Who should be NALCS MVP?

With the regular season over, we can begin to evaluate how teams/players lived up to expectations. Teams like Immortals shocked the NALCS by contending with the best this split. With the split concluding, we soon find out who will win the heralded NALCS MVP of summer.

An MVP, aka Most Valuable Player, is someone who has shown great importance to their team’s success in and outside of the rift. An MVP is someone that, if taken off the roster, would greatly impact their team’s performance greatly.

Looking at the split, we have a few candidates who really separated themselves from the rest. Let’s take a look:

Cloud9 Jensen (Mid laner)

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen been critiqued as a “KDA player” who some believe cares more about his own stats than the good of his team. Jensen struggled with consistency during his first few splits in the NALCS but has slowly come into his own, contending with Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg for the best mid laner in North America.

He put up monstrous stats towards the end of the split. More specifically, his Orianna play was some of the best play we’ve seen out of him. He finished the season with the best KDA of any player at 8.7. Cloud9 often played through the mid lane enabling Jensen to get huge leads to snowball the game. Jensen rarely fell behind in lane, leading the league in CS diff@10 with a whopping 8.9.

Just based off regular season performance though, Jensen has put up a good argument for NALCS MVP. He has played phenomenally well individually and has the stats to back that up. One could argue how much Cloud9’s playstyle benefits his KDA. They often heavily relied on him to get ahead in lane and snowball for his team. He’s also been critiqued for not roaming as much as he could or for being selfish for resources.

One knock on Jensen has been his inability to step up in crucial moments. Last spring in a close game five against TSM, a costly mistake lead to Jensen dying with ult and Zhonya’s still up on Ekko. His death lead to TSM eventually finishing the series and taking the Spring Split championship. Could this finally be the playoffs we see Jensen step up for his team?

Immortals Xmithie (Jungler)

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero came to Immortals in a trade with CLG in exchange for star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Many thought Xmithie had peaked on CLG and was nearing the end of his professional career. Nobody even expected Immortals to finish this high in the standings and deserving of a Worlds spot.

It has gone to show how much team chemistry and coaching can impact a player. Xmithie has look revitalized after coming to Immortals. He’s been arguably the best jungler this split and is a huge reason why people believe Immortals can qualify for Worlds. Dardoch and Xmithie’s jungle playstyles are almost night and day, but Immortals got the right jungler they needed – someone who was going to be willing to sacrifice for the carries and mesh well with the team. Xmithie has been just that and more.

He lead all junglers in assists for the summer. While none of his stats really pop out, it’s no secret how much of an impact he’s had for the team. Since Xmithie’s arrival, Immortals went from a 7th place team to a 2nd place team. Others on the team have also been able to shine much more with Xmithie for whatever reason. Cody Sun and Pobelter look like different players from their spring split forms.

It’s a huge example of how much coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo has done working with the team. When a team has this big of a turnaround you can’t expect it all to be from one player.

Photo via Riot Esports

TSM Bjergsen (Mid Laner)

Ah, just about every year, TSM’s Bjergsen has to be considered to be in the MVP race. He’s undoubtedly always one of the most impactful players on TSM for many reasons. Aside from always putting up monstrous stats, he’s a main shotcaller for the team and has developed into one the main leaders. Bjergsen can add another great regular season to his legacy as he finished second in KDA among mids and damage per minute.

This split, Bjergsen showed off his ability to play different styles such as the Galio in the mid lane. It adds to the versatility we’ve come to know from the Danish mid laner. In terms of how much value Bjergsen brings to TSM, it’s without a doubt that they’d be much worse without him. He just brings so much to the table for a mid laner and plays well without needing too many resources.

Many will argue that Bjergsen plays with some very talented teammates. This may be the same thing that kept Hauntzer from winning MVP in spring. Having other talented individuals on a team can sometimes mask the impact a player actually has on a team.

These are my top three picks for MVP in no particular order. MVP will be a tight race. It will be interesting to see if Bjergsen adds another MVP trophy to his career or if someone new can take it from him.


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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Grading CLG’s junglers since 2014

With Counter Logic Gaming currently tied for second place with the ever encroaching TSM, special attention must be paid towards the organization’s many junglers. It is without a doubt that Counter Logic Gaming has attracted some of the most skilled junglers as of late, but has this always been the case? Here we will grade the past five junglers CLG has had on the League Championship Series stage.

 

 

The turbulent CLG squad. Of this line-up, only Aphromoo would stay on the CLG we now know today. Courtesy of qz.com

Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp (C-)

Dexter played on Counter Logic Gaming for the Spring and Summer split of 2014 before he returned to EU to play for Elements. Prior to joining CLG, Dexter had already made a name for himself in EU on teams like Lemondogs and mousesports. Dexter’s achievements on CLG would grant them a third place in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split.

Known for his Elise play during the 2014 NA LCS Summer split, Dexter was a middle of the pack jungler for a middle of the pack CLG. His on stage performances heavily wavered from games on Elise where he would average a 5.05 KDA to games on Rengar where he would average a 1.38 KDA. Fans never knew what to expect. This is in large part due to the turmoil of tumultuous drama that brewed between each member of CLG during this high stress season. Whether Dexter was better than his on stage performances showed depends a lot on what was happening during the off stage time spent with his teammates.

