A three-peat of the North American League Championship Series is what Counter Logic desire this season, but it isn't going to come easy, as shown by Friday's opening night loss to Team SoloMid. In the first ever NA LCS best-of-three series in the regular season, the back-to-back runners-up swept the repeating and defending champions to get a tiny bit of revenge for the pair of NA LCS finals losses.
Following the contest, I was able to sit down and chat with CLG's starting mid laner Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun about the match, the current state of the game, and his team's ultimate goal for the end of the season.
"The preparation for TSM -- I'll say we weren't 100% ready -- but I don't think that can be an excuse," said Huhi. "We still had time to prepare, but it was kind of hard since they were also bootcamping in Korea. We had no idea how Biofrost plays or what champions he plays, or what [TSM are] playing."
Vincent "Biofrost" Wang, TSM's rookie support, played beyond his years in his first professional match. Playing in the NA LCS' most storied rivalry to begin the season might have weighed down a majority of green players, yet it seemed to only motivate the young North American-born support to take it to the next level. His Karma in game one alongside star AD carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's 8/1/4 Lucian was stellar, and his encore on Braum on the next map might have been even better. At the end of the series, Biofrost had accrued an overall scoreline of 1/3/27 in victory.
"We learned a ton of stuff," Huhi told me when asked about his team's expedition over to Shanghai, China for the Mid-Season Invitational. There, the North American title holders exceeded all expectations by making the finals of the event before falling to reigning Summoner's Cup champions SK Telecom T1. "The most valuable thing is the experience that we played the best team in the world in each region. We learned their play styles, and I [actually] experienced it by playing versus them, and saw which play style is actually the best way to win the game. We've been trying to figure out the best way to win the game -- what's the most efficient way."
While CLG did go above and beyond the standing expected for them at MSI, the event still ended without a happy ending. After splitting two games with SKT T1 in the group stages and taking a convincing win over Taiwan's Flash Wolves in the semifinals, CLG truly believed it could topple Goliath and take home the championship. For how valiantly the North Americans fought in the final, it was still nowhere close to enough -- a bleak 0-3 loss staring them in the face as the South Koreans celebrated in front of them.
"I just want us to be more consistent," said Huhi, describing what step the team needed to take from making a major finals to actually winning one. "It just happened right now in this game. We expected to win, obviously after the MSI showing, but we weren't ready at all."
One of the biggest topics currently affecting the competitive and non-competitive League of Legends scene is solo queue, or the lack thereof with Riot's recent announcement of moving on from the concept to focus on dynamic queue. The most damaged by the move are the top players online, that being the pro-gamers, with the highest level performers only allowed to queue in single, duo, or trios and not with the entirety of their team.
"For me personally, I don't care if we have dynamic queue or solo queue," said Huhi on the issue. "When dynamic queue first came out, it was fun to play with five teammates and with friends because we can all queue up [together], so that was fun. The only problem I have is long queue times. For example, I usually put mid and fill and the queue time is usually 20 minutes long, and I almost always get support. And if try to put mid and jungle or mid and top, the queue time will be above an hour. I don't think dynamic queue or solo queue is that important, but the most important for Riot to fix at first is the queue time problem."
Other than the axing of solo queue, the biggest change in the game itself has been the mid-season changes implanted following the MSI tournament. An array of mages were updated for the current patch, and the stacking of order buffs with dragon has been replaced by the elemental dragons. Now instead of always knowing the progression of buffs, there are four random buffs -- speed, objective damage, champion damage, health/mana sustain -- that are randomly selected up until the 35 minute mark where the Elder Drake appears as a somewhat Baron equivalent.
"The mid-season changes are interesting and it is fun, but it happened at a bad time," he said. "When we played at MSI, [that] was when the change happened, so we were pretty behind already. The changes [overall] are really interesting and really fun to play, especially with the dragon patches. Now we can choose which dragon is the most important one. There were [also] a lot of item changes, and mid mages will affect my champion pool a lot, so it's pretty interesting to play new champions and new item builds."
Looking ahead for the rest of the regular season, it'll be a new feeling for CLG. Overlooked as a champion last split, there is no one underrating them now as international finalists and repeating champions. Doing well at Worlds is CLG's goal, and that all begins with another successful campaign in the domestic division.
"Well, our mindset was pretty much not dropping a single game this season," he said. "But, one thing I learned after we lost versus TSM -- I actually think now it was better to lose. Now we'll have a really, really good mindset that it doesn't really matter how dirty it is until playoffs. We're just going to prove that we're the best at playoffs. I don't really care how much games we lose. I just hope that -- I know that we'll be the best team at playoffs."
Spoken like a confident champion.
CLG and Huhi will attempt to even its season record at 1-1 this Sunday against minor league promoted Apex Gaming.