Cloud9 are on the brink of another painful Worlds elimination, fighting for their life in the LCS Championship lower bracket. Ibrahim ‘Fudge’ Allami knows its crunch-time, and the Australian top laner says he’s working hard to make sure 2020 doesn’t repeat itself for the reigning North American champs.
Cloud9 are one series away from yet another year of heartbreak in the LCS. After making MSI 2021, they are fighting for life in the Championship lower bracket for a spot at Worlds.
Their rivals Liquid and 100 Thieves have already swept the first two spots. Now they’re in a four-horse race for the final one. It’s something that’s playing on the team’s mind, especially Fudge, who had to watch Cloud9 painfully miss out on a near-guaranteed Worlds spot in 2020.
“Last year, it felt like the LCS team was assuming they’d make Worlds before it happened. I don’t want to make the same mistake,” he told Dexerto.
“It was a really long off-season because I was in Academy and our main team didn’t make Worlds in 2020 so I was stuck for four months doing absolutely nothing.”
Obviously eyes can’t help but drift towards Worlds as the pointy end of the season approaches. The allure of lifting the Summoner’s Cup is too strong for even the most hard-headed individuals on Summoner’s Rift but, right now, Fudge is blocking it out the best he can.
“[Our mind is] completely on the playoffs right now.
Obviously we still watch other regions, but we’re not thinking like ‘oh this is a team we’re going to play at Worlds’. It’s very possible that we lose and don’t make Worlds, so we have to focus on making Worlds first.”
Breaking back into the top two
After their playoffs campaign got off to a rocky start against Team Liquid — who are now off to China — Cloud9 managed to stabilize with a solid 3-0 sweep of Golden Guardians.
The eighth-seeded team was light work for the MSI representatives, with the series ending in under 90 minutes. Fudge had a respectable 9/2/11 statline from the top lane on three unique champions.
However, this Cloud9 is far from the polished version we watched in Spring, and Fudge is painfully aware of that fact.
“We’ve improved since we played Liquid, but we would have beat [Golden Guardians] if we played at the same level we did. Just because we 3-0’d and it was dominant, it doesn’t mean we’re back. It’s fair to say that Liquid and TSM are the two best teams right now, at least from stage performance.
“Obviously with scrims, I’d consider us a top two team and I’d say we improved this week after losing to TL. There wasn’t that big of a gap before, but we’ve closed it and we could be considered a top two team as long as we keep improving.”
There’s been a few specific elements of Cloud9’s game plan that have been adjusted. Without diving into too much of the secrets, Fudge did point out some of their major improvements between sets.
“We’ve been a lot more cautious around fighting around mid. There were a lot of times in the Liquid series we fought around mid and it was really bad for us. We should have played lanes normally without contesting and it would have gone a lot better,” he said.
“We’ve also been tracking more TPs and making less risky plays that can lose the game. We made less this series, but we still made some.”
While every team is rapidly improving behind-the-scenes — and Fudge himself was named LCS 2021’s Most Improved Player — Cloud9’s biggest challenge is now using their “scrimbucks” to pay for plane tickets.
“If we stay the same as we are right now, we’d lose, so we need to keep improving. This period of playoffs is probably the time where people focus the most and improve the most,” he said.
“We’re going to play against Evil Geniuses and I think they’re worse than TL and TSM but they’re still very good.
“I’d say we have a pretty good chance of beating them and the top two teams. It’s pretty fair to say we aren’t one, but based on what I know, we are one.”
Dealing with homesickness
While Fudge’s mind might not be drifting off to China, it’s certainly been glancing over at Australia. The top laner hasn’t had the chance to return home in nearly two years, and he’s staring down the barrel of another year without seeing family or friends.
He laughed it off when it was brought up, but there was just the slightest hint of sadness in his voice.
“I’m never leaving. It feels extra bad because last year, it was the exact same thing when I wasn’t able to go home and I had to stay in the US for the entire off-season,” he said.
“I think LA is a really nice city, there’s so many things to do and I have a lot of friends here because there’s a lot of OCE players here. It’s mainly just the people though. I miss some of the places and it’s obviously nostalgic, but it’s the people I haven’t seen in two years.”
Fudge did state that the homesickness won’t lead to a “mental boom”, but the reunion is definitely on his mind.
“Even if I was to go back home I’d go back for like a week, see a couple of people and it wouldn’t be a very big difference. It would suck and you obviously miss home more when you haven’t gone in a while, but it wouldn’t affect me.”