Sky-high ambitions and audacity: Cloud9's resurgence in CS:GO
The future of a famous organization through the prism of past success
American club Cloud9 has become the biggest newsmaker of recent weeks in the CS:GO pro scene. The management is saying goodbye to the old line-up, the results of which didn't satisfy anyone. However, as it often happens, the next roster wasn't signed right away. The organization revised its approach to "rostering" and decided to do everything wisely. Well-known commentator Henry "HenryG" Greer was appointed to the head of the entire Cloud9 CS:GO division, and it's one of the rarest cases when the coach was signed before the players arrived, and not as a "plug" after the roster's transfer. In his first press release, Henry Greer said that Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunovic, C9's new coach, has a strong say in acquiring certain players.
Cloud9 operates from a position of complete openness, which is to form the top roster and move the entire scene forward. The evidence for this fact that the transfer prices and the financial details of players' contracts were announced was when they were signed. C9 is spending significant amounts of money so that the only satisfactory outcome will be a success on the world stage, and it should be long-term.
Familiar with results
But this is not the first attempt by Cloud9 to break into the CS:GO top echelon. Their roster has previously featured rising American stars such as Michael "shroud" Grzesiek, Ryan "fREAKAZOiD" Abadir, and Jake "Stewie2K" Yip.
In August 2017, Cloud9 included n0thing, shroud, Skadoodle, autimatic, and Stewie2K, which took 9-11th place at PGL Major Kraków 2017. The management, dissatisfied with this result, moved n0thing and shroud to inactive. William "RUSH" Wierzba and Tariq "tarik" Celik were signed instead.
The results immediately went uphill: the roster won the regional qualifiers for ESL One: New York 2017. They took 3-4 place, losing to future champions from FaZe Clan in the semifinals. This fragment in the team history was marked by confrontations against FaZe. The C9 players lost to their nemesis twice more: at Intel Extreme Masters XII Oakland and Esports Championship Series Season 4 Finals.
The roster evolved, and victories followed: DreamHack Open Denver 2017, iBUYPOWER Masters 2017, CyberPowerPC Extreme Gaming Series Winter 2017 Invitational, and others. The peak of the players' efforts was the ELEAGUE Major: Boston in early 2018. Cloud9 went through the Challenger stage without defeat, and in Legends experienced a slight fright, starting with two losses. In the playoffs, they beat G2 Esports and SK Gaming, and in the final, the players took revenge for all the defeats inflicted on them by FaZe Clan. The C9 players did more than triumph in an important tournament: they beat the top two teams in the world rankings on their way to the title. Moreover, they became the first winners of the CS:GO Major from North America. Led by Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, Team Liquid was close to the coveted trophy at ESL One: Cologne two years earlier, but lost to coldzera, FalleN, and others from SK Gaming.
There is always a question of motivation in big sports: "The team has reached the top, its peak, they have nothing more to prove, how will they motivate themselves in the future?" But only ignorant people ask such questions: top athletes don't need to motivate themselves additionally — they always strive to be the best, repeat their best victories, and assert their leadership. There are many examples of this in any sport: Golden State Warriors led by Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, the magic of Real Madrid C. F. with Zidane as a coach, the unprecedented second TI championship from OG, the Astralis tournament-winning machine, and so many others.
Cloud9, the winner of the Boston Major, appeared to be not one of those. In a recent interview to HLTV, the founder and CEO of the organization, Jack Etienne, said that the victory wasn't satisfying:
"Even after winning, there were players that were upset. They didn't feel like they were getting the recognition they should, and there was already a huge cloud over the team's future. I knew that there were going to be requests for change pretty shortly after it. I think the fact that we lasted just a few months after this event was really just because we won the event. Had we not won, it would have been an immediate change. Because we won we tried to hold it together, but the problems that we had faced before this event continued to happen right after the event."
In March, Stewie2K announced his departure to SK Gaming. At the same time, Skadoodle decided to move to inactive temporarily. This was followed by almost two years of a mess with the rosters: the players came and went with lightning speed, and there is no need to talk about any results.
The careers of the winning Cloud9 roster continued in a varied manner.
Skadoodle has long been dedicated to streaming. However, he has resurrected his professional career this summer in VALORANT, a tactical FPS from Riot Games. Tyler reunited with his iBUYPOWER teammates at T1.
Stewie2K continues to play at the highest level. After leaving C9, he had a small failure period in SK Gaming and MIBR, but with the moving to Team Liquid, he entered the annals of history, winning $1 million with the team at Intel Grand Slam Season 2.
Autimatic remained loyal to his club and continued to play for Cloud9 until the end of 2019. After Cloud9 bought the South American ATK roster, he moved to the newcomer's camp to the CS:GO pro scene represented by Gen.G Esports.
RUSH also played for the C9 until the end of last year. Two months of inactivity allowed him to consider his options. As a result, he became a player in the updated Complexity, who was triumphant at BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 European Finals this June.
Tarik spent several months at MIBR, but six months later, he was on the bench. Later, he moved to the NRG Esports roster, which made hype at the pro-scene after several victories over top teams. In September of last year, EG bought the entire roster, in which tarik plays to this day.
The coach valens continued to work at C9 as an analyst, and at the end of 2019, he took over the same position at Evil Geniuses. He also plays for the ex-Recon 5 stack, which climbed to 125th place in the world rankings according to HLTV.
But even during all the challenges in the CS:GO pro scene, Cloud9 has never ceased to be a leading esports organization: its players, teams, and streamers in different disciplines are constantly achieving success. The club's publicity and media presence attract such global brands as Microsoft, BMW, AT&T, Red Bull, and PUMA. An incredible fall merch collaboration was made with the latter.
With such a scale and ambition to be the best at everything, it's no surprise that management and shareholders are willing to spend any resources to build an elite team in one of the core esports disciplines. The recent successes of the neighbors in the region in the face of Team Liquid, Complexity Gaming, and Evil Geniuses may be an eyesore to Jack Etienne. For someone as ambitious as he is, repeating the success of 2018 is unlikely to be enough. He is not Jason Lake, who has been waiting too long. He is used to winning and being the best.
Whether HenryG can build the best team possible for him, time will tell. But no one can reproach them for not trying. The name obliges.