Cloud9’s young prodigy turned out to be a much better top laner than many would have predicted early on.
Starting from scratch
Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami, Cloud9’s young top laner, had a rough January.
The former Cloud9 academy player was pulled up to the LCS after Eric “Licorice” Ritchie left the team to join FlyQuest, leaving him with large shoes to fill. Despite failing to make Worlds last year, Cloud9 was considered the best team to ever play in the LCS, powered by an unreal Spring Split with all five of their starters being voted into first-team All-LCS.
After missing Worlds, the team returned three starters: jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang, support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme and bot laner Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. The team also brought over former G2 Esports star Luka “Perkz” Perković in one of the most high-profile transactions in LCS history.
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Cloud9 was predicted by many to be the dominant force in the LCS with their competition primarily being TSM and Team Liquid, with Fudge being the only potential question mark, as he had a lack of LCS experience and was largely unproven. The 18-year-old top laner was Cloud9’s weak point, and teams exploited it through this year’s preseason Lock-In tournament.
Fudge also set up high expectations for himself through his penchant for trash-talking. In an interview with Inven Global, Fudge said that if he trash-talked, it would raise expectations for himself. If he lost, then getting flamed would make him feel bad, and he’d work harder to get better:
“I knew it would force me to play better, and if I didn’t, I would get flamed and want to play better. I look like an idiot if I play badly, but I also improve more because I feel bad from losing and getting flamed.”Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami
Throughout the tournament, Fudge was constantly camped and skill-checked by the more experienced top laners and junglers in the LCS. Placed into a weak-side role, the pressure was to be expected — Cloud9 funneled more resources to its star mid and bot lane with Blaber running around creating pressure on objectives, leaving Fudge on an island. The stats echo this: Fudge had a tough time playing the laning phase during the Lock-In. On average, at fifteen minutes, Fudge was down 12.2 creep score (CS), 535 gold and 311 XP during the tournament, according to stats collection site gol.gg.
It was just the beginning.
From zero to hero
Even during the season, we started to see improvement. Fudge shifted into a more comfortable weak-side presence, commanding a 4-1 record on Gragas and collecting a win apiece on his Karma, Malphite and Sion. His values at fifteen minutes also markedly improved. During the Spring Split, he was only down 1.9 CS, a huge improvement from the 12.2 CS in the Lock-In. He was also only down 80 gold on average, which is largely negligible in the laning phase. As far as XP goes, he was up 163 at fifteen minutes.
Fudge’s play was good enough to warrant attention from some analysts, while many others continued to place Fudge low on top lane tier lists. David “Phreak” Turley, a caster for the LCS, put Fudge as the second-best top laner in the LCS under only Team Liquid’s Barney “Alphari” Morris, top lane juggernaut and LCS MVP finalist. Fellow analysts Emily Rand and Kieran “Allorim” Logue listed Fudge as 8th and 9th in the LCS respectively.
Fudge gained wider notice during the Spring Split playoffs, where in the finals against Team Liquid, Fudge helped orchestrate multiple first bloods against Barney “Alphari” Morris and generally playing his role well against him.
In the post-series press conference, Fudge credited his improved communication with his teammates on top waves and gank timings, and looked forward to punishing opposing top laners at MSI.
While Cloud9 as a unit had a disappointing tournament run, ending at the Rumble stage with a 2-8 record, Fudge was considered by many to be one of the best individual performers on the squad. Particularly impressive were his games on Lee Sin, both against the top seeds at the tournament, the LPL’s RNG Esports and the LCK’s reigning world champions DAMWON KIA. His game against RNG created a highlight-reel play that won Cloud9 the game, where he ward hopped out of his Resonating Strike to dodge Xayah’s recalled feathers, then flashed behind Xayah for a massive ult that completely disrupted RNG’s ability to teamfight.
Cloud9’s poor overall showing didn’t detract from Fudge’s individual performances, and he earned praise from analysts, casters and media.
Fudge will return to the LCS with a good amount of international experience. The question that comes next is whether or not Cloud9 will take what they’ve learned and translate it into another domestic title and Worlds berth.