How far can CLG go at the 2016 World Championship?

credit: lolesports
credit: lolesports /

CLG hope to do well at another international event.

Last week, we took a look at North America’s best team, Team SoloMid, and their chances at Worlds. This week, we’ll be looking at the team that qualified second in the region due to cumulative championships points over the Spring and Summer Splits. Counter Logic Gaming made their mark earlier this year by virtue of an amazing performance at the Mid-Season Invitational. There, CLG knocked off RNG and SKT in the group stages before solidly out-performing Flash Wolves in the semifinals.

Since MSI, however, CLG has struggled with consistency, and many have pegged them as the third-best NA LCS team in this tournament. But CLG has a penchant to surprise and if their performance at the MSI was any indicator, it’s tough to write these guys off.

Let’s see how CLG match up against their competition in the group stage and help set some realistic goals for the team as the get ready for the biggest tournament of the year.

Group A: The Group of ROX

Of the three NA LCS teams, CLG has to be the most pleased/relieved with the result of the group draws. Of course, they are in the group with the strongest team at Worlds — a ROX team that looks ready to take the mantle as champions.

But they also lucked into a group with one of the international wildcards. And no disrespect to Albus Nox Luna — they deserve to be here — but they didn’t have the most convincing group stage, and international teams haven’t historically fared well.

That means CLG really just have to focus their attention on one opponent: EU LCS champions G2 Esports. Let’s see what they have to do against G2 to make it out of the group stage.

The micro: individual matchups

Here are the five projected starters for each team in the group, ranked from green (highest impact) to red (lowest impact).

group-a /

Note: as in the TSM piece, this isn’t purely a ranking of skill, though skill has a lot to do with it. I also took into consideration how much each team plays around a specific position, and how crucial that position is to their overall team success. For example, Kim “PraY” Jong-in may very well be a superior ADC to Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, but I also think that the duo lane is the only way G2 can even begin attacking ROX, and that should be their focus.

The news for CLG? Outside of maybe Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, none of these positions were particularly close. Aphromoo could step up and outplay any of the other supports given his champion pool in an evolved meta; he certainly did at MSI, outplaying Wolf and Mata, two former champions.

But over the last few months, CLG has struggled a bit to make the right calls and their typically flawless macro play has been attacked by various NA LCS teams. In particular, Adrian played aphromoo to a draw in the NA LCS third-place match, which really unlocked the Immortals victory.

The macro: team matchups

Can we all agree none of these teams is going to threaten ROX? Ok? Ok.

TSM had options to make it out of their group. Winning solves everything, but they could also rely on RNG and SSG tearing each other apart. CLG has really only one realistic path forward: sweep Albus, get swept by ROX, pray that G2 gets swept by ROX as well and then split with G2 to set up a loser-goes-home third game with the kings of Europe.

g2 /

Unfortunately, of the second-place teams, G2 and SKT are probably the ones CLG least wanted to face. SKT for obvious reasons. G2 because their immaculate macro game can nullify CLG’s biggest advantage: strong map plays. CLG is constantly innovating how the early-game starts and when to move their players around the map. But so is G2. Something else will have to give if they want to survive the group stage.

The red herring: the duo lane matchup

When making the player rankings, I kept going back to the bot lane for CLG and the protect-the-ADC comps they rolled out at MSI. That tournament was where their identity really shifted from top/jungle priority between Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero to putting their hopes squarely on the shoulders of ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes.

And for a magical week-long stretch, it worked. The meta favored the early-spiking ADCs Stixxay favored, and the itemization advantage he gained eventually outweighed whatever late-game power trough his champion faced. Of course, we won’t be able to see the Worlds meta until it happens, but Stixxay has been playing quite a bit of Ezreal and Lucian in solo queue, two champions with decent early spikes.

Next: Reignover Bootcamping With CLG

Can that lead to victory over Zven and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez? After all, Zven is also spamming Ezreal. It’s going to be tough. Stixxay is a strong team player and is always involved in fights, but he also had the second-highest amount of deaths among NA ADCs with significant game time. In Europe, Zven averaged the fewest deaths while dealing a higher percentage of his team’s damage.

Where victory lies: up top

If Ezreal truly is the priority ADC pick, it may reveal something about this meta: ADCs are no longer the flavor. Ezreal is someone who can safely farm alone wihile the jungler and support roam. And for CLG, there’s only once place those players could be going: to the old standby, Darshan’s lane.

Darshan had a tough summer split. His KDA was third-worst in North America. The damage and talent was there, but the lack of true top lane carries crimped his style. However, top lane carries may be coming back in flavor at just the right time for CLG’s split pusher. Take a look at his solo queue page: Jayce, Jayce, Jayce. Plus some Poppy, Rumble, and GP. We know that Ekko is back in meta.

CLG’s goals for Worlds

CLG’s hopes in the group stage look like they’ll fall on Darshan’s shoulders. He gives them a shot, but only a shot, at the bracket stage. And that’s okay. It would be good for the region just to get one team past groups, two is a stretch and three might be impossible.

CLG’s goal should be to get to that deciding third game against G2 and lay it all on the line. They should be ecstatic to get past the group stage. If they lose the decider, that’s okay too. This team has had a great year, something they can build on. I just want to see some fun league from them one more time.

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