 

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (S on Immortals/ A- on CLG)

Ever since his days on Team Vulcun (XDG Gaming), Xmithie has been a staple jungler in the NA LCS. Currently on Team Immortals, Xmithie was a CLG jungler who seemed unscathed by the drama that arose from being on CLG during the peaks and troughs of previous splits. Competing in three separate world championships, Xmithie is potentially the most consistently accoladed jungler of the NA LCS.

Known as the Golden age of CLG, this lineup found great success landing a first place trophy. Courtesy of lolesports

 

Xmithie excels at play making junglers like Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin. His stats on Gragas make me question why that champion ever gets into his hands. His success on each and every team he has gone to show that he has the ability to lead a team to victory with these play making champions. As a shot caller, Xmithie clashed with other voices on CLG, but on Immortals he has found a loudspeaker for his decision making. While his KDA this season has yet to impress, his macro decision making has propelled Immortals into the first place they currently own.

 

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (B-)

If CLG’s eagerness to find a substitute for Dardoch does not worry you as a CLG fan, then you may not be aware of  Dardoch’s track record. With one of the lowest kill participation and some unimpressive stats in general, the risk CLG took in trading away Xmithie may not have been worth it. These risks arise from Dardoch’s unstable temperament. Being known for flaming his teammates as well as being one of the most proficient Lee Sin players in the LCS, Dardoch is the number one hot button LCS player.

 

For being the LCS bad boy, he doesn’t look like too bad of a guy… Courtesy of lolesports

That being said, CLG had all this information and more when they made the trade with Immortals for Dardoch. While second place in the LCS is deserving of much praise, Dardoch’s individual performance has by no means been the variable that has placed CLG so high in the standings. Having the most deaths per game out of any jungler with over 25 games played, Dardoch’s high risk, high reward play style seems to match his personality.

 

Omar “Omargod” Amin (B?)

The jury’s still out on Omargod. In the four games he has played, Omargod has had significant impact on their victories and troublesome performances in their defeats. However, Omargod has not had the easiest time in his four game tenure. With two games against the first place Immortals, one against a very strong team Dignitas and a flawless Olaf game against FlyQuest, Omargod has played against some very strong opponents. 

While only playing two different champions in the NA LCS so far, Omargod has drawn bans on Elise, Maokai and Zac. Time will tell for Omargod, however, he appears to be performing better than his counterpart and against tougher opponents too.

 

Honorable Mentions

It is true that CLG has had several other junglers throughout the organization’s past. Of these, two come to mind: Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and Sam “Kobe24” Hartman-Kenzler. As for Kobe, this foxy devil, would only stay in the competitive League of Legends scene for one year after retiring to join Riot’s beloved casting squad. Kobe used to be known for missing smites,

I think we can all be happy that Kobe dropped the 24 and joined the casting crew at Riot games. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

before Saintvicious himself, and would often be mocked through the “24” meme, which became a suffix for any other jungler who missed smite. It was not until he gave up competitive League of Legends and dropped the “24” in his name, that he would pass the missing smite meme onto his replacement, Saintvicious.

Saintvicious, who is currently one of the coaches on Team Dignitas alongside his former teammate David “Cop” Roberson, has been in the League of Legends competitive scene since before his receding hairline began receding. Beginning on Team SoloMid, Saintvicious later on went to play or coach for what feels like every team in the LCS. Expect to see Saintvicious staying in the competitive League of Legends scene until his hairline no longer exists.

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Featured image courtesy of lolesports Flickr

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

Jensen

C9 Jensen for NALCS MVP

Since joining Cloud9 and the NALCS in Spring 2015, Jensen has sat in the shadow cast by Bjergsen. Jensen has fallen short of the MVP trophy time and again, often at the hands of the touted mid laner from TSM. It hard to imagine a split where Jensen isn’t a front runner for the title, or at least in the conversation. Despite being a major contender Jensen has yet to achieve the illustrious title of Most Valuable Player.

This year may be his year though. Jensen has put up some amazing numbers this split and had some incredible performances. He is far from the clear choice for the award but has a good shot at it. He still must prove himself better than Xmithie or Bjergsen.

Stats

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

It’s hard not to discuss stats when discussing performance. If the MVP of the league is who has had the best performance throughout the split, then talking stats is almost unavoidable. Stats aren’t everything, but they are a big indicator.

KDA has always been a major indicator of overall performance. Not only do kills generate gold, but they generate map pressure, so being able to net kills and assists while not dying yourself is a major key. Jensen currently has the highest KDA in the NALCS with an impressive 6.6. For context, Bjergsen has a 5.7, and Xmithie has a 2.8. It also helps that he has the highest kills in the league at a staggering 134. That’s 18 kills higher than Stixxay and Huhi, who are tied for second at 116.

