In football, it’s not uncommon for athletes to flit between rival teams over the course of their career—Peyton Manning, for instance, bounced from the Colts to the Broncos, to the chagrin of many fans. This weekend, the North American League Championship series saw its own version of a superstar throwing down with his former teammates as FlyQuest, led by Hai “Hai” Lam, took on Cloud9, the same team Hai helped make one of the top esports organizations in North America.
For a series with such a narratively juicy hook, it did not disappoint. In the first game, after being bullied across the map by FlyQuest all game, Cloud9 effected a comeback that was nothing less than miraculous. In the second game, FlyQuest refused them the chance of a repeat performance, crushing Cloud9 decisively. The third game was one of the closest we’ve seen this Spring, with the lead swinging back and forth between the two teams.
No small factor throughout the games was Cloud9’s near-clairvoyant ability to anticipate the map movements, roams and double-bluffs that Hai directed over the three game series. Hai had taught his old team well; it was his shot-calling that had once rocketed Cloud9 from obscurity to the very top of the North American League Championship series, and while it had bamboozled FlyQuest’s previous opponents, his former teammates anticipated nearly every gambit Hai attempted over the course of the series.
Even with the shock and awe tactics they brought to the table largely neutralized, FlyQuest fought tooth and nail against the team that’s proven themselves to be the very best in North America this split. Late in the third game, with Cloud9 up a significant amount of gold, FlyQuest improbably won team fight after team fight, delaying what looked like the inevitable. It was a single brawl that eventually tilted the match in Cloud9’s favor, letting them win the series. While FlyQuest may have ultimately lost, it was an impressive performance for a team many analysts (myself included) had their doubts about.
For now, Cloud9 keeps their undefeated streak alive. But this isn’t the last shot that FlyQuest is going to get.