In the last quarterfinals matchup of the 2021 World Championship knockout stage, Cloud9 will face off against Gen.G. If Gen.G wins, it will mean that three teams from the LCK have finished in the top 4 at Worlds 2021. If Cloud9 wins, it will not only achieve the farthest run of a western team at Worlds 2021, but would also tie C9's 2018 roster for the farthest placing of a North American team at any Worlds throughout the past decade.
Chaos meets calculated
Stylistically speaking, Cloud9 and Gen.G could not be farther apart. The way each team goes about winning games, as well as the conditions required for each team to have success, are polar opposites, and that has been reflected not only in each team's Worlds 2021 thus far, but the entire season for both squads.
Cloud9's ceiling has never been in question — the NA darling absolutely bodied the LCS throughout spring on its way to its second domestic title in three splits, highlighted by jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang's second LCS MVP award in the same amount of time. However, C9's failure to deliver for NA at MSI, plus its struggles throughout spring, exposed the team's lack of consistency.
Progress is never linear, but it's utterly bewildering to see a team who can give DWG KIA a run for its money on a good day suddenly look lost against DetonatioN FocusMe the same week.
Gen.G have the opposite problem — the team essentially plays one speed and is often too predictable due to shallow individual champion pools. When the Gen.G way to play works out, it looks amazing. However, when that fails to convert to a win, one has to wonder whether Gen.G can retain stability after being knocked off balance.
The statistics absolutely favor Gen.G in this matchup — they have a top 5 Baron and Dragon secure rate of all teams at the main event of Worlds 2021, and their performance in the group stage was certainly more stable than Cloud9's, albeit in a much less challenging group. However, Cloud9's versatility, despite a proven lack of consistency, might be a much larger benefit in a best-of-5 series than the best-of-1 format that makes up the group stage of Worlds.
Path(ing) to victory
Both Cloud9's and Gen.G's rosters are packed with talent, but in a head-to-head matchup in a best-of-5 series, it becomes quickly apparent which role on Summoner's Rift will be the most impactful.
Blaber and Kim "Clid" Tae-min's success in the jungle is integral to their respective teams' chances at success, but the roles each player plays within their respective team's dynamic are very different, and a closer look at those responsibilities contextualizes the strengths and weaknesses of the teams.
Clid is Gen.G's sharpest spear in the early game, often providing the sole point of aggression to the otherwise methodical Gen.G until AD carry Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk hits a powerspike to fulfill his role as the team's primary carry. Clid sits in the top 3 of all junglers at the Worlds 2021 main event for wards per minute and wards cleared per minute, often preferring to look for plays and enable his teammates following fulfilling his role as the primary activator of the team in the early game.
Blaber, on the other hand, is the nucleus of Cloud9's roster. Oftentimes, the way Blaber goes, C9 go. While Gen.G need Clid to get the rest of the team off of the ground, C9 often operates around supporting Blaber to allow him to be a carry threat right from the early game on picks like Xin Zhao, Qiyana, or his signature Olaf.
While Clid often sets up the "alley" for the "oop" of the likes of Ruler, C9 look best when Blaber is leading a roaming mission around the map, usually with Perkz, and occasionally support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme, allowing his teammates to create space for him to drive to the hoop for a slam dunk.
Let's take a look at Blaber's stats in Cloud9's 0-3 first round-robin in Group A of Worlds 2021:
|KDA||Kill participation||Gold diff @10 min||DMG %||Steals|
Less than ideal for the 2020 LCS Spring Split MVP. However, let's see how he did in Cloud9's second round-robin and subsequent tiebreaker against Rogue, in which the team went 3-1 across four games:
Cloud9 live and die on Blaber's play, and while that has done more harm than good at Worlds 2021 thus far, a full shutdown of the young jungler at the hands of the veteran Clid would spell a quick end for Cloud9.
For Gen.G, the route ahead is a simple one: Clid must outperform Blaber, whether it be by shutting him down directly with the help of mid laner Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong, who is in the midst of the best international performance of his career, or by outpacing him with ganks in the early game before Blaber can farm up to a point of relevance for C9.
For Cloud9, Blaber should look to the most stalwart position on the map for his team to find success. In a season practically defined by inconsistency, rookie top laner Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami has continued to improve at an impressive rate throughout the year and has established himself as the most consistent player on a roster full of stars.
Blaber should look to enable Fudge in what has been a very top-lane-focused Worlds meta thus far, especially when considering Gen.G's weakest point is in its top lane. Kim "Rascal" Kwang-hee has left plenty to be desired in the top lane for Gen.G, but the games played by Noh "Burdol" Tae-yoon were egregious. Cloud9's key to victory is to keep Blaber at the forefront of its threat potential to unlock Perkz from the mid lane to assist him in getting Fudge ahead of Gen.G on the top side of the map.
Gen.G, on the other hand, are most likely best suited to allow Ruler and support Kim "Life" Jeong-min scale in the bot lane against C9 AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Vulcan while Clid gets to work on shutting down Blaber directly. BDD has not had his usual international underperformance at Worlds 2021, and his greatest strengths lend him to playmaking in early skirmishes to help Clid should he be able to track Blaber in the jungle.
Cloud9 should be relatively aware of what to expect from Gen.G — it's what C9 can expect from itself that will be the deciding factor in this series. If C9 can maintain the form shown in the second round-robin of Group A throughout a best-of-five series, a victory should be in the bag for North America.
However, if C9 continues its Jekyll/Hyde routine it's been (in)famous for throughout various points of 2021, Gen.G has more than a fair chance to end the West's hopes at Worlds 2021 outside of the top 4.