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Worlds 2021 is on the horizon and North American League of Legends Championship Series third-seed Cloud9 are one of 22 teams from across the globe that are gearing up for their biggest and most important event of the year. The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will feature each region’s best players, all fighting for the same goal: to stand atop the mountain and hoist the Season 11 Summoner’s Cup.

After a historic collapse in 2020, where they missed Worlds for the first time, Cloud9 is headed back to the big dance. Featuring a retooled roster with a $10 million superstar in the mid lane, C9 head to Reykjavík, Iceland in hopes to show the world that they’ve left their disappointing performance at the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational in the rearview mirror.

Cloud9 (LCS) Worlds 2021 starting roster breakdown

  • Top: Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami | Signed in December 2019. Formerly a member of MAMMOTH.
  • Jungle: Robert “Blaber” Huang | Promoted from C9 Academy in July 2018.
  • Mid: Luka “Perkz” Perković | Signed in November 2020. Formerly a member of G2 Esports.
  • Bot: Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen | Signed in November 2019. Formerly a member of TSM.
  • Support: Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme | Signed in November 2019. Formerly a member of Dignitas.

How they got here

2021 spring split

After missing Worlds for the first time in organization history, Cloud9 used the offseason at the end of 2020 to make significant changes to their roster. The team let go of their long-time head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and released their reigning first team All-Pro top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie. They also let go of their starting mid laner, Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer.

Despite the organization undergoing such an overhaul, Cloud9 entered the 2021 season with monster expectations. After letting go of Nisqy, C9 had made the biggest splash of the 2020 offseason by acquiring legendary European mid laner Perkz. They had also promoted their stand-out academy top laner Fudge to replace Licorice on the main roster. Combined with the rest of their core, C9 were an early favorite to not only make it back to Worlds in 2021 but enter as the first seed from North America.

During the first half of the 2021 LCS season, C9 looked relatively good. They finished the regular season in spring with a 13-5 record, which was good enough for first place entering the LCS’ Mid-Season Showdown. The Perkz signing was already looking to have paid off as the team’s new star took home first team All-Pro honors in the mid lane. Jungler Blaber also returned to prime form by taking home another Most Valuable Player award.

During the Mid-Season Showdown, Cloud9 made their way through the early stages of the bracket with ease. But once they got to the finals, facing off against a weakened Team Liquid squad who were without their second team All-Pro jungler, Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer, they struggled to put their opponents away. The series went all five games, with Cloud9 barely squeaking out the win to punch their tickets to the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational.

Cloud9 at the Mid-Season Invitational

At MSI, Cloud9 had a mixed bag of results. During the group stage, the team unexpectedly dropped a game to underdogs DetonatioN FocusMe, who were representing a Japanese region with historically bad international results.

Cloud9 fans then experienced the opposite end of the spectrum when the team took a game off of defending world champions DWG KIA to advance to the Rumble stage with a 4-2 record. But everything fell apart from there.

Despite taking a game off of the eventual MSI champions, juggernaut League of Legends Pro League squad Royal Never Give Up, Cloud9 looked poor against everyone else in the six-team group. They went 0-2 against the Pacific Championship Series’ PSG Talon and only came away with a 2-game split against Oceanic underdogs Pentanet.GG. The team ended the MSI 2021 Rumble Stage with an abysmal 3-7 record and were eliminated without advancing to the top four playoffs.

Cloud9 returned to NA with their tails between their legs and an itch to prove to the world that they belonged back on the international stage at Worlds 2021.

2021 summer split

Kicking off the second half of the 2021 LCS season with a 1-2 record, C9 relinquished their number one spot in the standings in the first week. But even after a 3-0 bounce back in Week 2, C9 never found themselves in first place for the rest of the 2021 season. They hovered around third the entire summer season and ended up with the fourth seed entering the summer playoffs.

In the first round of the LCS championship bracket, Cloud9 faced a rematch of the spring split finals when they encountered the fifth-seeded Team Liquid. Despite being favored in the series, C9 were humbled in a 3-1 defeat and dropped into the losers bracket. But as history as shown us, Cloud9 are most dangerous with their backs against the wall.

