Earlier this week, pro League of Legends team Counter Logic Gaming announced earlier it would skip the last week of the League Championship Series in favor of practicing in Korea, where the best League of Legends teams in the world ply their trade.
Some fans immediately cheered the decision: Counter Logic was taking a stand, using whatever means they can to prepare for the LCS playoffs. Others were angry they wouldn’t get to see their favorite players finish out the LCS season, and that their team was giving up a shot at moving up the standings—even if Counter Logic had already clinched a playoff spot.
But the people who really deserve to be angry are teams like Curse Gaming, whose livelihood is partially at stake thanks to the move.
Curse currently sits in sixth place with a 10-14 record, desperately holding on to the final playoff spot—and with it a chance to avoid relegation. They don’t play Counter Logic this week, but the two teams eyeing their sixth place spot, Complexity at 8-16 and Evil Geniuses at 7-17, do, and will likely be better off for it.
Counter Logic has four matches this week, and while they’ll be throwing a lineup together, it’s very unlikely a pickup team of random substitutes and retired professional gamers will win a match against teams forged through the fires of a full season in the LCS.
Complexity has a relatively easy schedule this week. They open against Curse, then face Cloud9, Counter Logic, and Evil Geniuses. Complexity needs to win their match against Curse and then tie them in the standings to force a tie breaker, or gain three games in the standings to pass Curse.
Counter Logic’s move makes one of those scenarios much more likely. Complexity had an 0-3 record against Counter Logic on the season, but now they have to be favored in a match against a ragtag band of substitutes. Complexity has a winning record against Cloud9 on the season, and Evil Geniuses is the last-placed team in the league.
Curse Gaming, on the other hand, has a tough draw. They face Dignitas, LMQ, and Team SoloMid after the opening game against Complexity. LMQ and Team SoloMid are both fighting to clinch a top two spot in the league, and a playoff bye with it.
That means a scenario where Complexity beats Curse Gaming and goes 3-1 against a Curse with a 1-3 or even 0-4 record is actually very realistic.
Ultimately, Curse Gaming is the master of their own fate. If they beat Complexity, they are almost guaranteed to make it through to the playoffs. They’ve certainly shown they are capable of beating teams like Dignitas, LMQ, and Team SoloMid this season. But they’d probably feel a whole lot better if Counter Logic didn’t make their jobs so much tougher.
Other teams affected include Team SoloMid and LMQ, who are fighting against Cloud9 for a top two spot in the standings and a bye in the playoffs. Cloud9 has Counter Logic on the schedule, and while that may have been a win for Cloud9 anyway, it may also have been a loss. The bootcamp likely puts Cloud9 one game closer to topping the LCS standings for the third straight season.
Counter Logic is fully aware they may be screwing over other teams.
@Thooorin I think we’re kind of dicks to be doing it, honestly. We have to look out for ourselves first, though.
— MonteCristo (@ggCMonteCristo) July 30, 2014
But as their coach Mykkles says, they need to look out for their own interests. Counter Logic is 13-11 and their results have not been at the level of a team who expects to compete at the world tournament. Taking every extra chance to train in Korea, with the best teams in League and their coach, who lives in Korea, in tow may be their last best chance to do it.
If that leaves destruction in their wake, that’s really Riot Games’ problem, as journalist Duncan “Thorin” Shields pointed out. Counter Logic is playing by their rules, with the hand they’ve been dealt. Even if folding it is their best option.