To say the highly anticipated return of Counter Logic Gaming, darlings of American League of Legends, from their three week training session in Korea did not go as planned would be an understatement. A drastic one, at that.
The team skipped the final week of the League Championship Series regular season to steal a flight across the Pacific and extra practice time against the best teams in the world. It was supposed to transform them into a powerhouse, ready to qualify for and challenge the World Championships. Three weeks living together in close quarters, a crash course in bonding as a team, working closely with their coach Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles to smooth out the flaws in a team slumping through the LCS.
If the CLG season were a movie, their boot camp would have been perfect for a Rocky-like motage.
But when CLG entered the Summoner’s Rift on Sunday, they didn’t get back up after taking a few punches, raring to go, never surrendering. They didn’t show much fight at all.
Curse Gaming absolutely wrecked Counter Logic Gaming, sweeping the best-of-five series in three straight . The last two were not particularly close, Curse turning a heart-breaking Counter Logic Gaming loss in the first game into a proverbial dagger and thrusting it into the playoff hopes of Counter Logic Gaming.
Diego “Quas” Ruiz came out as the star of the match, carrying Curse to victory in the first game thanks to his split push antics on Nidalee. Ruiz systematically dismantled Counter Logic Gaming’s base as the team tried to take objectives around the map, scoring middle inhibitor at the 35 minute mark off a Counter Logic Baron. He’d take top inhibitor and even a nexus turret as Counter Logic pushed middle. That let Curse take the game after a single late pick, easily pushing in and pressuring the nexus with most of the enemy base already out of the way.
The next game Counter Logic Gaming camped Ruiz with Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp’s Kha’Zix while putting Peng’s Lucian in lane against Ruiz’s Nidalee. While they stopped Ruiz from farming into a monster, the strategy was ineffectual overall—they picked a team composition that lacked competitive damage, and Curse was simply too smart in responding to Counter Logic pressure. They took an early Baron at the 17 minute mark, thanks to their jungle Nunu, and quickly turned in a team fight wipe at 22 minutes that secured them the match.
In retrospect, maybe we should’ve gone to China to learn what a team fight is.
— MonteCristo’s Ego (@MonteCristo_Ego) August 24, 2014
Curse stomped a defeated looking Counter Logic team in the final map, outplaying their foe from the start. Curse stole an early Dragon, taking first blood and the drake. The combination of Maokai and Yasuo initiating team fights proved too much for Counter Logic Gaming, and they lost another quick match.
“I feel indescribably happy. I did not think we would get to this spot,” Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani, Curse mid laner, said after the match. “I’m so proud of my team. All the hard work finally paying off. We’re this close to going to worlds. We’re going to try to make it there, and make everyone proud.”
While the failure of the Korean bootcamp may be the obvious story surrounding the match, the truth is Curse were simply the better team—and they deserve credit for that.
GG to Curse. They played well and the better team won.
— MonteCristo (@ggCMonteCristo) August 24, 2014
At the start of the split, Curse were feared as scrim monsters, putting together a ridiculous record during their practice sessions. But the team failed to translate that play into the LCS itself. Esfahani said their play would just “fall apart” once they got to the studio.
“It’s something we’ve been improving at a lot,” he said. “We got a lot better at just playing our game, playing like scrims, we can show up and play really well. I think it’s something that’s changed in us.”
Curse finished with an 8-6 record over the last five weeks of the season, including two 3-1 Super Weeks. They managed to beat LMQ, Dignitas, and Team SoloMid in the final week of the season—a sign of things to come, apparently, as Curse has continued their solid play in the playoffs.
They will face Cloud9 next week at PAX Prime, with the winner advancing to the playoff finals and the World Championships, and the loser battling for the final spot at worlds. Curse Gaming has struggled all season long against the defending LCS champs, posting a 1-3 record against them in the regular season.
They also still have the Curse curse to deal with—doomed forever to fourth place. The team has a history of finishing in that spot, including two LCS fourth place playoff finishes and two regular season fourth place finishes. To break the curse would be to qualify for Worlds. Perhaps this season really is their time to shine.
Counter Logic Gaming will also play at PAX Prime in the fifth place match against Dignitas. The stakes? A gauranteed spot in the LCS next season–the loser falls to relegation, where they will battle a challenger team for the right to continute in the LCS. It’s a game that can have profound ramifications on the professional career. One Counter Logic Gaming Player is already considering hanging up his mouse, regardless of the outcome.
I don’t know if I want to continue playing or not, but I will give PAX everything I have at least.
— Yiliang Peng (@CLGDoublelift) August 24, 2014
Another is happy it’s all over.
Im actually more happy now that everything is over. I dont care what people say but being stress free is the best feeling ever 🙂
— Marcel Feldkamp (@CLG_dexter) August 25, 2014
Competitive sports is a harsh world. It’s easy to fall prey to the old Rocky-like narratives. But just because you did everything you could, put in the maximum amount of effort possible, wanted it the most, and gave 110 percent, doesn’t mean you’ll win. Sometimes the other team is just better.