The footage of Cloud9 mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen grimacing in pain, after defeat to Team SoloMid in the playoff finals of Summer 2016, makes for a heart-wrenching watch. As Jensen wept and Team SoloMid lifted the NA LCS trophy once more, the entire community rallied in support of the Cloud9 man. After yet another impressive season in the regular split, a near identical error from the Danish mid laner ultimately cost Cloud9 the series on Canada’s final stage once more.
The cruel sensation of déjà vu from the Summer Split final was almost eerie. Following two abysmal displays from Cloud9 to start the series, it appeared the final would be far more anti-climatic than initially anticipated. As Game 2 concluded in a sub-25 minute time, Jensen and the other members of the Cloud9 squad staggered from the stage, stunned by the dominance displayed by their rivals TSM.
After looking jaded in the previous matchups, Cloud9 emerged for Game 3 rejuvenated and refocused. Stealing away the Syndra pick from Team SoloMid’s talismanic Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Jensen lead the way as Cloud9 forced the series to a dramatic 5th and final match. With silver scrapes playing within the Pacific Coliseum of Vancouver, Cloud9 had already surpassed their achievements of the previous summer, taking TSM to a deciding game and entertaining the prospect of a reverse sweep.
In one of the most dramatic playoff conclusions in recent memory, Cloud9 and Team SoloMid showcased an unpredictable and shifting finale. After disappointing with his earlier attempt at Ekko into Syndra, Jensen provided a strong performance in Game 5, building momentum for C9 to close out the game. With the title hanging in the balance, the series would be decided by one prolonged team fight around elder dragon:
One mistake from Jensen and the game was over. The analysts inaccurately described that Jensen had been caught by a bubble from support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, but in reality the mid laner had simply been blown up by the burst damage of each of TSM’s carries. Dying with both his ultimate and zhonyas hourglass available had significant consequences: the difference between a 1st and 2nd place finish and a spot at the Mid Season Invitational.
Jensen’s misplay marked the second occasion in a playoff final in which he has fumbled his typically seamless mechanics under pressure. Flashbacks to the Summer finals of 2016 will no doubt have crossed through Jensen’s mind: going all in to kill then-TSM AD Carry Doublelift in a flash-combo play, Jensen critically missed the vital skillshot that would have won the fight and paid for it with his life.
The Cloud9 star’s response to producing a similarly catastrophic error, just eight months later, was an equally heartbreaking reaction.
Cloud9 would have stood little chance of mounting a revival without the proactive play of Jensen in the final three games of the series, making it difficult to scrutinise the Dane for opening the door to a Team SoloMid victory.
An anguished figure leaving the stage, Jensen once again expressed his remorse on social media as Team SoloMid booked their flights to Brazil.
I always fall short when it matters the most, I’m sorry to all my fans & especially my team. Game 5 was 100% on me. Ggs
— Nicolaj Jensen (@C9Jensen) 24 April 2017
Unsurprisingly, Jensen was met with a wave of support. The mid laner’s flawless play throughout the majority of the regular split and indeed the playoffs was a driving force behind Cloud9’s repeated Spring Split successes.
@C9Jensen We win as a team and we lose as a team. Nobody blames you and I’m incredibly impressed at how much you’ve grown as a team mate.
— Jack Etienne (@C9Jack) 24 April 2017
@C9Jensen You are a phenomenal player and I for one look forward to you putting up some more outstanding performances! GGs bud!
— Sam Hartman-Kenzler (@RiotKobe) 24 April 2017
@C9Jensen I was cheering against you but that game wasn’t 100% your fault at all
— Marcus (@Dyrus) 24 April 2017
With Cloud9 and Team SoloMid looking like the two strongest teams in the region by a clear margin for almost a year, Jensen will likely be granted one more opportunity to claim his first NA LCS title in the summer – Cloud9 fans will be hoping he can go one step further and cement three games wins over Team SoloMid in the decisive series.