ESL One Cologne 2015, which will start on August the 20th, is an event I’ve been looking very much forward to. My interest in the game was reawakened after watching ESL One Cologne 2014, and the epic matchup between Cloud9 and NiP with cobblestone as the 3rd map was amazing to watch.
For the upcoming Major I’ll be putting together an article about each team, both challengers and legends, and how their performance has been prior to the major. The eight challengers is: Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, FlipSid3 Tactics, Renegades, Team eBettle, Team Immunity, Team Kinguin and Titan.
Since I’ve already went down memory lane with the matchup between NiP and Cloud9, and with Cloud9 being a challenger in this major I’ll start with them.
Looking back to ESL One Cologne 2014 it is a vastly different Cloud9, both in terms of roster with Hiko and SEMPHIS no longer being on the team, and with the addition of fREAKAZiD and star AWPer Skadoodle. Cloud9 is a team which have had its challenges in the past year, but it looks like they have been able to solve quite a few of them. With the addition of Skadoodle and fREAKAZOiD it looks like Cloud9 has found a good combination of skill and tactics, and have shown again that the teams from North America is someone that you cannot take lightly.
As Skadoodle and fREAKAZOiD was signed in late April the focus will be from there onwards.
These are the placements which Cloud9 have had since the addition, and let us take a close look at the results.
At GFINITY Masters Spring 2 they didn’t make it out of the group stage, however, their group consisted of EnVyUS, Titan, Virtus.pro and Immunity. They started by slaughtering Immunity 16:2 (Train), 16:6 (Cache), and then they met the Poles who beat them quite convincingly 16:9 (Cache), 16:7 (Train). It was pretty much the same result again EnVyUS, which ended 16:5 (Cache), 16:10 (Dust2) in favor of the French. Against the next French team, Titan, it they gained the same amount of rounds 16:6 (Cache), 16:9 (Inferno).
As their first event it wasn’t horrible, and I think that the loses that they suffered highlighted what they had to work on in order succeed.
ESWC 2015 – MSI USA QUALIFIER, HTC Reborn Invitation, iBUYPOWER Invitational 2015 – Summer, ESL ESEA Pro League – North America is not something that I will put much focus on as domestic matchups is more random due to players and teams knowing each other well, and the NA competition at that time was not impressive.
At their next GFINITY event, GFINITY 2015 Summer Masters 1 they again didn’t make it out of the group stage, however, their results did improve as against EnVyUs who they took a map of making the score 16:19 (Train), 16:2 (Inferno), 16:12 (Cache), but the Poles from Virtus.pro again displayed their superiority with 16:13 (Overpass), 16:5 (Train).
Despite having lost most of their matches at the two GFINITY events they had shown a steady improvement, and at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 they put on a show.
At ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 not many would have given Cloud9 good odds at making it out of their group with both Virtus.pro and EnVyUs in their group, however, this was a tournament of upsets, and in their first bo1 against EnVyUs they won 16:13 (cache), but lost to Virtus.pro 16:10 (Overpass). In the lower-bracket the faced EnVyUs again, but this time in a bo3, which they won 16:12 (Dust2), 16:12 (Cache) partly due to shroud, fREAKAZOiD and Skadoodle playing really well, but also due to EnVyUs underperforming quite heavily with only kioShiMa and NBK putting up a fight.
Their next match was against their domestic rivals from Counter Logic Gaming, who had upset FNATIC, but Cloud9 continued with good form closing down CLG 16:5 (Cache), 16:8 (Dust2), and was now in the final where FNATIC was waiting.
The finale was a joy to watch, and if you haven’t watched it I suggest you do so, the first map ended surprisingly 16:14 in favor of Cloud9, FNATIC struck back and demolished cache 16:6. It was now 1:1 with Overpass, Dust2 and Inferno left. Overpass ended 16:14 in FNATIC’s favor who was dragged across the finishing line by flusha. Dust2 went to OT (watch shrouds silly 4 kills with the scout), but FNATIC took the map 19:15. Result. This event signaled that Cloud9 was a team one had to respect, and with 3 close maps against FNATIC it was quite impressive. Although it must be said that it was a misfiring FNATIC where both stars JW and olofmeister was absent on most maps.
ESWC 2015 a week after their good display at ESL ESEA Pro League would be Cloud9’s test to see if the result from last week was an anomaly or they could continue their success.
Their group was somewhat easy with only Keyd Stars and FlipSid3, who was playing with Hiko as a standin. In the quarterfinals they met Liquid who they won against 16:11 (Overpass), 16:14 (Inferno), and was now again facing EnVyUS. Again they won a bo3 against EnVyUs 16:8 (Train), 19:17 (Cobblestone), however, this result can hardly be counted for anything since it was quite obvious that EnVyUs was having major internal problems, and the fact that EnVyUs almost won cobblestone with pure rushing, hardly any communication can be seen as either Cloud9 is not that good cobblestone, or that the of that EnVyUs lineup is amazingly skilled aimers, I would go with nr. 2.
Natus Vincere was waiting in the Grand final, and while all 3 maps was played, it was Na’Vi who came out on top with first a dominating 16:3 on Inferno, followed by Dust2 which Cloud9 managed to take 16:14, and the last map Overpass which ended 16:14 in favor of Na’Vi. Result. While the last two maps were close, and could have gone either way with a 2:1 to Cloud9 it could also have been a 2:0 to Na’Vi. Despite ending as #2 it was not until they played Natus Vincere that Cloud9 had a good opponent.
However, at FACEIT 2015 Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia 2015 it was a packed event with TSM, FNATIC, NiP, Virtus.pro, Kinguin and Natus Vincere.
