HotshotGG at PAX: Day 1

Since I am visiting PAX this time in the role of the spectator/coach instead of a player this year, I thought it might be cool to do a daily blog about CLG’s trip to the NA LCS Playoffs at PAX 2013. Each day I’ll give you a summary of the day’s activities and what life is like for a pro player, as well as some insight into the matches and CLG’s thought process behind all of them. Hope you all enjoy!

As many know, CLG did a lot of hard prep work and bootcamping for this event. Going in, the team felt extremely prepared for their match against TSM. As such, little planning was actually required at the event itself. We had spent the past two weeks training hard everyday scrimming against Vulcun, Dignitas, Curse, and Cloud 9 as well as doing some extensive out of game work and research with MonteCristo. We arrived early on Thursday, checked in at our hotel, then went over to the venue to play some solo queue and just make sure the team’s hands touched some League of Legends that day. Around 10pm we went back to the hotel, had a brief discuession/reminder session about what we wanted to accomplish tomorrow, and then everyone was in bed by midnight.

The next day we all met downstairs at 9:50 to head over to the venue. Originally, our match was scheduled for 1:00pm PST. However, since the Challenger matches were so quick, we started the match against TSM an hour early. On stage, the team reviewed MonteCristo’s final email one last time and things were off.

Quarterfinals Game 1 against TSM

Against TSM, literally nothing was unexpected. TSM is not the kind of team that prepares crazy drafts, level 1s, or strategies to beat their opponents; they play what they know and play it well. After picks and bans, I feel the team was in a very good position. Most people probably did not expect Doublelift to play Ashe. We however had identified her as a very strong champion whom we’d had great success with in scrims. The first comp you saw from CLG was a variation of the pick comp they’d been working with extensively the past two weeks in scrims. Orignally, and I can say this now because we don’t play any more matches for the next several months after today, Lissandra was the core to this comp for the mid lane role. Unfortunately, we learned the ban hammer was coming down from Riot on her a couple days into preparing for PAX 2013. Regardless, we found suitable replacements to keep the comp alive and well. As you can tell by looking at the comp, it relies heavily on CC in order to force fights and plays on the map. The start of game 1 went very well for CLG. The team knew going in that TSM would be putting huge emphasis on early dragons. Rumble is a champion specifically that excels in controlling dragon early due to the high base damage and utility of his ultimate. Giving away early dragons are fine, so long as the team is able to force TSM to give up significant farm, map vision, and ideally, towers in the process. The team was able to accomplish this fairly well early, though TSM did an excellent job of controlling the map, they were not able to really execute on their advantages as CLG lead in kills and stayed even on towers and only slightly behind on gold compared to TSM. Looking at the comps, it’s evident that CLG’s ideal win scenario involved the game extending out as long as possible. Zed and Rumble fall off hard as the game goes late (although Rumble will become a factor again once he gets void staff), and Twitch can effectively be negated by Malphite in any team fight.

There were two main factors which were the ultimate undoing of CLG as the game progressed. The first major factor was incorrect decisions relating to splitting vs grouping. Even though CLG was in an advantageous position, especially after their teamfight where they aced TSM and had the opportunity to take control of the game, there were several instances in which the team either split at the wrong time, or sent the wrong person to split on the map. TSM too advantage of these mistakes and capitalized on them very well, most notably taking a free baron from CLG despite being weaker than CLG at that point in the game. Throughout the entire series, TSM controlled map vision and made very good lane rotations, which lead to much of their success in the series.

Even though TSM honestly outplayed CLG pretty hard in the map control and lane rotation department, CLG still had ample opportunities to win the first (and second game as I’ll discuss soon), due to big team fights in which CLG came out on top of TSM. CLG outcomped TSM pretty hard, and TSM chose to put themselves in multiple teamfights which they could have easily lost the game from. The last teamfight of game 1 however ultimately showed what I think CLG’s biggest weakness throughout the entire series was, a lack of confidence. As the last teamfight at bottom tier two began, I believe CLG was in a great position to win the teamfight. In picking this composition, it’s important to note that CLG has a lot of upfront, high impact CC. This comp is most effective in fights when these abilities are used in chain as the fight begins to remove high priority targets. Agaainst, TSM’s comp specifically, it’s very important that Rumble, Twitch, and Sona aren’t able to counter-act CLG’s engage with the use of their ultimates to near their full effect. Ultimately, I think the team tunneled too hard on making the perfect play, and held some of their wombo combo too long (as they had done at an earlier fight at Dragon), looking to get that perfect team fight. While ultimately Malphite and Orianna did get a great combo off on TSM, too much of CLG’s roster had died at that point. The team also happened to group right on top of each other as Regi’s Zed made a huge W, q, e, combo on top of all three of them. Elise and Twitch were able to barley survive, and in what was a rather abrupt ending, a 1/4 life Oddone and WildTurtle were able to take the CLG nexus just as the team respawned.

In between games, Kelby and I went back and talked to the team on what went wrong the first game and provided words of encouragement for the second game. The team was really close to winning the first game, with just a few minor adjustments and the game would have been theirs. We kept them focused on that as well as their map position and teamfighting elements that could be improved on for the next game.

Quarterfinals Game 2 against TSM

The second game was essentially just a poorer mimic of the first game by CLG. Again, TSM controlled the map and took early dragons, but CLG was unable to force good trades with TSM in return, and slowly fell further and further behind. Much credit is due to TSM in this series, they had very clear goals for the game which they were able to execute well, and made excellent map rotations in dealing with CLG’s attempts to counter pressure. It seems as though CLG’s inability to split effectively in the first game caused them to overreact by choosing to hardly ever split in game 2, despite Nien’s Nasus being completely untouchable during most of the mid game. CLG again won another major team fight which game them the opportunity to take control of the game, but the team ultimately got caught out twice and punished severely by TSM for failing to properly split and control TSM’s baron side jungle. Once TSM got the first baron the game was essentially over, and they were able to close out the series from there.

The rest of the day

After a loss like that, the team was pretty down. They had worked really hard to beat TSM, but ultimately TSM outplayed CLG and deserved to win the series. The team spent the rest of the day watching the Dignitas and Curse series (we expected Dignitas to win based on our scrims against both teams the last two weeks), as well as shooting some video features for Riot and hanging out with fans. All the fans we met were super supportive even after our loss. Even though I’m not on the starting roster anymore, it’s really hard seeing fans after losses. Not because I’m irritated or don’t like seeing them, but it’s really hard feeling like you let someone down so badly. I know how hard it is being a CLG fan, the team’s performances are so inconsistent, and just for once I’d like to see the team play it’s best consistently so we can feel like we did our fans proud. I can promise you this though, we’ve been working hard on trying to figure it out and will continue to do so. We will never stop trying for you, it’s the least you deserve for all the amazing support our fans have and continue to give us.

So here we find ourselves again, in the same position as NA playoffs at PAX last year. Curse and CLG playing to see who will go to relegations and who will stay in the LCS.  The team is prepared, I hope we can just give everyone the matches they deserve!



by george georgallidis, on August 31, 2013