From controversial decisions to academy memes to broadcasting team friction to roster changes to an 8-0 run and playoff berth; Cloud9 have had an interesting 2018 Summer Split.
All said it's ended on quite a high note, but that's not the whole picture.
Weeks 1-4: Falling short
The easiest way to describe Cloud9's first few weeks of the Summer Split is everything going horribly, horribly wrong despite showing many positives underneath. While the team put themselves in game-winning positions time and time again, they just couldn't quite convert gold leads to victories.
In week 1 Cloud 9 kicked off summer with a loss to Clutch Gaming, and then picked up a win against Optic. In week 2 they lost twice, first to Golden Guardians and then to 100 Thieves. Then in week 3 the team were knocked even lower on the totem pole, losing to TSM and then losing to Echo Fox.
They entered the break before week 4 at just 1-5, sitting them firmly at the very bottom of the leaderboards.
Off the Rift
During this time, Cloud9 would make the controversial decision to send star players Jensen, Sneaky, and Smoothie to the Academy League roster, bringing up Zeyzal, Goldenglue, and Keith to the main roster. The decision was met with plenty of criticism from fans who expected to see their favorite players representing the team, especially players they felt gave the team the best chance to win games and end the losing streak. To make matters worse, the team then released video footage of their demotion and reaction to it.
While Reapered was openly criticised, he stuck to his guns that the Academy players had earned their spot and gave Cloud9 the best to chance to win and accomplish the lofty expectations the org has met so many times in the past. With it all on the line, team management stayed firm.
After the murmurs died down, Cloud9 then made another controversial move, letting longtime support Smoothie go. Smoothie would move to competitor Echo Fox, and in his place Cloud9 would run the newly tested Zeyzal who was performing well in the Academy League and had proved himself on the main stage in his very short time there.
Add a dash of Blaber from the Academy jungles to the mix, and suddenly Cloud9 had found the recipe for success.
Weeks 6-9: The undefeated run
After their losses built, Cloud9 first shocked their competition by pulling off a victory over defending champions Team Liquid in week 5. They would follow it up with a loss from Optic Gaming, which felt like the team's momentum disappearing before our eyes, and the reveal of a fluke in the TL win. But Cloud9 wouldn't have it.
The team began an absolute tear in week 6, surprising the entire NA LCS and winning out against TSM and Echo Fox. They would then rinse and repeat for three more weeks, winning all of their games for the last four weeks of Summer Split.
The glimpse of greatness we got from a victory over TL in week 5 was immediately followed up on, and the team looked more dangerous than ever with some new weapons at their disposal. This was no fluke.
Suddenly the weakest team in the league had become its strongest by the end of the split, ripping apart its defending champion and any other competitor it faced in the latter half of summer. It also did so with a rotating cast of characters.
The road ahead: Path to Worlds 2018
Cloud9 now look to keep their hot streak up in the 2018 Summer Playoffs. This is, however, one of their only shots at qualifying for the World Championship.
Should Cloud9 fail to win the Summer Playoffs, the Worlds 2018 dream will be dead unless they manage to win the North American Regional Finals, pitting the 2nd-5th highest championship point teams against one another for a spot into the 2018 World Championship Play-Ins.
While Cloud9 have been dominating the domestic scene in the last four weeks, it has faced no metric of international competition. They failed to represent NA in Rift Rivals, and otherwise have 5 weeks of losses and 4 weeks of victories as a resume this summer.
It's hard to place a team that has played in such drastic streaks, but many believe that Cloud9 have solved the roster puzzle and will no longer lose grip on victories. They've never looked stronger and have shown a varied pool of talents, especially new recruits, that the NA LCS competition has yet to quite solve.
As every Cloud9 fan knows, of course, this doesn't necessarily have to translate into results for this organization just because it looks like it should.
The reverse-sweep kings will have to bring their A-game to at least one of the tournaments ahead of them if they want a chance to play any international League of Legends this year, and more importantly meet the Worlds 2018 goal that every dynasty of Cloud9's stature aims for.
Watch for the Summer Playoffs running August 25th - September 9th, and if Cloud9 don't win there, you can see them fight for survival in the Regional Finals September 14th-16th.
After their chaotic year, Cloud9 look perhaps the most promising heading into 2019. They've demonstrated their successful Academy program by graduating its star players to the main roster to success, and showed that while the veterans are extremely talented, this organization has all the say in its future, not just the stars. Cloud9 have recovered their image with the fans and have converted plenty of haters into once again uneasy supporters.
And it's still all going up from here.
Let's look at the expected roster moving into 2019, because it's got all the potential of a future champion.
In top lane Cloud9 will retain the most important NA LCS rookie to debut in years, Licorice, who has been utterly instrumental in the team's successes. Licorice has matured quickly into a reliable presence in the top of the map that can take over games alone, something few with his level of experience can say. He's poised to grow into the most dangerous top laner in the region, and he has the potential to reach that any day.
In the jungle, Cloud9 will retain veteran Lee Sin nightmare Svenskeren while backing him up with fresh face Blaber, patching up the team's biggest point of weakness this summer. Blaber has been a breakout star in his short time on the NA LCS stage, and we expect him to take over the region's jungles in 2019 with veteran Svenskeren being a huge help for him along the way off the rift.
In mid lane, Cloud9 will juggle the extremely explosive and talented duo of franchise face Jensen and Goldenglue who is a veteran that has recently shown a whole other side to his play in 2018, repairing his old image as an extremely weak mid laner on Team Liquid. They've both been fireworks for Cloud9 at different points of the summer. Goldenglue is playing better than he ever has, and Jensen is starting to shades of his former glory as the undisputed best mid laner in North America (though only shades just yet.) If Jensen remains on this team and continues to get his groove back on the rift, we don't expect to see much of Goldenglue, but if recent performances are any indication, we might even see Goldenglue surpass Jensen heading into the new year. Either way, Cloud9 have plenty to build off of in the middle lane whether their franchise hero takes back over the region or not.
In bottom lane, Cloud9 have found a very dangerous duo in adc Sneaky and Academy call up support Zeyzal, but also have adc Keith as a potential Academy option. Losing Smoothie seemed like a blow for this bottom lane after building so much synergy with Sneaky over the years they played together, but that time has now ended, and the era of Zeyzal has begun. The new support has impressed in his time in the NA LCS, and if he continues to grow like he has, will handily replace the hole Smoothie left in the Cloud9 squad. It's only looking up for this organization the longer these two players have time to build their synergy. 2019 could very well be their year.
All of these player contracts are set to run to November 17th, 2020. But while this is security for some big investments for Cloud9, we've also seen that players with these contracts (no pun intended) can end up gone quick during a rough patch.
With the dust settled from Cloud9's conflicts, and one of the most talented and young rosters around, it's about time to sail off into the sunset with some big results. Whether they come in 2018 and/or 2019, expect big things from this organization.
Let us know what you think of Cloud9 heading into the Worlds 2018 race and 2019 in the comments below!