GP10 NA LCS Spring Split - #5 Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming
Projected Record: 9:9
After a lengthy try-out process, Counter Logic Gaming’s much derided veteran mid laner, Link, returns to the team for the 2015 Spring Split. With an abysmal playoff and relegation performance, fans found an easy scapegoat in Link. While Link played poorly throughout most of these series, resorting to memes and fragmented video footage to explain away CLG’s disappointing closure to a promising Summer Split is intellectually lazy. Link’s poor playoff performance was not symptomatic of sudden Hearthstone-atrophy, or psychological warfare with Dexter, but rather, a crippling inconsistency that has plagued him since the start of his professional career. Link undoubtedly has moments of brilliance, but these moments historically are found nestled between question marks. When Link announced that he had made it through the try-out process to start on CLG again, he claimed that, “[...] the only thing that really matters is results.” Unfortunately, Link’s lukewarm results at IEM Cologne suggest that his inconsistencies are here to stay.
The asterisk that appears on Link’s IEM performance is undoubtedly the absence of CLG’s new jungler: Xmithie. Despite an unfortunate sojourn to the ADC role in Season 4, leading only to his eventual return to the jungle and a one-way ticket to the challenger scene via relegation, CLG’s hope for Xmithie lies in his Season 3 Summer Split success as a play making jungler. Working with strong laners, such as Mancloud during Season 3 and i Kenny U in Season 4, Xmithie uses the jungle as a springboard into team based play, rather than a mine to retrieve gold. While XDG’s former jungler may no longer be touted as “Dandylite”, if CLG applies his pressure correctly Xmithie might bring enough of his Season 3 self to make a satisfying impact.
One of the strong solo laners Xmithie has to work with on this CLG is top laner, Zionspartan. After struggling with poor communication and LAN jitters from their former top laner, Seraph, CLG approached Zionspartan to join their 2015 roster. While many will look to Zionspartan as one of the few top lane carries in North America, Zionspartan has shown as recently as IEM Cologne that he is willing to adjust his picks to accommodate the needs of his team’s composition. Zionspartan not only brings a much needed second threat to CLG, but also crucially, according to Scarra, a voice “behind the scenes” which may prove to benefit the hot heads in this storied organization. Unfortunately, as with their mid laner, CLG has to question the consistency of Zionspartan’s play - especially when playing one of his carries.
If Zionspartan proves to be effective as a second threat, it will provide a much needed relief of pressure on CLG’s all-star bot lane: Doublelift and Aphromoo. Long considered one of North America’s premier duo lane’s Doublelift and Aphromoo, affectionately named Rush Hour, continues to impress with a strong showing at IEM Cologne. Praised by former coach and OGN commentator, Montecristo, as one of the best laning duos in the game, Rush Hour remains CLG’s greatest strength moving into the 2015 Spring Split. CLG has consistently had a strong bot lane since the pick-up of Doublelift in early Season 2, but have failed to capitalize on it.
While awkward roster swaps and unfortunate gambles have hurt CLG’s chances as a strong showing, strong team-based and objective-based play have also continued to elude this organization. It is possible that the addition of Xmithie’s early game presence and Zionspartan’s ability to carry the game as a top lane threat and strong communication will lead CLG to new heights, but it is just as likely that CLG will fail to collective grasp objective based gameplay for another split - despite this influx of tried talent.
How they got here:
The 2014 Summer Split did not treat CLG kindly. Despite a promising third place finish to their Season 4 Spring Split and an even more promising pick-up for top lane in the form of the mechanically gifted, and crucially, inexperienced Korean, Seraph, CLG ended Season 4 clawing their way out of relegation. CLG fans cautiously watched as their team remained tied for first place between Week 4 and Week 8. Perhaps we were hardened cynics after years of almosts and false hopes, but when CLG crashed and burned in Week 9, it seemed inevitable - almost a relief.
In retrospect, the signs were there from the beginning of the split. Between Seraph’s culture-shock induced, shyness and Link’s fair warning that prototypical CLG tensions were brewing behind the scenes it’s hard to be surprised at their fall from grace. After being tied for first in Week 8 with an 11-8 record, they went on to go 0-4 in the rest of their season and 1-6 in playoffs. After losing convincingly to Curse and then Dig, they dropped down to relegation.
Things looked dire for CLG, defending their LCS spot against Curse Academy after going 1-10 since Week 8, their Korean bootcamp seemingly fruitless and Montecristo resigning as their coach. They dropped the first two maps to the Saintvicious led LCS hopefuls. They were hungry. Keane’s impressive Shockwaves locked down teamfights, Saintviscious’ strong jungle presence and Impactful’s unexpected dominance over Doublelift’s signature Vayne seemed to seal CLG’s fate.
Cold expressions held over faces of CLG during the pick-ban phase for Game 3. It was now or never. The bans were fairly standard, it looked like the final nail in CLG’s coffin.
Finally, CLG first picked Tristana for Doublelift.
Collectively fans across the world moved to the edge of their seats. Doublelift had shied away from this hyper carry throughout the season, preferring strong laners in it’s stead. Now he had a champion he could 1v9 with. CLG went on to build a double shield composition around Doublelift’s Tristana. All of the work CLG had collectively done to move away from the binary “Protect the Doublelift” strategy was gone.
It worked. The Doublelift led CLG went on to take the rest of the series 3-2. They had made it back into the LCS.
In the weeks and months following CLG’s bitter sweet victory at relegation, European jungler, Dexter, and Korean top laner, Seraph, both parted ways with CLG. Perhaps the personality clashes were too strong, perhaps there were factors unannounced to the population but going into 2015, CLG once again looked to do their seasonal rebuilding of their roster.
The communication issues produced by the imported jungler and top laner seemed to scare CLG owner, HotshotGG, off from future imported players, especially Korean, stating in his ask.fm, “Importing a Korean into a team doesn't work unless you have a good support group/coach that also speaks Korean.” HotshotGG went on to acquire former Dignitas coach, Scarra, for the head coach position - notably someone who did not fit that criteria. Scarra would go on to hold try-outs for Top, Mid and Jungle positions for CLG.
As Season 5 grew closer, CLG would fill out their roster. After a strangely long try-out process, CLG would go on to re-sign Link at midlane and their star bot-lane duo, Doublelift and Aphromoo. New this season would be Zionspartan, formerly of Dignitas, to fill the top lane and Xmithie, formerly of XDG, for the vacancy in the jungle. CLG’s management would cite strong communication and veteran status as important factors for choosing these candidates. These pickups would be in stark contrast to the unproven gamble of Seraph the previously split.
Biggest Headline: Will these Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?
CLG is the only team exclusively fielding players who participated in the first LCS split. Each brings experience-hardened, idiosyncratic styles to their position and strong opinions on what their role is and how that relates to the rest of the team. This season will be won and lost on how they collectively decide to utilize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Each of these players have proven that they can mechanically stay at the top level in North America. Their test will be if they can finally manifest this mechanical skill into strategic and tactical dominance. Unfortunately, if their IEM pick-ban phases are any indication of their Spring Split preparedness, this may be an arduous road.
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Counter Logic Gaming remains a mechanically strong team with solo laners who have problems with inconsistency but can become threats. Due to their recent performance at IEM Cologne, it remains unclear if they have remedied their macro level problems with their off season moves.
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