Damwon Kia became the first team to qualify for the MSI 2021 knockout stage with a win over Cloud9. As a result Cloud9 face an uphill challenge to reach the next round.

Cloud9 entered the third day of MSI 2021's Rumble Stage in dire straits. With poor showings individually and collectively, Cloud9's poor start backed them into a 0-4 corner. Cloud9 was able to overcome their first obstacle in Pentanet.GG, however failed to take down Damwon Kia in a 35 minute nail biter. Though not mathematically eliminated, Cloud9's path to MSI 2021's knockout stage is significantly more difficult after their loss.

Damwon holds their lead despite Fudge's best efforts

Cloud9's 1-5 record may not suggest it, but the NA representatives have usually led with hot starts via proactive early games. With the highest first dragon control rate (59%) and a respectable early game raing (46.7), C9's shortcomings usually come from individual mistakes in the mid to late game. Damwon Kia denied their opponents of finding an early lead. With advantages across the map, DK earned a 2 dragon advantage and 3K gold lead by 15 minutes that they never let go of.

Despite never being able to overcome their gold deficit, Cloud9 found critical picks that kept their hopes alive. Ibrahim "Fudge: Allami specifically stopped DK from accelerating the game early. An opportune re-engage in an initially losing fight extended the game for Cloud9. A near constant target of ire since his start in C9, Fudge has massively stepped up his individual performance in MSI 2021. Only standing behind RNG's Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao, Fudge has the 2nd highest total kills (40) and has made up a significant portion of C9's kill share (23.5%).

Though Fudge has shown massive strides individually as other C9 members have waned, his efforts alone could not save the game. This glimmer of hope C9 saw, was snuffed out as late game objectives approached.

Baron giveth, Elder Dragon taketh

The final five minutes of the game proved to be the most contentious end for Cloud9 in MSI 2021. Commitment to late game objectives swung the game's favor wildly between the two teams. A win at Baron allowed Cloud9 to regain some semblance of map control and set up around Elder Dragon. This ultimately proved to be Cloud9's demise.

Just as C9 took advantage of DK's commitment to Baron, their fixation on Elder allowed Heo "ShowMaker" Su and Kim "Khan" Dong-ha to clean up. The cost for Cloud9 was much steeper however, as Damwon took their team fight into the enemy nexus.

Damwon KIA qualifies for knockouts, Cloud9's fate in the air

With this win, Damwon Kia became the first team to qualify for the MSI 2021 knockout stage. Though 5-1, DK's shaky wins have led many to believe that the LCK representative's domestic dominance has yet to translate internationally. Damwon's wins over MAD Lions and Cloud9 however have cemented themselves as a persistent 2nd place presence. Another shot at RNG on Tuesday could see the LCK team usurp the top spot.

Cloud9's fate no longer in their hands alone

Adversely, Cloud9 have lost control over their own destiny with this loss. Tied with Pentanet.GG, both teams will have to steal a spot from either PSG Talon, MAD Lions, or RNG. This is an incredibly tall task considering the level of play these three teams have displayed thus far. While PSG may seem the most likely to falter, victories over RNG and MAD Lions may have put this possibility out of reach for NA and Oceanic fans. Cloud9's margin of error is razor thin, but their reliance on the results of others could lead to an early departure by the NA squad.