Intel Extreme Master San Jose's quarterfinals were a day filled with roster debuts. Counter Logic Gaming soundly defeated the Unicorns of Love in a 2-0 win with new players in the mid lane and the AD Carry position, advancing to the semifinals against the Jin Air Green Wings. Following their win, top laner Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya (previously ZionSpartan) and mid laner Choi "HuHi" Jaehyun spoke to theScore eSports to discuss their team play and upcoming meta changes.
There were some questions going into this event regarding how CLG would do without Doublelift, who has been synonymous with CLG for quite some time. Do you think that you were able to meet your own personal expectations?
Darshan: I don't think I played nearly as well as I could have, but I was really proud of how we played as a team. Everyone was covering each others' weaknesses and making everyone look good. Everyone was on the game plan and listening to each other. That's really important if you want your team to be good: just helping each other out, following the game plan, and listening to each other.
Huhi: I feel exactly the same as Darshan. Even though I was not winning my lane, I had confidence that we were going to win this game.
Do you think that Stixxay can fill Doublelift's shoes and that CLG can have a successful season?
Darshan: It hilariously turned out that Stixxay basically has a very similar playstyle to Doublelift, except that I feel he's more open to changing his playstyle and listening a little bit. I feel like he already has a lot of potential to grow, and he's just started playing professionally. I'm really excited to see how good he can get.
Huhi, you were brought on to CLG last year. You didn't really get a chance to play mid, but then there was the fiasco with Xmithie at Worlds, but in the end you were again unable to play. Did you feel like that background put more pressure on you going into this tournament?
Huhi: When I first joined CLG, I was just waiting to play. I was really thirsty. Then I just tried to keep my patience and my attitude positive. I really improved myself as a person, I think, after this year. Then I finally got a chance to play, so I'm just going to improve and try to stay with my team and do really well.
You had a round-about way of getting into the LCS after coming here from Korea. Did you always have faith that you would make it or did you ever feel discouraged?
Huhi: I think I barely felt down or discouraged. I always told myself "I can do this." I was confident in myself. I was just a positive person, I think.
Darshan, I want to ask you a little bit about Worlds. People were surprised by your performance or felt you had underperformed. At this tournament, however, it appeared as if CLG were playing around you more. Was that a conscious team decision?
Darshan: I don't think our playstyle changed that much from Worlds. I do agree that I definitely underperformed at Worlds. I think in general we underperformed as a team massively at Worlds. I think I succeed because of the right people around me getting me ahead and helping me get strong. If we don't play well as a team, I don't look as good. We're not playing well, so I fall behind. If you watch SKT and you watch KOO, Smeb and MaRin are really good individually, but what makes them the best is that their team knows how to get their top laners ahead. Once you get that lead, it's really easy to carry the game. I'm best with a lead, so if the team plays really well together, it's easier.
You played Riven today, which is something you've been historically known for. How does Riven feel on 5.21?
Darshan: I think Riven is really strong on 5.21 because you can actually blind pick her in certain scenarios. You see a lot of top laners in Korea and China blind pick Riven because she's just a really strong duelist, and she snowballs really hard. All these mechanically gifted top laners want to play Riven because she has really good setup. She has a knock-up, she has a stun. So all she really needs is somebody to get her going. A lot of times, the team knows how to get Riven going.
I kind of feel the same way. My team knows how to get me going. My Riven play today was pretty disappointing, but Riven is definitely one of my best champions, and I think she's definitely a strong champion in this current meta.
Do you think Riven is as as strong on the live patch as well?
Darshan: I don't think she's as strong on the live patch, but I have to do more testing. I think champions like Renekton—especially because of the keystone masteries—got a huge buff. You get like 60 extra damage on your W at like level 4 or 5. Some other champions got stronger like Jax, Nidalee, so I'd have to check it out more, but I think she's still in there, just not top tier.
Similarly, Huhi, you played some Leblanc. There were some questions pre-Worlds about how strong Leblanc was. What do you think made people play her at Worlds when they hadn't been much leading up to the tournament?
Huhi: Leblanc was first a top tier pick and ban, but then she got nerfed. Her W speed was nerfed. People stopped playing her because you were able to cancel Leblanc W, which is a huge disadvantage for her. Then, Riot decided to give her a little buff again. After that patch, I think Leblanc became a top tier pick again.
People were just not playing it because there were some counterpicks to her like Morgana, even though she was nerfed, and Lissandra is also a counterpick. I think Leblanc is a pick you can take if you are really confident on her. She is an assassin champion that can go in on and go out instantly every 15 seconds, so if you have the confidence to play it, you can play it whenever.
There have been some changes to AP item efficiency on the live patch. One thing that I've noticed is that Rod of Ages' AP efficiency has increased. Are you interested in any champions that might emerge because of that?
Huhi: I think Kassadin is going to come back. Kassadin is kind of coming back even in this patch. Since Rod of Ages got buffed, I feel like Kassadin is going to show up a lot. I saw some people going Rod of Ages on TF and Lissandra a lot, but I don't really know about those because we're only scrimming on the 5.21 patch, so we don't really have much of an idea about the new patch.
So you have mostly focused on 5.21 then and have ignored a lot of the changes so far?
Darshan: Yeah, we're going to be a little bit behind on 5.22 due to IEM, but as soon as we catch up, next season is looking pretty exciting. I think there's going to be shorter games, there's going to be more action. That's what I personally enjoy, and that's what I think the viewers enjoy more. I still feel like there will be a huge strategic aspect, but it will just be faster paced.
Huhi, do you also agree that faster is better, or do you prefer slower games?
Huhi: I sometimes don't like games to be that fast. I usually like to play longer games where people get to 18 levels. When everyone has full items and everyone has full level, it's really fun to play because one team fight really matters. If the enemy wins one team fight at 50 minutes, they win the game no matter what happens. It really gives you a unique feeling when you play at that time. I will miss that feeling.
Do you feel like you're particularly good at playing in those late game situations, or is it just something you enjoy?
Huhi: It's just something that I like and that I think would be really strong with this CLG roster. We all have confidence in each other, so I think we'd be comfortable in that situation especially. I think it would be good for us.
Speaking of you feeling comfortable and focusing on team play, the casters were complimenting CLG on how coordinated you looked. Is this the result of an increased level of trust or something else that just clicked?
Darshan: What a lot of people don't realize is that, yes, there's that coordination, but at the same time we didn't change our whole roster. We still have myself, Aphromoo, and Xmithie. People don't realize how strong and how solid Aphromoo and Xmithie are. A lot of times, for supports and junglers, if they're not playing carry champs, it's hard to notice their impact, but I feel like they have a really big impact on this team. They help set down a foundation that allows the carries to play well and be unified.
You mentioned the core of Aphromoo and Xmithie. Do you think they're the ones primarily setting the lanes up, or how do the two of you interact with them?
Darshan: It's a team effort, but I feel like Aphromoo and Xmithie a lot of times just know how to be in the right place at the right time or they'll just listen. We'll all be on the same page, and we'll follow through. We'll always have that plan.
How do you feel you'll perform against Jin Air tomorrow?
Darshan: It's hard to say. They're one of the better teams in Korea. They're definitely going to be our hardest match yet with this roster because—they're Korean. I think we have a shot at beating them, and I think we can do really well if we just come in a little more solid than we did today.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter for LPL memes and Sivir rants.