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TI5 Spotlight Cloud9: Make or break for international glory

posted by woodshrew,
It's make or break time for world Cloud 9*, the next team in our TI5 spotlight series. EternalEnvy has brought together three new players since TI4 in the hopes of building the best roster for him and his offlane running partner, Bone7. The team captain has made it clear that his approach towards the roster has only one thing in mind: International glory. How have the new players adjusted? What's changed?
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Cloud9 goes by a few other nicknames in our beloved [color=purple]Twitch[/color] and [color=red]/r/Dota2[/color] community, but for pleasantries' sake, we will stick to their official title and name. Led by their polarizing team captain ca Jacky 'EternaLEnVy' Mao, the squad has come a long way since last year's Speed Gaming Marco fiasco, with their beautifully tailored team shirts and logo design.

[color=gold]Over the past year, C9 underwent extensive personnel changes resulting in a near-complete roster rehaul.[/color] To begin the season, and road to The International 2015, Cloud 9 said goodbye to their popular mid-lane Mirana-master nl Wehsing 'SingSing' Yuen, despite him exceeding expectations during TI4. By the end of 2014, two more players who played under the Kaipi banner were shuffled out, se Johan 'pieliedie' Åström, their long-time drafter and in-game leader, and ca Kurtis 'Aui_2000' Ling, their star 4-position carry-support.

Since then, the inner workings of the team have been in constant flux. Drafting responsibilities changed hands numerous times since losing their draft-screen daredevil pieliedie. FATA, N0tail, EternalEnvy, and Bone7 have each taken the reigns since TI4 as the team has searched for a steady strategist.

Naturally, the team's style of play evolved as a result of the new roster and different balancing patches, but one thing stayed the same throughout: [color=gold]Cloud9 consistently performed at the highest level in both online and LAN competitions[/color]. They frequently found themselves deep into tournaments, contending for enormous prize pools around the world. Like their North American rivals us Evil Geniuses, C9 did not shy away from the challenge of clawing their way through Lower Brackets (i.e. ESL Frankfurt Qualifiers, WCA2014), and displayed a distinct ability to reach the final stage despite faltering early on.

But they have fallen short. The last time a tournament win was registered on their Liquipedia's Team Achievements was in September 2014 at NVIDIA's showmatch Game 24--hardly comparable to the glimmering trophies that their Western rivals in EG and eu Team Secret raised over the past year. [color=gold]As painful as it is, they have been deemed a cursed team, incapable of finishing on top when it matters most[/color]. A total of [color=gold]10 second-place finishes[/color] will haunt and follow the team as they fly into Seattle this August.

For Cloud9 and EternalEnvy, there would be nothing sweeter than claiming their long awaited tournament victory on the biggest stage, The International. And if it all falls apart, their captain will not hesistate to break the team apart.


Excellence, short of perfection



The image above illustrates each of Cloud 9's second-place finishes since the start of this past season. [color=gold]These tournaments belong to the 'premier' class according to Liquipedia, featuring the largest prizepools our scene has to offer.[/color] [color=gold]From these 2nd place winnings alone, Cloud9 has pocketed approximately 277,000 USD,[/color] before considerations such as taxes. Clearly, it still pays well to be cursed.

This past year, the competitive scene has seen more top flight tournaments than ever before, to the point where the players themselves expressed concerns regarding fatigue and oversaturation in late 2014. Teams can be more selective than ever when committing practice and preparation to a tournament, which makes C9's performance this past year all the more impressive.

These premier tournaments brought out the best in the teams. [color=gold]For C9 to provide their fans and supporters with the expectation that they will come second is an impressive feat in itself, a testament that the squad will consitently reach the final stage and give themselves a chance to win it all.[/color]

Despite C9 swapping midlaners and their entire support backbone, cycling through different drafters and captains and waging a war against low-quality tournament chairs and armrests, they have for better and for worse, continued to stay at the cusp of success.


The New Duo: Equality and Versatility




"I basically f----d them over...If we get second place and they get content, and they don't feel sad, I feel like the team is f----g done...Things had to be changed."
ca Jacky 'EternaLEnVy' Mao, speaking on the roster changes prior to DAC 2015


Unhappy with the current team culture, and questioning the competitive spirit in his teammates, EternalEnvy was determined to change his team's course and re-build. The incendiary spark behind the whirlwind of player movement originated from the suprising news of Arteezy and Zai's departure from EG during the Winter break. By the time rosters stabilized and players resituated, the Dota 2 Asia Championships were around the corner.