First it was the new international team of Kinguin who was beaten quite convincingly 16-7 on Dust2, with Skadoodle being a dominiation force. Then they faced Natus Vincere on Cobblestone which ended 16:14 to Cloud9. In the semifinal they faced FNATIC, who they beat 16:7 (Mirage), 21:19 (Train) while FNATIC managed to edge out a win last time they faced each other it looked like a FNATIC who was in a dire need of a vacation. They were only close on Train due to a massive performance by pronax, but Cloud9 was playing better as a team setting them up in the final vs. Team SoloMid.
On paper it should have been an interesting matchup based on the previous results, but Team SoloMid barely took Cache 16:14 before switching gear and utterly smashing Cloud9 16:2 on Mirage. Result. Aside from their last map vs. Team SoloMid it was a pretty good performance from Cloud9.
CEVO Season 7: Professional would be the last opportunity to play against some of the opposition they would face at ESL One Cologne, however, aside from Natus Vincere and Virtus.pro there was only one team more from the EU region: mousesports, who recently had changed its roster, and from North America the other teams was Counter Logic Gaming, Liquid, Tempo Storm and Luminosity Gaming. With the recent results it was expected that Cloud9 would have a chance to finally win an event.
In the groups they first met Counter Logic Gaming winning 16:10 (Cobblestone), 19:17 (Cache). Second match was against the untested mousesports showed that their recent changes had had an impact with them winning 16:5 (Cache), 16:12 (Dust2).
This gave Cloud9 yet another fight against Counter Logic Gaming which they took 16:12 (Dust2), 16:9 (Cache), and also displaying that they are the best team in North America.
In the semi-final they encountered Virtus.pro who won 16:5, (Train), 7:16 (Cache), 16:11 (Inferno) while it was a loss it was to a well-playing Virtus.pro, who also ended up winning the event by some ridicules individual performances vs. Natus Vincere.
Cloud9 have had an impressive climb back up the rankings, and showing that they can play most of the top European teams close. While some of their wins against e.g. EnVyUs and FNATIC is impressive, it must also be added that both teams have not been performing close level you would expect from them. Furthermore, both of these teams have in recent time been relying more on individual skills to win matches that pure set-executes. This means that if you e.g. can find the tendencies of a player as olofmeister, and make sure he cannot do what he usually does e.g. always going B-plateau on cobblestone you will force him to adjust, not that you will be able to neutralize him, but he will not be allowed into his comfort zone. This goes for any opponent if you find their tendencies and exploit them, you can have an advantage the first couple of times you encounter them. While seang@res has been receiving a lot of criticism the POV from ESL ESEA Pro League gave a view of how instrumental he is for the team in terms of the overall tactic and strategical approach. While Cloud9 have shown that they can play the top teams then their loss to mousesports can be seen as their biggest weakness – counterstrategies, if you can research your opponent you look for flaws, weaknesses and tendencies that you can capitalize on, but you yourself can also fall victim to that.
It is a good skillset to have, but it is not something you can rely on simply because it is very time consuming, and you need to work out how you can incorporate it into your team and its strengths and weaknesses.
As a team I think Cloud9 have reached the goal of playing as a team, and having incorporated their strengths into how they approach maps and enemies. While fREAKAZOiD has been getting a lot of criticism for often having a negative K/D ratio he is filling the role as entry fragger quite decent. With the addition of Skadoodle they have gotten the AWP power which they first sought with ShahZaM, and he has been incorporated quite well in their tactical approaches on maps, as well as being an incredible skilled individual who can rival the likes of GuardiaN, JW, s1mple, chrisJ and kennyS. With both shroud and n0thing being strong riflers it is a team that should do well at ESL One Cologne.
What I think will define how well Cloud9 does is their map pool. They enjoy playing Cache, but they are not an utterly domination force on it, and playing against mousesports or Virtus.pro would favor them. Train is decent, but not a map I would favor them heavily on. Dust2 is one of the strongest maps, but most teams are happy to play it, and can play it well. Overpass is somewhat decent, but against teams as Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro, Team SoloMid and FNATIC I would avoid it. Cobblestone is a decent map for them, but it is not one that they excel at.
Their problem is with both Mirage and Inferno, aside from their win against FNATIC they do not look comfortable on it, and it would be fine to avoid this map if they could play Inferno. Inferno by far their worst map, and currently it should be the map that they always avoid. Aside from a few set executes e.g. wall of smoke on A, firebombing B it is not a map where you can do much tactically, as well as not being too favorable for an AWPer as T it has too many negatives in terms of Cloud9’s strengths.
With the current map pool and teams you cannot afford having both Mirage and Inferno as bad maps for you, it is something that will cost you. I do not think that Cloud9 will not make it out of the groups, it is the Bo3 bracket where it is BAN-BAN-PICK-PICK- Random selected by the 3 remaining.
Cloud9 is by my perception the strongest challenger, and while they have shown that they can beat the more established top teams, they have not been overly convincing with some of their wins being to malfunctioning teams. If everyone on the team is on point then have a chance against all the teams, but against a full-charged Team SoloMid, FNATIC, Virtus.Pro or revitalized EnVyUs I do not see the capable of winning in terms of raw skill or teamwork, but they can outplay them in terms of tactics and set strategies. However, with the group format being Bo1 they might get lucky, and having to face a “lesser” opponent later on, but I don’t think that Cloud9 is strong enough with their current map pool in order to be a serious contender for winning ESL One Cologne 2015.
Links taken from HLTV.org and Liquipedia.