It all started three mysterious tweets with one key word: “benched”. Cloud9, one of North America’s most storied and time-enduring franchises kicked off the Summer Split by benching 3 of the Spring Split starters: Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Zachery “Sneaky” Scuderi, and Andy “Smoothie” Ta. The trio were replaced by members of C9’s Academy team; Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, Yuri “Keith” Jew, and Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam. None of the three academy players had any proven track record of success, leaving many to scratch their heads as to why C9 would bench 3 of their star players for 3 players who, on paper, were all downgrades. Possible explanations and conspiracy theories followed the bizarre roster move. Meta changes moving away from marksman and motivation issues were among the most prevalent, as fans took to Twitter and reddit to express their dismay.
This dismay quickly turned to anger as C9 proceeded to have one of their worst openings to a split, as the team would open 1-5 after the 3rd week. These losses were compounded by the fact that in 5 of these losses, C9 had a lead at 15 minutes in 4 of them, only to lose it due to poor late game decision making. Head coach Bok “Reapeared” Han-gyu, and team owner Jack Etienne, bore the brunt of the criticism for the absurd decision to bench their star players.
In week 3, bot laner Keith would be subbed out for Jensen, in hopes that the mid laner’s champion pool would better suit the bruiser/mage bot lane meta. However, it was not until week 4, when Jensen was moved back into the mid lane and Sneaky would be reinstated back into the C9 bot lane did the team pick up the second victory.
However, the roster was not yet done shuffling. In Week 5, veteran jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen was benched and was replaced by rookie jungler Robert “blaber” Huang, who had graduated from high school in the Summer and made his debut for the team. blaber is best known for bringing a strong leadership voice, which he demonstrated during the 2017 Scouting Grounds and was picked up by C9 as the 9th overall draft pick. Since adding blaber to the lineup C9 have had a 5-1 record, putting them at 7-7 for the split and tied for 4th place with Flyquest and Optic Gaming.
Throughout all of C9’s struggles this split, one player has seen play in all of their matches. Eric “Licorice” Ritchie is the only player from the Spring starting lineup to have played all of their matches this Summer, and his MVP-worthy performances has been a constant shining point for the team despite their lacklustre start.
For C9, this revamped roster of adding blaber and Zeyzal to the starting lineup is paying dividends, with the team seeing a reversal of fortunes in the second half of the split. To have achieved 4th place after being last 3 weeks ago is no small feat, and should C9 make playoffs and make a deep run, Reapeared and Jack will be exonerated for their ‘crimes’.
Written by Benjamin "RedPyroMage" Letran [2018 Marketing (Publications) Subcommittee]