Prior to the start of the NA LCS season, the week three matchup between CLG and Echo Fox looked like a potential playoff preview.
CLG of course have been postseason regulars, and with a revamped roster, many thought Echo Fox would make it for the first time. After two weeks, Echo Fox have kept their end of the bargain—they’ve been one of the best teams in the LCS, taking first place in our power rankings.
CLG, however, have not. They’ve looked abjectly terrible before finally picking up a victory last week. They’ve gotten poor performances from nearly all five members. Looking for a defining victory against a top team, this match against Echo Fox may determine the rest of their season.
But the question remains—how can they possibly pull it off?
All eyes on top lane
For years, pundits have wondered how long CLG’s Darshan Upadhyaya can keep going. He’s become one of the elder statesmen of the league. What he lacks in mechanical skill, he makes up for in determination. Darshan is one of the few split push tops that will keep going stubbornly until he takes an inhibitor.
Every year, though, the task gets tougher. People have caught onto CLG’s style, forcing them to innovate. Each year, they try to play different styles at the start only to fall back into the familiar 1-3-1 as things get tough.
This year, Darshan’s preference for carries, plus jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin’s reliance on top lane, has given Darshan some of the best laning stats in the league. While that hasn’t turned into many victories, Darshan is also CLG’s most obvious win condition. Top lane is Echo Fox’s best as well, after all, and if the Darshan-Reignover combination can take down Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, CLG will get a foothold in this game.
That’s a tough task, but it’s been done before. When Huni and Reignover almost went undefeated as teammates on Immortals two years ago, it was Darshan and CLG that took them down. Although Huni has grown and changed over the years, nobody knows him as well as Reignover. If he can snowball Darshan ahead, CLG will have a chance.
Hang on everywhere else
For most of the split, Darshan has been held back by his teammates. Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun has played his usual assortment of off-meta picks, none of them successfully. Reignover has given back many early leads via uncoordinated forays into the enemy jungle. It was exactly that type of invade last week against Clutch Gaming, which got both Reignover and Huhi killed, that has given Reignover the title of “Game Over.”
The good news is that Reignover has been achieving leads through smart pathing. He just can’t afford to throw them away. The bot lane needs to step up, too. Vincent “Biofrost” Wang is frequently invisible, an even bigger problem for this squad than it was for his last team, TSM. And ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes has not looked strong on meta champions like Ezreal.
Stixxay’s kill participation is worse in the league by a mile and that stat is a good indicator of where CLG stand. Stixxay either gets caught before he deals any damage, or fights start when he’s nowhere near.
For CLG to beat Echo Fox, they don’t need Stixxay to transform into a different player. They just need him to play safe on a champion like Caitlyn, for Huhi and Reignover to not overextend, and to wait for Darshan to scale. You know, the same thing they’ve relied on for years.
It’s no wonder that CLG took risks this offseason to improve. Their old playstyle has grown predictable. But this is the ultimate stall-it-out meta, one that should be comfortable for them. Sometimes, old tricks can give a dog a second life.