It was another swift 3-0, despite predictions that this should have been a competitive series. But despite a scrappy game 1 and a solid lead in the early parts of game 3, C9 were unable to hold back a dominant Gen.G who advances to the semifinals to face off against the LPL’s Edward Gaming.
Cloud9 - “The truth is we did think they were the weakest first seed team we could get”
C9 were the first to face the media music, and C9’s head coach Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirrre Rodríguez was first under the microscope after being asked that age-old question: what went wrong against Gen.G?
“I think we tried different things against them - that we thought would work against them - and nothing really worked out. And then in the last game we played standard against them and we also didn’t win so… yeah.” He went on to say, “Maybe there’s something else that we could have tried or done differently to win, but I think they were just the better team today.”
“I think Bdd played the best,” Mithy later explained when questioned about who he thought performed the best on Gen.G, “he was the most annoying player today.” Interestingly, he went on to reveal C9 prepared much more for Gen.G’s bot laner Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. “Preparing against [Gen.G] we were most afraid of Ruler. We tried to shut him down and I don’t think he was really too much part of the game. Like game 1 he was strong, but he was making a lot of mistakes and our comp was really good against his champion,” Mithy said, referring to the Ziggs/Yasuo composition, “then the other games it was mostly Bdd.”
C9’s high profile mid laner, Luka “Perkz” Perković, was then questioned about his reaction to the quarterfinals draw. Both he and the rest of Cloud9 had seemed elated about drawing Gen.G as their opponent, but what had his experience on the rift been like in contrast to his pre-series expectations?
“The truth is we did think they were the weakest first seed team we could get,” Perkz conceded, “I think we can all agree T1 and Damwon look scarier, and then maybe RNG you could argue… we’ll see. Maybe RNG was the weakest one!”
“But definitely [the draw] should have been good for us,” he continued. “They did play pretty well today - we got 3-0’d, so we were definitely not the better team. Nevertheless, I was still quite confident going into the series - that’s what you gotta do if you want to win… well we didn’t today but -” he concluded with a wry chuckle.
“It’s always hindsight, it’s always “what if?”,” Perkz lamented later when asked about the winning positions C9 earned themselves in games one and two. “Maybe if we’d won game one the series would have gone a different way because they would have been very scared of our strategy - like the Ziggs and Yasuo thing.” He pointed out Gen.G’s solid draft answers, like Bdd’s unexpected Aatrox, making things difficult. “We expected them to pick different champions I guess, but they had a good answer so it was not as easy. I think game three we should have won, but when you’re 0-2 down you tend to play worse and you tend to make more mistakes, so I understand how we lost that game. But nevertheless, obviously, we wanted to show more today.”
A number of the C9 players were also asked to comment on their thoughts about their individual performances at this Worlds. Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami offered a nuanced take. “I think I played up to expectations in general. By the public at least, everyone expected us to lose in groups, and I think for my individual performance I did fine against most of the top laners. He was much more critical by personal metrics, however. “For my own standard I [did not play] very well, especially this series,” Fudge said. “I made a lot of errors where I got caught and died in the mid-game, so I definitely could have played a lot better.”
Jesper “Zven” Svennington also commented on his own performance, but with the context of a previous interview where he’d requested to be judged on the content of his performance, not just the results. Zven stated he was “not happy” with his own performance, pointing especially to the later stages of game three against Gen.G, along with specific references to game one against Peace and the tiebreaker against Rogue.
He called them “stand out bad games, where I had moments where they look really int, so I don't like that. But I think besides those three games I think I played overall okay. Today we were outclassed as a team, and it makes anyone look worse individually when we’re dying in lane, or getting caught left and right. I think as a team we did fine. Going 2-4 in a group with a team that went 6-0 is fine. I think we could easily have won both game one and three against Gen.G, so it feels kind of disappointing, but it is what it is.”
As for Cloud9’s biggest takeaways from the tournament, Fudge firmly believed every team was beatable. “Going into the tournament I thought a lot higher of the other teams,” the Cloud9 top laner said. “It felt like the only team that was hard to beat was Damwon. Even though we did get 3-0’d by Gen.G, I do think they made a lot of mistakes as well as us.”
Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme took a very different angle. “Worlds is a long tournament, and for most teams, you play a long year. I think the most important thing is your mental and I guess trying to save gas for the important matches, which is something I could have done a lot better and I’m sure the team in general or some of my teammates could have done a lot better.”
Perkz echoed similar statements when asked about how he’d found his first year in NA. In a long, thoughtful answer, Perkz covered everything from culture shock and burnout to how hard winning in NA actually is:
“Considering a lot of factors for this year: the fact that I’ve been on one team my whole life, the fact I’ve basically played AD carry for two years besides the one split I played mid on G2 [in 2020], where we all knew how we wanted to play the game… I’ve had to adjust again from basically playing AD carry [at Worlds last year] back to mid lane. Then of course… the cultural difference between EU and NA; I’m living on a different continent from what I’m used to. Being far away from family and friends, which is very important to me, as well. So with all these factors, I think we did quite well - we actually won our first split in NA. A lot of people underestimate how “not easy” it is to do such a thing because there were a lot of good teams in NA this year and they also tried really hard.”
Perkz went on to discuss C9’s summer stumbles and the recovery into Worlds. “Obviously, summer was kind of a sh*t fest, I guess, but I’m also proud of our comeback at the end. I think in the end we were a bit too burnt out from all the scrims, all the practice, and we didn’t make it all the way to finals. But then going into Worlds nobody expected us to do anything, and we were doing quite decently in scrims - minus versus the Asian teams, but that’s just the story for most teams!
“I thought maybe we could do something at Worlds, and we did. I’m a bit regretful about this series, especially game two was kind of on me. That’s usually how it is when you lose a series like that; you’re looking at all the mistakes or all the things you could have done differently - better. In the end, it’s kinda like a cycle - the “grind cycle” - of when you lose in the end: either it's inevitable or I guess you go on and win Worlds, which I haven’t done yet!”
In the end, Perkz rounded off his statement echoing Vulcan’s early phrasing of being “gassed out.” “Considering the whole year, I’d say it was a pretty decent year. I’m definitely very tired and gassed out at this point, so I’m just looking forward to a whole mental reset and taking all the things I learned this year into next year, because there’s a whole lot of things I could do better.”
Not everything was as weighty though - it wouldn’t be a Cloud9 conference without a glib comment here and there. When the team was asked about how far the west is from winning Worlds, Zven stated “Given that there are 17 out 20 players left that are Korean players and the rest are Chinese, I don’t think the west is looking too good right now.”
Mithy however, jumped in at the end to add probably the most interesting take of the whole press conference. “The way the whole league system is designed is extremely unfair. The Korean teams get to scrim against LPL, LJL… everyone [in the local region], basically,” Mithy began. “We’re hard-stuck in either EU or NA.”
He went on to dive into why that’s a fundamental issue in his eyes. “For a western team to do well, we’d have to bootcamp in Korea for a while and do a tournament then, but that’s just very hard because we have to play a lot of useless games. Like in Spring Split, for example, where we could be bootcamping, or at some other time of the year where we could be bootcamping. Generally speaking, it would be very hard long term for a western team to do well unless the tournament system changes and we are able to travel the world, so we can have teams learn from each other and practice against each other for more time, and that way we can actually create better and more fun tournaments all round internationally.”
A closing remark came from Cloud9’s jungler, Robert “Blaber” Huang, on why it was that C9 often ends up as the West’s last hope. “I’m not sure myself. I was there during 2018 [where Cloud9 reached the] semis, but I didn’t really play. I think of this tournament, it feels like we were able to change our mental, and a lot of the players and staff were able to come together and just play our best because we’re not scared and we’re able to change our gameplan. It feels like a lot of C9 players are able to step up to the occasion and play really well when the games matter most. So I think that’s why it feels like C9 is able to do well internationally.”
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Featured image courtesy of Riot Games and Getty Images.