There will be a new team in the North American LCS next split. Cloud9 Challenger swept NRG Esports 3-0 Saturday in the promotion tournament, clinching a Spring 2017 LCS split. Cloud9 will have to sell the spot, as one organization can not have two teams in the same League, which means a likely seven-figure profit.
C9 Challenger’s presence in the tournament was the subject of some considerable controversy, as the team’s roster was filled with long-time LCS pros, many of whom had extensive experience in international tournaments.
Even after former NA LCS MVP Yoon-jae “Rush” Lee left to return to Korea, the lineup included three starters from C9’s peak as a team: top laner An “Balls” Le, mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam and support/former head coach Daerek “LemonNation” Hart. While multiple LCS teams have held Challenger teams in the past, most had used them to develop younger talent, and while that was the stated goal of C9 Challenger, the roster sent a different message.
NRG Esports will have one more chance to earn an LCS spot, when it faces Echo Fox Sunday in the final best-of-five of the tournament.
Cloud9 Challenger won the first two games by picking Twitch into Sivir for AD Carry Johnny “Altec” Ru and trusting Balls to beat his opponent with Gnar. It worked: C9C rolled in the first two games, and both champions were banned for Game 3.
Another star performer was the only true prospect on the roster, jungler Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia. He played two excellent games of Hecarim, going 21/6/18 in them and controlling the pace.
Here was an ace in Game 1 for Cloud9 Challenger in which Contractz picked up a pair of kills.
NRG attempted to change its strategy for Game 3 by banning C9 Challenger’s two most effective champions and putting top laner Diego “Quas” Ruiz on Illaoi, a lane bully champion he excels on. Despite getting first blood for him in the matchup, C9C was still able to build up a large lead, taking advatage of a flawed Baron play from NRG to win the game.
NRG Esports was introduced before the start of the spring split, and includes investors from traditional sports like Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. After finishing in fifth place in the Spring Split, the team signed four new players and had problems with the new roster, finishing in ninth place in the regular season.