Cloud9’s dramatic turnaround in the Worlds 2021 group stage will see the team advance to the knockout stage and send Rogue and FunPlus Phoenix packing.
After opening the group stage with three successive defeats in what most thought was the toughest group at the tournament, North America’s third seed had a mountain to climb heading into their final day of matches. Against all odds, the team managed to do so.
Cloud9 remarkably began the day with back-to-back victories over the LEC’s Rogue and the LPL’s FunPlus Phoenix. FunPlus Phoenix’s performance was particularly shocking, as the team was underwhelming despite entering as one of the favorites to win the championship.
Results elsewhere throughout the day put Cloud9 into a position where it could advance with a victory over Damwon Kia. Despite putting up an impressive fight against the current titleholders, C9 eventually fell in a 39-minute defeat that set up a three-way tie alongside Rogue and FPX.
Coming out of the tie as the team with the quickest victories, Cloud9 earned a bye to the qualification match while the LEC and LPL sides faced off first. Rogue took down the underperforming FunPlus Phoenix, knocking out the 2019 champions and setting up a showdown with Cloud9 to determine the second team to advance to the playoffs.
The exciting match saw the momentum constantly turning, with neither side looking willing or able to close it out.
Cloud9 was able to get more dragon buffs throughout the game and their eventual infernal soul could be seen as the ultimate turning point of the match. With champions such as Wukong, Lee Sin, LeBlanc and Miss Fortune, the added damage in teamfights had a massive impact and set Cloud9 up for the victory.
It was Rogue, however, who triggered the game-ending play with a Ryze ultimate from Emil “Larssen” Larsson that tried to get his side in position to challenge for the all-important elder dragon. Unfortunately, waiting for them at the other end of the Realm Warp was Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme’s Alistar who was able to instantly knock up the team, kick-starting a one-sided fight that saw Cloud9 earn an ace, barrel down the middle lane, and explode Rogue’s nexus to move on in the tournament.
As a result, Cloud9 now head into the quarter-final stages of the tournament for the sixth time in their history and will face a first-seeded side having progressed as second place in their group. Their opponent is not currently known, with the remaining groups all still to be decided over the coming days before a knockout draw takes place.
Despite giving away a few questionable deaths, Luka “Perkz” Perković’s LeBlanc was a constant thorn in Rogue’s side during their tiebreaker series and was an integral part of the team’s victory. The Croatian silenced the doubters that had questioned the $11 million move that saw him go from G2 Esports to Cloud9.
Questions lingered over whether he was worth the money Cloud9 paid for him and whether he remained motivated in the LCS, but now his Worlds 2021 heroics will go a long way towards answering them. The former bottom laner has previously shown his ability to single-handedly carry series at this level, particularly his 3-2 win with G2 Esports over then-favourite RNG in Worlds 2018.
Cloud9 simply cannot be counted out in any upcoming series with his X-factor on the roster.