Cloud9’s explosive Duelist main leaf spoke to the press after the tightly contested 2-1 victory, eliminating Version1 from the North America Stage 1: Challenger playoffs. 

In a twisted turn of fate, the top seeds of the VCT Challengers NA group stages meet in a Lower Round 2 elimination match. Despite version1 and Cloud9 finishing 5-0 in groups, both teams fell to surprising upsets, setting up the deathmatch. Entering the event, C9 and V1 were the two most predicted teams to qualify for Valorant Champions Tour Stage 1: Masters Reykjavík

Cloud9’s Nathan “leaf” Orf spoke to the press about overcoming the intensity in the server, the team’s uncanny ability to win in clutch situations, and how cloud9 makes it difficult to prepare for them.

Cloud9 Responding to adversity with a Win 

Q: Insane game from a spectator perspective and I can’t imagine what it was like as a player. What was it like playing in that pressure environment and how do you respond to those tense situations? 

C9 Leaf: “It was similar to the OpTic game. I feel like the entire OpTic game and this game we were in control the entire way and we just had some unlucky rounds. Like against OpTic map three, we got eco’d after winning the second pistol and it’s like, if we don’t lose those type of rounds we’ll be able to win every single map pretty confidently.

Like, on Breeze we lost some stupid rounds. We were down 6-0 and brought it back to 6-6. If we can just close out some of the harder rounds and don’t let pressure get to us, it’ll be way easier going forward”

leaf and Cloud9 teammates at Champions (Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games)

Q: On the subject of Breeze, what went wrong in that second half and with a 2-3 record in 2022 are you guys still confident picking that map?

C9 Leaf: All the losses that we’ve had, like EG in the group stage and Knights and obviously today V1. I think all of them were just unlucky. People were hitting their shots on the other team and we weren’t. It’s one of the most aim-oriented, momentum oriented maps.

We’re good at getting leads and continuing that momentum but we just didn’t really have it on those three maps. I still think it’s a comfort pick and we had a 100% win rate on it before we lost to EG. We’re still good on it.

leaf on Cloud9’s decision to float Fracture

Q: Now, focusing on the map picks, you guys first-banned Fracture four times and only played it once this season, what went into that decision to float against Version1?

C9 Leaf: After the Optic Bo3, we realized that we were good on the map and the comp we run also suited the nerfs. We were less consistent at it when Astra, Viper was more the meta. Now, these teams are running the Gambit comp which is our comp: Raze, Sage, Brimstone, Breach and I run Chamber. I think that comp is really good on Fracture. And, in scrims, it’s been a really good map since the patch, so that’s why we let it through.”

Cloud9 Winning in the Clutch

Q: Let’s talk about the clutch plays. Xeta had a crazy 1v3 vs V1. You won countless 1v1’s and currently lead North America in clutch%. What makes you guys so good in those situations? 

C9 Leaf: We put ourselves in really good scenarios that make it easy for me in particular to clutch. There are obviously rounds where people may get a 1v3, like Xeta’s 1v3 today was really insane on Breeze but it’s like, especially for me, when I’m in this LMS position it’s either a 1v1 or 1v2. I don’t even know if i’ve gotten a 1v3 or something in this tournament. It’s just been easy. We make it easy in the 1v1s. We try to keep everyone close 

Q: Following up on that, you’re ranked first in most of the main damage categories. What are your teammates doing to set you up for kills and site entries? 

C9 Leaf: Xeta is part of the reason. Obviously, Sova and Jett are a really good duo. Same with Xeppa with utility and assists. It just makes it a lot easier to entry and go for plays on the CT side.

Cloud9 leaf with increasing expectation

Q: The narrative surrounding the team has been you’re the best team in North America ever since the Champions run and dominating group stages with a 5-0 record. Does that sort of pressure weigh on you guys and how have you responded to those elevated expectations? 

C9 Leaf: “I don’t think it adds any pressure but it just makes teams look at us a lot more and respect us. In terms of these matches, they’re not going to skip on VOD reviewing us and they’re going to be aware of the stuff that we can do because of the fact that we’ve had decent international success and pretty good domestic success. I just think it makes it harder because more teams have their eyes on us”

Q: And as the most studied team in the region,  have you guys had to make any large scale adjustments to your playstyle or plays?

C9 Leaf: “Not really, the way that we play is hard to directly read. We don’t play like how old XSET, from a year ago, where they just had a bunch of strats and stuff like that or even how old FNATIC played, like they had a bunch of gimmicks that If you didn’t see them, you’d get caught off by them. But, once you play against them once, you are more aware of it. We’re a lot more responsive and adaptable than some other teams. We’re going to always have tendencies because every player in the game is going to have tendencies but…”

There’s not  a direct counter-strat for the way that we play

C9 leaf

Rematch with XSET

Q: You guys have faced the new XSET roster and handled them 2-0 with a +12 round differential, what are your thoughts on this team heading into rematch?

C9 Leaf: “They’ve been on a hot streak since the playoffs started. Cryocells has been really consistent since the playoff stage where he wasn’t that good when he played against us at the beginning of the group stage. So, I think he’s probably just finding his confidence and maybe just changing some things around so he could buy time. Overall, they haven’t really changed anything it’s just that individuals are like shining now so as long as individually we are up to par I think it will be a good match”

Cloud9 will face XSET for a spot in the Lower Bracket Finals on March 25th.

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Blake Van Poucke -

Blake Van Poucke

| Twitter: @TokyoDown

Blake Van Poucke is a Valorant writer at esports.gg. He found esports through the early days of MLG and the Super Smash Bros Melee scene. He's been competing and writing about esports dating back to 2008. He has written for several publications and wishes to return to in-person esports events in 2022