After going 0-7 versus Cloud 9 (C9) over the course of Spring and Summer, FlyQuest (FQ) had a mountain to climb in-game and in their heads as they matched up against C9 in the winner’s semi-finals. Despite their 44% win rate in the second round-robin, C9 managed to secure a second-round bye through the lead they established before their slump. Having a week off, C9 was an enigma that people bet on simply due to earlier success, especially against FQ. However, in convincing fashion, FQ put an end to Cloud 9’s reign over them and qualified for the 2020 World Championship in China.
We saw shades of the dominant C9 in draft with them opting to pick Twisted Fate and Nocturne. Locking in two global champions inspired the thought that C9 had found their confidence again after having a week off. A confident and aggressive C9 is what took the region by storm. On the other side, however, FQ locked in the second Lillia of the playoffs. Despite the community having doubts about her finding success in professional play, Lillia has become a highly contested pick around the world over the last couple of weeks. For FQ, this draft was a brilliant way to open the series. C9’s coach Reapered has publicly stated how easy of a matchup they find FQ to be due to their predictable drafting style. This was a pick for Santorin that differed greatly from the style he had established over the split. A good performance with Lillia meant throwing a wrench in C9’s draft and opening up one of their bans. Fortunately, they did just that.
The game started with an attempted catch on Blaber in the topside river that yielded no kills for FQ. Though it left Ignar without a flash after trying to land a hook, it forced Blaber to start W (spell shield) and contributed to a much slower early clear. A kill is much more desirable, but slowing down a global champion, especially one that clears as fast as Nocturne does with a proper start, is a reward in itself. FQ wasn’t satisfied with a small win, however. Santorin, WildTurtle, and Ignar invaded Blaber’s jungle as the camps spawned and claimed first blood gold for Turtle. Santorin stole Blaber’s red buff for himself and then proceeded to cross through mid lane undetected to Blaber’s blue buff. With the help of PowerOfEvil, they claimed yet another kill on Blaber and stole his blue buff. Without a red or a blue, Blaber’s clear was severely impacted and played a massive role in keeping him down.
With C9’s jungler bleeding out, FQ had free reign on neutral objectives all game. At 23 minutes, FQ claimed the Cloud Soul off a won fight and moved to Baron. After acquiring Baron, FQ dismantled the remaining turrets outside of C9’s base and took the fight inside. After taking their time to make sure C9 didn’t benefit off any mistakes, FQ closed the game out with little opposition.
|Cloud 9 LOSS||Time: 30:15||FlyQuest WIN|
Game Two – FlyQuest Leads 1-0
Whether it was FQ’s plan or not, C9 feared having to face Lillia again and banned her immediately. It may appear as a small win, but a win like this in the draft impacts the entire series and opens many doors for FQ. One champion can enable an entirely different style that may not have been executable without it. Though that isn’t exactly what FQ opted into in the second game, Lillia’s ban opened up LeBlanc, a champion that was previously banned. C9’s publicly shared arrogance and potential lack of preparation was met with a crushing defeat against the very thing they mocked, but they made a major shift in their own draft and moved towards a 5v5 oriented composition.
After having fallen victim to an aggressive level one in the first game, C9 created a defensive wall of vision with their bodies near each entrance to their jungle. FQ attempted to find a pick in a similar way to the first game, but C9 wanted nothing to do with it. Off to a slow and neutral start, it seemed Santorin grew impatient and wanted to keep the pressure on C9 to keep up instead of allowing them to dictate their pace. Three minutes in, Santorin moved to the bottom lane and made an uncharacteristic mistake trying to dive C9’s bottom lane. It seemed as if he wasn’t committed to the play initially, but changed his mind as the window had already closed and gave double buffs to Zven’s Ezreal. This was a much-needed blessing for C9’s bottom lane as they were playing Ezreal+Yuumi, a pairing that doesn’t dominate lane. With double buffs, their offensive positioning in the early laning phase skyrocketed. However, the mistake didn’t deter FQ from being the aggressor.
Neither team wanted to put their foot on the breaks and this resulted in a constant state of give-and-take. Both teams traded kill-for-kill and refused to shy away from dances around neutral objectives. This stayed true until 24 minutes in where FQ won a four-for-nothing fight at the fourth dragon to spawn. After this fight, FQ made a decision to forgo securing their third dragon that would put them at Infernal Soul point and moved directly to Baron. With no opposing jungler alive to contest the take, it was a free Baron that seemed like one of the final nails in the coffin for C9’s second loss of the series. Unwilling to accept a small loss for the greater vision, FQ arrived at the dragon late and committed to a scattered fight that resulted in them being aced, losing the baron buff, and their bottom inhibitor as a result.
FQ fought immediately after spawning, resulting in another lost teamfight that allowed C9 to tie up the series.
|Cloud 9LOSS||Time: 37:27||FlyQuestWIN|
Game Three – Series Tied 1-1
The game plan remained consistent for both teams in the draft phase: Draft to be able to effectively scrap for neutral objectives while also scaling for late-game teamfights. Slight alterations were made, such as C9 leaving open Graves in trade for banning Ignar’s problematic Thresh. Ignar is famous for his early roams that pressure the enemy mid laner to play more passively and/or expend their ward trinket on the bottom river. Eliminating Thresh is good in theory, but Ignar is not a player known to have a shallow champion pool. Attacking him at the expense of leaving open one of Santorin’s best champions did not seem worth it. Spoiler: It wasn’t.
