Cloud9, The Writing is on The Wall
Note: I began writing this before a few days before the Cluj-Napoca major started but was unable to finish it before the event started.
In a few days the third and final CSGO major of 2015 will take place in Cluj-Napoca. When the dust settles, Cloud9 will again have failed to make it out of groups (3rd time this year). I can confidently say this because the past three months have not been kind to C9: out in groups at ESL One Cologne (2nd major), out after 2 maps at ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational Dubai and a 3-4th finish at Crown's Counter-Strike Invitational. These poor showings come after Cloud9 appeared to have broken their mediocrity with 3 back to back to back 2nd place finishes (ESL/ESEA League, ESWC and FaceIt Stage 2 Finals). Add all of this together and you have a disaster waiting to happen.
On paper, Cloud9 has potential. They have one of the best awpers in the game in skadoodle, a freakish (albeit inconsistent) talent in shroud, n0thing who has had multiple carry performances over the years, freakazoid the total team player and Sean Gares an in-game leader capable of reading opponents like an open book.
The problem is all of these positives haven’t lead to true success. The enormous expectations that these players and their fanatic-fan base put on them just grow larger after each event C9 falls short at. The three finals appearances that took C9 from being considered an “underdog” to a team “in contention” have become their worst enemy. These appearances created the illusion that C9 is capable of making the finals regularly, when in reality they aren’t. Sir Thooorin outlines potential circumstances for this in his Cluj preview. The fact is CSGO continues to grow at each event and Cloud9 have no answers for how to cope with everyone’s expectations.
Being honest, Cloud9 are not what you would call mental assassins. Mental assassins are able to overcome impossible situations through sure will and belief.
Think ESL One Colgone 2015 semi-finals Virtus.pro vs fnatic. VP have a 1-0 map lead in the bo3 having won on the first map of train. The score is 13-8 in VP’s favor and VP has all the momentum. Fnatic’s tournament life is on the line with outcome of the next round. All the pressure, everyone watching, many hoping the dynasty is over, the local crowd clearly against fnatic and yet fnatic wins the round. Fnatic goes on to win eight of the remaining nine rounds to secure the map. They then take the final 3rd map as well with ease to close the series and close out the finals in a 2-0 fashion against EnVyUs. Mental assassigns.
Unfortunately Cloud9 have never shown that ability. Part of that stems from C9 having never won a true international event and another part from the immaturity that exists in the NA region. Regardless, it now appears C9 is a self fulfilling prophecy. They are so worried about not performing that at the mere sight and or thought of not performing, they won’t perform. To me, C9’s appearance at the Crown Invitational was just that. Taking nothing away from Immunity but Cloud9 should have made it to the finals. C9 has more offline experience and star talent. Again, taking nothing away from Immunity but C9 should have done exactly what Virtus.Pro did to Renegades: show up and win. Especially considering the map pool was in C9’s favor (cache, dust2, overpass).
Recent losses online to teams like Conquest and Enemy who realistically aren’t even in the same ballpark as C9 point to a team on edge. Not to mention consecutive losses to Team Liquid who is a rival of C9 (there appears to be bad blood between some of the players of the two teams). As C9’s stock goes down and Liquid’s stock goes up, this just further ingrains negativity into C9’s fragile mindset.
Past 3 Months
Past 3 Months
Don’t let the improved K/D ratio on LAN over the past three months fool you. C9 took advantage of playing lesser teams at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 Qualifier (ROOCAT and Dignitas). C9 beat the teams they should have but not any true contenders (in the past 3 months). The competition that is coming at Cluj-Napoca is truly the best in the world and the best a major has ever seen. In my opinion Cloud9’s chances of success at this major, let alone making it out of groups are nonexistent strictly from their player’s mental stances. The players have already envisioned defeat and thus it is waiting for them.
Update: As I put the finishing touches on this piece it already appears Cloud9 has already lost to Luminosity Gaming 11-16 on dust2. Sean Gares, who I would consider the strongest mentally (a trait required of quality in-game leaders) had the best performance statistically. This is an issue for C9 as they have previously relied on shroud and skadoodle to perform in order to win. And the byproduct is just more pressure being put on these player’s minds. C9’s backs are ready to break. Everyone is predicting C9 to beat Vexed Gaming next and most likely play Luminosity Gaming (who will lose to fnatic, although there is upset potential) again but this time in a bo3. Whether it be fnatic or LG who end up facing off against C9, all these teams need to do is add a little more weight to the already looming doubt of C9. Another 16-11 victory (or better) over Cloud9 on map 1 would just about seal the deal and thus truly enter in the #FreeSwag2016 campaign. I hope Jack Etienne (C9 owner) has Valve on speed dial.
This piece was not meant to be a personal attack on Cloud9. When this organization started in LoL I became a C9 fan. When C9 acquired a CSGO team I began rooting for them because they were a top NA team with talent and I wanted a NA team to perform internationally (to this day I still want this to happen as I believe it would be a good story line for the scene). As I try to begin my journey into eSports I have made the decision to conduct my rants in the following mantra: do something right you’ll get props, fail abysmally and you’ll hear about it. I also aim to hold no favorites other than good content.