Kill participation is also an important stat. It lets us know how much of the kills are generated around and through the player. Jensen is tied for fourth in the league with Biofrost and Bjergsen at 75.4%. The highest is Matt who has 77.8% KP. That’s only 2.4% higher than Jensen and Bjergsen. MikeYeung isn’t far behind with a 74.8%. Xmithie only has 66.6% KP, despite having a great showing so far this split.

The final stat that factors into this is CS/M. On top of Jensen’s incredible KDA and KP he also holds the highest CS/M at 9.4, which is .8 CS/M over Bjergsen. This is where it is next level. Having the highest KDA, and a high KP is one thing, but still being able to have the best farm on top of that is truly incredible.

Intangibles

Via Lolesports Flickr

Numbers, however indicative of good performance, can only tell us so much. There are certain intangibles an MVP must demonstrate. This includes playmaking ability, consistency, and carry potential.

Jensen has demonstrated some amazing mechanical ability this split already. While he doesn’t have any huge teamfight turning plays this season, he does have a few solo kills like this. Jensen’s playmaking comes more in the vein of his consistency.

Jensen is the face of consistency. He performs well during most losses, and sports a 41% kill share throughout the regular season.  He isn’t getting quadrakills and pentakills, rather he is pumping out consistent damage in team fights and dominating the laning phase. In fact, Jensen has no quadrakills or pentakills this season, despite having three games with double digit kill scores.

As for his carry potential, Jensen brings that in spades. The man crushes lane opponents and snowballs from the midlane. His roams often net kills for himself and his other laners. From this lead, he is able to relieve pressure from elsewhere on the map by either taking it onto himself in the mid lane, or moving himself to where the pressure is. Take for example his Leblanc game against IMT.

Opponents

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

As for the major contenders for the award. Xmithie has plays like this one. His mechanical prowess isn’t the only reason he’s a top three choice for MVP however. His stats are likely so low because of what he has been able to do for his laners. Xmithie has often controlled the jungle of the opponents and thus allowed himself to create large leads for his laners. He often snowballs the game by getting all of his laners ahead in the early game and having a stranglehold on neutral objectives in the mid game.

Bjergsen, on the other hand, spearheads the charge of TSM. He plays much like Bjergsen does, dominating the laning phase and snowballing the side lanes. However, he hasn’t been as nearly as dominant as Jensen has this season. What Bjergsen does have going for him, however, is a better win/loss. I think that speaks more to Bjergsen’s team as opposed to his own individual play, but may be a little bit of both.

In short, Jensen has been an animal this split. When he gets rolling, he’s nearly impossible to stop. He has performed very consistently this split and if he continues this level of play, I’m confident that he will finally take home the NALCS MVP award.


Stats via Best.gg and Lolesports.com

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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The rise of North American junglers

With the phenomenal performance of Phoenix1’s rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, it seems that NA junglers are the easiest role to fill with homegrown talent, while EU has become known for producing some of the most talented mid laners. Over the past few splits, we’ve seen several junglers come from challenger to the pro scene and do quite well. Names like Contractz, Akaadian, and Dardoch all come to mind.

Dardoch and Contractz were well known names in the amateur scene. Some pros predicted their success into the pro scene. Akaadian and MikeYeung, on the other hand, were very unknown to most and surprised spectators with how well they performed starting out.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

It’s interesting to note how few jungle imports there are in the NALCS. Jungle seems to be one of those vital roles where communication is key to overall team success, and the language barrier may be the reason why. Support/jungle communication is very important in roaming and making plays in the early/mid game.

Solo que junglers also seem to have the most influence when thinking about ranked play. As a jungler, your decisions in the early/mid game can set your team up for the most success. Doing well on the challenger ladder would be the first step to being recognized for pro play.

What’s surprising is that jungle is one of hardest roles to transition from solo que to pro play. Jungling solo que and in a professional setting is much different with all members being able to communicate. Your decisions are much more impactful in the game as they’re not going to be nearly as kill heavy as ranked play. Teams also ward much better so jungle routes have to be efficient. It’s hard to pin point exactly why rookie junglers seem to have the most success right away.

Lack of NA talent in other roles

Although NA rookie junglers seem to find a lot of success, other roles don’t seem to have the same effect. ESPN recently came out with an article discussing the lack of NA mid talent. It’s no doubt that more teams have gone to importing talent from elsewhere for their solo lanes. Just last split, many teams brought over talented Korean top laners instead of trying to recruit within North America.

Rookie junglers such as Contractz, Dardoch, Akaadian, and MikeYeung also seem to find success very early as well. Akaadian stormed onto the scene last split, showing some phenomenal performances on carry junglers. MikeYeung has been able to duplicate that success this split, helping P1 earn their first win of the split off his aggressive Nidalee play.

Immortals rookie ADC Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun struggled his first few matches, but has slowly developed into one of the better ADCs in North America. Most of the times we’ve seen rookies in other roles, they haven’t been able to stand out nearly as much as junglers have.

Looking toward the future

With franchising coming soon to the NALCS, we could see more development of homegrown talent. With each team being able to foster a “minor league” sister team, NA talent will have more chances than ever to be able to make their way into LCS.

