Lose to the Wildcard team, and beat the best team in your group — this was the joke regarding North America’s Counter Logic Gaming during the 2016 League of Legends World Championship Group Stage. Only for the LoL Continental League’s Albus NoX Luna, it wasn’t a joke anymore. The CIS team proved that not only did they deserve to be at the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, but that they were one of the best teams in their group by becoming the first International Wildcard team to make it past the tournament group stages.
Despite a few scares and a list of opportunity areas to work on prior to their quarterfinals matches, the ROX Tigers also qualified, leaving a much-improved CLG once again on the outside looking in as two other teams departed for the Round of 8. Following Group A's conclusion, theScore esports caught up with CLG mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun to reflect on the team’s time at the 2016 World Championship and his year as CLG’s mid laner.
Please describe what your past year has been like on CLG.
There were a lot of fun moments, and there were a lot of frustrating moments too. I think that happens in any relationship. For me especially, I moved around a lot when I was young — I’ll say they are now my closest friends. I never had friends for long because whenever I would have a friend I moved again, so I’d lose contact with them. Right now I don’t really have people I keep contact with but I’ll say that this is the first time that I’ll keep up with lots of contact even when we don’t see each other. It’s kind of a cool feeling but also sometimes it’s hard because you can’t always criticize them when they make a mistake because they’re my closest friends. I don’t really want to hurt them but in the end I want to win and they want to win — even though we hurt each other we came all the way to worlds and we misstepped. It’s kind of sad but we had a good year.
So, would you say that this is the closest team you’ve ever been on?
Yeah, every team I’ve been on, I’ll say that they’ll be my closest friends. But I feel like this time I’m really close to all of the players.
What was your favorite moment while on CLG this year?
It’s really hard to choose one. When I try to think about the best moment, whenever we did really well I wasn’t that happy. For example, when we won Las Vegas and when we were 100 percent qualified to Worlds, and when we got second place at MSI I’ll say that I was pretty happy but I wasn’t really really happy. This is the stage that I wanted to win so, if I have to choose one it would be the Team Liquid semifinal victory when Darshan just screamed “I love you guys!” That was pretty cool.
How would you characterize the teams in your group now?
G2 was a herbivore animal but they still had a chance to improve. They won their first game against Albus NoX — I just think that they weren’t in their perfect form coming into this stage. Albus NoX was like a mysterious jack-in-the-box for us. We obviously thought that they were going to be the bottom team but they played really well and pulled out a lot of wins. Now they’re competing for the first seed against ROX right now. They deserve that place. ROX was pretty much the king of the group and now they’re fighting for that spot.
One of the things you mentioned while at bootcamp was that your team wanted to prove that you deserved to be here. Even though you didn’t make it out of groups, do you feel that you accomplished this?
I think, us deserving to be here, we deserved to be here as soon as we auto-qualified for it in my opinion. We played well against Immortals in the third place match, we just had some pick and ban issues. I just think that we deserved the spot. People will not be satisfied because we did not make it out of the group and even us, we are sad and emotional right now.
How far do you think that the two qualifying teams from your group (Albus NoX Luna and ROX Tigers) can go?
I was just randomly thinking, what if Albus NoX and ROX played each other in the Finals, that would be pretty funny and then we would have had a pretty hard group so there’s that. Albus NoX are learning a lot going forward in this tournament. We didn’t expect them to play a lot of champions, but they’re bringing them up and playing them again and again — they have a lot of potential to go far and ROX obviously, they are the world championship contenders.
Where do you go from here as a player?
As a player, I think all of us like CLG a lot. We are all contracted two years. I don’t know what people are going to do. I think there’s a decent chance we stay as this roster. Nothing is really guaranteed. Anything can happen.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.