The first match of week four didn’t look too hot for Cloud 9. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still undefeated, but it certainly wasn’t as easy as their previous matches.
So what happened?
Cloud 9 looked great for the first three weeks of the North American LCS, but their performance during their first match of week four left fans with some doubts. The issues for the match revolve around their top lane. Usually, Cloud 9’s top lane is one of their best attributes. The reason it looked so shaky against Team Liquid is an obvious one: They subbed out their usual top laner, Impact.
Impact was sat out for the first two rounds for C9 Ray, the sub for Impact that the team wanted to give a shot to perform in a professional setting. This was a really good opportunity for C9 to give Ray, but it almost cost them their first loss. Impact is a powerful laner. He dominates the lane, sets a high bar for macro goals, and his mechanics are nigh unmatched. Ray… not so much.
His warding was sub-par, resulting in many solo deaths in his lane. His mechanics were shoddy, giving his opponent, Lourlo, victories in duels. What’s more? Impact is one of C9’s most important shotcallers, and without him, the team looked indecisive and, frankly, like a major clown fiesta.
That’s not where the issues stopped, however.
Contractz, the rookie jungler for C9, has been a powerhouse so far this split. He’s carried his team to wins in a few scenarios, and he usually gets First Blood for his team. His aggressive playstyle works out well for C9… except something changed this time. Usually, Contractz picks a damage-dealing carry jungler and charges head-first into victory. He tried running Ivern for the match against Team Liquid for both the first and second rounds. It didn’t look pretty.
He’s no doubt an exceptional jungler, and in fact, he’s probably still the best in the league so far, but we saw a big red flag. Playing as a utility jungler- he didn’t look himself. He second-guessed himself. He was counter-jungled left and right. His pressure on the map was lacking. This signifies a serious problem for the new jungler: Can he only play damage junglers? Is his champ pool too limited to pose a threat on the Worlds stage? I’m a big fan of Contractz, so I hope he’ll be able to prove my doubts incorrect as the split goes on.
C9 did win the match, so they retain their undefeated stance as “powerhouse of the NA LCS,” but they almost lost it to a bottom-tier team today, and it was due to mistakes rather than being outplayed. The bright news is that C9 has historically been very good at learning from their mistakes, and with Impact likely not going anywhere again any time soon, we can expect this near-loss to only bolster their practice regimen.
Be sure to catch Cloud 9 against FlyQuest on Sunday. FlyQuest has three ex-Cloud 9 players, and it’s definitely going to be an exciting testament to both teams’ skill.
Photos via Riot Esports