Cloud9 has been consistently prosperous in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) since joining in Season 4, notching 4 straight Top 4 finishes at the World Championship, including winning it all in Season 6. Rocket League’s longest-standing roster—Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda, Kyle “Torment” Storer, and Jesus “Gimmick” Parra—had been shockingly reliable coming into this season.
But something changed, with Cloud9 suddenly struggling to finish matches and rack up wins. The team landed in 7th place in North America at 2-5, and ended up in an unfamiliar place: the promotion/relegation tournament instead of the World Championship. Last week, we explored some theories as to why both Cloud9 and G2 fell so suddenly this season, and ultimately, both teams prevailed and secured their RLCS spots for Season 9.
Rocketeers caught up with Torment this week, and he shared a window into the team’s struggles—how a combination of a shifting meta, improved competition, ineffective practice, and waning motivation led to Cloud9’s first real struggles in the league. He also spoke about the status of the roster this offseason, and who he’s picking at next weekend’s RLCS World Championship in Madrid.
Rocketeers: How are you feeling now after securing your RLCS spot in the promotion tournament?
Torment: For the most part, pretty stress-free. There was a lot of stress riding on this season, especially after we found out we were going to the promotion tournament. It feels really good to have that off our shoulders, and we don’t have to worry about it anymore. We can just look forward to offseason events and next season.
What do you think happened this season with your team suddenly struggling?
There’s a lot of things I could probably go into. For me specifically, I feel like the way I was practicing wasn’t very good, and I had a personal slump for much of the season. I’ve been focusing on getting out of that, and then as a team, we weren’t always on the same page.
It seemed like a lot of the teams coming up were super determined to win, and were getting pretty good. I’d say this is the best, most stacked RLCS season we’ve had in NA, which didn’t help us as well. It just kind of caught us all off-guard, and they were just really good. We weren’t up to par with them.
When you say that you weren’t all on the same page, do you mean mentally or you were doing different things playing together?
I feel like one of our main problems, and this was actually something Fireburner helped with a lot—our comms weren’t as good. Our comms were good sometimes, but they weren’t consistently good. We’d have times were comms would fail, and it wouldn’t be as good as it should be. So Fire helped reinforce that, and tell us what we should be calling at certain times. Sometimes, one of us would be specifically good at calling, maybe when you’re not on the ball. For me, I’d probably be better at comming when I’m not on the ball, but sometimes I’d forget to call as I’m going for the ball, if that makes sense.
0-2 week moves us to 1-3 in the standings, ggs to birds and ssg
Sorry to everybody we’ve let down, I haven’t been playing like myself and I’m not sure why 😔
— C9 Torment (@Torment) October 19, 2019
You tweeted during the season: “I haven’t been playing like myself and I’m not sure why.” Can you talk a little bit about that feeling and why you think that was happening?
I think I tweeted that… Week 3, when we lost to Birds and Spacestation? I had such an off week that week, against Birds at least. I think I stepped up a little bit against Spacestation, but we still lost. I don’t really know.
At that point, I felt like I was so lost in some of our games, and I didn’t know how to figure it out. And then I kind of just realized… in practice, I wasn’t playing as much Ranked and 6mans, I was kind of just scrimming and doing free play. I think I was just so off sometimes and wasn’t as good at 3s as I should be, so I started playing more games in general. I think that helped me a little bit, but at that time, yeah, I was a little bit lost.
Landing in the promotion tournament, were you guys scared that you might actually lose your place in the league?
Honestly, we were pretty confident still. We knew G2 would be good, and they were—they were the best team in the tournament. But we were pretty confident after scrimming the RLRS teams for two weeks. We did pretty well in the scrims, for the most part. We knew that as long as we showed up on game day, and didn’t have a super off-day or choke or something, we would probably be fine. Thankfully, thankfully, those things worked out for us.
After the regular season ended, how did you go about trying to figure out your issues as a team and then try to resolve them?
It was like an ongoing process throughout the season, so we kind of just continued it. Going over more replays with Fire, and Fire was being more proactive during our scrims. He would obviously do things, but he was even more into it, making comments nonstop when something was wrong, and making sure that all of us individually knew what we had to do better. I think that really helped a lot.
Can you talk a bit more about Fireburner’s impact on the team this season?
Yeah, I talked about it a little bit, but basically Fire was really important for our comms, and also our rotation and helping us change our entire play style. If you compare us between league play and the promotion tournament, we played super different and we were more physical—especially Gimmick. He was very important in helping us transition to that. We’re still working on it, because we’re not perfect. Without him, that would’ve been a lot harder.
