With everything on the line, North America looked to once again stun international competition in 2017, this time at the World Championship. It did exactly that in week 1.
But by the time week 2 rolled around, North America had all but fallen apart.
After scoring 2-1 openings across Cloud9, Immortals, and Team SoloMid, North America barely scraped together two more victories across the rest of Group Stage.
Only Cloud9 survived the debacle, and by the skin of its teeth.
But with things slowed down to a best of 5 format, and staring down perhaps the best squad from the LPL in 2017, can Cloud9 repair North America’s image?
A tall order
While North America has had a fairly strong year internationally, we certainly can't say it was because of Cloud9.
With subpar performances on the Rift Rivals 2017 stage, and the team largely crumbling to travel and illness in its international appearances, Cloud9 have proven that while they're talented enough to fight the best of them, it's hard to ask them to do it consistently.
And with all the rest of the region falling short, it doesn't exactly bode well that Cloud9 now stares down a confident Team WE playing at home.
But even on the back of a shaky performance across Group B, Cloud9 has some definite silver linings as they head into their best of 5 war with Team WE. For starters, Cloud9 just qualified for its slot over the 2017 LPL Summer champion, EDward Gaming.
While Cloud9 split their two games against EDG across Group A of the Group Stage, Cloud9 were the team that secured the 3-3 record, enough to capture the second seed of the group, qualifying for Knockout Stage alongside SK Telecom T1.
With the LPL's #1 seed in the rearview, it seems like the team finishing 4th in the LPL Summer Playoffs would be a breeze.
But Team WE have more under their belt than just Split results.
Team WE not only had a decent Summer, but they've also been putting in plenty of work during the Group Stage.
Group D was perhaps the most consistently strong group across its 4 members. While it dodged any LCK teams, it featured Misfits, TSM, and Flash Wolves. But atop all of these teams, sitting at a very comfortable 5-1 finish, Team WE took the throne.
The Chinese powerhouse dispatched Misfits and Flash Wolves without dropping a single game, and fell just short of accomplishing the same with North American Summer Split champion TSM.
But even splitting games with TSM leaves Team WE in a very confident spot taking on Cloud9.
And none of this is factoring in the Chinese crowd at Worlds 2017, who will undoubtedly be behind their hometown hero ready to celebrate every victory.
Brutal consistency vs. phenomenal strides
When it comes down to it, this matchup is more than just a clash of regions. While international League of Legends is always flavored by the regions the competitors come from, these two teams split plenty more aspects than just their regional traits.
Cloud9's hallmark in 2017, and really across its entire existence as an organization, has been the thunderous highs when least expected.
When Cloud9 is on point, it doesn't seem like there's a team on the Rift that can stop them. But the North American mainstay has a notorious habit of falling flat when things aren't going well, and force themselves to rally from behind to survive.
And this may be an even bigger problem facing Team WE.
Team WE are known as the team that will pull out an explosive win if the game is even enough by the time it reaches their comfort zone, the mid to late game. Once the clock is right, Team WE seem to transform like werewolves. Suddenly all of their strengths as a team align, and they close out games like a shift at work. Despite their performance following a similar pattern, Team WE find ways to win with it time and time again, defaulting to their superior eventuality in crisp team play and macro.
With an incredibly consistent looming threat standing in the way of Cloud9 and retaining North America's international reputation (one often lost in world championships,) things are certainly looking rough for NA.
If Cloud9 can't find the afterburners to put in some of their best performances in 2017, this incredibly dangerous Team WE squad will run away with a quick series victory moving on from Quarters.
Regardless, both of these teams will need to show plenty of mettle in this series if they plan to challenge Worlds 2017 any further. Even though they've dodged the LCK standard thus far, they'll have to face it eventually.
If they survive one another first.
What do you think of Cloud9's chances against Team WE? Will North America be avenged? Let us know in the comments below!
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