Cloud9's musical chairs: The struggle for a working formula
Image source courtesy of @Logic_OW
Cloud9’s one-year contracts with their first Overwatch team ran out this March. The organisation had signed team "google me" last year consisting of the players Surefour, Adam, Debett, Kyky, Reaver and Grego; the latter four ceased to be on the active roster. As a result of the players being freed from their contracts, we are seeing career updates pop up all over social media. KyKy is becoming the main coach for EnVyUs for instance. Grego also released a statement that he is once again a free agent looking for a team.
The first Cloud9 roster fell apart after the team failed to follow up on their success in beta, where they had dominated the scene for a month and a half during the no-hero limit era. Most prominently they were known for their double Winston play and their deep pool of top Widowmakers, sometimes even fielding two at a time. After finishing in last place at the Atlantic Showdown and losing 3-1 in the North American bracket at the Overwatch Open in the playoff, the team split. Their star player Surefour would state in an interview with theScore that he felt he played fine individually and that the team's cohesion had just not been there. Indeed Surefour's play had been outstanding and while some members of the community felt that he was throwing his teammates under the bus, one had to acknowledge that his frustration was founded on an almost tournament MVP-worthy performance.
Cloud9's Second Roster
Cloud9 2.0 formed with the new sign ups Roolf, Mendokusaii and Ryb. Ryb had just won the Overwatch Open as a stand-in on the main tank role with a remarkable performance. Later, the team added Gods and let go of Kyky, losing another member of the magical 'google me' along the way. The team went on to win most of the tournaments in the North American region, which distinctly lacked the top tier teams as they were playing in the Chinese APAC & OGN’s Apex Season 1. At MLG Vegas, Cloud9 took a respectable 3rd-4th place, losing to the best team in the world, EnVyUs, 3-0 in the semi-finals.
C9 finally got their own international call-up when they were invited to Apex Season 2. The roster initially struggled in the group stage, winning 3-1 against a weak CONBOX Spirit but losing 1-3 against an underwhelming Afreeca Freecs Blue. They finished strong and certainly showed promise, delivering one of their most convincing performances against KongDoo Uncia (albeit losing it in a close 2-3 series). Bishop, who at the time had just joined the team as coach, seemed to have a noticeable short-term influence on the performance of the roster. It was reasonable to assume that the team would continue on their trajectory to once again have a say at the very top of the Western scene.
Some of Bishop's changes included the roles to be more fluid within the team. Mendokusaii moved from the DPS role to Zarya for a good portion of the series against Uncia, for instance, while Gods delivered a solid performance on Genji. The young Swede later stated that while he felt uncomfortable in the role, he now had more shot calling impact on the game.
Cloud9 seemed more than capable of taking on North America, making good use of their time in Korea. But their inability to make it to the second phase of Apex Season 2 still stuck to them.
So when Grego also shared that he hadn’t been asked to try out for the new new Cloud9 roster, you had to be part surprised, part familiar with the procedure.
Again Cloud9 had gone out with an unsatisfying result at an international tournament and again there were roster changes in the making. But had they not been rejuvenated by new found direction in form of Bishop? Cloud9 CEO Jack Etienne was also singing high praised of the former KongDoo Panthera player, now turned head coach.
And then it all went nuts as the music stopped playing
Former NRG support Pookz was seen in the Cloud9 team house, Pharah super star Talespin was seen playing ranked matches and scrims with the team and Gods was seen playing Reinhardt for some of the matches. Mendo had been completely dropped from the equation. He later shared that he was having medical- as well as visa issues which wouldn't allow him to visit the US for over a month. And just when you thought the vision cleared and you were done seeing things, the team's lineup for the Rivalcade Battle Arena, a 10,000$ offline tournament, was found and neither of the aforementioned free agents was on it.
Instead we got Selly, a South Korean DPS player, who had a brief stay with “Rhinos Gaming Wings” and his countryman xepheR, supposedly a hidden talent, whose career was caught in the wake of the Geguri scandal (in which a female Zarya player was accused of cheating and was subsequently send death threats) without having been one of the offenders; he was merely a teammate.
Realistically, this poses more questions than it answers. Ryb, the only major offline champion of the bunch, is completely missing from the line-up without a clear cut replacement in sight. Moreover, it is peculiar that you would invite two foreigners into your North American based team, with all the complications attached, only to replace one of them in a month once your favourite prodigal son returns.
More confusion spawns from trying to make sense of the rosters roles. As of right now, the best guess is the following structure:
As mentioned, Bishop likes his rosters to be less rigid or different in the categories we might think of. Therefore we might at times see Gods on his excellent Roadhog and solid D.Va while someone else picks up the Reinhardt or Winston. xepheR, highly praised by Kaiser, was spotted playing Tracer for the team in a six stack in ranked play.
Looking past the Rivalcade roster, it seems apparent that there is more to it than meets the eye. Rumours of the possibility of a sister team have been flying around. Proponents of this theory argue that Bishop as a former KongDoo member would see value in this approach. The previously mentioned free agent names add to the fire. Binding players contractually to your organisations who might have to be bought out of their contract from OWL spot owners with deep pockets also makes it attractive for Cloud9 on the business level.
Curiously, both Adam and most distinctly Surefour have again survived the musical chairs. Sources around the team have confirmed that the environment has once again been unproductive and in need of change. Cloud9 is nevertheless still holding on to their star player. It begs the question, is Surefour ever asked to get up from his chair when the music plays? If we disassemble and repair Cloud9’s Overwatch team several times and Surefour and friends are the only constant, is Cloud9 Overwatch then Surefour? And perhaps more importantly, should it be?
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