With the relegation system, fear losing their spot in the pro league. If teams take a chance on a rookie and it doesn’t work out, their spot could be in danger fast. With franchising, bottom tier teams can experiment with different rosters if they struggle to start out the split.

With most of the successful NA teams fostering veteran junglers at Worlds, these rookies haven’t gotten much of a chance to see international play. That could change this split with Cloud 9 having Contractz and CLG with Dardoch. Mikeyeung potentially will have a chance to represent NA at rift rivals as some of the best teams from EU and NA square off. It’ll be interesting to see how these young junglers do against international competition. One can only hope that they can show that North America also has talent worth importing.


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Why Dardoch and Xmithie are perfect fits for their teams

It’s only been one week into the Summer Split of the NALCS, but Immortals and CLG look impressive. During the off-season, the two teams agreed to swap junglers Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero.

Most people only saw CLG as the clear winners of this trade. With Xmithie looking to have peaked as a jungler, few expected Immortals to have much success after the transfer. Immortals had different plans, though, as they were able to take a commanding 2-0 week after sweeping last split’s champions, TSM. Both junglers seem to be perfect fits on their new rosters.

Photo via Riot Esports

Mid/Jungle Synergy

Before the split, mid laners Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Eugene “Pobelter” Park were heading in opposite directions. Huhi was often criticized at the weak link of CLG in his first split, but looked much improved in the spring. Meanwhile, Pobelter was known as being one of the only NA mid talents, had one of his worst splits in spring. Statistically, he was near the bottom when comparing stats among other mids.

Xmithie and Pobelter had previous experience playing together on CLG back when they took the 2015 NALCS finals. The support of Xmithie has helped him and Immortals as a team. Pobelter finished the week with a massive 10 KDA and looked like his former star self.

Huhi benefited from having a more aggressive jungler as he was able to help with roams and pressure his lane more with Dardoch behind him. Huhi did work this week doing 33 percent of his team’s damage while also having the third highest KDA among mids.

Jungle Styles

Stylistically, Dardoch and Xmithie are night and day in comparison. Dardoch is extremely aggressive and loves to make big plays. Xmithie is an efficient pather and likes to play more supportive in tracking the enemy jungler while helping his laners.

On Immortals, Dardoch was a huge voice on the team. On a team of very passive personalities, his ego took over and he basically did whatever he wanted. Immortals staff even acknowledged this in their offseason video where they highlighted some of the team’s issues. On CLG, Dardoch plays with the presence of other strong vocal players such as Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. With veteran leadership already in place on CLG, Dardoch isn’t required to do as much of the heavy lifting as he was on Immortals.

With Immortals, Xmithie is willing to sacrifice resources to allow his team to gain leads. Immortals players have rather passive personalities that could easily be run over by someone like Dardoch. But with Xmithie, they have someone willing to help the team by all means necessary. As the meta shifted back to carry tops and tank/support jungles, Xmithie fits perfectly. Xmithie does not try to make flashy plays that will make himself good, rather he tries to allow his carries to do what they need to do.

Team Environments

Photo via Riot Esports

It almost feels that this is the strongest roster and management staff Dardoch has ever played on. With strong veteran presence leading the way on CLG, he can worry about his own play rather than his teammates. CLG has experience dealing with egocentric players having dealt with star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Dardoch also isn’t relied upon to be the sole shot caller. It’s been known that Darshan and Aphromoo are very vocal in game and help a ton with the macro play.

The Immortals roster felt like it needed a fresh start after playing with Dardoch for a split. In the video going over Spring Split, the roster members felt that because of Dardoch a lot of the relationships amongst team members felt very “artificial”. With that type of team environment, you can’t expect young players to be at their best. Xmithie comes from an environment where team bonding and friendship were a strong vocal point in success. Xmithie doesn’t have near the ego of Dardoch, so you can expect Immortals are riding this honeymoon phase all the way into Week Two.


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Cover Photo by Riot Games

CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 2

Welcome to Part two of our CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS. For the first part looking at the build up and protagonists of our CLG story, check out my article here.

 

The Split

Not many fans of CLG were expecting much from the Spring Split. Eyes were glued to how the new rookies would integrate into the squad, whether the veterans could teach the new kids how to play the Rift in the LCS, and truthfully if they’d manage to scrap their way into Playoffs. First was the surprise win over long time rival and new home of star ADC Doublelift, TSM. Then, the honor of being the only team in the Spring Split to actually take a win off of the (almost) undefeated Immortals squad (with a cheeky baron steal into Darshan backdoor win). CLG surprised everyone with a 13-5 split, narrowly passing Cloud 9 in Week 9 with Team Liquid being… Team Liquid… and securing fourth place.

Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was the split that even the most faithful were cautious in hoping for. The team meshed together as a unit, and countless interviews with CLG players highlighted this. The story line was never about one star player winning games. Rather, it revolved around which player would the team elect to carry them this game. We saw stellar performances obviously from the likely culprits: Darshan with the split pushes that the other team could not answer, Xmithie with the Smite wars and overall map control, and Aphromoo leading his lane to dominance.

