LoL: The Cloud9 Paradox – Too Strong For The LCS, Too Weak For International Tournaments

After a six-year drought in the LCS, Cloud9 have managed to crown themselves the kings of North American League of Legends again in the 2020 Spring Split. This is one out of four titles they have won in the ongoing decade, with a fifth one seemingly just around the corner. However, their international success has diminished since then.

C9 after LCS win vs FLY
Cloud9 have once again won the regular season of the LCS. | © Stefan Wisnoski/Riot Games

The 2023 LCS Season is in its final weeks, and Cloud9 are once again the heavy favorites in the summer playoffs. This goes as far as to the point that people are not asking whether they can win their seventh LCS title, but rather whether the fans are getting sick of Cloud9 winning.

With every dominant display of Cloud9 in the LCS, many North American fans are hopeful that their champions will be able to make an impact on the international stage. However, their last World Championship run was cut very short despite one of the most spectacular playoffs runs in LCS history in the 2022 Summer split.

With the tournament format changing drastically ahead of the 2023 League of Legends World Championship, fans have already considered a world without a single western team in the knockout stage. But why is this the case?

Can Cloud9 Cause Another Earthquake At The 2023 World Championship?

C9 Blaber Smile
Cloud9 jungler Blaber has all the reasons to smile in the LCS. | © Stefan Wisnoski/Riot Games

The first issue is that the LCS has not been a strong region internationally for a long time. Cloud9 was the last team that made it out of the group stage at a World Championship, back in 2021. They also hold the best ever result at a World Championship for the LCS, with their third place in 2018 they shared with Europe's G2 Esports. The last time a North American team not named Cloud9 made it out of the group stage at Worlds was in 2014, when TSM qualified for the quarterfinals.

Add Counter Logic Gaming (2016) and Team Liquid (2019) reaching the grand finale of the Mid-Season Invitational and you have all the records the LCS can boast about. All of this happened while the LEC made it to the World Championship finals twice in 2018 and 2019, with G2 Esports winning the 2019 MSI with a 3-0 against Team Liquid. The LCK and the LPL share every other MSI title and all World Championship titles since 2013, leaving the western regions in the mud.

At the most recent World Championship in 2022, Cloud9 got seeded into a group with Europe's Fnatic, three-time world champions T1 and reigning world champions EDward Gaming. While they stood no chance against the eastern teams, they at least managed to steal a game off Fnatic's hands. However, the magic that saw them defy the odds in previous years was nowhere to be seen.

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It also seems that the hype around Cloud9 has come to an end with their most recent roster moves. With jungler Robert 'Blaber' Huang, there is only one North American-born talent left in the roster.

C9 Fudge and EMENES Smile
Fudge and EMENES will be looking to make an impact at Worlds. | © Shannon Cottrell/Riot Games

Top laner Ibrahim 'Fudge' Allami, while one of the most exciting prospects when he first joined Cloud9, is born in Australia. Mid laner Jang 'EMENES' Min-soo and bot laner Kim 'Berserker' Min-cheol are Korean imports. Support Jesper 'Zven' Svenningsen was born in Denmark. This works out for Cloud9 because Fudge and Zven had their residency changed to North America and therefore no longer count as imports.

This leaves North American fans wishing for more relatability, as to many it no longer feels like a North American team is competing for their region. User 'Imgonnaloseit12345' compares this to G2 Esports, where they believe fans would be less hyped too if Caps was joined by four eastern imports instead of domestic talent.

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With a disappointing Mid-Season Invitational behind us that saw western teams lose all seven matches they had against Korean and Chinese representatives, the outlook on the 2023 World Championship is looking dim once more. Regardless, Cloud9 will be aiming for another run into the knockout stage.

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