What are 'The Clouds'?
When people mention ‘The Clouds’, they are referring to the screen showing clouds while attempting to match you with a suitable opponent base to attack after you press the “Find a Match” button.
Depending on which league you are in and how many active players are online, a match can be found almost instantly. If you aren’t matched immediately, you are shown a screen with clouds and a magnifying glass while searching for an opponent.
In lower leagues, this will usually only show for a few seconds, however in the higher leagues it can be a few minutes between matches. In extreme cases, such as players in Legends League, the search can take an hour or more and may even fail to find a match. In the event of no match, the screen below is displayed and the player has to begin the matchmaking process again.
Why does it happen?
This issue is due to how the shield/guard system works. While you have an active shield/guard on your village or you are online, it isn’t possible for other players to attack your village but it is possible for you to attack other player’s villages.
Every time you attack another player’s village with an active shield, some of your shield time is deducted however it’s possible to attack multiple times during your shield time before someone is able to attack your village. If you are in a league with players who aren’t attacking other bases frequently, there will be an available village for you to attack right away. As you reach the higher leagues, the number of casual players decreases (as in order to maintain a high enough trophy count they must win enough trophies to remain in that league) and the pool of villages without shields decreases. In the top leagues such as Titan and Legend, this balance is heavily in favour of active attackers with a much smaller pool of eligible targets.
The diagrams below illustrate this in very simplified terms as this is happening on a scale of millions of players as well as overlooking other parameters. Please note for simplicity the shield or guard is summarised as either ‘Shield’ or ‘No Shield’:
A player in a league with a large number of unshielded villages
When the player presses ‘Find a Match’ there are multiple villages without shields available so the match process is almost instant. If they decide they don’t want to attack the first target and press ‘Next’, they would be matched again almost instantly. This scenario allows the attacker to be very selective of which village they attack.
A player in a league with less unshielded villages
When the player presses ‘Find a Match’, there are not any villages initially available so they will see the ‘Searching for opponents…’ screen. After 30 seconds, the shield of Player 1 will no longer be active and they will be available for attack. If the player presses ‘Next’, they would begin the search process again and could potentially match with Player 2 18 seconds later (assuming another player hadn’t been matched with them). If they were to press ‘Next’ a third time, there could be a 1min 12sec search time before matching with Player 3.
A player in a league with more attackers than unshielded villages
When the player presses ‘Find a Match’, there are also not any villages initially available so they will see the ‘Searching for opponents…’ screen, however there are also 2 other attackers ahead of them in the queue so they will be matched with the next 2 available villages. This results in a potential search time of 48 minutes during which the search could fail resulting in the ‘Unable to find villages to attack!’ screen and having to start the search process again.
Does this happen for the builder base?
This is far less likely to happen when attacking on the builder base due to the battle mechanics being head-to-head rather than a one way attack. As you can only be matched by other players also looking to attack, you will be paired up with minimal wait. At very high trophy counts the number of suitable matches may be reduced resulting in a wait, however this would only affect a very small proportion of top end players.
What can you do whilst in ‘The Clouds’?
Whilst searching for a village, after approx 5 seconds the chat menu appears on the left hand side of the screen. This allows you to chat in global or clan chat, however you aren’t able donate troops or spells.
Troops, spells and heroes continue to train/regenerate during the search and attack time. For example, if your next army has 15 minutes training time remaining and you waited 12 minutes for a match and used the full 3 minute attack time, your second army would be complete when you return to your village. This also applies to heroes even if they are available for your current attack, so if your heroes took a level of damage that would require 15 minutes of regeneration time, they would be immediately available for use when you returned to your village.
How can you minimise your matchmaking times?
The two main factors for matchmaking times are the league you are in and any active events that result in more online players attacking. When there are no active events matching making times start to increase from around Champion League (3200+ trophies) and continue to increase as you get closer to Legend League. Time of day can also be a factor with matchmaking times decreasing as players in other regions are asleep and increasing at weekends when players may attack more due to not being at work or school. In higher leagues (Champion I to Titan I) the first few days of a new season can lead to increased matchmaking time as all Legend League players will have had their trophy counts reset to 5000 and will match with more players in Titan League reducing the number of available villages for Titan League players to match with.
Active events such as Clan Games, 1 gem army boost and popular troop cost reduction events can result in more players online and attacking. For Clan Games challenges that have short completion timers, it can make it difficult to complete the challenge due to matchmaking times exceeding the duration of the challenge.
One workaround to minimise your matchmaking time is to minimise the number of trophies gained per attack or purposely reduce your number of trophies so that you are placed in a lower league. Players can minimise the number of trophies they gain from a successful attack by ending the attack prematurely before doing 100% damage for a 3 star attack. A faster way to reduce trophies is to deploy a troop or hero on a village and immediately end the attack by pressing the ‘Surrender’ button on the bottom left. This can be done repeatedly until the player has been demoted to a lower league they are happy with.
By viewing the ‘Upcoming Event’ section within the Events tab players are able to plan ahead and manipulate their trophy counts accordingly to ensure quicker matchmaking before the event is active.
Can it be fixed?
Yes, however it will require some substantial reworking of the entire matchmaking system rather than being a bug that can be fixed by a developer or by upgrading game servers. The builder base head-to-head battles demonstrated that a different matchmaking mechanic substantially reduced match up time, however that has a village economy/upgrade path that was designed around that from launch rather than applying it to the home village that has functioned as it has for over 6 years.
The good news is that a solution is within sight. Darian Vorlick, a community manager at Supercell has confirmed they are working on it under the project title “Operation Blue Skies” and it should be ready in the first half of 2019. Details are being kept under wraps for now, but it is reassuring to know that we should see a solution soon.
June 2019 Update
As promised, the Operation: Blue Skies changes came out in the first half of 2019 as part of the June 2019 update. This involved a rework of the Legends League to have a fixed number of attacks and defences each day amongst those players.
Full details on the changes can be seen within the Operation: Blue Skies guide:
Has it fixed the clouds?
It is too early to know for certain if the issue has been fully resolved, however in the Titan leagues where during busy periods (such as during Clan Games) it could often be 10 - 15 minutes per search for a village to attack, searches appear to take around 30 seconds, which is a substantial improvement.