Cloud9 continue their sterling run, punch ticket to IEM Rio Major playoffs

The squad remains one of Rio's most resilient.

Just six days ago, Cloud9 had arguably the worst start of any team to the IEM Rio Major: an 0-2 hole, and one best-of-three away from heading back to Europe with not even a whiff of playoff Counter-Strike. But they say pressure makes diamonds, and today C9 shined brightest as the first team to grab a playoff spot out of the Legends stage.

C9 faced off against Heroic today in another best-of-three. This series brought much different stakes for the C9 roster, with promotion to playoffs on the line. Heroic and Cloud 9 were slated by many to have deep runs in Rio, and through the legends stage, Heroic had certainly looked in line and form for what many expected of them. The Danish squad was coming off two commanding victories over other Challenger series teams, with a 16-9 victory over Outsiders and a 16-2 victory over the red-hot Fnatic.

Star Sergey “Ax1Le” Rykhtorov and company knew full well the level of competition Heroic would bring, but for the first time all Major long, C9 was playing with house money and it showed right out the gate against the Danes. Nine straight rounds are all impressive on their own, but C9 grabbed that streak on the T side of Vertigo, arguably the most CT-sided map in the current pool. An 11-4 half heading to their CT side basically guaranteed the opening map to the boys in blue and white. Theyd go on to close it comfortably with a 16-9 victory. Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov starred, with 28 kills, 10 deaths, and an absurd 1.84 rating on the opening map.

Next up was Inferno, a map C9 has won just half of their matches on over the last three months. This match was as neck-and-neck as possible, with an 8-7 half in favor of Heroic, but C9 pulled away once again on their T side. In the blink of an eye, C9 grabbed nine of 10 second half T side rounds and punched their ticket to playoffs with a 16-9 win on Inferno.  

Sh1ro didnt waver a bit switching maps, nabbing another 25 kills to lead all players. The Russian phenom ended the series with 53 kills in two matches and a 1.81 rating. Even more impressive from C9 was the team’s T sides. Of the 25 rounds with C9 on T side, 20 of them went the way of Sh1ro and company. 

What has really pushed Cloud 9 from underdog to playoffs has been different stars stepping up each time a best-of-three comes calling. Throughout the Challengers stage and every single elimination best-of-three, you saw hero plays from Ax1Le keeping his team alive. From two straight overtime maps against Imperial to two 16-13 map finishes against Gamer Legion, C9 has refused to lose.

Even once C9 reached the Legends stage, a spot all CS fans expected to see the boys in blue and white at, the pressure was still there. Grueling matches and early deficits defined both of C9’s respective matches against FaZe Clan and NAVI, but it was Ax1Le to answered the call again and helped send C9 to that coveted showdown against Heroic.

While securing a spot in playoffs at arguably the biggest Major of the year is an accomplishment in its own right, this C9 roster was expected to get here. As remarkable a run as C9 had, HLTV ranked them as the fifth-best team in the world for a reason. The biggest takeaway of Cloud 9s path to playoffs isnt that they got here, its that no amount of pressure kept them out.

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