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NRG Shocks Cloud9 to Win LCS 2023 Championship

Zakaria Almughrabi

The LCS 2023 Championship has reached its end. NRG has taken down Cloud9 3-1 in one of the biggest upsets in LCS history to win the title. With this victory, Cloud9 has been denied their threepeat and NRG has become the seventh esports organization to win an LCS trophy. They’ll also be going to Worlds as North America’s first seed.

NRG LCS Championship

Image Credit Riot Games

After losing to Cloud9 in the winners’ bracket finals, NRG had to face off against Team Liquid for the chance to play on the Grand Finals stage. This was a grueling five-game series that featured some rough moments for NRG. After an 18-minute stomping of NRG in game four, Liquid had all the confidence going into the final game.

Despite just losing the fastest game in LCS Playoffs history, NRG put on a fantastic display of resilience. They make great calls and great plays to get ahead in this all-important game. The close-out was clinical from all players, allowing NRG to win the series 3-2 and move on to their rematch against Cloud9 for the LCS title.

The Biggest Game of their Lives

While this Cloud9 roster is no stranger to lifting trophies, the same could not be said of NRG. Niship “Dhokla” Doshi and Cristian “Palafox” Palafox were playing in their first domestic Grand Finals. Juan “Contractz” Garcia had been to one and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun to three, but with no title between them. Only Ian “FBI” Huang had lifted a trophy before in 2021 with 100 Thieves.

NRG were the David to C9’s Goliath in this matchup. Despite their 2-0 record over C9 in the regular season, the recent 3-0 sweep in UB finals and C9’s dynasty was on everyone’s mind. It would take NRG’s best to have a chance at taking the title. And their best they did bring.

Game one saw C9 pull out of poke composition featuring Kai’sa for Berserker and Jayce for EMENES. NRG responded with a double ADC comp featuring Rakan and Rell, hoping to be able to start fights on their own terms. Instead, a botched top lane tower dive just three minutes in put them behind the curve.

C9 continued to build a gold lead throughout the early game. NRG still had some agency until the 23-minute mark, where a failed engage in the bot river allowed C9 to turn on them. From there, C9 took control and choked NRG out of the game to take a 1-0 lead.

Switching Up the Strategy

Seeing how powerful the Kai’sa Jayce was, NRG snatched the duo for themselves in game two. They also locked Ivern for Contractz, adding another layer of peel for NRG’s damage dealers. The draft proved to be a huge success. NRG was constantly able to out-macro C9 in the early game. They built a gold lead and got three Dragons stacking. When it came to the mid-game Palafox was able to use Jayce to dominate C9’s solo laners.

The game had a few close teamfights, but NRG’s lead was too much for C9 to overcome. In the end, NRG forced onto C9 in their top-side jungle and tied the series up with a 32-minute win.

NRG liked their poke comp so much from game two that they prioritized Kai’sa again in game three. Jayce was banned this time around to deter C9 from taking Kai’sa on blue side, so NRG gave Palafox Taliyah as a substitute.

Despite the final 29-10 kill score, this game was a slow burner for NRG. Their superior range and side-lane pressure allowed them to zone C9 for most of the game. However, they had to be incredibly cautious of C9’s hard engage threat. NRG’s patience paid off, as they found a clean pick onto EMENES and slow chased C9 for an ace and Chemtech Soul.

The 41-minute win put NRG on championship point. Additionally, FBI set an LCS Finals record for most kills in a game, getting 16 total on the Kai’sa and putting out an insane 1581 damage per minute.

The Kings Fall, New Kings Rise

In both of C9’s previous finals wins, they had never been down. Now, they had one more shot to keep their dynasty alive. The game four draft adaptation was a Kai’sa ban from C9. NRG defaulted back to Zeri, which was met with a Draven and Reneta Glasc lane out of C9. They also flexed Rell from IgNar to Contractz, allowing NRG to pick four engage and lockdown champions.

NRG succeeded in getting Dhokla’s Jax an early lead via ganks. They also shut down Draven early with a fantastic four man play. However, EMENES’s Yone threatened to take over the game if it could get any support.

C9 held a 1.5k gold lead at the 25-minute mark. They went for a Baron take to try and accelerate the game. Instead, Contractz managed to buffer a Sejuani ultimate and dive into the pit to steal the Baron.

Using this momentum, NRG found picks onto C9 to turn the gold lead in their favor. A second uncontested Baron helped to stretch that lead even further. As 35 minutes passed, C9’s comp was outscaled and desperate. One final fight at the third Baron was all NRG needed to close out the series and secure the LCS trophy.

The LCS has a new champion. NRG as an org now joins the exclusive list of LCS winners. Additionally, four of NRG’s players have just earned their first domestic trophy. That’s not to mention their extensive coaching staff. Many of them are former professional League players, such as Damonte and Apollo, also raising their first LCS trophy. For now, NRG are the kings and they’ve earned their celebration. Afterwards though, there’s no doubt that others will be coming for them like came for Cloud9.