Given that the new C9 roster entered the competition with close to no practice, the outcome was quite promising: a 5/6th place finish after a hard fought series (2-1) against Team Secret. In the months that followed, N0tail and Misery seemed to find their place in the team, with respectable tournaments results as previously mentioned, all the while chasing after the elusive tournament victory.


What's Changed: Farm Distribution and Priority




All data used for statistical analyses has been taken from datdota.com

While it is difficult to comprehensively analyze the differences between the two support pairings, there are still useful statistical means of comparing the two. [color=gold]Basic player metrics such as GPM and average last hits suggest that the old pairing of Aui and Pie distributed farm in a more one-sided manner.[/color] From September 25th (the date of 6.82's release) to January 1st, [color=gold]Aui averaged a GPM of 295 and last hits of 101.3 per game, while Pie averaged a GPM of 240 and LH of 52.8. [/color] That translates to a percentage difference of 22.9%, or in practical terms, roughly the value of a Blink Dagger by the 40 minute mark (55 gpm difference, 40 minutes in)

[color=gold]N0tail and Misery, on the other hand, prefer to share their farm more evenly.[/color] From January 1st, 2015 to July 13th, N0tail recorded an average GPM of 292, with LH of 79.2. MiSery had an average of 290 GPM with 77 LH.[color=gold] Clearly, these basic metrics show greater parity in how farm is shared between the two players. [/color]

It should be made clear that this method of comparison does not take into account the impact of the different patches in these different periods of play. The comprehensive gameplay update of 6.84 had various changes to the economy and gold system behinds hero kills, deaths and jungle/lane creep bounties. Whether or not there was a concious decision within the team to change the 4/5 farm priority cannot be clearly determined. [color=gold]But what can be seen is a significant change to Cloud9's approach in the distribution of farm, when comparing the new and old support pairing.[/color]


'Hard Lane' for N0tail, 'Safe' for Misery



Let's shift focus towards which heroes and lanes the supports have played from January 5th this year, when they officially joined Cloud9.

At first glance, the graphic reveals somewhat surprising results for N0tail's signature Chen. It goes to show that C9 has failed to find success with Chen, one of the most popular support picks in the last two patches. [color=gold]While other teams such as Secret and EG have taken advantage of Chen's jungle prowress, N0tail has in turn searched elsewhere to make his impact.[/color]

The win-rate statistics for BigDaddy's other most-played heroes tell the tale. Roaming Bounty Hunter (70%, 7-3), Phoenix (70%, 7-4) and Io (63%, 12-7) suggest that he is taking advantage of alternative laning setups and skills outside of jungling and micromanagement.

N0tail has shown added versatility in many of C9's dual offlane setups, often taking a tanky Nightstalker, Omniknight, or Tusk to join ro Armand 'bOne7' Pittner. He has actually played more dual lanes in the hard lane than any other laning setup according to datdota.com's laning statistics. [color=gold]In a sense, he is their x-factor in the laning stage, giving his team the edge with his proficiency in dual-lane heroes and combinations. [/color]

[color=gold]On the other hand MiSeRY has stuck to a tighter selection of heroes, as well as kept more to lane supporting EternalEnvy early on[/color]. According to the laning statistics from datdota.com, MiSerY has safe-lane supported 79 times, compared to all other laning setups which total to 42 times.

While he has in fact tried his hand on more heroes than N0tail since his arrival in Cloud9,[color=gold] most of his games are distributed amongst his signature heroes.[/color]

Case in point, he has simply dominated with Lion (67%, 21-10), his most played hero by a huge margin. The two runner-ups, Bane (81%), and Skywrath Mage (81%) each have been drafted 11 times for him. More recently we've seen Misery on more unconventional and unusual supports: Keeper of the Light, Ancient Apparition and Pugna. Often C9 will draft in a very focused manner alongside these support picks, emphasizing spell synergy and 'pocket strat' style lineups.

[color=gold]An interesting note is that N0tail and MiSeRY are quite comfortable with swapping their roles and heroes.[/color] They are both capable Earthshaker and Vengeful Spirit players, giving added unpredictability during the drafting phase. N0tail in particular shares some heroes with Bone7 as well, both being Tusk and Phoenix players.

