By Elijah Oates | Contributor
The last time a professional, North American (NA) "League of Legends" team made it to the semifinals of the world championship was… never. It seemed almost like a curse.
An NA team made the quarterfinals nearly every year, but always fell to the might of Korea, China or Europe. A few weeks ago, however, NA's Cloud9 defeated Korea's Afreeca Freecs in the quarterfinals to break the curse.
It was a special moment, from a special team. Cloud9's storied season was full of highs and lows. At the beginning of the NA summer split - the latter half of professional League's regular season - the team went through controversial roster swaps, benching three of their star players and starting three rookies. Fast forward five weeks, and Cloud9 was sitting at a 3-7 record. They were dead last.
Cue a miracle. Over the following five weeks, Cloud9's rookies, as well as two of the benched players, would win the next eight games, finishing the split with an 11-7 record and a playoff bye.
The next step was the NA semifinals, where Cloud9 would face its biggest rival, Team SoloMid (TSM), in a best of five series. Cloud9 had not felled TSM in a best of five since the spring of 2014. In a hard fought series, the rookies shined, and Cloud9 emerged victorious in five nail-biting games.
Though they would lose the NA finals to the mighty Team Liquid, Cloud9 still had a chance to make the World Championship as NA's third seed through the qualifier tournament. Lo and behold, the team they had to beat was TSM. It didn't take long. Cloud9 swept the series, continuing its Cinderella story, going from dead last to the World Championship.
The team began its run at Worlds without a hitch. They cruised through the Play-In stage, in which minor regions, as well as the lower seeds from major regions, fight for the right to play in the main event.
However, when it came time for the Group Stage, there was a problem. Cloud9's group consisted of one of Europe's best teams, Team Vitality, the tournament favorites, RNG, and the previous year's champions, Gen. G.
To reach the quarterfinals, Cloud9 needed four wins in six games against some of the best teams to ever play the game, and after starting 1-2, things looked grim.
Cue miracle number two. Using a unique, aggressive playstyle, Cloud9 caught their opponents off-guard and won their next three games, finishing the group with a 4-2 record and securing their spot in the quarterfinals.
Cloud9 is no stranger to the Worlds quarterfinals, having been there four times previously, but they had never won. Now, they were against Korea's second seed: The Afreeca Freecs. No NA team had ever beat a Korean team in a best of five series.
Against all odds, Cloud9 swept Afreeca 3-0 and secured their place in history as the first NA team to make the World Championship semifinals.
Though they lost in the semifinals, it didn't really matter. History was made, and it was made by a team that was dead last during the regular season. Thank you, Cloud9.