LCS Summer 2020 Playoffs: Dissecting Cloud9’s Shocking Fall from Grace

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

After a meteoric rise at the start of the 2020 LCS Season, we look at how Cloud9 fell from grace.

How Did They Get Here?

After sweeping the first round-robin of the Summer Split regular-season Cloud9 felt comfortable enough to experiment with new styles. These included non-traditional bottom lanes like Wukong/Senna, as well as new mid-lane and jungle picks.

However, regardless of picks, Cloud9 played largely the same way in each case. They would try to find an advantage either through individual laning or through superior early and mid-game skirmishes. Once Cloud9 had a lead they would exploit it to its fullest extent. At one point they ended the majority of their games without taking Baron.

So, what occurred between the middle of summer and now which saw the most dominant team in LCS history fail to make the top three? It’s hard to pin it all on exactly one thing.

Did Cloud9’s drafts begin to become more than questionable? Yes.

Did the meta shift away from the style the team was comfortable with all year? Yes.

Did Cloud9’s players experience dips in individual performance? Yes.

During the height of their powers, Cloud9 typically won their games through having a superior mid/jungle duo. Blaber and mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer working in tandem to gain advantages for themselves and spread those throughout the map.

Nearly every game Cloud9 would find an early kill, take the first drake around 4 minutes, then gain a favorable back timing for the bot lane to swap top side and take the Rift Herald. Cloud9 did this nearly every game and it felt as though the rest of the league was either unwilling or unable to stop them.

The key difference between then and now are two or three changes to the meta. The first occurred just before the Summer Split and added huge changes to the jungle. Camps spawned more frequently which allowed farming junglers like Graves, Nidalee, and Olaf to penetrate the meta.

This patch had little to no immediate effect on Cloud9 despite the permanent banning of Olaf from Blaber after 3 games. C9 failed to pick up Graves until the last week of the split preferring to have Blaber on champions that could have a more immediate impact on lanes and in 2v2 skirmishes.

The next patch change saw a move away from assassin and roaming mid laners that Nisqy has been most effective on and toward control mages like Orianna and Azir. At the same time, the ADC meta shifted away from the likes of Aphelios, Varus, and Ezreal, and towards picks like Kalista, Ashe, Senna, and Caitlyn who offer more utility for their team.

None of these changes in and of themselves provided a sweeping change to the meta making C9 obsolete ala Immortals and Giants of Summer 2016. Rather, the meta slowly moved away from the playstyle Cloud9 was so good at. Other teams like FlyQuest, Team Liquid, and TSM all slowly adapted to these changes, and as such will represent the region at worlds, but Cloud9 did not.