Abandoning their posts they established in the second game, C9 falls prey to another invasion from FQ at the start of the game. Both teams expended two flashes, but FQ came out ahead with first blood on Santorin. Not only did this give them a slight lead in gold, but it also impacted Blaber’s early clear. C9’s strength, while also their weakness, is that they never shy away from a fight. Most of their success in Spring and Summer was founded upon the foundation of Blaber being an aggressive jungler that would find leads for himself and his laners early in the game. FQ tackled C9’s double-edged sword well and put the onus on C9 to keep up — a position this roster is demonstrably uncomfortable with.
After the first kill, the game entered into a lull state that persisted until about 16 minutes in. Kills happened up to this point, but never any meaningful teamfights. C9 rightfully targeted Solo, the source of FQ’s safe playmaking potential. In answer to this, FQ found wins through kills on the opposite side of the map or by taking neutral objectives. Similar to the previous game, it was a war of give-and-take. 26 minutes in, it seemed the game of tug of war came to an end when C9 claimed the Baron buff off a won fight in the bottom lane. But just like that, FQ tugged back after they regained their footing and caught Nisqy out just as the dragon was about to spawn. Uncontested, FQ secured their third dragon and were sitting pretty being just one dragon off Mountain Soul. Like moths to a flame, three of the five C9 members get caught out individually just as the dragon spawns. With the massive tempo swing from the kills, FQ secured Mountain Soul.
After a lengthy pause due to technical difficulties, the game resumed and continued to be a close game. However, off the back of some positioning errors (mistakes that plagued C9 all series), FQ capitalized and secured Elder Dragon and Baron to close out the game.
|FlyQuestWIN||Time: 44:50||Cloud 9LOSS|
Game Four – FlyQuest leads 2-1
Both teams seemed content in keeping their drafts (both picks and bans) similar to the prior games played. FQ made a major shift with their mid pick, however, and locked in Malzahar. Style-wise, everything else remained the same. For FQ, it seemed like a no-brainer to keep things the same if they were working. It is only necessary to show your hand if forced to. Draft is just as important as in-game execution, and FQ were the ones threatening checkmate with most of their board still intact. C9, however, continued to display their inadequate preparation to counter FQ’s “predictable” draft.
With so much on the line, it seemed as if both teams lifted their foot off the gas a little for the first time in the series. Skirmishes occurred periodically, but none yielded results until almost ten minutes in. After managing to find a pick on Solo, C9 gained a 1k gold lead and secured Herald. A minute later, they returned to the scene of the crime to get yet another kill on Solo. Santorin responded by attacking mid and securing a kill of theirs. Without Cleanse or Quicksilver Sash, Nisqy had no choice but to accept death after being locked down by a Malzahar ultimate.
Fourteen minutes into the game, we got our first 5v5 fight around the second dragon. The fight was uncoordinated and scattered from the side of C9. FQ reaped the rewards of a three-for-one trade. With FQ at two dragons and C9 at zero, the looming threat of Soul already started to impact C9’s decision-making. Fast-forwarding to twenty-six minutes in, FQ picked Blaber off at the start of a fight and narrowly secured their fourth dragon and Infernal Soul.
FQ didn’t provide any windows for C9 to claw their way back into the game as they waited for Elder Dragon to spawn. However, when it did, they dared C9 to challenge them and came out on top with a two-for-one trade, Elder Dragon, and Baron shortly after. With every neutral objective buff in the game at their disposal, FQ swiftly dismantled the remaining C9 structures and qualified for Worlds 2020.
|Cloud 9LOSS||Time: 37:27||FlyQuestWIN|
Post-Match Discussion – FlyQuest Wins Series 3-1
From “meme team” to “dream team”, FQ’s evolution as an organization has been a joy to follow. When you look at their roster, you don’t expect dominance through star power. What we have grown to expect from this roster, however, is a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. I stand by my opinion that this roster is a unique breed in the North American landscape. No other roster comes together in the way they do to create an environment where every player can succeed. Watching FQ has been a breath of fresh air that I hope continues to play together, regardless of their results at the World Championship. Congratulations to all the staff that turned the ship around and managed to build a roster that is fun to cheer for. It’s been five years for Santorin and Wildturtle, three years for PowerOfEvil and Ignar, but they’ve finally booked their ticket back to the international stage. And who could forget about Solo? The stoic rock in the top lane showed the most emotion of them all after qualifying for his first international tournament. After being doubted and overlooked, they’ve come together to create something incredible. Good luck and have fun in China, FlyQuest! And the rest of the playoffs, too, I guess.
We cannot forget about C9, though. What a ride, huh? After looking like an untouchable team for most of the year and having a flawless record against FQ, this was not the expected result. Not for me, at least. I thought it would go the distance, but in C9’s favour. Their fall from grace continues as they fall to the lower bracket and face elimination from Worlds contention. A lot needs to change if this team hopes to qualify for Worlds. What were once eyes set on the prize beyond North America now need to be set on what is in front of them if they hope to look beyond the constraints of their region again.