Everyone was ready to count Counter Logic Gaming out of playoff contention. We had resigned them to their fate.
Six weeks into the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split, they were 3-9 after dropping six games in a row, sitting solidly tied for last place with Golden Guardians. With six games left to play, the boys in blue were three games behind 6th place Team SoloMid and had one of the toughest schedules in the league going forward. To get to the postseason, they’d have to get through 2nd place Cloud9 and a strong (though underperforming) Team Liquid in Week 7, then current kings of NA Echo Fox in Week 8.
Then, they beat all three (plus fellow strugglers FlyQuest), going 4-0 over the course of two weeks and climbing their way to within two games of TSM and Team Liquid with one week to go. Now, with OpTic Gaming and TSM left on the docket, CLG has a shot at the playoffs. If either TSM or Team Liquid loses both games this week and CLG goes 2-0, they’ll earn their spot in the 2018 Spring Split playoffs–possibly knocking longtime rivals TSM out in the process.
It’s the most CLG storyline possible. After parting ways with star support and previous face of the team, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, 2018 Spring was supposed to be a time for rebuilding. Picking up jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and former TSM support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was supposed to be a long-term bet, one that would pay off over the course of years. This wasn’t supposed to be CLG’s split.
And yet, here were are.
This is truly the most CLG timeline. They’re so close, so ready to make that final leap that the taste of disappointment is palpable in the air. There’s almost no chance that they manage to pull off the run, but there’s just enough hope that CLG fans’ ears are perking up.
This is familiar territory for CLG fans. A team perpetually on the verge of either greatness of utter failure, it always seems that CLG is one game from winning a championship — or getting knocked out entirely.
There was the time they barely qualified for playoffs in 2013 Spring, only to lose in the first round and have to play for their place in the League at the Summer Promotion tournament that year. There was the time they finally won their first NA LCS Championship in 2015, only to implode in spectacular fashion at Worlds, dropping all three of their second week games–including one to wildcard PaiN Gaming–and fail to make it out of groups. Just a few months later, they’d become the first North American team to beat a Korean roster in a best-of series at IEM San Jose, only to lose in the finals to Origen. Then they dropped star AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, a move criticized by many, only to beat his TSM roster just a few months later in the 2016 Spring Playoffs. The list goes on. And on. And on.
Such is the pain of the CLG fan. Flashes of brilliance followed by crushing failure is practically the team motto at this point. And yet, they remain one of the most popular and beloved teams in League of Legends esports.
A large portion of the love for the rough-and-tumble boys of CLG comes from the fact that they’ve been around since the beginning of the NA LCS. But more than that, they’ve become the team that exemplifies the “team-as-family” mentality. Even during the days of the “Rush Hour” bottom lane of Doublelift and Aphromoo, CLG has always promoted themselves as the team that puts teamwork above all else. Somehow, despite being one of the most established teams in League of Legends, they’ve retained their scrappy aura. They’ve held on to their underdog status.
Their fans are a part of that. Jokes and memes abound about CLG living up to their name, pulling off feats like this split’s 0-6 to 4-0 turnaround. They’ve beaten European powerhouses G2, then promptly lost to Wildcard team Albus NoX Luna, then turned that around and beat ROX Tigers, only to not make it out of the group stage at the 2016 World Championships. They’re the team that can pull of the biggest upset at any given moment, only to totally blow it just a few hours later. And vice versa.
So, when CLG sits just a couple games back of playoffs at the 2018 Spring Split playoffs and need a miracle, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll get just that. This is a team of miracles and curses. For CLG, the unexpected is expected. And there’s no reason to think that this season will be any different.
That is, of course, until the stars align just before they completely implode and lose to TSM at the last possible moment. Such is the fate of CLG.