For an organization as successful around the wider world of esports as Cloud9 is, it’s tough to figure out how their CS:GO operations are floundering so badly fifteen months after their unexpected major win in Boston. Now, they’re technically the 55th on the HLTV rankings (though their stats are notoriously volatile beyond the top thirty) with a floor so low it’s practically in the basement and a ceiling that is essentially a second floor. It begs the question: how did a lineup with a Swedish IGL, a disappointing Dane and three Americans come together, why isn’t this the punchline of a bad joke, and what the hell is the way forward for the team?
When you can’t even give MiBR a good game, you know something’s wrong. Okay, that may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s quickly becoming clear that C9’s decent showing at the major was mostly down to the performances of the two European stalwarts who are no longer around – flusha and kioshiMa. The list of Cloud9's problems in their current state would probably fill a telephone book – do what’s next for them?
It didn't take long to establish that the Boston win was just a mirage, with Cloud9 failing to accomplish anything of note in the next LAN events, even before tarik and Stewie2K departed to supposedly greener pastures. There isn’t even much of a point in discussing their current roster as the various lineups since Boston all felt so temporary, so ethereal. Hopping from all-US to a Swedish core to a fully international setup to back again to whatever this current quintet is trying to be, it doesn’t feel like there’s any sort of coherent strategy in place. In terms of results, looking back at their last year and a half of tournament showings paints a surprisingly barren picture. Beyond the many BLAST Pro events, they’ve basically only shown up at the majors and the two big online leagues, with little to show for their efforts.
There’s also an obvious prestige issue. The main takeaway from RUSH’s recent HLTV interview was the headline quote about their willingness to give up the major spot for a successful rebuilding operation, but realistically speaking, they may not have a choice about the matter. To me, the more illuminating passage was the one about refrezh’s decision to reject them for OpTic – not exactly a powerhouse side either or one known for their consistency – and the relative sparsity of options they seem to have had in finding a fifth. It was said in the same interview that their goal is a top five spot, which seems laughably far right now.
So how do you “fix” Cloud9? It’s a question that is impossible to answer right now where so many roster iterations came and went without any of them getting a fair shake. Of course, some of these were due to unfortunate circumstances rather than haphazard design, but if the team is as committed to a rebuilding project as they seem to indicate – potentially even giving up on a major spot –, then they really should establish a stable roster and stick with it. It worked in the leadup to Boston – it might just get them to a better place again. Again, RUSH said that the risks they took “weren’t panning out” – maybe it’s time to take less risks. Overpay for proven talent or stick with your unproven youngsters for a while and make a decision on whether you want a US or EU roster. Cloud9’s lack of commitment to anything since the departure of tarik and Stewie2K has made it impossible for them to make tangible progress. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich may fire managers all the time, but he’s willing to spend “fuck you”-money in the transfer window. Without that, chopping and changing rosters all the time becomes a much more tenuous proposition.