Restoring North American Pride: Can Cloud9 Take Down SK Telecom T1?

North America is full of characters. From Peng “Doublelift” Yiliang to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, colourful personalities coat the NA LCS scene with their cocky confidence.

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen might take the cake as the most outspoken player in the North American League of Legends Championship. The loudmouthed C9 mid-laner made headlines by threatening to “clap” Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok last year, and his confidence has only grown from then.

This year, Jensen has kept up his bombastic boastings, with a braggadocious prediction about this week’s matchup versus SK Telecom:

“We are going to beat SKT next week.”

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen

Despite its simplicity, the statement shows an incredible amount of confidence – perhaps a hint of arrogance – from the Danish mid laner. Jensen’s response isn’t just a joke, it is a bold prediction.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Obviously, Cloud9 is the heavy underdogs in this match. Their game against the Koreans wasn’t particularly close in the opening week of the 2017 Worlds Championship and it has been a long time since North America has recorded such an upset. That said, if Cloud9 have any shot at all, Jensen will deliver it.

Jensen has stepped up his game to a whole new level at Worlds 2017. His synergy with Juan “Contractz” Garcia in the early game has left even the best teams with an early game deficit.

The Americans are one of just three teams to average a 1,000+ gold lead at 15 minutes, largely off of early mid lane ganks.

Lee “Scout” Yee-chan, normally a world class mid laner, was left in the dust against Cloud9, unable to fight against the dynamic pressure of Contractz and Jensen.

If executed properly, the jungle-mid duo could put the same pressure on Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. This would eliminate a major carry threat for SK Telecom, and allow Cloud9 to snowball their early game lead.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Of course, this is a highly optimistic point of view. Even if Cloud9 was to successfully pull off the mid lane strategy, they wouldn’t necessarily secure a gold lead.

SK Telecom T1 has a major advantage in the bot lane, which they can use in their favour to mediate any early game deficit that C9 puts them in.

Zach “Sneaky” Scuderi has looked awfully weak at Worlds, unable to keep up with his world-class opposition. Sneaky is one of just two ADCs to average a deficit in gold, CS, and XP at the 10-minute mark. Compared to Bang, whose lane dominance has won countless games for SKT, Sneaky doesn’t come close.

Even if the North Americans do somehow manage to win the bottom lane, the game will not get any easier. SK Telecom’s mid-late game has truly been the catalyst for their success, and the reason for their victories.

Many saw their close call against EDG as a sign of weakness, but it also showed their strengths. One must appreciate SK Telecom T1’s ability to come back with their unbeatable teamfighting, even in the face of a major deficit. EDward Gaming annihilated their lanes yet still fell short when the time came. It is not easy to see Cloud9 pulling off a similar feat with more success, even despite all their good performances.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Cloud9 has developed a solid strategy to beat their fellow Group A opposition. Their Jensen-focused gameplay has given them strong results against every team this tournament… except of course, SKT.

While the gameplay is strategically solid, it lacks the depth or nuance to carry C9 past the defending champions. Cloud9 has too many weaknesses in the bot lane and late game to rely on any other style of play.

Unfortunately, it seems that NA fans will have to quash their hopes once more. Cloud9 barely have a chance to defeat SKT.

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