CLG had their backs against the wall. After getting annihilated by Clutch Gaming in the first game of the LCS third place match, they were desperate for a solution to Clutch’s solo lane picks. So they reached for Diana, a champion fans haven’t seen picked professionally in ages.
It didn’t work. Actually, that’s an understatement. CLG’s mid Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage was abysmal on the champion and his team were routed. But then, against all odds, CLG battled back and evened the series at two games apiece.
With third place on the line in one final game, PowerOfEvil went back to the drawing board again, this time pulling out Ahri. And, much to the surprise of many fans at home, the pick worked. CLG stomped Clutch in a nearly-perfect game to win third place in the LCS playoffs.
The first two games showed how strong Clutch had become over the second half of the split. With mercurial AD carry Cody Sun playing out of his mind and solid contributions from both solo lanes, Clutch looked a couple steps faster than CLG. Their early plays made CLG’s staid playstyle seem prehistoric.
CLG’s preferred playstyle is to stall out the early game and get ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes to several items before they look to teamfight—making them essentially the Splyce of North America. But that plan was not working at all against Clutch. CLG looked shell-shocked in front of the Detroit crowd.
Part of the problem was the draft phase. Clutch have relied on comfort picks all year, and lately, those have been Rumble, Gangplank, and Qiyana. Facing elimination in game three, CLG decided just to pick the Gangplank away, and it worked. But they also got some godly initiations from support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, who won player of the series.
After the customary playing of Silver Scrapes, the teams loaded into the draft phase for game five. Clutch grabbed Irelia, one of the strongest champions in the meta. PowerOfEvil responded with the Ahri, who was recently given some anti-mobility tools. The goal was to prevent the Irelia from dashing all over while stacking her passive.
For the first 10 minutes, CLG played around the Ahri, whether it was following her for roams or coming to her in mid lane. And for the first time all series, Clutch seemed on the back foot in the early game, their best phase. Perhaps carrying the baggage of having lost two straight games, Clutch just crumbled, handing over a nearly flawless victory to CLG.
With the win, CLG earn a spot in the second-to-last stage of the regional gauntlet that will determine North America’s last spot at Worlds. Cloud9 and Team Liquid, who play in tomorrow’s final, have already qualified for the international tournament. With the loss, Clutch drop to the first phase of the gauntlet where they will meet FlyQuest on Sept. 6.