Aug 13 2015 - 8:30 pm
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Counter Logic Gaming: Playoffs, Hope, and Trepidation

A look at CLG's summer split ahead of their playoff tie versus Team Impulse
Dot Esports
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This weekend, Counter Logic Gaming is heading into their first playoff encounter with a sense of optimism. This is an unfamiliar feeling for the team and fans considering the several disappointing playoff runs in past splits, which often resulted from inefficient coaching and low quality team atmosphere. This time, however, there is reason for this odd optimism.

Compared to past splits, CLG has improved their poor and unorganized team environment by implementing a strong supportive infrastructure with the addition of a head coach, an assigned strategic coach, and a sports psychologist. Additionally, the team alleviated player conflict by replacing tempestuous midlaner Link with former Winterfox member and fan favorite Pobelter. These changes constructed a well-defined and organized lifestyle for the team, as well as developing a resilient atmosphere in times of hardship. After the team went 0-4 in the middle of the split, they responded with a 6 game winning streak – a performance comeback that never materialized previously. For the first time in a long time, morale is at an all-time high in the CLG camp ahead of their first playoff series.

Despite the confidence and positive environment, however, a similar pattern emerged in CLG’s split that may harm their chances of winning playoffs – and, possibly, the gauntlet.

Better Atmosphere, Strong Results

What may surprise some is that this is the first time CLG has ever placed above third since the conception of the LCS in 2013. With a strong 2nd place finish, the team played some of the best League of Legends in their history going 13-6 – only a game behind split winners Team Liquid after losing the tiebreaker. 

altGD@15 = Gold Difference at 15 Minutes FT Kills = First Turret Kills FB% = First Blood Rate GSPD = Gold Spent Percentage Difference

In the above table, you will notice that CLG is one of the most dominant early game teams in the LCS. The team tends to accrue a sizeable Gold Difference at 15 minutes (984g), which is only a mere 84g behind league leaders Liquid in this statistic. For a better comparison, CLG is ahead of Team Impulse and Team SoloMid in this statistic by 355g and 808g respectively. CLG not only creates this lead by being the fastest turrets killers (74% of First Turrets) in the league, but by also snowballing leads off of First Blood Kills (68% - 13 out of 19 games!).

In addition, CLG has a strong 7.7% in Gold Spent Percentage Differential (GSPD). GSPD is the difference in gold the two teams have spent by the end of the game. This statistic is aimed to measure a team’s overall comparative strength by the end game. The statistic does not take into account everything that can impact a team’s strength (e.g. dragon buffs), but it is one reliable indicator we can attempt to measure a team’s comparative strength (for more on GSPD, click here). 

If a team’s GSPD lines up similarly with their ranking, it means they do a proper job of snowballing their early leads into wins. In CLG’s case, they are 2nd in the LCS and ranked 3rd in GSPD, which points to the team’s strength in accumulating a large gold advantage and converting it into a solid win.

CLG’s atmosphere has improved. Their performances have been strong. And their stats are looking good. So, is there anything to worry about?

Strong Results… When not facing the Top 4 

While CLG achieved second place by going 13-6, it is only 1 extra win compared to their record last split (12-7). Additionally, the team still suffers the same woes in a crucial aspect – underperforming versus the top LCS teams. Last split, CLG had a poor 2-7 regular split record versus the top 4 teams at the time (TSM, Cloud 9, Team Liquid, and Team Impulse). This split the record has barely improved. In their games versus TSM, Team Liquid, Team Impulse, and Gravity, CLG has a 3-6 record. 

altGD@15 = Gold Difference at 15 Minutes FT Kills = First Turret Kills FB% = First Blood Rate GSPD = Gold Spent Percentage Difference

In their 19 games this split, CLG has a 33.3% win rate against the top 4 teams. In contrast, the team has a 100% win rate versus the rest of the LCS teams. The difference in performance is striking once you dig into the numbers. CLG has a 246 gold lead at 15 minutes compared to the 1648 gold lead they accrue versus the bottom 5 teams – a staggering 1402 gold difference! One factor that contributes to this difference is the lower amount of first bloods the team takes (56% vs. 80%). Additionally, CLG still kills the first turret just as fast in both cases, but the strength of their opponents mitigates the snowballing impact as indicated by the GD@15 stat. 

Another very interesting statistical difference is in GSPD. CLG is considerably stronger by the end game versus the bottom 5 teams (17.9%) and weaker in the end game versus the top 4 (-3.7%). This suggests, again, that CLG isn't usually losing because of late game missteps, but due to their inability to impose their early game brute force on stronger teams. 

These numbers may be a bad omen for CLG in the playoffs and (possibly) the gauntlet where only the top teams compete.

Hope Among Trepidation

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Despite the unsettling information above, there are factors that can and may favor CLG as they try to qualify for Worlds. CLG’s opponents this weekend, Team Impulse, find themselves in an awkward predicament of using their substitute midfielder Gate. The rookie player has had a horrid time in lane, often losing in farm and being down -303 gold at 10 minutes versus his lane counterpart. Fortunately for CLG, they can take advantage of Gate’s inexperience if they place priority on the midlane. It is also important to note that Impulse’s only loss came versus Team Liquid in a narrowly close game – but it only became close after Liquid lost a huge gold lead in a bad fight after taking all inhibitor turrets. If CLG can create the same gold lead versus Impulse who are weak in the early game, they can manage to snowball the game to their advantage.

Beyond the Impulse game, if they win, CLG could face TSM or Liquid. CLG may fare better versus a wounded TSM, but Liquid would pose a bigger threat for the players in black and blue. However, CLG can increase their chances of winning by putting all their resources on their charismatic top laner, ZionSpartan.

ZionSpartan was CLG's standout performer during their 6 game win streak. This was in large part due to CLG focusing their game around Zion and his carry-oriented champions, such as Olaf, Fizz, and Kennen. By including Ekko to this champion pool, Zion is 7-1 on carry split pushing champions. In addition, CLG have a 2-1 record versus the top 4 when Zion is on one of these champions. While the sample size is extremely small to make any valid conclusions, prioritizing Zion as the team’s primary carry in a top-focused meta may be CLG’s best chance to win playoffs or the gauntlet (if necessary) to qualify for Worlds. 

Conclusion

At face value, CLG has had one of their best splits so far, but a closer inspection reveals the same troubling pattern the team faced last split that caused them to lose in the first round of the playoffs versus Team Liquid. Currently, the main issue for CLG is their inability to create substantial gold leads in the early game versus stronger opponents. This indicates that when the game is close in gold, CLG is less successful in making the correct choices to slowly win games, something an elite team needs to be able to do in high-pressure playoff situations.

While against the odds, there is still hope for CLG to succeed in the coming weeks due to the lower performance standards of NA teams this split. Additionally, if the team funnels its resources on Zion, they can create a sizeable gold advantage that can be snowballed into the mid- and late-game. But these are all ifs.

Ultimately, the evidence does not favor CLG – but a bit of faith never hurt anyone.

 

If you have any comments or questions about this article feel free to tweet me @Empyre19

Pictures provided by lolesports.com and stats provided by OraclesElixir.com

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