Something about sports makes even the most rational people believe in the supernatural. Just like baseball’s Curse of the Bambino, League of Legends has the Eyes On curse, the Team Liquid fourth-place curse, the World Championship first seed curse and more. After all, if curses aren’t real, why do your favorite teams lose?
Cloud9 stepped into the North American League of Legends Championship Series, or LCS, in the summer of 2013, stunning fans with a first-place finish in the team’s inaugural competitive season.
Since then, C9 has qualified for every League of Legends World Championship, often known as North America’s last hope considering it outlasts every other North American team in the bracket. The team’s management is known for making stars out of unknown rookies and pushing the competitive scene forward as a whole.
It’s a powerful story and C9 has become a team for fans to proudly root for. Just one thing haunts their record: C9 has lost six straight LCS finals. Despite consistently performing well on the international stage, the trophy has slipped through the team’s clutches for years.
The team finally ended their drought on April 19th in the 2020 Spring Split grand final, beating FlyQuest 3-0.
The LCS trophy is the cherry on top of their dominant regular season. With 26 wins over 28 games, C9 has a 92.9% win rate in spring 2020, the highest of any team in a single split in LCS history. The second and third-highest win rates belong to C9’s 2013 summer and 2014 spring rosters.
C9 was heavily favored to win the best-of-five series, but game one was closer than expected. The match was initially in FlyQuest’s hands, thanks to a pick on C9 player Robert “Blaber” Huang. The gold lead went back and forth until a mid-game teamfight in C9’s favor broke the game open. C9 won the first game after 39 minutes, significantly longer than their average game time of 30:43 this split.
The next two games were not as hard-fought, as C9 showed off the early game prowess that earned them their record-breaking win rate. FlyQuest didn’t seem to have a way back into each game once the clock hit fifteen minutes, and C9 ended the Spring Split with a 3-0 sweep.
When C9 lifted the trophy, they were cheered by the team’s staff throwing confetti instead of an arena of thousands of fans. The effects of COVID-19 have impacted live entertainment events all over the world, including esports tournaments. The Spring Finals were originally scheduled to take place in the Ford Center in Texas, but C9 finished their split in a small streaming room in California. The lack of a live audience, however, did nothing to diminish the exhilaration of a finals win after six long years.
Incredibly, C9 was the only team in the LCS without a single player who had won the championship before, making victory all the more sweet.
Although FlyQuest wasn’t able to take the final series, the spring split was still a successful one for the second-place team. The match on April 19 marked FlyQuest’s first finals appearance after three years in the LCS.
The team also found much success in the spring thanks to its TreeQuest campaign, an environmental initiative largely developed under the guidance of CEO Tricia Sugita.
Starting in January, FlyQuest planted 100 trees for every match they won in the spring split, with additional trees planted for achieving specific in-game goals. The team announced that they planted a total of 10,000 trees as of April 22, three days after the final.
In previous years, FlyQuest struggled with a lack of identity, but the new program built a brand around social good and a wholesome aesthetic. FlyQuest also inspired other LCS teams to start social good campaigns of their own, such as Evil Geniuses’s BookQuest campaign, which donated books to children and awarded a $1,000 scholarship to a fan.
Of course, the real winners of the split are C9. Even beyond their record-setting run and championship trophy, the C9 roster and staff racked up awards.
Huang was named the 2020 LCS spring split MVP thanks to his crucial role in acquiring C9’s massive early game leads. He has been playing professionally for just three years, and was initially scouted by C9 for their 2017 Academy team.
Head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu earned special recognition of his own, winning coach of the split. Han-gyu previously received the award in summer 2018 and spring 2019, when C9 placed second and third respectively.
Along with their LCS title, C9 was awarded $100,000 and a spot at the 2020 Mid-Season Invitational.
The tournament, open only to the spring split champion of each competitive region, would typically take place in May, but has been canceled due to concerns related to COVID-19.
Even with a new case of bad luck, there’s no doubt that the C9 curse has been broken. Wherever they play next, they’ll be a team to watch for the remainder of 2020.