But it wasn’t just the vets. Viewers caught glimpses of greatness with Huhi, as he broke out the Aurelion Sol to great effect, still drawing bans against that pocket pick. And Stixxay came up huge when the team needed him most. His triple kill in the final fight between the long time rivals took the Finals for CLG and sent them to MSI. In many fans’ minds, it was clear that the CLG management knew what they were doing, maybe even better than they thought.

But back to the story lines. What a roller coaster of a split. While some looked to CLG’s playoff as a result of other teams failing expectations, that shouldn’t detract from the accomplishment at hand. They didn’t take it because Huhi or Stixxay were amazing diamonds in the rough. It wasn’t the steadfast veterans, the grizzled familiar faces after the roster shuffle, that carried the CLG banner to victory. No. It was the team. They came together, they held each other up, and most importantly, they never stopped believing in each other. The rag band team of veterans and rookies took the split, and ultimately the finals, to propel them further than even they had hoped for: representing their region at the second most important Riot tournament besides Worlds.

Sweet, sweet victory. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

From “Unlikely” to “Runner-ups”

The now (in)famous power rankings going into MSI 2016 didn’t have CLG doing much. At their brightest, CLG were a dark horse roster, one that could make some upsets and maybe see themselves get into Playoffs. But they weren’t expected to do much. If they showed up, it would be mildly surprising. If they flopped, it also wouldn’t be too shocking a revelation. They weren’t the dominant (domestically) G2, the juggernaut SKT T1, or the stacked Royal Never Give Up. Heck, they weren’t even as hyped as the LMS’ representatives Flash Wolves. The Flash Wolves didn’t mince words with their expectations of CLG, with SwordArt’s comment towards them simply being, “We don’t actually have any preparation. Because CLG is the worst team besides IWC teams.” Ohh the irony.

Worse than an International Wildcard Team you say? Well that’s awkward for you. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In true CLG fashion, they did the exact opposite of what the pundits and critiques expected them to do: they thrived. I’m not one for taking phrases from others, but man did ESPN writer Tyler Erzberger put it perfectly for CLG’s mantra, “Respect all, fear none.” This was a roster that didn’t claim to not prepare for an opponent they felt was weaker, because they knew they had to do that to every opponent they would meet. Their record tells the story of group stage well. They had a 2-0 record against Flash Wolves and G2, and a 1-1 record against SKT, RNG, and BAU Supermassive (I mean, it is CLG, Wildcards are pretty much confirmed their kryptonite…).

Of course, in a perfect kind of story line, the team that looked down on CLG were the ones facing them in the Semis. The Wolves had to look across the Rift at the team they felt was as strong as an IWC team. Still, even with their group stage performances, many were timid to cast their vote in favor of CLG. Sure, they had bested the Flash Wolves, but that didn’t paint them as clear favorites going into their confrontation. Keen observers would’ve had the two as neck and neck, equal parties, and that the battle would most likely be a back and forth series.

It was, in a lot of ways, a clash of styles, and a clash of ways to play League of Legends. Flash Wolves brought strong talent and mechanics in their games. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in particular found many advantages in his laning phases that put the Wolves ahead. Of course, CLG, on the other side of the spectrum, trusted in each other, in their own style: teamwork and macro plays. CLG played the maps out like an ebb and flow of a tide, and ultimately came out on top of the Wolves in a 3-1 series. The under-looked team, practically spit upon by SwordArt’s comments, came out convincingly on top to move onto the Finals of MSI, the first time any North American squad had done so at a Riot International tournament.

To Face a God

It was only a befitting ending. Sports animes aren’t Mary Sues. It’s about learning, about hardships and about trying to take those lessons and bringing them into the next competition. So when CLG lost 3-0 to SKT, not many were surprised. It’s the narrative any time a team faces SKT, whether it’s in region rivals like KT Rolster or pre-exodus Rox Tigers, or the latest crop of non-Korean teams hoping to make a dent in the armor that is SKT’s record internationally.

Heads held high to face the gods. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was a bit of a miracle run overall, and while they did lose it all in the end, CLG weren’t completely outmatched. Like any good team, they had their shining moments against SKT. In the first game, far behind SKT and ultimately completely outplayed for the first half of the game, CLG almost made the comeback against the Gods. Through smart play and a cheeky hide-and-then-five-man-dive-poor-Faker-and-Wolf, they almost mounted a convincing lead, but ultimately lost to the superior skill and experience of SKT.

On the back of a strong comeback that ultimately fell short, CLG started game two strong, with a 3K gold lead on the Korean giants at the 14 minute mark. The rest of the game was a back and forth, punch for punch game where both teams matched each others plays, with the game being swung in SKT’s favour during a decisive team fight victory. For all the hype and near moments of excellence, CLG eventually dropped the game, unable to withstand the onslaught.

