During my recent discussion of North America’s World prospects, I began to think about what team I’d like most to go, along with C9 and TL. And hands down, that team would be Optic Gaming. This is a weird pick; considering they didn’t make playoffs this past split, and they’re potentially not going to make playoffs this split either; but I think there are several reasons why this experience would be best for them, and the region.
Firstly, as I discussed earlier, I don’t think CLG or TSM are amazing contestants at the World Championship. While they’re ahead of Optic, and potentially the third and fourth teams right now, I don’t see either performing well enough to make a difference at Worlds. Similarly, I don’t necessarily think the experience would help them very much; particularly in TSM’s camp. They have several veterans who have been there before, and it won’t be anything too new for them, to maybe develop their future international performances.
Secondly, I think Optic is a much better team than their record would suggest (ironically, considering people were arguing the opposite at the beginning of the split). Recently, they’ve had several games where they’ve gained leads and then given them away. Team Liquid was getting destroyed by Optic Gaming, but through a few bad decisions, Optic handed them the game. Their early game, however, was incredibly well-played, and that is huge against the best early game team in North America.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Optic Gaming is the team that most reminds me of the original Cloud9 roster; who had several strong international performances. Of course, the obvious comparison is the fact that Meteos was on both teams, but the analysis goes much further than that. Their main focus is on the jungle-mid duo, but not only in the way they carry their games and funnel gold; they are the ones who manage and rotate the team, making the macro decisions. The beginning of the split was full of outstanding games from Crown and Meteos, often utilizing Twisted Fate’s map control to split-push and force rotations. I felt like I was watching an old Hai team dismantle their opponents.
This playstyle is much more reliable and holds much more potential than the one of CLG, who simply relies on gaining bottom-side advantages. Learning to play strong rotations and macro can help you at every point of the game, no matter the carry, or the state of the gold difference. It can win you several games where you’re behind, as taking fights at that point will simply force you to lose. So in an environment where they may be outskilled, I could see worlds where Meteos and Crown’s veteran brains help outmaneuver opponents, to steal wins.
Next, while they are also full of veterans; from Crown, to Meteos, to Arrow, and even Big at this point; their incredibly young top-laner, Dhokla, could use the exposure to outside teams. Dhokla reminds me of Balls, in that he’s no the world’s strongest player, however he’s shown the ability to hard carry games, when given advantage; especially with Aatrox. And I think his skill could develop greatly with better opponents to play against. Originally he was mainly just playing Yorick, and was very inflexible, but the longer he’s played, the much better he’s gotten, and the more champions he’s added to his arsenal. I think he’s a quick learner, so the trip would be an incredibly helpful one.
Finally, their bottom lane is once again very much like old Sneaky and Lemonnation. Big is not the most mechanically sound support in the league, and I don’t think anyone will argue you on that. But his age and experience give him a lot of game knowledge, that he then places within the team. Arrow is a middle-of-the-pack ADC, but he’s incredibly capable of snowballing if you give him the slightest edge. There have been several games; with Xayah and Draven; where he’s done incredible amounts of damage, placing his team on his back. And there’s always just the fact that he has the Draven pocket-pick. I seem to remember an old ADC, who also loved to play Draven, on C9’s roster.
In the end, no matter who goes, I think there are only two teams who have a shot at competing at Worlds: C9 and TL. So with the third spot, it’s more about what team will pull the most upsets, or develop the most with the experience. I think Dhokla’s long-term success could be thrown ahead if given the chance to go to Worlds, and the different, less skill-based playstyle could allow them to take a lot of games from stronger teams. But who know? Maybe I just want to see another Cloud9 sprout from the ground.