NA LCS Finals: The Redemption of Counter Logic Gaming

Since the debut of the LCS in Spring 2013, Counter Logic Gaming has been known for its disarray and disappointment. They consistently changed rosters after every split, and although they initially began each split strongly, they were unable to carry the momentum into the playoffs, always falling apart in the semifinals. Issues with communication, team morale, and team dynamics were always cited, and despite the changes in players, it was eventually believed to be an issue with the administration and coaching of CLG. After years of inconsistency, a losing streak towards the end of this year’s summer split led fans to believe that this season would be no different.

However, expectations were defied, and tension was high, as both Team Solo Mid and Counter Logic Gaming, their biggest rivals in North America, cleanly won their semifinal games, and were set to face each other in the finals. While TSM was set to compete in the World Championship regardless of the outcome, CLG losing would force them to compete in another gauntlet tournament for a seed. CLG showed that after years of struggling, they were not about to disappoint in Madison Square Garden.

Here's how it all went down in the finals.

Game 1

CLG 1-0 TSM

CLG surprised the audience by picking Yasuo last, putting their top laner, ZionSpartan, on a high-damage play-making champion as well and giving him a winning matchup against Dyrus’s Gnar. This forced a lane-swap that put TSM’s duo lane on the top side of the map to deny the matchup.

CLG invested resources into ZionSpartan, giving him first blood, and allowed him to snowball the rest of the game by splitpushing and maintaining pressure while the rest of the team contested objectives. Meanwhile, Pobelter’s Viktor maintained a high-damage threat as Viktor and Doublelift’s Tristana allowed him to consistently maintain pressure on towers in the side lanes throughout the game. Although TSM was able to close the advantage through a skirmish on the bottom side of the map, which resulted in a dragon, CLG’s early game advantage and their ability to snowball it resulted in a clean win for CLG.

Game 2

CLG 2-0 TSM

In response to CLG’s play in game 1, TSM banned Tristana and put Bjergsen on Yasuo, denying the pick for ZionSpartan. Just as in the first game, Pobelter was allowed to play Viktor again, and ZionSpartan consistently made plays and splitpushed side lanes. DoubleLift found himself on Jinx, the second best champion at taking towers next to Tristana. As a result, despite a number of teamfight mistakes from CLG, their stronger macro game allowed them to keep an advantage in turrets and dragons, similar to the first game, and decisively ended with a pentakill for Doublelift.

Seasoned veteran Doublelift earns a Pentakill in game 2 of the NA LCS Finals

Game 3

CLG 3-0 TSM

Game 3 was fairly similar to game 2, in that CLG picked Gnar and Viktor once again, and this time they relied on Doublelift’s Ashe for engage. TSM relied on a composition around Bjergesen’s Yasuo. Although the selection of champions was fairly similar, the key difference came from Doublelift’s Ashe. Ashe’s ranged engage allows CLG to simply maintain vision control all over the map, and the moment that TSM stepped out of their own territory, CLG would immediately engage, gain an advantage, and leave to take an objective. This slow, methodical gameplay allowed them to starve TSM and edge out enough of an advantage before TSM could no longer handle the pressure.

Counter Logic Gaming’s drafts showed not only a strategic mastery of the game from a teamplay perspective, but also highlighted the versatility of each player’s champion pool. Not only did CLG ban the same 3 champions ever game, ZionSpartan’s dominating Yasuo play in game 1 forced the TSM’s mid-laner Bjergsen to play Yasuo in games 2 and 3 in order to deny the pick while banning other higher priority champions. ZionSpartan was consistently put on playmaking champions and Pobelter was allowed to play Viktor, one of the best mid-lane champions, in all three games, while Doublelift was on utility champions such as Ashe and Tristana, as well as Jinx for high damage output.

Victory is sweet

Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaha emotionally stated in the winner’s interview: “Before this win, we were all losers.” Each of the players, prior to this sweep, had their LCS careers at stake in relegations, and were always unable to prove their worth, despite individually being known as some of the best players in the region. At this event the team morale was undoubtedly at its highest point, with the inclusion of their new head coach, Blurred Limes, who was there to assist and strengthen relationships between the players, one of the long-standing problems for the team. This sets a precedent for the importance of not only strong strategic play, but also a healthy dynamic between the team, a factor that is undoubtedly important for five young adults learning how to live and work together.

Most notable, however, is the effect on the ADC player, Peter “Doublelift” Peng. He was always known for being one of the top players in North America, was kicked out of his house by his parents for aspiring to be a competitive gamer, stayed with CLG for nearly his entire career, but never had a single championship victory. Winning the finals of the LCS is the result of years of determination for Doublelift.

Counter Logic Gaming is now looking towards training in South Korea for the World Championship that will be held in Europe later this year. After dismantling the North American LCS with a 3-0 in the semifinals, followed by a 3-0 finals, they are currently the North American hope, looking to make a stance against the Chinese and Korean powerhouses.

Featured image via CLGaming.net