For Cloud9, An Unceremonious Ending To MSI 2021
Just like that, it was over. And in the worst possible way for players and fans alike. Watching your dreams of winning the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational evaporate was always going to hurt. But watching them go up in smoke while not even playing was even worse. And yet, Cloud9 is out at MSI.
With MAD Lions defeating Royal Never Give Up today, they have officially secured the 4th and final spot in the Knockout Stage. Cloud9 and Pentanet GG are going home.
No One To Blame But Themselves
I said Cloud9 should absolutely be one of the four teams to advance to the knockout stage at MSI. There were at least two teams that they should have been better than. Pentanet and PSG Talon should have been wins, and I would have expected them to be competitive with MAD Lions. But at the end of five days, Cloud9 was clearly shown to lack the consistency needed to win on the big stage.
Don’t get me wrong, there were absolutely things to like. They secured a win over Damwon Kia and Royal Never Give Up, possibly the two best teams in the world right now, within the course of a week. They also lost to Pentanet, and in the end, that loss would prove the most costly.
With one game left to play on Monday, Cloud9 still had their MSI destiny in their own hands. Despite a miserable 2-5 record, their win over RNG meant that winning out would secure their spot in the Knockout stage. They needed to beat Pentanet, beat PSG Talon, and finally beat MAD Lions. Doing so would at least earn them a tie-breaker match against MAD Lions.
Well that didn’t happen. In classic North American League of Legends fashion, Cloud9 won a great game against RNG and then fell apart against Pentanet. At that point, their fates rest in MAD Lions losing out. That didn’t happen, and now North America is going home.
Jekyll and Hyde teams like this are the most frustrating. It’s amazing watching a North American team compete with the likes of Damwon Kia, but it also makes it all the more frustrating when they lose games that they should win. Other regions have started to put this together. The LEC has emerged as a competitor on the world stage. The PCS region is nothing special, but hey, they’re going further at MSI than you are.
It’s unacceptable that one of the largest, richest, and most populous countries in the world can’t produce world class talent. But as long as we keep apologizing for North America, as long as we keep saying “ah, we’ll get em next time!” it’s never going to change. You’re allowed to root for your region, but expect more when they disappoint.
And the sad truth is, there isn’t much incentive for teams to improve. If the fans have decided that rumble stage at MSI is good enough, and there’s no threat of relegation, and viewership numbers are remaining high, why invest in developing the talent needed to advance?
To be clear, I’m not saying that teams like Cloud9 and Team Liquid aren’t trying to win. I am suggesting that if they were watching their viewership tank and fan discourse plummet, they’d take more drastic steps to get competitive.
Give Me A Better Reason To Watch
At the end of the day, I have to watch these teams play. It’s part of the job. I get paid to watch these games, provide my opinion, and ultimately attempt to entertain you. But I can’t help but wonder why other people are still watching? If I left this job, Cloud9 vs Pentanet would have been the last game I watched until North America showed they could compete for a World Championship.
Maybe I’ve been at it for too long. I started rooting for NA back when CLG and TSM were the cream of the crop in North America. When teams like Curse were playing and Cloud9 hadn’t even been created yet. Maybe 9 years of watching us lose as soon as it matters has gotten to be a bit much.
North America can compete in esports. Look at fighting games, look at Call of Duty, look at Overwatch, Halo, Rocket League, Rainbow Six, APEX… the list goes on. There is no reason that we can’t compete in League of Legends that couldn’t be overcome if the work was put into it.
So, this doesn’t just go out to Cloud9, but the entirety of the LCS on behalf of the fans who watch each and every week. Be better. Before we decide our time can be better spent elsewhere.
Photo by Woohae Cho/Getty Images