Road to Season Seven: Counter Logic Gaming
Being the only NA LCS team to not make a single player change during the offseason, Counter Logic Gaming heads into 2017 with their entire 2016 season roster.
- Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya
- Jake "Xmithie" Puchero
- Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun
- Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes
- Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black
Finally winning their first NA LCS title, and later attending the world championship after failing to qualify for almost three consecutive years, 2015 was arguably CLG’s best year within League of Legends.
CLG made waves during the 2016 preseason through their roster moves. CLG, in what was unarguably the biggest roster change in the history of western LoL, decided to kick their star AD Carry, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who had been on the team for four years. This decision was met with huge controversy, and CLG was heavily criticised for this decision. A few months after this decision, CLG announced that Stixxay, who previously played for their challenger team, would be promoted to the main roster, becoming CLG’s new ADC.
The second roster move CLG made during the 2016 preseason was the decision to start Huhi, who was previously an in-house sub for CLG, in the mid lane over Eugene "Pobelter" Park. While not criticised as heavily as Doublelift’s removal, many people were confused and sceptical of this decision by CLG.
Despite all the naysayers writing them off, CLG finished the spring split regular season second, and were the only team to beat Immortals, who looked unstoppable. Narrowly winning both the semifinals and finals 3-2, CLG won the 2016 spring split, and became back-to-back champions.
Since they were the NA LCS champions, CLG was sent to the 2016 Mid Season Invitational as North America’s representative. CLG’s performance at MSI was spectacular. CLG managed to defeat world champions SK Telecom T1 in the group stage, and entered the bracket stage in second place. CLG then took down Taiwan’s Flash Wolves to make the finals of MSI. Despite losing to SKT in the finals, CLG made history for NA, as this was the farthest any NA team had made it at a Riot sanctioned tournament.
After basking in success for almost a full year, CLG began to fall off in the summer split. CLG ended the summer regular split in fourth place, and for the first time in three splits, CLG did not receive a playoff bye. After beating Team Liquid in the quarterfinals, CLG fell to Team SoloMid in the semifinals of the 2016 summer playoffs. In the third place decider match, CLG lost to Immortals in a close 3-2 series.
Although they finished fourth in the playoffs, due to their championship points, CLG qualified for 2016 world championships as NA’s second seed. CLG ended their 2016 competitive season after finishing third in their world’s group, thus being eliminated from the world championship.
While every other team in the league made a roster change of some sort, CLG alone chose to continue with their current roster heading into 2017. CLG’s amazing teamwork and map movements stem from their synergy as a team, which they gained through playing together for a year and half. It’s understandable that CLG would try and retain their world class teamwork by keeping their entire roster, despite more talented alternative options being available. This decision by CLG is a testament to how much the team values teamwork.
Despite roster criticisms, CLG will perform above the community's expectations in early 2017. Many underestimate just how important team play is in League of Legends. At least half of the NA LCS teams made three or more roster changes during this past offseason. Even with the talent some of these teams managed to acquire, it will force them to build synergy, which will take time, especially with the new Korean imports that barely speak English. Not every new team will magically work perfectly at the start, like the 2016 Immortals. Team’s like CLG, who retained their core, will easily beat most of these teams in the early split, simply due to better team play.
But this team play would only go so far as the split progresses. As these new rosters gain decent synergy, CLG’s major strength loses effectiveness. If by the end of the split CLG continues to solely rely on their team play, they will get outclassed by team’s like Cloud9, who have comparable teamwork, but have much more skilled players. While it’s safe to assume they can make playoffs, CLG will need to have their solo lanes playing much better if they want to make a deep playoff run. If Huhi and Darshan cannot raise their skill level, CLG can kiss their chance at a MSI reappearance goodbye.
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Article by Malcolm Abbas. Follow him on Twitter @SmashhLoL.
Photo via LoL Esports