I think Fire’s been super great. A lot of people are blaming him even though they obviously aren’t there, but they blame him because we were good, and then we picked up Fire and then we started doing bad. But it definitely wasn’t on Fire. It was on us, and he was kind of on a sinking ship, honestly, trying to plug up holes.
You mentioned getting more physical in the promotion tournament. It seems like that’s something that really emerged in the meta in NA this season. Is that something that you noticed and that you’re trying to match?
Yeah, definitely. I think the big ones were Spacestation, after they got Arsenal—I think that’s kind of where their play style turned to this season, and it’s definitely mainly because of Arsenal. And then the Peeps, or Pittsburgh Knights, is a main one that’s been doing it for a while. Those are the big two, but it seems like everyone’s trying to evolve to that around them.
We were kind of late on that. We weren’t really doing that as much, especially me. I’m one person, I’d probably say, I’m the one that demos the least out of most of the players. I definitely had to change my play and get better at demos too, because demos aren’t easy. It’s still hard to hit top players when they hear you coming.
I had to practice a little bit, and I tried to practice when I was playing, just thinking about demos more. The same with Squishy, he was doing that as well, and I think Gimmick was already good at demos, but he’s gone insane with demos, which is actually helpful.
— Rocket League Esports (@RLEsports) December 1, 2019
I remember in a past interview you saying that demos aren’t really your thing, because there’s that chance that they’ll throw you out of rotation and throw you off your plan. Is that something that you feel like you’re getting more comfortable with, and that you can keep in your play style?
Yeah, I was always scared to move up too far and overcommit, and possibly miss the demo. I’ve definitely focused on first, getting better at them, so I don’t really miss a demo or throw myself out—because if you overcommit but you get the demo, then it’s worth it. You take one player completely out of the play. It’s mainly just that, getting comfortable with it and not trying to be too passive. I was trying to be too safe at all times, and honestly you need to be super risky in this game. High risk/high reward is actually how a lot of people win.
Given that both you guys and G2 struggled this season, do you feel like you both ran into some of those same issues this season?
Yeah. I think the main issue for both of us was probably individual play not being as good as it should be. I think both teams have definitely stepped it up. I know G2 especially, they even boot-camped for the promo tourney—they were really into it. We definitely stepped up our game, as well. We didn’t boot-camp, but I think that was the main thing, kind of a motivation thing.
Even since Season 6, I think we haven’t been as motivated. We’ve still been trying, but it just hasn’t been there as much, the want… and probably the same with G2 after Season 7, and the offseason. Maybe the same thing happened to them. I’m not really sure. It’s mostly trying to get out of that and make our way back up. I’m confident that we can do it, and I think they probably will too, because they seem to be taking it really seriously.
Do you feel like when you get to the top of the mountain—you win the RLCS championship, or in G2’s case, you get to the grand finals—that it’s hard to get back into the grind and just try all over again?
Yeah, I would say it is a little bit, because it’s like: Wow, we already achieved it. I was still trying and my team was still trying, but the motivation—it’s just a challenge to keep up.
And the other thing, a lot of the other teams… this is kind of an overused term, but there’s a target on your back, and people are trying to take you down. You’re the best team, so when other teams are playing you, they’re definitely giving it 100% and there’s no pressure. If you’re the reigning World Champions, they have no pressure. Like, “Oh, we lost to the reigning World Champions. Oh well.” And if they win, obviously, then they get a major upset.
That’s also a major thing in mentality, and I feel like me specifically, I did probably put too much pressure on myself to stay on the top like that after Season 6. Especially since it was my individual peak, so that was probably one of the bigger reasons that we’ve been doing worse since then.
Do you still have confidence in this lineup going forward, or do you think you guys are going to be talking about possible changes?
I don’t think we’re making any roster changes this season, as far as I know. I’m pretty confident still. I think since Week 3, which was probably our worst week, we’ve been on a slow upward trend, a little bit, in terms of how I think we’re playing. Maybe not results; the results still weren’t there. But I think we’ve been getting slowly better, and I think as long as we keep that improvement up through the offseason, we can definitely get back to a LAN-caliber team by next season.
Now from the outside looking in, what are you looking forward to seeing at the World Championship, and who do you have to win it all?
I’m definitely predicting NRG, and that’s also because I just want them to win because I’m friends with all of those players. I think it would be cool to see Turbo get his 4-time, but also I think Garrett and Jstn are two of the best players to never win the World Championship. I think they deserve one, and I think this is their best chance this season. I’m really rooting for them.
Lead photo courtesy of DreamHack, credit: Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren