An Overture of Rivalry
On August 24th, 2014, the LCS studios in LA will be host to one of the highly anticipated matches of the NA LCS 2014 Season. While the other playoff match boasts and showcases two incredibly popular North American teams, Team SoloMid and Team Dignitas, we once again have a grudge match awaiting us in the playoffs for both historically inconsistent CLG and consistently fourth place Curse. For those unfamiliar with the long-term history of the two teams, it is a running joke that the players on Curse are the “B-Team” for CLG because a lot of Curse players originally came from CLG’s roster back in Season 2 and part of Season 3. These “benched CLG B-Team” players include: Saintvicious, Elementz, Voyboy, and Aphromoo (for a short period of time before he left and re-joined CLG). However, some time has passed and the only member on Curse now that was benched from CLG is Voyboy. The old grudge match between the two teams doesn’t exist now just like how the rivalry between TSM and CLG doesn’t garner as much hype as it used to.
The winner of this match will move on to face off against Cloud9 and a chance to get to compete on the Worlds Stage. If they beat Cloud9, they acquire a guaranteed spot for worlds. A loss means they can try again for a third place slot to worlds. The first obstacle to tackle however lies in this quarterfinals match.
Rondo of Counter Logic
In the regular season of the LCS, Curse is 3-1 against CLG, but historically their records against each other have been quite one sided with the exception of the the first Spring Split in which they split even with 2 wins and 2 losses each. The following seasons would go with a 3-1 record in favor of Curse of the 2013 Summer Split, a 3-1 record in favor of CLG in the 2014 Spring Split and finally a 3-1 record in the current 2014 Summer Split putting Curse on-top of CLG in total regular season wins with a total record of 9-7.
The interesting trend between CLG and Curse however is that despite CLG’s continual losses against Curse in the regular season, they always dominate them in the Playoffs. With the exception of the 2013 Spring Playoff round in which CLG and Curse did not face off against each other, CLG is undefeated against Curse with a 4-0 record. In the 2013 Summer Playoffs, CLG took it 2-0 against Curse in the 5th place match and CLG defeated Curse 2-0 in the recent 2014 Spring Playoffs for 3rd place. It’s hard to pinpoint a trend in why these results play out the way they do from the regular season to the playoffs because its not as though their playstyle is different from the regular series to the playoff series and it’s not as though Curse lacks experience in a best of three (as per the previous format). It’s a fortitude for a series versus playing in a best of 1. What Curse needs to be able to do is set plans for a series. They always falter in a best of 3/5 series which points toward a failure to adapt.
A Strong Cadence for Curse
At the end of the season, Curse pulled ahead in wins rising from 6th place to finish fourth with a 13-15 record beating both CLG and Dignitas with tiebreaker points. CLG on the other hand fell from being tied 1st and 2nd places with the top teams to falling to fifth place (from tie breakers) in the season. It’s hard to compare their records consistently at the end of the regular split due to the absence of the CLG starting lineup in the final week. However, if we take the most relevant time periods into account, CLG began to dip hard with a 4 loss streak plaguing their performance and mentality through week 9 and 10, whereas Curse emerged from the flames of their very logo to go 3-1 in the final superweek stepping over Dignitas, LMQ and Team Solomid respectively.* Three of the teams that Curse defeated in the superweek were among the top teams giving more weight to Curse’s dominance later in the split.
A common trend in almost all of Curse games is that the band of veterans will take large gold leads. Curse is the very embodiment of an “early game team”. Just looking at some stats will make this apparent. Thanks to Derek “Kathix” Adams from OnGamers we have a very clear picture of how good teams are at the early game (defined by the first 10 minutes). In the charts, Curse is the 2nd strongest early-game team next to LMQ. In the first 10 minutes of the game, they have the 2nd most kills and the 2nd least deaths.
Their aggression early game is highlighted due to the fact that they lead the scoreboards with the most first bloods with a whopping count at 22. Outside of the bloodshed of the early game, Curse also boasts the best early objective control– in which they secure the most towers while losing the least towers in the first 10 minutes. So with a team with so much early game premise, why did they finish 13-15? The answer to that lies in how often they take their lead and turn that into a victory. Of the 17 games this season where they had a gold advantage, Curse only won 9 of those games. That’s a 52.94% win rate when playing off of a lead. This indicates high inconsistency within the Curse team. One reason for their inconsistency is that they often lack a clear definitive plan past the midgame mark when they already have a lead. That leads to a very disorganized team structure, and also they’re prone to letting the other team set the tempo of the game. To explain that, if they’re ahead in gold but lose a dragon fight because of poor positioning and then they won’t know what to do after that. They’ll start playing reactive to the opponent.
Following the strong finish in superweek, Curse needs only to keep their strengths consistent without giving up their early game leads to take it to a close series with CLG. They also need short-term plans per game and a long-term plan for the series. Their time may be to shine now especially with problems that surfaced in the CLG kingdom.
A Korean Etude1 composed by MonteCristo
Due to Seraph’s visa needing to be renewed and both a poor team performance and atmosphere on and off the rift, CLG made the bold move to uproot the team and go to Korea for two weeks on July 29th, 2014. To quote the official announcement:
…[T]he CLG players and management have decided the best course of action moving forward is to send the whole team to Korea this week and bootcamp with coach MonteCristo. The team will be staying with Monte and continually scrimming against the top Korean teams. The team noticed a substantial improvement in performance and communication the last time Monte was in their presence, so this will be a great bonding experience for the team to replicate that success in a new environment.
Some of these problems were highlighted in the season premiere of Chasing the Cup where cameras follow North American LCS teams CLG and Cloud9 around. Problems were brought to light within the team synergy and cohesion and the move to Korea would attempt solve multiple problems. First off, with Seraph gone for a minimum of two weeks that meant the team wouldn’t have been able to practice with their top laner for that duration of time rendering any and all practice fruitless. Second, team chemistry problems can be aired out with a figure of authority present (MonteCristo, their coach).
Some of the team chemistry problems were highlighted in this episode of Chasing the Cup, but keep in mind that the majority of CLG’s players and staff have said that it was an unfortunate week at which they were at their worst, so while it is best not to take what is shown to us on the show at face value, it is important to remember the presence of MonteCristo can help bring the team to top mental fortitude and cohesion for their return to the states.
The final point is scrim quality. In several of the interviews with pros in North America, there is an dangerous and recurring problem in the scrims where teams will not play out scrims until the bitter end. Instead they will forfeit the moment they are behind in a deficit or if their level 1 strategy went awry. With this kind of mentality it’s almost funny how hard it is to witness comebacks in a Western League of Legends professional game when the team in the lead doesn’t throw or make huge blunders.
In Korea and scrimming against the top teams, it won’t matter whether they win or lose– they will be able to experience a full scrim without people calling uncle at the sign of a gold deficit at any point in the game. In fact, teams such as Samsung Blue have been able to win fights from huge gold deficits because of their teamfighting prowess. If NA teams never play from huge deficits in scrims, how on earth will they ever be able to deal with that in real games? Thus, with quality scrims assured in Korea CLG’s practice should be incredibly efficient. And by the looks of it, they didn’t look to disappoint according to an AMA with CLG that was posted on Inven (and subsequently translated here on Paravine).
Q. Has the move proven fruitful so far?
Yes. The players and I are very satisfied. We got to scrim against the Korean pro teams and thereby improve.
Important Lane Matchups and Match Points
- Link vs Voyboy: Voyboy’s move to the mid lane was widely criticized harshly when Curse brought in Quas to take his place in the top lane. While they faced a plethora of problems at the beginning, Voyboy is beginning to live up to his old name through his Yasuo and Tristana play. Link has been seen weak in the midlane as of late with unimpactful play. With a trip to Korea, it’s up to Link to bring his play up from scratch to face off against the aggressive midlaner.
- Dexter vs IWillDominate: Both junglers showcase very aggressive playstyles in the jungle with picks such as Eve, Rengar and Jarvan IV. There is no doubt that both junglers play a key part in pushing the game flow in favor of their team especially in how they can snowball lanes or shut down lanes and secure objectives.
- Aphromoo and Doublelift vs Xpecial and Cop: The two star supports of the LCS come face to face supporting their carries Doublelift and Cop– both carries are known to perform to high expectations when needed but it’s up to their supports to put them in their backpacks in the early game as well as providing the proper vision necessary for the team.
- Seraph vs Quas: While Seraph prefers the heavy tank champions such as Shyvana, Quas perfers the semi-carry champions in top such as Lulu, Renekton and Maokai. Both top laners share something in common: when they entered the LCS there was an abundance of hype surrounding them but never being able to showcase their skills due to the tank meta. Right now however top lane in other regions since the end of the NA LCS Regular Season have showcased Alistar and Swain being added to the pool. Quas was known for his Swain back on his old team New World Eclipse so we may see him bring it out. The top lane matchup (if a 1v1) will most likely be influenced heavily on the jungle matchup so expect some ganks.
Curse is a team that will take leads in the early game and try to snowball the advantage whereas CLG, fresh from a bootcamp with MonteCristo, is famously known right now for their rotation game. Curse will often try to achieve these early game leads through dominance of their solo-laners or precision ganks from IWillDominate. But with proper vision control and solid rotations and macro strategy, that can be contained. I’m predicting a 3-1 victory for Counter Logic Gaming. CLG has historically taken Curse to the cleaners in the playoffs so I would expect nothing less than a victory after their (hopefully) fruitful trip to Korea.
- An Etude is a musical composition written solely to improve technique. ^
*Made a correction where I stated that Curse went 4-0 in the superweek. They were 3-1, and upset by Complexity.