Cloud 9 has won the first three matches of their group stage against AHQ, IG, and FNC. This is very surprising because you look at their team you see their teams members are weaker than other players in worlds. Many expected Balls fall flat since he has been struggling all year in game and hasn’t shown any signs of improvement, there was the question of how well Hai would do against other jungle players who have been playing longer in stronger region, Lemonnation had been playing questionable support picks like Karma and having mixed results on his champions. Incarnation and Sneaky were the two hopes where these two would need to over preform in order to pick up wins and to be fair they have done quite well in their groups. It brings up the question of how do they win these games?
Let’s start off with some examples from their previous games so far.
Starting off with draft phase Cloud 9 always seems to get champions they want. This is good on Cloud 9’s part but also a fault of the other teams not knowing how to draft because they never contest Cloud 9’s picks or bans them because they worried about power picks. To start Cloud 9 always picks their top laner early and their top laner is a champion that can in theory do well when being denied. Darius for example got denied very hard both times they played him against but he was still able to sustain himself and was able to draw pressure top. Then Cloud 9 always gets to draft Tristana when they keep playing their fast push style and the Tristana always has this peel support like Braum or Morgana. This is more of the other team not doing anything about it because Tristana always falls down to second or third rotation of picks and no team is willing to do anything about. Hai has also shown improvement by being able to play more meta jungle champions that have map pressure which gives more safety for C9’s lanes since he isn’t on a farm jungle champion. They always get these champions because the other teams are too busy worrying about power picks and they only ban away the Veigar but will leave something like Azir open instead of banning Tristana to weaken the fast early push style.
Now the first step into their wins is during their lane swaps. They always have Tristana get solo experience and gold so he can get experience and item advantages. In the IG and FNC matches they deny Balls in the lane swap by keeping him away from tower but that is the issue. Sneaky’s Tristana is always left alone when he is one of the main carries on Cloud 9. Balls this season has been less than impressive so who cares if he gets gold odds are he won’t do as much as Sneaky. At least AHQ and IG were able to force standard lanes eventually but Tristana still got this power spike where she has items up against the opposing marksman so she can still hard push in standard lanes. Yes Darius is annoying champion but he can be kited it’s his largest weakness and is very exploitable. Sneaky is left alone so why not go and punish his Tristana for being pushed up alone and give some gold to Darius because he is not a bigger threat than the Tristana. Any of these teams could have also tried to pressure Azir since that champion pushes waves early it is a bit harder to do but at least you targeting one of Cloud 9’s carries for once and not their less than impressive top laner.
After the lane swap Cloud 9 jumps into their rotation game where they have Sneaky push down towers early to open up they so they have more pick potential with Lee Sin/Elise and Morgana/Braum. One of their most notable rotations was against Fnatic where FNC was around dragon and C9 sent Tristana to get middle 1st tier tower, then to damage on 2nd tier tower while C9 zoned in the blue jungle, then back to get dragon once FNC started to defend them recall, and ending with C9 rotating and getting bot 2nd tier tower. It’s not just with rotations either C9 is also willing to take fights. In the AHQ game where Balls got singled out by Westdoor’s Fizz in the bot lane Cloud 9 didn’t just respect AHQ and back off. Hai immediately goes for a pick on Ziv’s Darius in mid and starts a 4v4 fight because he knows Westdoor won’t make it in time. By the time Fizz actually shows up it is barely too late because Ziv is down and most of his team members can’t reengage. This shows that C9 is will to make moves when something happens to them. Even their ward placements are interesting because sometimes they’ll only have a few wards placed at a time or they have Dragon covered with multiple pinks and green wards. Cloud 9 just as a team is always looking for something they can do that can inch or sky rocket them to a lead and eventually the win.
However Why did I bring up these examples? What do they mean exactly? How does this show how Cloud 9 wins? What is my point? Why do these examples matter?
These examples I brought up all show patterns for C9’s team. When Cloud 9 plays their team does not look to shut down and enemy team member as much as they look to get Sneaky ahead to do what they want. They are never afraid of their enemy team’s players or picks.
It’s the same pattern: C9 drafts what they want, Balls bites the bullet in a lane swap so Sneaky get ahead, Incarnation does his thing, Sneaky gets a lead shoves for tower, Sneaky rotates to next lane shoves, C9 rotates for next objective, then they wait for the next opening the enemy team gives them, and so on. Each game is just a variation of this pattern and it is how they win games.
It shows in Cloud 9’s draft as well where they put Sneaky in a position to succeed. They first pick Darius a top lane champion that can still sustain and deal damage even after being denied minions in a lane swap. Darius also acts as a meat shield later in the game. Then they pick champions like Azir/Veigar or Braum/Morgana that can protect Sneaky with zone control or crowd control. Azir has Emperor’s Divide with soldiers, Braum has his Unbreakable with Glacial Fissure and a stun on his passive, Morgana has Black Shield and Dark Binding. At the same time Champions like the Morgana, Lee Sin, and Elise they pick in draft can be used to create picks or work to get someone like Sneaky ahead or get maybe get kills on Incarnation to make his soldiers strong on Azir. They pick what they value and don’t care about the other teams picks and will adapt to them. They will adapt their style to match what they want if FNC has a wombo combo C9 doesn’t group and team fight or if the AHQ has a split pusher C9 starts skirmishes or rotates faster. Even if there are surprises picks like the Bard or Yasuo top they only adapt to it and don’t panic.
Next other teams look to shut down one member like Balls but for Cloud 9 this is fine because it helps Sneaky. It’s why they have Balls and Lemonnation do that 2v4 stand off because it keeps the enemy top laner and jungler near them and keeps Sneaky on an island. It also gives Hai time to farm so he can help accelerate Sneaky’s lead or help Balls if falls too far behind when they try to get Sneaky ahead. With Sneaky always in a position where he gets put ahead he helps bring Balls back into the game by grabbing tower gold and carrying team fights. All that time the other team wasted on trying to keep Balls down becomes wasted and the other team is back to square one.
Once they get Sneaky to that point where he can succeed they start their more opportunistic shot calling. I call it opportunistic because Cloud 9 is always looking for something there never is much down time for this team and they never let the other teams do something for free. This would be like the AHQ team fight I brought up earlier or when FNC tried to play for that dragon and C9 started that rotation chain. C9 also doesn’t fear making their own moves they will go for a Baron rush that loses them a few members or gets them aced. They will go for the pick onto an enemy. They will start skirmishes. They do all of this because they understand when they get what they want they can milk more advantages out of it to start pushing for the win.
No team seems to have notice this in game at all or did anything about it. You can make excuses for AHQ and IG but FNC for the most part could thought that Sneaky is being put into a place to succeed so C9 can play this rotation style after seeing two games. If the AHQ, IG, or FNC want to beat C9 they need to realize this and shut down whoever C9 plays around either by banning their champions or pressuring them. Giving C9 exactly what they want early game is a good way to throw a game. These teams also have to be a lot more careful about risk vs reward. These teams need to look at what they want to do and think what C9 will do if we do X action because if they give C9 an opportunity for anything they will milk it dry. If these teams don’t realize that they are going to end up losing again. They have had a bit more time but right now it is looking good for Cloud 9.