Game three was probably the finale of the series everyone expected, but no NA fan hoped for. It was a lashing, as SKT showed masterfully how to rotate the map and pick off CLG members who seemed completely caught off guard. Outside of a prolonged fight that showcased a lot of CLG’s strength at the 32 minute mark, it was hard to say they stood much of a chance. Ultimately the bloodiest game of the set, and really the most one sided, SKT walked away heads held high, sitting on top of the world of League of Legends.

Murica. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG, on the other hand, walked away beaten but not broken. They still stood toe to toe against the team favored to take it all, the team who ultimately would take Worlds again, and then would end up taking MSI again too. It’s hard to imagine a world where the rag tag team, compiled of a couple of rookies, would be able to take down that dynastic of a team.

But it’s not the victory that makes the story line. It’s the sheer run of it all, a team from NA, going up against multiple opponents who not only were touted to outclass them as a team, but were supposed to outclass even their region. It was the first time an NA team made it into the finals of a Riot international tournament. What an amazing run from a team whose only talent was in working together, in picking up where their teammates faltered.

It wasn’t big roster moves and long time rivals TSM. It wasn’t storied Cloud 9, the wunderkids of the NA LCS, with their opening split of dominance in their minds. No, it was the roster that had every single NA LCS fan, even the most faithful of CLG fans, scratching their heads at the off season. They took it to the finals of MSI and brought recognition back to their region. While the ‘best’ story line is highly subjective and up for debate, the Spring Time of Dreams CLG are at least in the top five for League of Legends esports. And it’d be a damn good sports anime plot line too.

 

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CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 1

When people say what draws them to esports and sports, you’ll often hear two philosophies: to watch the best of the best play their game at the peak level of competition, or for the story lines that weave themselves on and off the playing fields.

This piece is for the second group. This article started in my mind as a joke, as I was looking back with a friend on past NA LCS splits playoffs and remembered just how insanely storybook like Counter Logic Gaming’s (CLG) run to win the Spring Split in 2016 and their performance at MSI was. In my mind, it was the greatest sports anime style narrative we’ve yet to see. (Rivaled by Cloud 9’s Cinderella story to Worlds in S6, mind you.)

I mean, THIS happened so anything is possible folks…

What do I mean by this? Well, think about it. Long time team, they had just come off a big win but now were thrown into question, lots of pressure on the roster, and a bunch of faces old and new, veterans and no name rookies, who managed to stick it to the pundits and win it all.

Hell, even the archetypes are there: the Leader (Aphro), the Cutesy dopey one (Huhi), the Downplayed ace (Stixxay), the Steady and silent one (Xmithie), the Pretty one (Darshan), and the Mr. Serious Coach Guy (Zikz… kind of).

The narrative practically writes itself folks. There were ups and downs, moments it looked bleak and others where they shined as a team, not as individuals. They coalesced, they backed each other up on and off the rift, and they showed that team work meant more than flashy players and big transfers. They also lost in heart breakers, they had to buffer themselves to the community’s constant criticisms, and ultimately to have faith in each other.

With MSI behind us, and the NA LCS ultimately losing their top seed at the next Worlds, lets take a look back a brighter time for North America, a time where, funny enough, the team representing the region was not seen as the best team there. They were criticized harshly going into it, and many felt that perhaps they would not be the best showing for the NA LCS internationally. It turned out, they were. This is the first part of a two part series, so be sure to check in tomorrow for our dramatic conclusion!

The Set Up

I still remember the shock of the off season between Worlds 2015 and the NA LCS Spring Split 2016. Losing  Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemed like a blow enough. Pob was, as I always said, a solid, if not uninspiring, Mid laner. The perfect fit for CLG, who often had… on and off Mid laners. That was fine. Maybe the team had some crazy import in mind, right? After all, Faith has always been part of the CLG fandom. But that wasn’t all.

Then the unthinkable happened. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng traded in the blue and gray for the black and white of long time rivals TSM. Why not top it all off with picking up two almost unheard of rookies in Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, and CLG pulled a full CLG and went counter to everyone’s expectations. They finally found the solution, the team that got them that coveted NA LCS Finals and Worlds appearance. It was supposed to be the Golden Age. Then they decided to remove two key players and replace them with untested rookies.

The rag tag team of dreams, NA’s hope at MSI. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The scene was left scratching their heads, as eternal rivals TSM looked to rebound after an off performance during their last Summer’s playoff showing, having gotten arguably the strongest ADC in the West from the very team that beat them. TSM’s rivals, of course, were left with two rookies, Stixxay having been promoted from CLG Black, while Huhi was reportedly scouted in Korea for his talent. But they both had big shoes to fill, and while being surrounded by some of the most storied veterans in Top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and Support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, CLG fans felt that maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to pull out a playoff win in Summer.

Alongside the player changes, CLG brought on a new head coach by the name of Tony “Zikzlol” Gray, now a household name as arguably one of the best coaches in North America, there was a lot of new faces and questions mixed with hopes.

Nobody expected that the team would amount to much in Spring. Even CLG didn’t. A win on domestic soil seemed a great showing, but the impressive showings didn’t end there: they also went on to place second at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational, after showing up against international teams and only falling short against Korean juggernauts SKT. Then again, what would a good sports anime be without the unlikely happening?

