During RLCS Season 9, some teams — like the Susquehanna Soniqs — blew expectations out of the water. Other teams, such as AS Monaco or Pittsburgh Knights were a straight-up disappointment.
Flight were the worst team in North America, which wasn’t a surprise. Across the Atlantic, Dignitas and Renault Vitality were the cream of the crop in Europe — also not a surprise.
There was one team, however, who we weren’t sure what to expect from: one team had more questions surrounding them than any other and they didn’t even make a roster move.
Even though we weren’t sure what to expect, the season this team had somehow left us with way more questions than answers. It’s hard to tell it was a pleasant surprise or a disappointment.
This team, of course, is Cloud9.
Starting the season in poor performance
To say Cloud9’s Season 8 performance was underwhelming is a disservice to just how bad it was.
They went 2-5, only beating G2 — who took eighth — and Ghost (in the very first week of the season) — who missed out on Madrid after an average-at-best season.
Cloud9 looked out of touch with both themselves and the game as they failed miserably to adapt to a more aggressive demo-oriented meta. Their infield passing plays were being intercepted, every player on the team made rotational errors that left their teammates at a disadvantage, and their chemistry just looked off.
“Bad car language,” while more often a result of placebo, was a term being thrown around regarding their team. They just looked like they didn’t really want to be playing Rocket League.
Cloud9 had qualified for every world championship since they formed and placed in the top four in all of them, including a championship title in Season 6. Now they faced a challenge they never had before: possible relegation.
Nobody knew where this slump came from, they just knew it had to be solved quickly.
Thankfully, Cloud9 got their stuff together for the Promotion tournament and kept their spot in the RLCS for Season 9. G2 survived alongside them, keeping the hope that the Big Three aren’t dead yet.
But just because they survived, doesn’t mean that everyone was feeling good about the next season.
Cloud9 roster changes romours
Rumours of a roster change began surfacing. Speculations from both fans and pros seemed to point to a strong possibility of Torment being kicked from the team.
While this didn’t actually happen, rumours continued to be spread — specifically that Torment was supposed to be traded for eUnited’s Hockser. In the end, though, the trade fell through due to contractual issues.
It’s important to note that this rumour was never confirmed nor denied by any involved parties and is still to this day just a rumor. Regardless, it was quite apparent that the team got word and, consequently, affected their play.
This series of events led to one of the most bizarre, inexplicable seasons an individual team has ever had.
Cloud9 had a statistical anomaly of a season in every sense of the word. Following a 1-4 start, Cloud9 finished the season 4-0 en route to a regionals appearance. In that final, they lost their first and only series to Ghost by a game score of 4-1.
In the end, they went from an utter disappointment to the hottest team in the world, only to finish in 6th place.
This story doesn’t do their wacky season justice, though. Here are five facts that show just how insane this season was for the team
1 – A Slow Start against Even Slower Opponents
Cloud9’s first three opponents were eUnited, Rogue, and Flight. If you paid attention to the NA RLCS in Season 9, you may notice that these three teams placed 8th, 9th, and 10th respectively.
This should be a good thing for Cloud9. This is how a comeback season should start; with the three easiest opponents on your entire schedule. Starting the season 3-0 would be incredible and nobody had a better opportunity to do so than Cloud9.
They went 1-2. Their game differential was -2.Watch Rocket League Championship Series | North America | RLCS Pre-Show (Pre-Recorded) from RocketLeague on www.twitch.tv
After three weeks, against the three worst teams in North America, Cloud9 was sitting in 8th place.
The fact that Cloud9 played this poorly against these three teams is ridiculous. Here are the game differentials of the other 5 teams that made regionals (SSG, G2, SQ, NRG, and GG) against Flight, Rogue, and eUnited: +9, +7, +7, +7, +6. Every single other top-six team went 3-0 against these teams.
In other words, Cloud9 was the only team in the regional playoffs to lose a series to any of these teams and they did it twice. Even the Pittsburgh Knights — who placed 7th — went 2-1 against them and they were still only goal away from being 3-0.
Europe doesn’t make Cloud9 look any better. The worst of such game differentials was FC Barcelona, who still went 2-1 against the bottom 3 EU teams with a +3 game differential.
Cloud9 had the worst game differential against the bottom three teams in their region by five games and were the only team in the world to lose two series against such teams.
2 – Consistently Inconsistent
This season, there were 14 series that resulted in a sweep in NA.
Cloud9 and eUnited combined for eight of them, including their series against each other (which went in favour of EU): eUnited was 2-3 in sweeps and Cloud9 was 3-1. Now it may not seem like Cloud9 is the statistical anomaly here, but just wait.
Every single sweep in which Cloud9 took part was strange. Typically, a sweep involves two teams that are unevenly matched. The bottom four teams in NA were swept a combined ten times, which means there were only four series in which a top-six team was swept.
Cloud9 was in three of them.
Only one other team was in two: G2, and they won both of them. Looking at Europe, we see that there was only one instance of a top-six team getting swept. However, it was Veloce being swept by the fourth-seeded MouseSports.
This means that not only was Cloud9 the only top-six team in the world to sweep two other top-six teams, they were also the only top-six team that was swept by a bottom-four team.
It also means that Cloud9 were in a majority of top-six sweeps all season across both regions. Bonkers.
3 – Golden Striker..?
