NA LCS: Are Cloud9 in trouble?

Cloud9 entered the 2018 Spring Split with a bang. They were like a well-oiled League of Legends machine that seamlessly racked up wins on the way to a top-2 finish. But the final NALCS weeks introduced a different narrative. Suddenly, C9 went on a losing streak, falling prey to TSM, Team Liquid, and even FlyQuest.
With that, it’s time to ask the obvious question: Are Cloud9 in trouble?

C9 Arrival

The side lane dilemma

It wasn’t that long ago that Cloud9 lived and died by the mid lane. After all, Jensen was their best player, so they did everything in their power to put him in a position to carry. However, the 2018 Spring Split saw Cloud9 switch up their playstyle.
Asserting the mid lane dominance in the wave clear era was an uphill battle. And considering C9’s newest recruit—Licorice—was surprisingly potent on carries, it made sense to change directions and focus on the top lane. The constant pressure from Jensen and Svenskeren made him even stronger. And so, Licorice took his place at the vanguard of C9’s offensive. Meanwhile, the bot lane of Sneaky and Smoothie held its own in 2v2s and provided map presence through support roams.

It was a solid strategy.

Unfortunately, everything went out the window when the top lane meta shifted back to tanks. Licorice had a good grasp on carry matchups. But finding an edge in tank vs tank battles, locking down the right targets in teamfights, and detecting good teleport opportunities required a wealth of experience. And since that’s not something a rookie could have, C9’s top laner struggled to provide the necessary impact.

To make matters worse, Sneaky and Smoothie also began to lose ground. Perhaps they got complacent as the best bot lane in the league, or maybe other duos finally improved enough to challenge them. Whatever the case, Cloud9 could no longer play around their side lanes. And they found themselves stuck with an outdated playstyle mere days before the NA LCS playoffs.

The situation turns dire when you realize their first opponent is Team Liquid. Impact is the poster boy for tank top laners, so he should have no trouble running circles around Licorice. Plus, the bottom lane of Doublelift and Olleh has the necessary firepower to give Sneaky and Smoothie a run for their money.

Solving the issue

Not all is lost, though. Jensen is still performing at a high level, so Cloud9 can always revert to their old playstyle. They also have Reapered, one of the best minds in League of Legends, as their coach, so if there’s anyone that can come up with a new strategy, it’s him. Still, the playoffs are right around the corner. And Cloud9 might not have the time to shore up their weaknesses.