The North American squad returned to their home in Diamond Bar, Calif. today, following a three week-long boot camp in South Korea. Now, they will make the final preparations to play Curse this Sunday in the quarterfinals of the League Championship Series Summer playoffs.
The winner of this best of five series will go to Worlds. The loser heads home. For CLG, a spot at the game’s most prestigious international competition would be validation for a couple of big, risky choices that have made them one of the most storied teams in League of Legends history.
CLG’s starting roster skipped out on LCS week 11 to catch a last minute flight to Seoul on July 31, having already qualified for the playoffs. Shortly after CLG’s assistant manager Matt “MaTTcom” Marikian and analyst Tony ‘Zikz” Gray joined the team alongside head coach Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles in a makeshift apartment where they trained against Korean opposition.
Last year, CLG were quickly knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals, losing 2-0 to Team SoloMid. Since then, they’ve undergone massive structural changes. They swapped out Michael “bigfatlp” Tang and veteran Steve “Chauster” Chau for European talent Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black.
The team began to improve. With Mykles at the helm, CLG’s famed potential finally began to manifest. After snagging a spot in third place on April 6, the unexpected happened.
Zach “Nien” Malhas left the team on April 23, following a wave of criticism for his performance in the Spring playoffs. Just when it looked like CLG might have finally been putting the pieces together to make a top tier NA team, they were back to square one.
So, like many of their fellow North American teams, the team looked to Korea to find a replacement. Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong, a 17-year-old Korean solo queue superstar who had only played one professional game in his life joined on May 19 in California as CLG’s new top laner.
Shin was unproven, but CLG assured fans that he possessed a mountain of potential despite his limited English. But with his addition, CLG still put up mixed results at the beginning of the LCS season, starting off with a 2-2 record following the first super week. But by week two the they’d improved, reaching a 4-2 record after taking down Team SoloMid and Complexity.
And that was the pattern for the season: Week by week, CLG got stronger. Their objective-based play was heralded as some of the best North America had ever seen. In week four, CLG clinched the first place spot, and didn’t let go for five weeks. For a time, it looked like they had finally done it: After years of broken promises, they were consistently a top North American team.
Then, over the span of two weeks from July 19 to July 27, they lost four games back-to-back. The team was clearly having internal issues, as showcased by mini-doc “Chasing The Cup.”
To get the team on the right track for the upcoming playoffs, and to qualify for the World Championship, they needed to take a risk. They flew to Korea.
At this point, CLG have done everything they could possibly do to prepare for the playoffs. Was the Korean boot camp helpful? Has it solved any of the their internal issues? We’ll find out this weekend, when CLG face off against Curse—against whom they won only once this season, and lost three times. If CLG doesn’t advance to the semifinals, they’ll need to head back to the drawing board again—as they watch the World Championships unfold from home.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr