2016 World Championship preview: Cloud9 vs Samsung Galaxy

Cloud9, courtesy of Riot Games
Cloud9, courtesy of Riot Games /

The quarterfinals of the 2016 World Championship start tomorrow!

The 2016 World Championship has been absolutely crazy thanks to a group stage that was dynamite. For the first time in years, it looks like almost every team that made it to the quarterfinals has a shot at the title. Pre-tournament favorites like ROX Tigers and EDward Gaming have been humbled, and even the international wildcard, Albus NoX Luna, is to be feared.

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For North American League Championship Series fans, this year’s Worlds was a disappointment. Yes, Cloud9 broke through to the bracket stage, but after a first week full of hope that two or even three teams could make it through, having just one is a letdown. It’s also disappointing that Team SoloMid, pegged by many as the best team in the history of NA, couldn’t get out of groups.

But we do have Cloud9. Let’s take a look at their next matchup and see what chances they have to survive and advance.

WildTurtle helped NA out… sort of

After last Sunday’s group stage, a drawing was held to determine quarterfinal matchups. Immortals ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran was invited to draw the teams, and initial reaction from LCS fans was that Turtle saved the day. Pre-tournament favorites ROX and SKT were placed on the same side of the bracket, along with EDG and RNG from the LPL.

The good news is that C9’s potential semifinal opponents would be the winner of H2K and ANX –- both good teams, but not unbeatable. The bad news? Cloud9 has to get past Samsung Galaxy first.

Who is Samsung Galaxy?

Samsung Galaxy courtesy of lolesports.com
Samsung Galaxy courtesy of lolesports.com /

Samsung had an interesting year. Their traditional solo lane carries, Sungjin “CuVee” Lee and Minho “Crown” Lee, were forced into more utility styles. As a result, both player’s KDA suffered. However, that shift helped Samsung adapt readily to the new meta, where jungle pressure and the bot lane reign supreme. That allowed Chanyong “Ambition” Kang and Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park to shine.

After not winning a single game against KT Rollster in the LCK regular season OR playoffs, Samsung dispatched their nemesis in the regional playoffs due to standout performances from Ruler and Yongjin “CoreJJ” Jo. CoreJJ, in particular, came out of nowhere to surprise opponents throughout the regional playoffs. Samsung seem to have settled on him as their regular support instead of Jimin “Wraith” Kwon, so he shouldn’t catch any more teams off guard. But that bot lane synergy is real and was prevalent throughout their matches in the group stage.

The matchup

It’s hard to find a position where Cloud9 has a clear advantage. Star carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi have tough matchups against Crown and Ruler. Jensen can equal Crown’s skill and has an advantage in his ability to play Syndra, not a champion Crown has tried in competitive (though he has played her a lot in solo queue). A likely outcome is just a ban trade: Crown’s Viktor for Jensen’s Syndra.

Meanwhile, I had high hopes for Sneaky going into the tournament, but he was abused by SKT ADC Bang in their two group stage games. Not all of that is his fault — SKT junglers camped that side and the difference between Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan and Andy “Smoothie” Ta was immense. But Sneaky has to play better in this meta for C9 to have a chance.

Speaking of support, the quality of supports in NA vs. the rest of the world may be the single largest discrepancy among the positions. Smoothie struggled with vision control (William “Meteos” Hartman too), and his positioning before and during fights was questionable. Smoothie and Meteos have to step up.

Samsung’s 6th member

The positional analysis glosses over what could be Cloud9’s greatest weakness: team-oriented map play. We’ve criticized C9 for poor late-game shot calls before, but at Worlds, they’ve displayed multiple instances of not being on the same page in the face of an opponent playing to a mid-game power spike.

Meanwhile, Samsung looked comfortable running the map in their victories over Group D. The team’s only loss to TSM wasn’t map-related at all, as they gave up two kills on a botched invade inside four minutes. Samsung would be smart to draft a scaling comp, play through Ruler and slowly out-macro C9.

How can Cloud9 break through?

Getting Jensen on Syndra and then snowballing that lane is one solution to SSG’s team play, but I don’t think SSG is going to buy that. And given C9’s struggles, the obvious answer is to play bully lanes, go with the ranged supports that are en vogue in NA, and try to win before 30 minutes.

I don’t buy that.

Samsung is too smart to allow early scaling comps to work. Especially not three times in five games. There just aren’t enough win conditions.

Cloud9 should avoid the obvious trap and go all-in on the late-game. Sure, they’re bad at closing and the map will be challenging. That’s why they should draft a teamfight comp and roam as five. The goal is to force SSG to react to them, rather than the other way around. Give Jensen a utility support with engage. Meteos and Smoothie should play tanks with CC. Put Sneaky on a hyper carry. And then there’s Eonyoung “Impact” Jeog.

C9’s identity has changed over the several weeks and it centers on Impact. He’s gone from absorbing pressure to carrying. He had a bad second week, but has international experience and should bounce back. He very well might be their best player right now.

Of course, Samsung should execute better in teamfights. SKT showed C9 a taste of what LCK teams can do as they controlled every objective. But we’ve seen enough at this Worlds to know that teamfights can get a little funky. Especially late fights with hyper carries on six items. Sometimes one missed skill shot, one step out of a bush or one failed dash can turn an entire game.

Can C9 win three games against this version of Samsung? Probably not. But can they win three teamfights? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

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