Despite their recent poor showing in week six, Cloud 9 looks to have upped their game and turned themselves around. Even following a thoroughly embarassing loss to Team Envy (don’t get me wrong, Envy played an excellent series. Cloud 9’s performance was underwhelming in light of their previous week five triumph over TSM), Cloud 9 have apparently purged the troubles which held them back. So, what can we identify as the crux of the team’s revitalization? Simply put, (almost) every player significantly stepped up their individual play. I say almost so as to keep in mind Jensen, who despite his lack of apparent participation in those games that Cloud 9 dropped, consistently represented the team’s only point of power with which to attempt a comeback. His high farm numbers and low death totals game after game are nothing short of miraculous, especially in the team’s losses. Jensen continuing this high level play while the rest of the team brought themselves back to form combined to herald Cloud 9’s return.
Impact: Star toplaner of the team’s playoff run last season, Impact has been struggling to return to his former glory all split long. Perhaps in part due to splitting play time with Ray (also slumping a bit lately), Impact has been searching for the mechanical prowess which led the team to victory before. With the return of the tank meta in path 7.14, we can expect the former world champion to surge once again. Much like the prowess shown by Ssumday’s Maokai play, Impact has long been known for the dominant control he brings to the table on his best tanks, also playing Maokai, Gnar, and- to a lesser degree- Shen. Barring largescale meta shifts once again, Impact’s rediscovered excellence has every reason to continue.
Contractz: As we move down the roster, Contractz has been an on-again-off-again player who swings between games of brillaint counter jungling to invalidate his opponent and mistimed ganks, invades, and roams which result in Cloud 9 bleeding gold and objectives. With this week’s Dignitas series, we see both- failing in the first game to invade Shrimp’s Nunu, Contractz fell short of the success he displayed when he revealed Kayn in the previous series. Adjusting for this failure, however, Contractz showed his ganking and lane pressure prowess by repeatedly assisting- not Jensen- but Impact. This, more than any other change in the team’s play, seems most surprising. The combination of Jensen’s consistently strong play, Impact’s struggles, and the perceived reliance of Jensen’s success on jungle proximity made his top pressure the unexpected ace in the hole (even without a Caitlyn pick). Moving away from the expectations that Contractz simply babysits Jensen, he put in the time to ensure Ssumday spent his time playing from behind on Cho’Gath, another of patch 7.14’s meta tanks. While Contractz did maintain some infrequent ganks midlane, Jensen performed to his high standard even without a babysit from his jungler.
Smoothie/Sneaky: Sneaky, following his extended illness following Rift Rivals, appears to be in much better shape as the team returns to their victorious style of play. Unfortunately, he does seem to find himself in bad trades somewhat frequently, occasionally even caught and blown up when Smoothie steps out to maintain vision and objective control. He does, however, seem more attentive during the transition to mid and late game play. Unlike Rift Rivals, where he was caught out and exploited by G2- leading to Cloud 9’s loss- Sneaky remained safe as the team reinforces its relevance. Like most bot lane carries, of course, his own relevance is dependent in part on another player as well.
Smoothie, growing consistently from his strong performance during his rookie split, has seemingly stumbled a slight amount in recent weeks,with Cloud 9’s botline finding themselves falling to straight up two versus two kills more often that they should. This week, however, (particularly the series againstDignitas) has seen Smoothie returning to the fantastic level of play which won him such acclaim among Cloud 9 fans. Much like Impact, the return of one of his strongest champions has led to a powerful showing from the bot lane. With Taric finding success in the current 7.14 meta, Smoothie displayed his skill with the champion as the team surged back from their first game loss against Dignitas.
Overall, the revitalized players of Cloud 9 appear to have found themselves at a happy crossroads- A return to personal form (including recovering from illness) combined with a revival of some of the teams comfort picks. Looking forward, fans can expect this trend to continue, assuming no major patch rollbacks from Riot. More than just the same old success patterns, however, this week’s play has opened up some new strategies which look incredibly promising for the team. Contractz’s jungle presence and constant invades, which brought the team a dominating victory back in week five against TSM, could provide Cloud 9 with an infuriating to play against composition. The strategy’s failure in game one against Dignitas does not spell its doom, considering the strength of composition from Dignitas. Nunu, always difficult to contest against, along with Jayce’s range from the mid lane and Ssumday’s dominance on Maokai made this a tall order to begin with. If Cloud 9 can find the right situation to pick an invade composition, the strategy should pay off once again. Even more innovative, the second game of the Dignitas series saw Contractz spending more time and resources on the top side of the map. Impact, traditionally left out to dry in most Cloud 9 games, received enough attention that the team was able to keep Ssumday’s Cho’Gath mostly useless all game. If Jensen can continue to exert the solo pressure he displayed this series, then playing around top and bot could earn some large dividends for Cloud 9. Despite many people’s insistence that Jensen will need Contractz to carry him to the stats we’ve been seeing, Cloud 9’s mid laner appears ready to disprove his naysayers.