Our protagonists

Archetypes in Anime aren’t really set in stone. Sure, there are tropes and there’s kind of constant themes throughout, but archetypes are always kind of murky grounds. Some will disagree with the ones I find almost ever present. Some will say I forgot some. Hell, it’s even likely you’ll disagree with my identification of the players in their archetypes. That’s fine, I’m not claiming objectivity here. But if I were writing the show, this is how I’d envision the players.

Darshan: Even his teacher calls him Zionspartan… but fans now call him Darshan, and arguably last Spring was some of the best times for the one they call Darshan.

He was a monster in the Top lane, eloquent in the lane swap meta, and a menace when left to split push to victory. If fans of the NA LCS had a dime for every time Darshan would split push to win with Fiora or similar split pushers, they’d have a lot of dimes. It wasn’t quite the Flame Horizon in the Top lane, but it was pretty damn close, and many of the W’s in CLG’s Spring Split could be chalked up to the dashing Darshan.

Darshan, probably thinking about how to style his hair or like the next song to cover… Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

Of course, it’s not just about how the players played, but their place in our overall story, right? Darshan could’ve been the kind of Clutch Player, the one who shows up when the team needs him the most and somehow pulls off the victory. But I think the other side of Darshan plays out more in my mind: He seriously was the pretty boy of the group. Amazing facial hair and style aside, he also sings amazingly. If he were to walk onto stage, I feel like he would have to have a flower background and a close up zoom in, as his eye sparkled or something. Next to Huhi, Darshan would probably have the most fanart of himself if we’re being totally honest.

Xmithie: Xmithie has been a staple in the NA LCS since his time way back in Season 3 with Team FeaR and Team Vulcun. He’s been a stable force in the scene, never quite as strong as some of his flashier compatriots in the Jungle, yet Xmithie never failed though to remain a rock and foundational piece for many a team. Hell, he was the unchallenged Best Lee Sin NA for a while folks…

Over the shoulder eye brow raising smoulder. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

But more than that, Xmithie fit into the CLG story line as that Steady and Silent one. For the entirety of the Spring split and into MSI, Xmithie put in production for the team, helping his lane mates get ahead and maintaining overall map control.

He was there where and when the team needed him and read the game to know who to set up and get ahead. In some ways he was like a tactician for the squad, if not for Aphro’s obvious influence in that department. He was, however, always the quietest member it felt like. He wouldn’t be the player dominating a scene in the show, but he would show up at the right time to help a fellow player. The strong, silent type that always held a place in your heart for his sincere concern for his fellows.

 

Huhi: Huhi came in as a heavily scrutinized player, always at the center of criticism for the team and seemingly always the one that had to go. Still, through all of this, it seemed like the bubbly personality of Huhi persisted on. While notorious for his pocket picks like Aurelion Sol, Huhi’s performance on the rift has always been polarizing. He’s either the one surprisingly carrying his whole team on his giant space dragon back, or the one that’s the anchor for the early game of the team. Huhi was always a polarizing player, but he was never a negative player.

If you don’t find this image heart warming and wholesome, I ask you kindly, but firmly, to leave. Courtesy of Yahoo Esports.

It was his off the rift presence that was the perfect fit for somewhere between the comedic relief and the adorable one of the group. Just check his Twitter, and see the beauty that is the HuhixHaru.

It was, however, I think Huhi’s defining feature in my mind of his overall positive attitude in the face of adversity. He always seemed happy, always ready to try and prove himself again, and never daunted by opponents or critics. He would keep the team cheery and would offer his positive attitude to the team atmosphere.

Stixxay: Fans of CLG may have forgotten this, but Stixxay was considered once one of the weakest members of CLG for a time. Not many should be surprised by this, as stepping into the shoes of ace ADC and Best in the West Doublelift is definitely a tall task. But Stixxay never seemed fazed by those who didn’t believe in him. He was always stepping up, and I think the shinning moment of his Spring career was the Tristana play that propelled them to their victory over TSM and onto the MSI tournament.

From Zero to Hero in no time flat. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In a lot of ways, Stixxay would seem our protagonist for this show. The young kid, stepping into the ace role for a team, under heavy scrutiny by fans and pundits, and with a kind of self confidence in himself and his team that felt slightly above what one might feel was warranted. He and Aphromoo set out to prove everyone wrong, the young gun under the mentorship of the leader and brain in the botlane duo of Rush Hour.

Interviews with Stixxay showed this side time and time again: he felt he was good, damn good, but not in a pretentious way, not by putting others down or overstating his point. He felt he had the mechanics and just needed the time to ripen and he could match Doublelift’s legacy. Well, as a spoiler, it seemed he wasn’t too far off, and while a discussion of whether he’s ‘better than’ Doublelift or not would be a hotly contested debate, it’s safe to say that the rookie has proved himself, long before gaining the moniker of Big Dixxay.