Other top teams around the world have demonstrated support combos with overlap in hero pools as well. Evil Geniuses in particular, has seen both Aui and us Peter 'ppd' Dager demonstrate interchangeability on heroes such as Witch Doctor, Lion and most recently, Winter Wyvern. At TI5, it might be a growing trend as more teams mimic this unconventional dynamic.


From the inside out: FATA


FATA, cheekily smiling with his most successful heroes


In late August, Cloud9 welcomed in their new midlane player, after saying goodbye to fan favorite nl Wehsing 'SingSing' Yuen. In fact, FATA and Cloud9 have been tied together since the squad was named Kaipi, as both SingSing and FATA were in close consideration as midlane players as far back as August 2013.

EternalEnvy was very unhappy playing alongside SingSing: "Honestly, playing with Sing was one of my hardest struggles as a Dota player. It was very hard for me--as a drafter, as a carry. To play with Sing as my mid, it was very hard for me." Some questions remain as to whether FATA is better suited as a teammate and mid-laner.

FATA has been a peculiar mid to say the least. [color=gold]While the general trend has shown more and more midlane players elect to play semi-carry, farming-focused heroes, FATA has for the most part kept to his own signature pool.[/color] His 6.82 statistics are simply classic FATA: he is one of the most reputable and well-regarded Puck players in the entire professional scene. But as you scan across the heroes that have made up his hero pool over the past year you'll find that his 'signature style' cannot really be pinned down.

On heroes such a Puck, Magnus and Beastmaster, he demonstrates his understanding of teamfight control and initiation. He blends other elements in his playstyle on these heroes, such as pickoff potential with his Dagon Puck build, and split-push and global presence with his Boots of Travel/Necronomicon 3 rushes on Beastmaster.

Queen of Pain, Zeus and Leshrac, each give him the chance to provide enormous firepower with spell-based casters. With these three heroes he often provides the raw damage output for his team until focusing on late game control with a Scythe of Vyse and Shiva's Guard. For a long stretch of time, it was not an uncommon sight to see FATA moving around with a Refresher Orb, Hex late game on Zeus.

While it may be presumptive to declare FATA the most flexible and jack-of-all trades mid player, he certainly favors unorthodox heroes. He's the hipster of the team (excluding Bone7's music tastes), mastering unpopular heroes, and going against popular conventions.

[color=gold]He plugs in the gaps with his hero pool, which in turn gives more flexibility for the rest of his teammates to play different heroes and styles.[/color] Last year, one of the main criticisms heard from both fans and even from C9 players themselves, was the constrictive and limiting playstyle/hero pool of their former mid, SingSing. With FATA, it seems the team has more diverse options in terms of strategies-- after all they can build around such an interesting and unique hero pool.

Envy spoke on this topic of mid-players and the issue of farming/creating space: "how you farm, how fast your farm; these things are pretty worthless. Anyone who's good knows how to farm if they have space. But making that space for your team and for yourself is something you need to be smarter to do."


The Old Guard: Envy and Bone7




From what we've seen from the three new players, it is safe to say Cloud9 has come a long way since last year. Envy cited the predictability and farm-focused style of his old roster being a major shortcoming in numerous interviews. It remains to be seen if the new additions will bring C9 closer to their ultimate goal of the Aegis.

As for the old guard, the longest-standing players Bone7 and EternalEnvy:

EternalEnvy on ro Armand 'bOne7' Pittner's new role as drafter:
"I think he's a godly drafter...he makes the best drafter out of the team because he is the most stable person right now...everyone is smart in different ways, but out of all the retardation and smartness, his thoughts are most stable. He doesn't go full retard on his thoughts. He's someone who doesn't give a ---- about someone's opinion...he will not be swayed or choke by emotions."

With Bone7 growing into the role of drafter and with his team captain's confidence, C9 seems to finally be in a comfortable position at the draft screen. As previously mentioned, the team cycled through drafters all year, and even stretching back to last year still had issues with selecting a stable strategist.

As for EternalEnvy thoughts on his roster changes:
"Basically you have four girlfriends on your team...Each one is someone you want to marry. You're looking for the best...You want to marry the four best people. You want to marry everyone on your team, and everyone of them has to be the best. Things need to change...that's how it is...You want to win TI, you want to be the best in the world...you want absolute faith in everyone."

And on that wonderful analogy, we'll set our sights on The International 2015 and the new C9 team. [color=gold]Four girlfriends and Jacky Mao.[/color]

Where do you think Cloud9 will finish at The International 5?



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