26 December 2016 - 21:00
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Road to season seven: Cloud9

In the first part of this series, I will be going through Cloud9's 2016 season, their changes made in the off-season, and predicting how they will perform in 2017.
League of Legends Writer
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Retaining almost its entire roster from the previous season, Cloud9 enters the 2017 season hoping to repeat the success it found in the latter part of 2016.

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2016 Season

Season six was a pretty significant year for Cloud9. After barely making the 2015 World Championship through a miracle Regional Finals run, Cloud9 brought Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae on to be the starting jungler alongside Michael "Bunny FuFuu" Kurylo, who would share playing time at the support position with the team’s resident shotcaller, Hai "Hai" Du Lam.

Finishing the spring split regular season in third place, Cloud9 looked to make a playoff run to the finals. Unfortunately for the squad, a loss in the first round against an upstart sixth place Team SoloMid crushed their Mid-Season Invitational dreams.

After losing what should have been an easy playoff victory, Cloud9 decided to make roster changes for the summer split. The first major acquisition was Impact, a former world champion. Since Impact used an import slot, Cloud9 had to part ways with Rush, and in his stead returned William "Meteos" Hartman. The biggest roster change they made during this time, though, was the addition Smoothie, and permanent removal of Hai.

Hai was a crutch that the team was leaning on for far too long. Every time he left the starting roster, Cloud9 would do extremely poorly, almost forcing his return. Without his shotcalling, the team seemed lost. This move showed Cloud9's growth as a team. Now the members of Cloud9 could think for themselves without Hai’s leadership.

The last acquisition the team made before the 2016 summer split was former EDG coach, Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu. Repeared's addition to the team was intended to help Cloud9 play without Hai, and ultimately make the World Championship.

Cloud9 hit their stride as a team during the summer split. The team finished in third place again during the summer regular season, and made the playoff finals. Impact had a breakout playoff performance, solo carrying multiple games.

Cloud9 continued this success through to the 2016 World Championship, becoming the only North American team to make tit out of the group stage. Cloud9 lost in the quarterfinals to Samsung Galaxy, who went on to lose the finals 3-2 to SK Telecom T1.


Off-Season Changes

After a pretty successful 2016 season, Cloud9 decided to only make one major roster change coming into the 2017 season. Contractz, formerly of Cloud9’s Challenger Series team, was promoted to the main roster, with Meteos stepping down.

Contractz first joined the Cloud9 organization back in July of 2016, when he became part of the organization's Challenger Series roster. With Contractz on the squad, Cloud9's Challenger team won the 2016 Summer Challenger Series. The team then defeated NRG Esports in the promotion tournament, gaining a spot in the LCS. Instead of continuing on with the C9.C roster, Contractz was added to the main squad as the other spot in the league was sold.

Contractz was statistically an average jungler in the Challenger Series. By 10 minutes, Contractz was either behind or even with the opposing jungler in terms of CS. Contractz's style of play is more reminiscent of 2016 Meteos' style of play. Contractz is a more reactive jungler, whose goal is to enable his laners to carry, rather than out jungle the opponent.

Also worth noting, former Apex Gaming top laner Jeon "Ray" Ji-won has been picked up by Cloud9 to be the substitute for Impact.


2017 Season

With the raw talent on this roster, it’s hard to place Cloud9 anywhere lower than top four. The biggest question mark coming into this split will be Contractz. Cloud9 with Jensen has always mid-focused. If Contractz lacks synergy with Jensen, Cloud9 will be in huge trouble. Jensen, who statistically got ganked the most out of any mid laner in the NA LCS during the 2016 season, will need to be on the same page as Contractz if he hopes to survive and win the laning phase.

It’s very unlikely that Impact will display the same overwhelming dominance in the top lane he showed during summer playoffs and the regional finals. With stronger Korean top laners joining the league such as Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho and Lee "Flame" Ho-jong, Impact has his work cut out for him if he wants to maintain his title as the best NA LCS top laner.

Cloud9 definitely has the tools and resources required to retain its position as one of the top NA teams. As long as Contractz meshes well with the rest of the roster, and there is no skill drop off from the rest of the team, Cloud9 will continue to be one of NA’s best teams. Its up to these newly formed rosters like Dignitas and Immortals to catch up to Cloud9’s skill level, if they even want a chance at dethroning one of NA’s kings.


Do you think Cloud9 can win the NA LCS? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.

Article by Malcolm Abbas. Follow him on Twitter @SmashhLoL.

Photo via LoL Esports

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