Everybody knows it by now. With the dramatic conclusion to the NA LCS’s gauntlet to decide who is the last team from North America to represent its nation, Cloud9 notched their third BO5 victory, amounting a total of 14 games spanning over 500 minutes in three days to once again grace the international stage. With back to back reverse sweeps in their sets against Gravity and then Team Impulse, the squad’s last set against Team Liquid didn’t require the same nail biting scenario with their 3-1 victory. Hence, they went “Full Najin”. Indeed, I actually first heard the term when Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi appeared as a guest on Face Check.
The term recalls Najin White Shield’s incredible run in Korea’s regional qualifier last year, starting as the bottom seed of the gauntlet to winning the whole thing. It was no easy task as they had to defeat KT Bullets in the first round, fresh OGN summer 2014 champions KT Arrows in the second round and the former world champions SK Telecom 1K in the third round. They had to do so in winning three BO5’s in three days just like Cloud9 did today but, in all honesty, with far mightier foes. In the end, staying true to the word “Shield” in their name, Najin White Shield succeeded in their quest to attend Worlds by implementing a very defensive and yet suffocating style. With impressive 3-0 sweeps in the first two sets against both KT’s branches and a nonetheless stunning 3-1 victory against SKT, they joined both Samsung White and Blue to represent the heavy favorite region.
The North American Version
Through experimenting and insistence on using odd picks and consequently far out team compositions in the form of Amumu and Karma for example, Cloud9 pulled through largely thanks to Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen. On one hand, Sneaky showed why he has always been considered one of the best AD carries North America has to offer, if not the best. Sneaky displays great mechanical skill but also a very calculated approach. He takes decisions that rarely have any backlash in response. In their final set against Team Liquid, he even had an answer to Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin’s fearsome Vayne with his own signature champion : Draven. Even though Piglet and his team had the luxury of observing C9 play 10 games before they were matched together, picking a champion you haven’t exhibited in those 10 previous games was definitely a good approach. On the other hand, Incarnati0n truly came into his own in the gauntlet or even sooner than that. We could see that his playstyle had been somewhat unlocked and he was looser in regards to creating plays instead of his stiffer self in the beginning of the summer split. As the former #1 solo queue player in Europe, he finally answered the hype surrounding him from the get-go of his signing before the summer split began earning “Player of the series” throughout the regional qualifiers.
Withal, Cloud9’s strengths diverge from the statistics. Indeed, their mental fortitude is their greatest strength as they have had their backs against the wall more than once during the summer split they haven’t fallen apart in any of those scenarios. With their revered leader Hai “Hai” Du Lam at the forefront, the North American squad’s success is based on trust. C9 clearly didn’t “tilt” at any point of their run through the gauntlet even when facing 0-2 deficits twice. When a decision didn’t end up going in their favor, I’m sure that their mentality didn’t falter as the members can fall back to :”I put my trust in Hai. He brought us this far, he can bring us further.” Hai embraces the pressure anyway. They play with no regrets as they should since nobody, analysts and fans alike, expected them to be at this stage anyway as if they shouldn’t be here. Yet, although it was far from easy, they have earned their slot at the World Championship and they definitely fought for it.
In conclusion, Hai held his promise to Incarnati0n as we can hear him say “Alright I held my promise, I brought you to Worlds” in the sounds of the game (3:11) :
As the “Full Najin” story of North America has been concluded, what remains to be seen is how far can they go. If they stay true to the script, Najin White Shield got ousted in the quarterfinals by OMG. Whether the North American squad gets eliminated earlier than that since they are guaranteed a stacked group already or they materialize the final stage of Hai’s grand scheme of world domination (which I strongly doubt with every fiber of my being but then again even I doubted that they would actually win a slot at Worlds in the first place), C9 should already consider themselves winners. Through roster changes, role changes, coach changes and overall playstyle changes, Cloud9 defied the odds and will once again attend the World Championship of League of Legends in the upcoming fall. For their faithful fans and the organisation itself, what a time to bear witness to this resurgence.
My name is Christopher “Wave” Phakjarung and, as always, I want to give you my sincerest gratitude for reading.