CLG: A Story of Plateaus
Bursting onto the North American scene as a team known as NetCodeGuides, the current four man core of Counter Logic Gaming, Tarik "tarik" Celik, Stephen "reltuC" Cutler, James "hazed" Cobb and Joshua "JDM" Marzano, rapidly rose through the ranks of the North American scene and, for brief periods of time, even found themselves on the top of the trash heap. Though apropos must be given to the four man core for their journey to becoming tier one in North America, there is an elephant in the room that has to be addressed.
This four man core have had extremely limited amounts of success on the international stage when you consider the talent that is on CLG and the amount of resources at their disposal. Ever since their first international LAN as CLG at MLG Aspen, this four man core has failed to make any real dent on the international scene. To this date, they have only registered one best of three win over a top ten ranked European team, and a handful of best of one upset wins.
Other than those outlier instances of success, Counter Logic Gaming has struggled with achieving sustainable levels of success on the international scene, even when they achieve their best result to date, they make up their mistake by immediately bombing out in the group stages at their next two LANs.
A large variety of factors can be pointed at to explain what has prevented Counter Logic Gaming from overcoming their nearly year long plateau, but the two factors that I felt were the main qualities holding Counter Logic Gaming back are the play of their star players and their lack of discipline in rounds where they have an advantage.
Gated by Their Stars
An extremely important characteristic of successful international teams is that they have some sort of star power to rely on in terms of fragging power. Whether it be a dual star system, as seen in Luminosity Gaming, or a singular star, as seen in Mousesports, star players are a make or break factor in terms of international play. The right stars can carry even the most atrocious of teams to a high level, but a lack of stars is a hindrance that no amount of tactics can overcome.
In the case of Counter Logic Gaming, it is clear that despite having some of the most prolific stars from the North American region, those stars have held them back on the international stage. One of the main stars on Counter Logic Gaming is JDM, and he has established himself as not only the best AWPer in North America but also a world class AWPer. However, throughout his stint on Counter Logic Gaming, he has also displayed his extremely poor rifling capabilities.
With poor rifling skills to augment his world class AWPing skills, JDM has established himself as a one dimensional star player; a star that can only have a star level impact in a third of the total rounds played. As such, JDM is a player who is better suited to be a secondary star, not the primary star as he currently is on Counter Logic Gaming. However, JDM is not the primary star of Counter Logic Gaming by choice, the system in place was initially built to have the primary star position belong to the Turkish delight Tarik.
While the system has been built around Tarik, he has never truly taken the next step to living up to those expectations. Tarik is notorious for feasting on lesser competition, routinely devouring the competition that he is faced with in domestic play. However, when it comes time for him to come outside and play with the big boys on the international stage, the same Tarik from North America is nowhere to be found.
Routinely getting punished by his international peers, Tarik’s play is a huge problem within the system that Counter Logic Gaming has built. An effective system is one that effectively puts its stars in the best positions to succeed, and while the system has worked in the case of JDM, Tarik has simply never lived up to the height of the expectations that his fellow members of Counter Logic Gaming place on him. Tarik’s inability to live up to those expectations has subsequently led to Counter Logic Gaming being stuck in a plateau for over a year.
When a team succeeds on the international stage, a large proportion of the praise falls on the shoulders of its star players. However, the converse must be true as well; if a team fails then the star player's role is to shoulder more of the blame for their failings, whether it be primarily their fault or not.
An ability to lose unloseable rounds
Counter Logic Gaming as a team are famous for winning games in a heartstopping manner, no matter the lead they may have accumulated previously. While some people chalk up this characteristic to some sort of predestination by a higher power, I feel that there is a more human factor at work. This factor is also responsible for Counter Logic Gaming’s lack of international success, and it happens to be their undisciplined play when they have an advantage.
With lightning fast flick shots, JDM is notorious for opening up rounds with a pick to give Counter Logic Gaming a man, or even sometimes a two man advantage. However, as notorious JDM is for opening up the round with the AWP, Counter Logic Gaming is also notorious for not utilizing these advantages properly, and throwing away rounds that are deemed unloseable.
On a regular basis, Counter Logic Gaming find themselves losing eco rounds due to taking shortcuts that are uncharacteristic of a professional team, and it seems that there is no attempt to change these factors either as these issues have plagued them from even previous iterations of the lineup. From the moment that Counter Logic Gaming burst onto the international scene, they have lost rounds with an advantage in manners that even make the opposing team surprised.
Stemming from a lack of discipline, Counter Logic Gaming have never truly taken a step back to look at this issue and fix it; even in their most recent tournament, they found themselves losing rounds to eco’d teams in heartbreaking fashion. Counter Logic Gaming have the ability to make games close versus the best of the competition that is out there, but they seemingly do not have the ability to take the final step over the hump. This lack of discipline has led to them being stuck on a plateau, one from which there seems is no hope of escape for Counter Logic Gaming.
Success domestically but mediocrity internationally, such is the motto of Counter Logic Gaming. Despite having some of the premier North American talent and a vast pool of resources at their beck and call, Counter Logic Gaming have never really managed to overcome the plateau they found themselves in. A combination of poor discipline and stars whose limitations stop them from being amongst the best in the world have stopped Counter Logic Gaming from taking the next step towards becoming a threat on the international stage.
Counter Logic Gaming are stuck in a pit, and there's no easy way out. In order for this team to take the next step on the international stage, it seems that it will first require them to go backwards and make changes on the core four. No easy solutions exist. At this point, it seems a bandaid solution will never truly propel Counter Logic Gaming towards the heights they wish to achieve, rather it will simply keep them at the same plateau they have always been on.