Cloud9 – Welcome back to Counter-Strike
For too long the NA scene of counter strike has been non-existent once the boarder has been crossed over to Europe. Time after time we were given glimpses of what the NA scene has to offer with Cloud9 taking a map off NIP at cologne as well as beating Dignitas at the same event after an amazing clutch by Spencer “Hiko” Martin. Along with Cloud9 the IBP lineup also gave the North Americans something to chant about with their run at Faceit where they even pushed Fnatic to their limits. But, what have previously been glimpses has now turned into what all CS:GO fans hope to continue to be a regular occurrence.
Cloud9 started off the year with the lineup of Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert, Mike "shroud" Grzesiek, Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen, Sean "seangares" Gares and the newly introduced Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan who came in late 2014 to replace Spencer “Hiko” Martin who left the team for IBP in an attempt to being to win titles, especially internationally. After months of failed attempts at becoming a team that could compete internationally it was decided that changes needed to be made. The first change was to come in the form of an awper as Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan saw underperforming and showing none of the form he showed he could be capable of in Denial. His replacement came in the form of Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham who was already considered the best awper in North America due to the skills he showed in IBP. The next change came when they released the information that Kory "SEMPHIS" Friesen was to be removed from the lineup to make way for the former member of Dynamic and Frost Gaming Ryan "fREAKAZOiD" Abadir to become their dedicated entry fragger.
New lineup, same results
It was a slow start for the newly formed Cloud9 after disappointing results at multiple gfinity’s and various other LAN’s and online matches but cloud9 were determined to prove the public wrong as was talked about in multiple interviews and talked about in livestreams. A mass majority of CS:GO fans didn’t believe them. Its all changed now.
ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals
After a long group stage we were given a LAN event to really look forward to, containing what should be the top 4 teams from both regions ready to battle it out for a total of $250000 ranging from $7500 for the places 7-8 and the possibility for $100000 in 1 teams pockets for finishing first at the event. From EU we were given 4 teams what should have made an amazing LAN event for EU once again, Team Solo Mid (TSM), Virtus Pro, EnVyUs and the Swedish favourites, Fnatic. From NA it was pretty much what you would have expected to happen, similar to EU. The originally South American team Keys Stars attended along with Luminosity Gaming (LG), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud9, the team to win the hearts of the public.
Cloud 9 were placed where they had to fight Virtus Pro, Luminosity Gaming and EnVyUs. Their first game came up against EnVyUs where they managed to pull off a 16-13 win against the Frenchmen to put them into their next game which was to be against Virtus Pro to decide who would be put into the semi-finals automatically of which “normality” was restored with the poles winning 16-10 forcing Cloud9 to go into a best of 3 against EnVyUs. Despite all the odds they triumphed to a 2-0 victory against the Dreamhack Winter 2014 winners to move to the semi-finals of the event where they were to face off against another shock of the tournament, Counter Logic Gaming in another B03. This time it was more comfortable for Cloud9 as they managed to pull of another 2-0 victory to put them into the final where they were to face the favourites for the tournament, Fnatic.
The first map went in the way of Cloud9 but slowly but steadily the final slipped away from them despite the convincing leads they had they eventually lost the final 3-1.
Cloud9 were motivated and ready to do well on the home soil of North America. This time their group looked more promising as they were put in a group with FlipSid3 Tactics, Keyd Stars and Boreal eSports where they got off to a convincing start to the tournament topping their groups going 3-0. Into the quarter-finals they went where they faced off against Team Liquid in their first BO3 at ESWC 2015 where they once again managed to pull off another 2-0 against North American opponents on LAN putting them into their second semi-final in 2 weeks.
A repeat of the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals semi-finals was in order as they were set up to come up against the Frenchmen EnVyUs in yet another BO3. To pretty much everybody’s surprise not only the same teams were playing each other but the same score came of the game as Cloud9 continued to fail to drop a map at ESWC where the game finished 2-0. It didn’t come easily though as they has to play against the “scrim” strats of EnVyUs which Cloud9 struggled to play against but they were granted their well-deserved win in the end and yet another final was to see Cloud9 attend it. Their opponents were to be the top CIS team and yet another top 3 team in the world, Natus Vincere.
The maps in the final were set to be Inferno, Dust 2 and Overpass but unfortunately for Cloud9 they got off to one of the worst possible starts when they lost inferno 16-3 and they had to find a way to bounce back from the mental damage that was just dealt out to them. Dust 2 pushed Cloud9 to their limits as they went into the second half 10-5 down but down to individual plays by all of the North Americans a 16-14 win was grinded out putting the finals into a deciding map, overpass. This map was different, from the start Cloud9 were ahead and gave themselves a great opportunity to take the final by putting themselves 8-7 up going into their CT half. The game went back and forth and Cloud9 were given multiple opportunities to take the game. With the score at 15-14 in favour of NA’VI and the CIS team on a force buy they manages to pull it off despite being in a 4 vs 2 at one point.
It was clear to see that Cloud9 weren’t happy about this as we could see on the facial expressions of the players after the game in the interviews. They knew they let it slip away from them.
FACEIT League 2015 Stage 2 Finals at DreamHack Valencia
As Cloud9 attend their 3rd event in 3 weeks they to no surprise gained a lot of support that was non-existent around 2-3 months ago so the pressure was certainly on. The first game came against the “mixed team” Kinguin where the battlefield was Dust 2. Cloud9 started stronger than ever with a 16-7 win with Mike "shroud" Grzesiek and Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham topping the leader boards with 25 kills each. The next challenge came against the team they faced in the final of ESWC, Natus Vincere. Ladislav “Guardian” Kovács’ 31 kills were still not good enough to take down Cloud9 on Cobblestone as all of Cloud9 contributed leading them to a 16-14 victory where they were set to come up against the best team in the world, Fnatic.
The first map was mirage, a map that North American teams have always struggled to contest EU teams on for years but Cloud9 had one of the most convincing T-sides that had been witnessed in a while going into their CT side 11-4 up and managed to close out the map fairly quickly with the score ending 16-7. The second map was played on Train. The two teams went round for round and eventually the game went to overtime. On the Fnatic side Markus “Pronax” Wallsten was having the game of his life topping the Fnatic leader boards but Cloud9 were fragging more consistently across the board and they ended up taking the map 21-19. Not only had C9 gone to their 3rd final in 3 events but they had managed to pull off what must be one of the most shocking results in CS:GO which is the most impressive result of them all.
The final was set be against another one of the top 3 teams in the world, Team SoloMid. The first map in this BO3 was Cache and C9 got off to a dream start on the T-side managing to get 7 rounds, going into the second half with the momentum. Unluckily for Cloud9 TSM were able to replicate the T-side success that was seen in the first half and managed to grind out a 16-14 win to put them 1-0 up going into mirage. C9 had another T-side start to the map but this time it was nothing like we was in their game against Fnatic on mirage as they went into the second half with only 2 rounds under their belts. With TSM winning the pistol round C9 weren’t able to build any sort of bank and TSM closed the map out 16-2 and the series 2-0. Yet another loss in a final for Cloud9.
What we learned & what next?
North America is back and more prepared than ever to compete internationally, especially Cloud9. They no longer need to be in the shadows the Europe and they certainly don’t need to be pre-judged by fans, analysts and even players because they’re here to compete and play Counter-Strike just like every other team attending events. All teams have their minds set on ESL Cologne and their chances at being a major winning team. This event will be the true test for Cloud9, fingers crossed.