Aphromoo: If ever there was a franchise player to match the level of Doublelift, it could be argued that it would be Aphromoo. Support, as a position, occupies a unique role within League of Legends: they’re both the ones to set up the plays and their lane mates success, while also generally tasked with the shotcalling role. In short, the best Supports are often the ultimate altruistic leaders. Aphromoo is no exception to this role either, often being praised as the driving force behind CLG’s success, being the leader the team needs on and off the rift.

There are certain players whose reputation transcends their on the Rift abilities. Aphromoo is one such player. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

It’s the perfect plot line too. The mentor, the veteran, the one left behind the famous departure of lanemate Doublelift. Aphromoo had to prove himself not only mechanically as a player, but to prove himself to the team captain and mentor everyone believed he could be. He was given the untested, gifted, and highly coachable player that was Stixxay, and their role in the team ultimately became the lynch pin for their success.

While Darshan was known for his split pushing, Huhi his pocket picks and Xmithie for his selfless jungling style, it was the Bot lane duo that often was tasked to face some of the best and strongest opponents and carry. If it’s not a saying, it should be, that behind every God ADC is a Support who whipped them into shape, and look no further for proof of this then the Lethal Weapon duo that is Stixxay and Aphromoo.

Zikz: An untested team needs a leader, but it also needs a coach. Zikz stepped into the role of Head Coach before the roster was finalized, replacing William “scarra” Li and being promoted from Head Analyst position. Fans will remember Zikz for his simple, elegant style, a classy suit and non-distracting hair gave him the appearance of a largely non-menacing coach. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Zikz has established himself in the coaching role, holding one of the longest tenures as such, in a position that largely has seen more revolving doors than an European Super Team.

“Ok guys, if we destroy their Nexus first we win. Break!” Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

So how does Zikz play into this story? Well, he’s the behind the scene coach, the one who propels his team, prepares them to the best he can, and then sits there and watches as his work and tactics unfold before his eyes. Zikz was always there with his team, laughing, encouraging, being one on one with many of the players, and arguably a lot of CLG’s success can be placed as a fact of his impressive coaching. He was a strong Runner Up for the Coach of the Spring Split in 2016, and is a constant contender for the best coach each split.

He also plays the role of the coach who not much is known about. He’s been a relative silent force in CLG’s presence, and while this fits that narrative well of the behind the scenes coach who is stronger than he comes off, it also gave him the kind of mysterious aspect to him. All he needs is some glasses to push up his nose menacing when a team falls into his well laid trap and he’d be perfect.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 everyone!

Is That a Jojo Reference? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr and bad MS Paint skills.

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Power Rankings: #3 western team

Flyquest’s Playoff Profile: Live and Die by the Cheese

Exceeding Expectations

After being pegged as a relegation team in preseason, Flyquest surged to an amazing 5-1 start. They quickly became fan favorites, pulling out some of the most unique champions of the season, from Mordekaiser ADC to Shaco jungle. As teams around them began to build synergy, Flyquest began to crumble. They finished the season 9-9 just barely making playoffs.

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Flyquest is great at pushing advantages. You give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Having a legendary shotcaller in Hai “Hai” Lam helps. You’ll often see Flyquest try to pull off Baron as soon as possible to help them finish games as efficiently as possible.

Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate has had an amazing split compared to last year when he looked extremely lost as a rookie on NRG and TL. Moon looked great in the first few weeks, putting up insane kill numbers in the first few games of the split. He has since sizzled out a bit, but still remains one of the better players on this roster.

Lemonnation’s drafting is still extremely unpredictable to say the least. You never know what unique champions they might pull out.

Hai is one of the most selfless mid laners in NALCS. He will often roam to try and get kills for his teammates, even if it means sacrificing resources in the mid lane. As a team, An “Balls” Le, Daerek “Lemonnation” Hart, and Hai have all been playing together since their Cloud 9 days. Hai is amazing at getting everyone to listen to a call and either living or dying by that call.

Weaknesses

They tend to play an eccentric style, taking any fight they can. This can be a weakness for them as most teams have been punishing their over aggressive play style towards the end of the season.

Their attempts at cheesing opponents with their unique champion picks also hasn’t worked much for them. As much as fans love seeing unique champion picks, other teams can just outright beat them with what’s strong in the meta.

They also don’t have the best early game laning. Hai, Balls, and ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru have some of the worst CSD@10 numbers at their respective positions. Flyquest tends to try and go even through laning phase and win through mid game rotations and team fights. If they fall too far behind, they are often punished for trying to fight without the right advantages.

Living and dying by Hai’s shotcalling is a double edged sword. Sometimes it’s the right call, and other times it leaves us scratching our heads, wondering why they decided to fight there.

Player to Watch: Hai

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Mid laner and shotcaller Hai will be essential in how far Flyquest can go in playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve improved over the last few weeks in preparation for their playoff match against CLG. Hai has always been tasked with guiding his team to victory no matter what team he is on. He’ll need to be at his best for Flyquest to go deep into playoffs.

Prediction

With how they looked near the end of the split, Flyquest will be heavy underdogs coming into their match with CLG. Hai’s shotcalling and some unique champion picks may net them a win, but I don’t see CLG losing this one.

Lose 1-3 to CLG

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CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

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