Hai Lam called for a frantic push up the mid lane. This was Cloud9’s chance. Down almost 10,000 gold in the game and 2-1 in the best-of-five series, the scrappy Americans needed a huge play to stay alive in the Riot World Championships, League of Legends’ biggest competition. And they just got it.
Cloud9 crushed one tower, an inhibitor, and rushed towards the nexus of Samsung Galaxy Blue. With their two carry players dead, they were hard pressed to defend their base.
The remaining Koreans put up a valiant defense. It took Cloud9 a perilously long time to erase the first nexus turret, their precious hit points ticking down as the respawn timers on Bae and Kim did the same.
The second tower fell, leaving the nexus vulnerable. It was anarchy. Bae and Kim spawned and quickly joined the fray. The nexus’ health fell, and fell, and stopped. Samsung Galaxy Blue wiped Cloud9 with just a sliver remaining. They rushed across the map and ended the match.
Top laner Choi “Acorn” Cheon-ju breathed a sigh of relief, resting his hand on his chest to calm his racing heart.
Samsung Galaxy Blue, the very best team in Korea all year and the favorite entering the Riot World Championship, beat top American team Cloud9 by a 3-1 score in their best-of-five quarterfinal series. The result was expected. No Western team has ever beaten a Korean squad in a best-of-five series in League of Legends.
The image of Choi, clearly shaken by a close call against Cloud9, is a sign of hope for the western scene.
The overall result is similar to past season. No Western team reached the top four of the tournament. But Cloud9 did something no American team has really accomplished before—actually put up a fight against Korea’s best.
Cloud9 pounced on Samsung Galaxy Blue by taking the first match of the series, using a clever level one invade to gain an early advantage and leveraging it into a domination. Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi carried the game, posting a ridiculous 15/0/7 KDA line on Lucian, including an impressive quadra kill outside of baron.
The match sent a message. Cloud9 needed to be taken seriously. It left little doubt that the Americans had the ability to stand up to Korea’s best, something that Team SoloMid’s map win against an overconfident Samsung Galaxy White on Friday failed to do.
But naturally, Korea’s best team wouldn’t fall so easily. Bae showed why people rate him the best mid laner in the world in game two, posting a 9/2/11 KAD line on Twisted Fate, setting up his team to take a comfortable win. But it was anything but comfortable—the resourceful Americans kept themselves in the game by making smart players around the map, threatening backdoor plays and winning smart fights.
In the end, the Koreans were too solid. Blue built their dynasty in Korean by their late game domination, similar to what Cloud9 has done in their own region. But the Koreans are better.
Whelp, we went down fighting at least! Damn, that woulda been an epic win, but SSB is just better than us. Ggs to them!
— Hai Lam (@Hai_L9) October 4, 2014
Blue moves on to face their sister team Samsung Galaxy White in the semifinals. It’s a matchup that White has never won, meaning Blue is the odds on favorite to win the tournament.
Western fans are left wondering what might have been if Cloud9 had managed to make it to the other half of the bracket, featuring Najin White Shield and China’s three best teams. How would the top American teams match up against China’s best? We won’t have the chance to find out.
What we do know is that they are at least capable of toppling the best team on the planet over the past year. That shows at least a little progress towards closing the monstrous gap between Korea and the West. Team SoloMid was 0-16 against Korean teams until they took a game off Samsung Galaxy White on Friday.
Korea may still be pinnacle of esports in League of Legends, and while teams like Cloud9 may not belong in that palace just yet, they’re at least knocking on the door.
Image via Riot Games/Flickr