Two prominent North American organizations, Cloud9 and TSM, have been eliminated from the VCT North American Challengers playoffs race
The VCT NA group stage has been flipped upside down. Once prominent teams are now struggling and failing to make the playoffs. Former champions and group favorites were caught by the likes of 100 Thieves, Evil Geniuses, and Ghost Gaming. This signifies a shift in the power dynamics of the North American VALORANT landscape. With Cloud9 and TSM being the first victims.
Cloud9 VCT run ends in failure amid roster turnover
In what amounts to unfortunate timing, Cloud9 was forced to play through a last-second ringer when Son "xeta" Seon-ho requested a trade mere days after the start of groups. C9 lost both Xeta and their head coach Yoon “Autumn” Eu-teum to T1, making the idea of playoffs a longshot.
The addition of Rahul “curry” Nemani from the trade showed early promise, but the team lacked synergy as the tournament progressed.
Weirdly enough, the one Cloud9 VCT victory in groups came against the hottest team in North America: Evil Geniuses. C9 finished 1-3, with the head-to-head losses to LG and FaZe in consecutive weeks ending their playoff bid. It’s a disappointing result for a team once considered to be the peak of NA VALORANT.
However, under these circumstances, replacing a talent like xeta, who was a focal point of their executes on the Initiator role, was an impossible task.
Moreover, curry has struggled to maintain the level of precision provided by xeta. In the short term, he’s provided more fragging power and the ability to take more aggressive duels. Yet, the team isn’t finding openings for star duelist Nathan “Leaf” Orf and relying more on individual fights to win rounds.
It’s not only that C9 has been abused in the opening duels, but are failing to convert their 5v4s when they do find the first kill. The lack of trades has also been problematic. Cloud9's VCT record has been under-par, with the team sporting a bottom of the barrel 65% KAST throughout groups.
Furthermore, the individual play has dropped off with leaf at his lowest combined ACS of 224. The ripple effects of the xeta trade were felt by the team.
TSM entered groups as a team with little to no expectations. Simply qualifying could be looked at as upside for the relatively inexperienced and undertested roster, despite lacklustre results.
After dropping Matt “WARDELL” Yu, the direction of the team was up in the air, but they quickly pivoted. The addition of Johann “seven” Hernandez, formerly of T1, paid huge dividends and shocked everyone by helping TSM qualify for the Closed Qualifier.
In groups, it was much more of a struggle, with a round win rate of only 47.3%. TSM’s only win came against 100 Thieves, marking their third consecutive victory against 100T and the one team in the last month to give them a loss. Unfortunately, that success didn’t spread to other games as TSM didn’t win a single map against anyone else.
Regardless, TSM proved that this roster had much more talent than the perception. The Wardell era needed to end and as soon as it did, TSM started finding more rounded success. It’s no longer predicated on the ability of one player, but spread out amongst the group playing to their innate playstyles
What’s Next for TSM and Cloud9?
The loss for TSM essentially ends their Champions bid, with not enough points to qualify for Last Chance Qualifiers. On the opposite end, Cloud9 will now have the opportunity to rebuild or gain much-needed chemistry.
The long drought of events could be looked at as a negative, but for teams like C9 facing an identity crisis, it might be exactly what they need.
In terms of rebalancing the rosters, minor tweaks are needed, but it won't require a massive overhaul. It’s clear the talent is still present, but that they’re both a piece away from true contention.
After 100T and EG made the proverbial jump in skill in stage two, organizations might look to build through similar means.