hai’s FlyQuest squad to claim the other spot in the deciding match, and after their third place finish in the Summer Playoffs many expected CLG to seize NA’s final spot.
Instead, C9 rose to the occasion with an impressive series that quieted many of the questions raised after their loss to Team Dignitas. Cloud9 showed flexibility in their drafting, and the ability to adapt quickly in game to unusual scenarios such as CLG’s questionable invade in game four.
Especially impressive was the play of veteran AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi in the series, demonstrating his mastery of popular meta picks including Xayah and Tristana. With a meta game that has increasingly shifted focus towards the bottom lane, Sneaky will need to continue his high level of play for Cloud9 to be successful.
— lolesports (@lolesports) September 10, 2017
Unlike in previous years, earning the third seed from NA will not give Cloud9 an automatic berth into the main stage of the World Championships. Instead, they will be forced to qualify for the main event through a Play-In Tournament of twelve teams where they are granted a Pool A position in the draw.
Considering the rest of the participants will be qualifiers from international wildcard regions or fellow third seeds, Cloud9 should be one of the favorites to advance. However, with competition that includes teams such as Gambit Gaming, World Elite, Fnatic, and others, it is far from a given that Cloud9 will be one of the four finalists to move on.
Still, Cloud9 fans can collectively breathe a sigh of relief after their three-peat in the NA LCS gauntlet. With their victory over CLG, Cloud9 proved they are one of the three best teams in NA and deserve to be representing the region at the World Championships. Whether they are able to repeat the unexpected success of last year’s run to the quarterfinals, is yet to be seen.