Cloud9's group stage of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational was a rollercoaster. After a lackluster 1-2 first round robin in Group C, in large part due to poor play from jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang, a strong 3-0 finish to the group earned C9 a spot in the Rumble Stage.
It's easy to see that Cloud9 played much better in the second round robin, and multiple individual members had standout performances, but support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme stood out from the rest of his teammates. Win or loss, Vulcan played a vital part in any success had by Cloud9 and was rarely the cause of any disadvantage plaguing the team throughout its Group Stage matches. Let's take a closer look at Vulcan's incredible performance as the standout player for Cloud9.
One of the hallmarks of Vulcan's great performance throughout the Group Stage was his consistency. In C9's first game against DWG KIA, Vulcan was put on Tahm Kench as a bodyguard of sorts to AD carryJesper "Zven" Svenningsen's Varus. Despite an evenutal loss to DK, the sole bright spot of the game for Cloud9 came from the bot lane in the early game.
Disadvantaged in the 2v2 matchup against the Jhin/Leona of DWG KIA AD carry Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun and Cho "BeryL" Geon-hee, Vulcan not only was able to do his job of keeping Zven and himself safe, but turned multiple plays against DK's bot lane to gain the team a lone advantage. Despite the loss, C9's duo outperformed its counterparts for the majority of the match, and even when the game swung out of control into DK's favor, Vulcan continued to play well until the end.
In Cloud9's second match of the group against DetonatioN FocusMe, Blaber's early game woes continued, and with its Nidalee at an early disadvantage, Cloud9's scaling-focused composition didn't exactly provide Vulcan many chances to make plays on Leona. C9's bot lane was able to maintain priority when it counted, which allowed C9 to stack dragons throughout the match despite Blaber's individual disadvantage, but eventually, DFM's gold lead became too large for C9 to survive.
Desperate for a win, Cloud9 put Vulcan on Thresh to try and index fully into his playmaking potential against Gillette Infinity. The game ended up being a very methodically paced game, and Zven and Vulcan were unable to acquire the type of advantage they had in previous matches. Vulcan's Lantern provided many a necessary save in the tense match against INF, but ultimately, it was the Tristana of mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković that dragged C9 across the finish line.
Throughout the first round robin of Group C, Vulcan did what he could to help the team and was not the cause of either of its losses, but he wasn't often put in a position to impact the map in the way that he had in the League of Legends Championship Series this season. For C9 to succeed, amongst other things, Vulcan would need to be unleashed to his full potential.
As previously stated, Cloud9 undoubtedly played better in the second round robin, but its superior performance was the result of teamwide adjustments, particularly in the draft phase. Zven, relegated to Varus and Jinx in the first three games, had been stripped of the individual agency that adds to his ferocity as a carry player, and Perkz's hard carry performance on Tristana against Gilette Infinity showed that the team needed to drop the Orianna pick for more physical damage picks.
Facing off against DWG KIA once again, Cloud9 opted for scaling with Perkz on Viktor and Zven on Tristana, but unlike the other scaling marksmen Zven had played, Tristana possesses far more individual agency due to her Rocket Jump and Buster Shot abilities. This not only allowed Zven to play more safely, but it also allowed Vulcan to roam around the map on Alistar, setting up play after play for C9's solo laners with a much-improved Blaber on Udyr.
To defeat the defending World Champion took stellar performances from all five members of Cloud9, but it was Vulcan's roams to solo lanes, as well as his crucial engages around the Mountain Drake soul and the DWG KIA nexus that set up the game-winning plays for the rest of C9.
C9 rode the momentum from its win over DK into a must-win rematch against DetonatioN FocusMe, which ended up being its cleanest victory. DFM took the Tristana/Alistar duo that C9 had just had success on, but once again, Zven was able to scale up comfortably into a late game carry on Kai'Sa while Vulcan's Nautilus was allowed to set up plays for Perkz's Yone. DFM was only able to secure two turrets in the entire match, and Vulcan finished 0/0/8 on the Titan of the Depths in C9's win.
Having qualified for the Rumble Stage, Cloud9 pulled out some new picks for four members of the team while top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami remained on his stalwart Sion for the team's final match against Gillette Infinity. Blaber and Perkz locked in Rumble and Lucian, and Zven took another spin on Varus while Vulcan got a second opportunity to show why Thresh is considered his signature champion in the LCS.
This time around, Vulcan got plenty of opportunities to make plays in C9's bloody victory lap of a game against INF, finishing with a KDA of 1/6/18 due to some sacrificial style plays towards the end of the game.
Vulcan is at his best when he's allowed to make plays around the map and pair up with Blaber to exert pressure in every lane, and C9's superior individual play and draft preparation allowed him to excel as the team's star player throughout the Group Stage.
As shown by its experimentation in its final, stake-less game of Group C, Cloud9 knows it still has some improving to do for a potential run at the MSI 2021 title. A top 4 finish in the Rumble Stage required to make it to the next round of the tournament is well within C9's graps, but with both PSG Talon and Pentanet .GG exceeding pre-event expectations, no position in the standings is guaranteed.
However, if there's one position Cloud9 doesn't need to worry about, it's support. Vulcan has shown he can play consistently in multiple types of compositions, and while every other member has had big moments throughout C9's first six games of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, Vulcan stands out as the team's strongest Group Stage performer.
All images by: Riot Games