MSI 2023 Preview: Cloud9

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MSI 2023 Preview: Cloud9

Back-to-back LCS champions are looking to bring North America long-awaited international success.

For the last two or three years, Cloud9 has been the most dominant team in LCS. They won four titles in the last seven splits and had some of the better international showings for the region. Cloud9’s last LCS championship came this Spring Split when they beat Golden Guardians 3-1 in a close Finals series in Raleigh, North Caroline, cementing them as the 1st seed for NA in MSI 2023.

Despite their dominance during the latter half of the year and playoffs, Cloud9 did not have the hottest start to the split. They had a good record on the paper with seven wins and just two losses, but their play on the Rift was criticized a lot. The organization even made a roster change, subbing out Dimitri “Diplex” Ponomarev who had joined at the start of Spring and bringing EMENES from their Challengers team. The Korean mid laner had a disastrous debut game but he adjusted real quick to the competition after that and helped his team dominate the rest of the season.

emenes 1
Jang “EMENES” Min-soo of Cloud9 poses with Mastercard Player of the Week statue (from week 7) during week 8 of the 2023 LCS Spring Split at the Riot Games Arena on March 17, 2023. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

One of the most well-rounded LCS teams in a long while

Cloud9 certainly is an outlier in a region known for a slow and scaling-heavy playstyle, both for their drafts and what they are willing to do on the Rift. They have been one of the most hard-to-read teams in the league this split, utilizing a lot of flex picks like Jayce and K’Sante for top-mid or during the ADC support meta with a role-swapped Zven. Their champion pools are also very big. Fudge is one of the rare top laners who plays carry top picks like Fiora or Jayce, EMENES is known for his melee or assassin champions and Blaber’s pocket picks like Nocturne are always a threat.

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When it comes to their playstyle they showed a preference towards early game in most of their games. Especially the mid-jungle duo likes to pick skirmish-heavy champions and fight over objectives. They are also good at controlling objectives, especially drakes. It’s not uncommon to see Blaber taking a drake at minute five. This allows them to reach the Soul early and snowball games quicker, or it gives them a way back if they ever fall behind at any point.

Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol of Cloud9 competes during the 2023 LCS Spring Finals at the PNC Arena on April 9, 2023. (Photo by Marv Watson/Riot Games)

While they didn’t fall behind a lot this split, they were never hopeless in those rare games, maybe except for the CLG game on the very last day of Week 8. Cloud9 always has a chance to come back in a game with Berserker as their fail-safe and thanks to their great teamfighting. One big example of that the Game 1 of the Spring Finals. Down nearly 10k gold between minutes 18 to 28, Cloud9 fought their way back into a victory.

Of course, they are on a different playing field now. Playing early games against T1 or 5v5ing against JDG is not as easy as doing it versus Immortals or even FlyQuest. They also showed some obvious weaknesses throughout the split. A bad early game from Blaber or EMENES can easily snowball towards their demise and the despite the improvement he had so far, Zven still struggles on certain support champions. Still, this Cloud9 roster both have a couple of international events as experience under their belts and have a lot of talent.

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Cloud9 roster and players to watch

  • Top lane: Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami
  • Jungle: Robert “Blaber” Huang
  • Mid lane: Jang “EMENES” Min-soo
  • Bot lane: Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol
  • Support: Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen

Ever since he took the full-time starting spot, and through multiple different iterations of the team, Cloud9 has lived or died by their jungler. It’s like a general rule that when Blaber has a good game Cloud9 has a good game, or vice versa. No wonder they struggled during MSI 2021 during the peak “Crabber” memes but got out of the groups in Worlds the same year with Blaber performing much better. He is the engine and the most key member of the team.

Another important piece is their bot lane prodigy. Berseker has been only improving since he made his pro debut on Cloud9 last year, winning the LCS MVP this split. He is the player Cloud9 looks to carry during rough games, and he delivers most of the time. He certainly lacks international experience, but has enough talent to compensate.

For more of our coverage during MSI 2023, follow us on ESTNN.

MSI 2023 Preview: Cloud9
Rohat Dicle Kılınç
Rohat is a writer mainly focused on the League of Legends esports scene, and an LCS hopeful.