This weekend the League of Legends version of the Yankees vs. the Red Sox played out on the Summoner’s Rift.
Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming clashed in a match to decide which team would sit alone atop the League Championship Series. It’s the oldest rivalry in League, the two legendary teams with legendary leaders who have spent the entirety of the game’s history jockeying for the top spot in America.
For most of that three year period, Team SoloMid has sat on top. But this season, Counter Logic is finally ready to challenge SoloMid’s reign. Both teams entered the match sitting at 5-1, but many SoloMid’s players called Counter Logic the team in the best form before the match.
The two teams’ owners, George “Hotshotgg” Georgallidis and Andy “Reginald” Dinh, who said he created Team SoloMid specifically to beat CLG in the pre-game hype video, bet their pride and their hair on the match: The loser has to dye their mop pink. Not that the Sunday battle between the two teams needed any extra hype to build up the game. Over 500,000 people tuned in on Twitch alone to watch the game, a massive number for a regular season match early in the League season.
When the match kicked off, it was Counter Logic seizing control of the game. In the past, SoloMid bullied their rivals with superior laning, but the new Counter Logic team, with Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya in the top lane and an improved Austin “Link” Shin in the mid lane played the bully role on Sunday. Shin even got Lissandra, a champion with an 11-0 record at that point in the LCS.
Counter Logic built a gold lead, and muscled their way to four straight Dragons. They were on their way to winning the game, preventing SoloMid’s superstar Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg from getting out of hand while building a sizable lead.
But it’s Georgallidis’ flowing locks that will be sporting pink next week.
SoloMid managed to win a couple key team fights in a row, taking the match. It was the most Counter Logic way to end the game—a cavalcade of mistakes that combined to produce a look of shock on their owner’s stricken face.
Counter Logic has a history of playing well until things blow up in their face. Mid laner Shin in particular shoulders a reputation for solid and even outstanding play until faced with a pressure situation. In this game, he missed a key Lissandra ultimate in an engage near mid and dragon, leading to one of those key lost team fights. But that one mistake alone wasn’t enough to get SoloMid back into the game. This team fight was:
It’s a combination of outstanding play from Team SoloMid and Counter Logic errors. The CLG team gets pulled into a fight and Upadhyaya pulls off a ridiculous Gnar stun, but his carries are not in position to back up his damage. Peng hangs on the outskirts, unable to pump out enough damage in response. Shin moves in for his Lissandra ultimate, but Jason “WildTurtle” Tran responded with a key reaction: using his Sivir spell shield to block it, saving his life and ultimately winning the fight for SoloMid. Peng finds himself in no mans land trying to back up Shin, and Team SoloMid storms the base to win the game.
That right there is a tidy summation of Counter Logic’s play over the last year. In 2014, the team looked prime to topple SoloMid in the playoffs, winning the first map handily and taking a huge lead in the second game of a best-of-three semifinal series before the wheels fell off. In the Summer Split the team started strong until slumping into a relegation nightmare from which they barely woke, needing to win three straight games to survive.
This year, things seemed different. This wasn’t the same blind optimism, faith in potential, that accompanied past iterations of Counter Logic Gaming. The team actually looks like the best in the region and was playing like it. But this weekend showed that, despite their even stronger form, Counter Logic is still the same old team—superlative play until those pivotal moments sees them crumble.