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Cloud9 Smashes Immortals in NA Regional Qualifier

With one seed remaining for Worlds, Immortals and Cloud9 were in a showdown at the end of the Regional Qualifiers. More than just the third NA seed at Worlds was on the line: each team had left fans with serious reservations about their performance. This series was their chance to silence those doubts before they headed onto the world stage.

Cloud9 had just survived their first full split without longtime shotcaller Hai, building a roster under new head coach Reaper with a cooperative shotcalling approach. The Immortals, on the other hand, had two dominant regular season performances, only dropping matches throughout the regular season (one in Spring against Counter Logic Gaming, and two in the Summer Split against Team SoloMid).

Despite their dominant record, they were knocked out of the playoffs in Spring, falling 3-0 to a renewed Team SoloMid. In the Summer, Cloud9 knocked them out of the Semis. The final match of the Gauntlet offered the Immortals a chance to get their revenge over Cloud9, prove that they could play under playoffs pressure, and head to Worlds to make a mark on the international stage.

A bold statement

Cloud9 opened the series with a draft that put their players on comfort champions: most notably, Sneaky on Jhin, Meteos on Zac, and Impact on Gnar. They played a slow, tactical early game until the game exploded at about the sixteen minute mark at dragon. The next dragon also swung in their favour as both the Immortals and Cloud 9 collapsed on the Infernal Drake. Cloud9 handily took not only game one, but carried that momentum into game two as well, starting out with an overwhelming lead.

Cloud9’s early success has to do more with their players' roles than their specific champions. Meteos and Smoothie both play a utility role for the team, setting up plays and keeping the carries alive to dish out damage. Jensen and Sneaky serve as Cloud9’s primary damage threats, and both were able to stay out of the Immortals’ clutches and continue to deal consistent damage. We have to give special notice to Impact, who’s in his best form of recent memory. While he stumbled slightly against Huni’s Yasuo in game three, Impact has been the strongest spot on Cloud9 throughout the playoffs, and this was evident in the series against the Immortals.

Top lane titans

While Cloud9 outplayed the Immortals on a macro level, catching them out at key times to get huge advantages, the big match up of the game was between Huni and Impact up in the top lane. “We live and die by Huni,” Reignover said in a pre-game interview, and this statement might well be Immortals' epitpah. Reignover was forced to spend his time up in the top lane, keeping Huni safe from the wrath of Impact. Meteos, on the other hand, was able to apply pressure throughout the map.

Huni wasn’t necessarily a liability to his team; he performed well throughout the series, including on a surprising Yasuo pick in game three. However, the Immortals' cadence seems to be based around the top lane. It’s easy to identify multiple ways that Cloud9 garnered advantages around the map, and their victory was a team effort that was bolstered by Impact’s incredible performance. Meanwhile, the Immortals have one player at the center of all their options: Huni.

What comes next

It’s impossible to say what the Immortals’ big problem is. There are certainly factors in their losses that we can consider: their picks and bans, for instance, and Reignover’s need to hover around Huni. However, they’re a great team who easily could have represented North America at Worlds. Everyone expected them to take the top spot in Spring, and their loss to TSM was a total shock. The team has problems that emerge during playoffs, and they must be considered.

It seems likely that the changes we see to the team during the offseason will be behind the scenes. The Immortals are an incredible team, and it’s very likely that 2017 will be their year. Now that Worlds are dashed for them, they have to prepare a game plan to fix these problems. They are talented players with incredible mechanical skill. Their problems can be fixed with the right infrastructure. The Immortals will need to take some time to grieve their loss, and come to terms with watching the World Championship from home this year. One thing that they can learn from Cloud9 is the growth that the team experienced from their new head coach, Reapered. Once they’re ready, they have a lot of work to do to prepare the squad for 2017.

As for Cloud9, the team has undergone a miraculous change since their roster shuffle and coaching changes. They will be heading to the finals, granted a shot to prove themselves among the best in the world. Whatever happens at worlds, they’ve already scored a huge victory by managing a tricky transition, thriving under pressure, and building a strong foundation for their future. The Cloud9 story isn’t over yet; we’re just lucky to be able to witness the next chapter.

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