Cloud9 suffered their first defeats of the season at the hands of Team SoloMid and Phoenix1. Regardless of their losses, Cloud9 are still a contender for North America’s top spot and will continue to strengthen. While this may panic a few of their fans – after resting comfortably at the top of the standings so far this split – these struggles are an opportunity for Cloud9 to develop as a team and become an international force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.
Cloud9 was never going to finish the split undefeated. A week after a series where they would have likely lost 2-0 to last place Team Liquid had it not been for a miracle Baron steal, the cracks in Cloud9 were finally exposed as they suffered their first losses of the season. While many of their fans lament a winless week, Cloud9 should look at this as an opportunity for growth and improvement they otherwise would have never had.
The chase for an undefeated Split can place an enormous amount of pressure on a team. As the season goes on, the pressure continues to build as perfection comes closer and closer to being within their grasp. Cloud9 will no longer have to deal with that pressure. They will also benefit from the flexibility to test new strategies and compositions on stage without the fear of losing their perfect record.
Spring Split is a time for development. Many teams have new members or coaching staff, and although gaining points towards Worlds is an important factor, becoming the best team possible for the Summer Split is the number one priority. Often, the best way to find success is by overcoming obstacles through failures.
The key is to “fail forwards”, recognizing and understanding your mistakes, taking the proper steps to fix them. Whether Cloud9 is able to do this remains to be seen, but with a veteran coaching staff, veteran players, and a strong organization behind them, they will likely be able to identify and correct their mistakes over the remainder of the Spring Split.
Never experiencing domestic failure may hinder the potential for international success. The greatest example of this is Europe’s G2 eSports, an organization yet to lose a series in the EU LCS for an entire calendar year. While they have been dominant in their region, the inability of the other European teams to compete and highlight their weaknesses has contributed to G2 struggles on the international stage. Success can be deceiving when it comes too easily, as G2 has found on multiple occasions: The 2016 Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship.
By contrast, SK Telecom T1 experienced late season struggles in the Korean LCK 2016 Summer Split, lead to a 3-2 series loss in the playoff semi-finals to KT Rolster. Coming into the World Championship’s SKT’s closest comparison may have been to CLG, a team who struggled in the final split but still qualified based on points. SKT were able to utilise their failures to galvanize the team and become even better, making a run to their third World Championship.
Cloud9 has shown they still have a lot of room for improvement within their current roster. Early mistakes have found C9 facing significant mid or late game differentials, more often than expected for a top tier team. Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia has shown flashes of brilliance in some games and disappeared in others.
The team have also continued to rotate between their two top laners, but as the season progresses, the roster should settle into one choice or face the same struggle they had at support last season with Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo. While they have the potential to be the best team in North America, they still have many issues that will need to be fixed before the World Championships or if they hope to claim NA’s spot at the Mid-Season Invitational.
The failures of Cloud 9 will become a rallying point that makes them stronger over time. As a team, if you are going to struggle, the Spring Split is the ideal time. The beginning of the year is a time to develop your synergy, shot-calling, and macro gameplay. As the season goes on, expect Cloud9 to fix many of the issues that have plagued them so far in this Split, and become possibly the West’s best chance at the 2017 World Championship.