CLG is another organization, like TSM, that has recently experienced a fall from grace. The organization that has been around since the start of organized League of Legends was historically one of the big three contenders within North America; up there with the ranks of Cloud9 and TSM. Before Team Liquid rose from the ashes, those were the only three teams to win an LCS split. But after the departure of their long-time-support, Aphromoo, they lost most of their momentum, finishing at seventh, eighth, and seventh in three straight seasons. Until this past summer, where out of nowhere, it looked as though they may be the second best team in the league behind Team Liquid. They fell to Clutch Gaming to come third in both the playoffs and the regional qualifier, but despite the disappointing finish, their performance was unexpected and shows promise coming into 2020.
CLG after their first ever North American title in the summer of 2015.
CLG’s top-laner Ruin is a man not yet familiar to many in North America. With a past playing in Turkey and Europe, his resume isn’t the most impressive, but it has been trending upward. The start of his career was on Giants in Europe, gaining him two ninth place finishes, and didn’t present much to the eye; at least to me. But after his career in Europe ended and before his North American career began, he decided to head to Turkey and join 1907 Fenerbahce. In Turkey, he performed outstandingly, winning almost every game in which he played, and achieving first place in the regular season and the playoffs. Apparently the performance was enough to gain the attention of CLG, because they immediately signed him in the offseason. But after being introduced to the LCS, his personal numbers certainly took a hit. When it comes to impressions, he didn’t make a large one, and if you look at his statistics, you won’t get anything good either. But I will say his playstyle and skills fit really well with CLG’s overall gameplan. His main role was to play weak-side and soak farm, which he did a pretty dang good job at, and was likely one of the reasons why CLG’s bot lane and mid were able to do so well. So when it comes to anything based on statistics or past achievements, Ruin is possibly the worst top-laner in North America, but when you look at why that is, it begins to make more sense.
Another pretty young talent comes in the form of CLG’s jungler, Wiggily, but this time he’s all home-grown. Aside from his one and a half seasons starting for CLG, his resume is nonexistent, spending his entire early career in NA Academy, between Cloud9 and CLG. That being said, everything he’s shown on stage has been outstanding, with some thinking he’s the second best jungler within North America, as of last year. Modeling himself after Svenskeren, who he played under for a while, he doesn’t play too flashy. His Lee Sin isn’t something I fear, nor is his Kindred, but when the man gets a Jarvan or a Gragas, you better watch out. His decision makings and timings make him a big-brain jungler; one who will outmaneuver your team and force you to make mistakes on your own. I don’t know how he’ll do now that others like Broxah found themselves into the league, but I’m certainly high on him as of now.
North America has forever been a region filled with imported mids. But out of all those from Europe, Korea, or elsewhere, CLG’s mid-laner Crown certainly has the edge in terms of resume. After getting his start in Brazil under the name Shadow, Crown moved back to Korea where he spent four years on Samsung Galaxy (which would come to be known as other things, later). On Samsung, he would manage to qualify for the World Championship three times through the regional gauntlet (which isn’t a huge deal in certain regions, but if you’re a top three Korean team, you’re great), make two Worlds Finals, and win one of them. There are a few former World Champions that I’ve mentioned before in North America, but it’s still a big accomplishment.
Crown (middle) looking up at the crowd during the League of Legends World Championship.
When looking at pure skill, however, it’s certainly not him in the lead. There was one point in Crown’s career where it looks like he was the best Viktor player in the world, and maybe even Vel’koz as well. But at the end of his stint in Korea, he was shoved onto easier champions like Malzahar to better hid his mechanical faults. His past performance has resembled a bit of the two, not looking like an All-Star Korean mid, but still managing to be toward the top of the list in NA. With his old control mage style, playing Corki and Twisted Fate, he and Meteos controlled the map and somehow carried Optic into the playoffs. And if he can provide that big of a boost to one of the worst teams in the league, I think he has the potential to do the same, if not more, for CLG.
There’s not too much to say about ADC Stixxay. After CLG’s prized DoubleLift left for TSM, he replaced him, and has been their ADC ever since. His success has therefore followed theirs; having a wonderful rookie season and 2016, getting slightly worse in 2017 but still respectable, and faltering heavily until this past summer season. I would say mechanically he’s at about the middle of the pack of ADCs. I’ve never seen his play and thought “Wow, this guy is unmatched,” but I find it hard to think of many large mistakes he’s ever made. In my mind, he’s pretty good, but his success can be determined by things such as his support.
Speaking of supports, the other roster change that CLG made this offseason was to trade Biofrost for Smoothie. Smoothie started on the Dragon Knights in 2015, but is most known for his stint on Cloud9, from summer of 2016 to summer of 2018. Most of the time on Cloud9, Smoothie was seen as the best support in North America, but as the team seemed to slide down the ranks in 2018, they were looking for change, and replaced him with then-rookie Zeyzal. Since then, he’s had a few different looks, playing for Echo Fox for one split, and TSM for the past year. He’s managed to have a pretty successful career, making it to the World Championship twice on Cloud9, and getting second place last year on TSM. He’s not longer regarded as the best support in North America, but he still has the skills to do well. Similar to Wiggily, his play isn’t flashy, and he doesn’t carry very often, if ever. But his large voice and shotcalling nature makes him more of a leader.
CLG, like many teams, has a strong base for teamwork and team play. They have the same coach from last year, and three of the same players. They were also known for their decision-making and team play last year, when they were the most successful. Crown and Smoothie shouldn’t interrupt this cohesion, but should just add more veteran experience and voices to help make everything run smoother and better, in my mind. In terms of playstyle, I still think the carries are going to be through mid and bot, so having Ruin be a strong weak side player is fantastic. In terms of teamwork, they have these things settled.
They’re also bringing over the same coaches as they had last year. Head coach Weldon has a variety of experiences, working with teams such as G2 Esports and TSM, and his work last year seemed pretty successful at the tail end. I don’t know who’s in charge of drafting for them, but that was their main strength, and assuming it’s someone near the top of the coaching staff, they should’ve maintained that as well.
Coach Weldon Green on Twitter, looking like Keanu Reeves.
CLG were surprising everyone as the season finished in 2019, and the roster moves they made basically a side-grade. When it comes to mechanical prowess, they weren’t close to the top last year, and I wouldn’t say they are this year either. They gained some of that potential in the mid lane, but lost with support Smoothie. Because of large mechanical upgrades on teams like TSM, I don’t know if their macro-heavy, outdrafting style will work as well coming into the spring split. But I do have faith in the overall framework of good teammates, and smart players like Crown and Wiggily to propel them into some success. I currently have them rated at about sixth.