As an organization that has qualified for Worlds through the regional gauntlet multiple times in the past, the C9 roster tapped into its organizational clutch gene and pulled off an incredible losers bracket run. Cloud9 quickly dealt 3-0 sweeps to Golden Guardians and Evil Geniuses in back-to-back series to set up a showdown with long-time rivals TSM for the third and final spot at Worlds 2021.

After trading blow for blow, the Cloud9 and TSM 2021 saga reached an end in the fifth and final game which saw C9 anti-climactically defeat their opposition in 30 minutes and punch their ticket to Worlds 2021.

C9’s summer split playoff run came to an end in the very next round at the hands of the eventual champions, 100 Thieves but they accomplished their goal of getting back to Worlds even though it wasn’t the way they wanted to.

Players to watch

Perkz is heading back to Worlds for the sixth straight year but for the first time, he isn’t going with G2 Esports.

For once, the narrative surrounding Perkz at Worlds 2021 isn’t about him being the big-time carry for his team. In fact, Perkz uncharacteristically struggled in the summer season of the LCS. Despite receiving first team All-Pro honors in the spring, Perkz was left off the All-Pro list completely in the summer, not even making it in as a third team mid laner.

By almost all statistics, Perkz was just slightly above average among NA mid laners in the second half of 2021. As a matter of fact, Perkz lead all NA mid laners over the summer in death share percentage, according to Oracle’s Elixir.

Given what we’ve seen so far this year, Cloud9’s biggest question is which version of Perkz will show up to Worlds 2021; Is his most recent performance we saw in 2021 summer the most representative? Or does Perkz have another Worlds 2019-like run in him?

Either way, as the North American third seed and a participant in the Worlds 2021 play-in stage, Perkz and the rest of Cloud9 have a long road ahead of them in Iceland. But while preparing for the volatility of both play-ins and the main event is a daunting task for any player or team, Cloud9 are lucky that this isn’t Perkz’s first rodeo. The mid lane star mentioned in a postseason roundtable interview with his teammates that the experience of the play-ins can even sometimes be helpful for teams, if applied wisely.

“If you make it out, I do believe it’s a buff. But it’s about mental strength and it is stressful,” Perkz said. “If you actually want to achieve something at Worlds and not just be in play-ins, it’s not about over-practicing in play-ins; it’s a lot about balance and knowing yourself and knowing your team’s limits.”

Neither Perkz on an individual level, nor Cloud9 on an organizational level, have ever failed to escape the play-in stage when put to the test. But with heavyweights like LNG Esports and Hanwha Life Esports waiting in their ranks at Worlds 2021 (with plenty of room for upsets along the way), this may be NA’s most difficult run through the stage yet.

How C9 can succeed at Worlds 2021

The roster Cloud9 are taking to Worlds 2021 is very solid across the board. Fudge has emerged as one of the best top laners in the region, even grabbing first-team All-Pro honors for the summer split. Blaber has consistently been the best jungler in NA for the last couple of years and has showcased himself on the Worlds stage before. Their bot lane of Zven and Vulcan are highly regarded within the region as well.

The x-factor for this team is Perkz. Despite all four of the other starters on C9 having been to Worlds before, Perkz is the only one to have played in a Worlds final. While Cloud9 are seen as one of the favorites to move onto the group stage at Worlds 2021, if they want their run to continue beyond that, Perkz is going to have to perform at the high level that is expected of him. At the same time, the rest of the roster is going to have to show improvement on the form they displayed at MSI just a few months ago.

If Cloud9 play up to the level that they’ve historically displayed, they should at least make it through to groups with an outside shot of making it even further. If they slip up, they’ll be making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

This article is part of an ongoing preview series of all 22 teams competing at Worlds 2021. For our complete release schedule and more information on the other 21 teams attending Worlds, check out Upcomer’s Worlds 2021 Outlook Series hub.