Counter Logic Gaming were the only team in North America to retain their starting lineup from 2016 for the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, and that decision has drawn mixed reactions from the community.
After the first week of domestic play, CLG head into Week 2 with a 1-1 record and their gameplay and coordination has been shaky. theScore esports sat down with CLG support and captain Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black to discuss the team's early season performance and the organization's decision behind keeping their roster 2016 roster intact.
CLG are now 1-1 on the season. How do you feel about your team’s overall performance in Week 1.
We realized that we still do have a lot to work on, even though we’re one year together. Most people expect synergy and stuff like that, but sometimes it will lapse — it doesn’t always stay there. With the new meta, we have different people in different roles. I’m no longer an engager and a playmaker. I have to play control mages strictly. Normally we have me in that role and Darshan as our split-pusher or DPS type of guy. Now he’s almost having to play the sole engage champion besides the utility AD carry picks, so Ashe or Varus. Normally Trevor doesn’t usually play those champions so we’re practicing that too.
This isn’t your first slow start to a split. What is it about CLG and slow starts?
It’s both a team thing and adjusting to a new meta. You have to figure out what roles you want your players to play. They have to be able to adapt, and we’re a little slower at that than most teams, but once we figure it out then we’re really good so it’s usually just a process since the meta always changes.
A lot of people were wondering if you would keep your 2016 roster, and when you did, CLG received a lot of criticism. Why did you guys decide to stay together and how do you handle that criticism?
I don’t think that there’s a main reason why we stayed together, but the one that I can think of is because we didn’t think that there were viable upgrades in any role in general. We already enjoyed playing together and we do think we have what it takes to make it back to the top again. As for the criticism thing, that’s cool, we’re used to it. Most pro players are used to it. Most people want change immediately, some people don’t, they value the time invested. I think that just makes League players careers a lot shorter when you think about it that way. If you don’t invest time into a player like they do in the NBA, NFL, stuff like that where he has time to grow and mature into a good player, that’s kind of crappy because most of the time you just play for a split, someone says, “You’re crap.” and then he’s out. You have three intense months to learn what you need to learn to play at the top, but that’s a really short amount of time. It’s a little unfair to think that way. We think the opposite, that investing time is a lot better. Me in particular, I mean when I first started playing the first split I was ass, really ass. Then I took a break for a split, then came back the next year and it was a lot better.
It's been said that you can’t judge a CLG roster on paper, would you agree with this?
I agree with that method or motto. The process is definitely the fun part about watching players grow. I used to be on CLG where, “Three months, you suck, you’re out.” Or, “You’re good, you’ll stay, blah, blah, blah.” Kind of crappy. I do think that it’s a lot more rewarding investing time into a player who has a good skill set and they just have to learn good habits and become a good player on a team, then be able to adapt to the meta, everyone is changing roles. It feels like we do have a die for every player. Every player is a die, you can roll and they can play these types of roles, maybe it’s not as good as it was before but if it’s the meta and we need them to learn that, then we just have to take time to learn that.
Continuing along that train of thought, you have the entire roster of CLG Black as your substitutes presumably to train them with the pro team. How closely do you work with those guys?
They’re with us for some days. We’ll scrim against them, they also warm up with us before LCS or after a game we might play one match with them. They help us scout other teams since they’re not in the challenger series right now so that’s what they do most of the time. For us, it’s just about helping our challenger team learn and at the end of the year, if any of us leave or we need to replace a player, this is what it’s for, right now. We’re just trying to help grow our CLG Black players and maybe they’ll teach us a thing or two.
Where do you think CLG stands up against the more talked-about rosters going into this split?
We’ve scrimmed against some of them and they’re pretty good. But, scrims are scrims because we’re pretty good too. I think their rosters definitely have a lot of talent. All that matters is how they use it so I think these first couple of weeks it’s going to be us, playing a bunch of different roles, stuff like that, maybe other teams already have people who play those roles. For me, in general, all that matters is who can master their role the fastest and then prove based on that while everyone is still learning.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.