Throughout the entirety of Season 9, the Golden Striker seemed to be Turbopolsa’s to lose.
He sat amongst the top three strikers every single week, typically fluctuating between first and second, but still consistently at the top. G2’s Chicago and Cloud9’s Gimmick were also close to the top and rounded out the Golden Striker race for the majority of the season.
In the end, the title went to Gimmick as Turbo fell out of the top three in the last week.
For those who watched the season unfold, this came as a surprise. Cloud9 had begun the season 1-4. Clearly they were not scoring more goals than their opponents. How, then, could one of their players be in the running for most goals per game?
By scoring literally 44% of the team’s goals. That’s how.
This was the highest goal share in North America (shock was edged out by just 0.03%) and by far the highest for a player on Cloud9 since their formation. Never had this team’s offense been so reliant on a single player and Gimmick, according to most, wasn’t even the best player on the team.
Most analysts agree that Squishy was Cloud9’s most consistent player this season, as the rotational issues that plagued both Gimmick and Torment (and aren’t accounted for in stats) weren’t as present for him. Nevertheless, Gimmick still accounted for almost half of the team’s goals.
In the regular season, that is.
4 – A Scorching Second Half
Thus far, it sounds like the story of Cloud9’s season has been one of inconsistency and under-performance.
The following stat will help boost the inconsistency factor while obliterating the under-performance factor: despite starting 1-4 through their first five weeks, their first five games were against the eventual 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th and 10th seeds.
This meant that their last four games were all against middle-of-the-pack teams who had playoff spots to fight for.
The last three weeks are the most competitive and intense of the season as teams fall into place in the standings. Cloud9 faced a daunting challenge. They basically had to win out against NRG, Ghost, Soniqs, and the Pittsburgh Knights — all teams that genuinely had something to fight for and would be giving it their all.Watch Reciprocity vs. Renault Vitality | Rocket League Championship Series | Europe from RocketLeague on www.twitch.tv
Cloud9 beat all of these teams 3-0, 3-0, 3-2, and 3-0. They ended as the fifth seed.
The biggest surprise was their sweep against NRG, probably the biggest upset of the season.
Their next series, against the Soniqs, was a reverse sweep in which their substitute and former NRG star Fireburner had to play in Game 5 after Torment had connection issues. Fireburner scored both of C9’s goals in Game 5, including the overtime winner.
They then finished the season with two more sweeps against Ghost — who they’d meet in the regional playoffs — and Pittsburgh Knights in a series that essentially determined the difference between making and missing the regional playoffs.
With the exception of SpaceStation, who were already 4-1 with a +5 game differential through five weeks (and just overall dominant all season), Cloud9’s +10 game differential was the best in the world through the last three weeks.
After their extremely slow start, Cloud9 somehow put it all together and entered regionals as the hottest team in the world.
5: A Disappointing Finish
Cloud9 did not, however, finish regionals as the hottest team in the world.
Favoured by every analyst in the 5/6 match-up against Ghost, Cloud9 was looking to finish off their season strong. They had absolutely dominated Ghost in their late-season run and were looking to do so again.
If they were to win, they’d have to play the loser of Soniqs vs. NRG (ouch), and if they were to win that, they’d have to beat Spacestation to make the finals (double ouch). They never got that far.
Ghost beat them 4-1. They were outscored by nine goals.
How a team can go from this cold, to this hot, to this cold again is absolutely insane. How it happens to two different teams in back-to-back seasons is even more insane.
Cloud9 this season looked a lot like SSG last season who lost their first two series, won their last five, and proceeded to win only two total games before losing both of their matches in the regional playoffs. However, due to the expansion to ten teams this season, 0-2 was much easier to come back from than 1-4.
In addition, SSG did not have one player account for 44% of their goals in the regular season — only to have a different player score 62.5% of their goals in regionals.
Remember how I said Gimmick accounted for almost half the team’s goals in the regular season? Well, I specified that it was the regular season because a different player accounted for not almost, but more than half of their goals in regionals. SquishyMuffinz scored 62.5% of C9’s goals in their series against Ghost.
It’s one thing to be shut out overall as a team. It’s a completely different thing to go up against a team that is allowing shots to go in, but only one of your players can find the accuracy to score.
Through three games — that’s 15 minutes of Rocket League — Torment and Gimmick combined for one goal while Squishy had five. No wonder they lost.Watch Cloud9 vs. Ghost Gaming | Regional Championship | North America from RocketLeague on www.twitch.tv
While Squishy couldn’t carry his team to the victory, nobody else in regionals had to shoulder an even remotely comparable burden.
No player accounted for more than 55% of their team’s goals. Even the players above 50% had significantly more help, as Jstn. and AxB (the only other NA players with more than 50% goal accountability) had mostly assisted goals, so while their teammates weren’t scoring as much, they were at least helping.
Squishy’s goal participation was 87%. That was the best in the region. Gimmick, the regular season golden striker, had a 37% goal participation. That was the worst in the region.
Squishy either scored or assisted on every single Cloud9 goal except one. That has never happened in a regional series in which a team scored more than five.
So, what does Cloud9’s season say about the team, and more importantly Rocket League as a whole? It says “If you think you know what should happen in a series, you’re wrong.” In the RLCS, the only consistency is inconsistency.
Thanks for the roller coaster, C9. See you in season 10.
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