North America’s Cloud9 is attending the League of Legends World Championship for its third consecutive year, but never before in such a dramatic fashion or battered shape. After Hai “Hai” Du Lam’s retirement, Cloud9 fell from fighting for the League Championship Series title to avoiding relegation. Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen—Cloud9’s new mid-laner—struggled on stage and his team’s synergy suffered without its previous captain Lam. In light of the unexpected struggles, jungler William “Meteos” Hartman stepped down from the starting roster—prompting the organization to utilize Lam as its new starting jungler. Lam’s teamwork and shot calling proved enough to salvage the team from relegation and earn a spot in the 2015 Summer Regional Qualifier. There, the team made a miraculous “Cinderella Run” from the lowest seed. It pulled off two reverse sweeps in its Best of Five series against Team Gravity and Team Impulse, and bested third place seed Team Liquid 3-1.
(Image courtesy of na.lolesports.com)
Cloud9’s AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi found himself within the team’s internal issues and growing pains. Renowned for his consistency and work ethic, Scuderi has been considered one of, if not the best, AD Carry in North America at various points in his career. Since his professional debut in Season 3, Scuderi has grown from a one trick pony to a talented carry capable of dueling with incredible international talents, such as Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. This split, he faced his greatest challenge—the issues within in his team.
Through Cloud9’s difficulties, Scuderi proved himself to be a player capable of performing despite his team. Over the regular season, he had the highest kill participation in his team at 75.8% while maintaining a 3.9 KDA, meaning he was the center of action for his team while maintaining high performance. Through Cloud9’s gauntlet run, Scuderi kill participation would drop to 66.3%, the fourth lowest on Cloud9, but he shouldered 30% of his squad’s total damage.  This was largely a result of his aggressive play: time and time again, Scuderi would seek kills in his lane or plays across the map. At times, his plays backfired, such as an ill-planned roam to the mid lane against Gravity, and other times they were denied only through incredible efforts from the enemy team. Regardless, Scuderi showed the will to attempt plays and created pressure for his team, which is invaluable for any lineup.
(Image courtesy of esports.inquirer.net)
While Cloud9’s recent performance domestically is respectable, its chances internationally are skeptical. Grouped with Fnatic, Invictus Gaming, and ahq e-sports club, it is possible that Cloud9 may not win a single game against these skilled line ups. At Worlds, the clock strikes midnight for Cloud9’s Cinderella story.
But, this is Scuderi’s moment the showcase his talent. Times have never been so dark for Cloud9, and so Scuderi can shine brighter than ever. Now is his chance to solidify his reputation of consistency—to show that he belongs in debates about the best North American ADC. While Cloud9 carries little to no expectations at this Worlds, this is Scuderi’s opportunity to remind us of a time when Cloud9 was NA’s hope.
(See Further Discussion of Sneaky on Mangaka’s Youtube)