Counter Logic Gaming had both highs and lows on the final day of the Intel Extreme Masters San Jose. They first managed to defeat Korean team Jin Air Greenwings 2-0, but then fell 0-3 to Origen in the finals.
Following the series, bottom laners Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black and Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes talked to theScore eSports about the tournament and what the team is focusing on for next year in the North American LCS.
How has the process of synergizing been between the two of you since Doublelift left?
Stixxay: I think it was really natural for us since, when I first started playing the game, I actually watched a lot of Doublelift's stream, so I actually learned a lot from him in terms of laning. For Zaq, too, he said it was really natural for him. I play really similar to Doublelift.
Aphromoo: Other than that, the traverse side is that we have to get down the timing, mainly, and using our pressure properly. Really, we only had one week of actual practice before the event, and the only team we could scrim was TSM. No one else wanted to play on the patch because of the preseason patch that came out, so it was really hard for us to, you know, get a lot of practice down.
So with the one week practice that we did have, we didn't do too bad, but going up against Origen who was a semifinals contender for Worlds was pretty tough for us. Other than that, we made the finals, so I'm pretty proud of that.
Stixxay, I have heard a lot of people say you're very similar to Doublelift. But what's something that differentiates you stylistically from him?
Stixxay: I feel like Doublelift thinks about the game in one way. He has to carry the game. I can work with my team, and I don't always have to carry the game. I can yield resources to others and let them carry the game, so I can play more supportive. I can play stuff like Ashe or Sivir or other champs, and I don't have to just hard carry the game.
Since the new itemization patching is coming through, I wanted to ask about the Essence Reaver item and how you think it will change the AD carry role.
Stixxay: I think that caster ADCs will be a lot better now. You just build Essence Reaver, and you get a ton of CDR, and you just spam your abilities and never go out of mana. It's a lot more fun now to play caster AD carries. I think they'll probably be the best.
Which caster AD carries are you looking forward to playing?
Stixxay: Lucian, for sure, and possibly Miss Fortune.
Aphromoo, when I talked to Darshan yesterday, he said that you and Xmithie remaining on the roster has been really strong for your team right now. How would you describe your synergy and your in-game relationship with Xmithie?
Aphromoo: Xmithie is a very easy-going person who takes criticism very well. He is the most serious person when we actually play, like 110%. He goes 180 from his natural trolly attitude, so it's always easy to work with him and plan our next objective focus. I don't have much quarrels with him, and we're both pretty sarcastic out of the game as well. He definitely is able to remember a lot and is the one that says no the most when it's going to be a bad thing.
Does communication filter through Xmithie that way? Someone makes a call, and Xmithie will say yes or no?
Aphromoo: Oh, no no, if it's really bad—only if it's really, really bad, then Xmithie will be like, "No." If everyone's too tunneled on being bloodthirsty, and just killing the opponent, Xmithie will be like "Ah, screw that guys, what's going on?" Something like that. It's really good. Other than that, I say if we should go or not go, and Jake is the inside voice who I listen to the most for no if something is bad.
The casters were pointing out some of your warding today with Xmithie. Would you say you have really strong synergy with Xmithie in general, or do you do most of your coordinating with someone else on the team?
Aphromoo: Plays-wise, if Jake and I are together, it's really easy for us to coordinate vision control and stuff like that. If we're on opposite sides of the map, it's more difficult to reconnect. We might sweep on top of each other or the enemy team kills our wards that we place, so we run out, and we lose control of the area. Most the time, we go too fast, and our laners aren't ready to follow up.
Stixxay, since this is one of your first experiences in higher levels of competitive play, what is something you think you learned from this tournament?
Stixxay: I think I learned that I'm not as far, skill-wise, from other players. I'm not really far off individually. It's 90% team play at this point.
You played against Niels, who was in your position at the start of this year, was there anything in particular about his play that impressed you?
Stixxay: Nothing in particular. I think he did what he needed to do, but his team played really well in general.
In terms of fitting into the team, is that something that overall this tournament has shown you'll focus on?
Stixxay: I think we did a pretty good job of fitting me and HuHi into the team. We only had about a week of practice. I feel like we actually had a pretty decent macro game.
In terms of macro play, it seems like CLG got overwhelmed by the split-pushing of Origen in the final. You gathered in the mid lane quite a bit. Why did you continuously seem to react by grouping mid?
Aphromoo: Origen definitely was firing on all cylinders, especially with their top, jungle, and support — you know, our three veterans against their three veterans — it was a little tough going against that to secure leads. Usually, since they do have a little bit more time than we did, they just had a lot of pressure everywhere.
We do have two young new players, and they brought in PowerOfEvil as well. CLG in the past hasn't really been good at pressuring middle. With Doublelift, we've been good at side lane control. Origen usually just goes straight through middle, and they have pretty much whole map control, based on that.
When they split-push, if we can't do the crossover to help the other side of the map, then we're just screwed, so we were just screwed most of the time. We'd get stuck middle, and they could hold us there almost indefinitely. They were just a really good team for us to play against. They were just a lot better.
In terms of side wave control, that's something that CLG used to do pretty well, so do you think you lost focus on that this match, or you just were unable to react?
Aphromoo: We didn't lose focus on it, it's just that there was a lot of pressure, so they were pulling us everywhere on the map: places that we needed to go, and places that we didn't need to go. It wasn't based so much on side wave pressure, it was just that they had so much pressure middle, and we weren't able to damage control all of it. They could just get better rotations than we did, and we'd always have to take a bad rotation so that they would get a lot more, get more control, etc.,.
In a case where you feel pulled in a bunch of different directions, what do you think a team necessarily needs to do in that situation in order to try to make a comeback?
Aphromoo: We were doing it 60% of the time. You have to catch them in their rotations where they clear vision. We would get kills. That's pretty much what you have to do. But then we would over-chase, stay too long, and then they could resurrect and TP back in to turn the fight or something like that.
So usually we stayed too long as well as not being able to push back waves fast enough to get an objective off a team fight because of all their pressure. You have to have a clean fight near the objective you want to go for and try to reset immediately and put out wards as fast as you can. Usually we were a little slow on doing that part, so they could just come back in and still have control, even if they were dead.
I noticed that Origen were playing Kindred as a flex for the AD carry position and jungle. What benefits come from playing Kindred as an AD carry or jungle, Stixxay?
Stixxay: I've only played against Kindred AD arry once before playing against Niels. I think it has pretty strong laning and mid game, but I think it falls off really hard mid game, so I think it's not that good. It's probably better in the jungle.
What about playing it in the jungle allows it to remain useful — or is it just easier to compensate with late game picks from the AD carry role?
Stixxay: In the jungle, she can get really good ganks. Her damage is also pretty good, which is why her laning is also really good. Later on in the game, a champion like Tristana in the AD Carry position will do more damage, because Kindred only has 500 range. So I think it's just good in general in early and mid and falls off regardless.
Does having Kindred on your team, whether in jungle or in the AD carry position, focus your team on having more of an early game play style?
Stixxay: Yeah, definitely.
This is very much a tournament of new rosters. What are the big takeaways, and what is CLG going to focus on for next year to do well in NA LCS?
Aphromoo: We're going to focus on using our lead in the correct way — this goes for all three lanes. Darshan definitely popped off this tournament and used his lead. So we could beat Jin Air Greenwings. That was pretty good. Then, it's just about us learning to play together as a team with two new carries.
We can get the lead, it's just that we can't use it to pressure properly all the time, and then sometimes we're a little bit slow. For example, say someone wants to base when we shouldn't base. We just need to make sure everyone's on the same page and more comfortable in general.
I did notice in this tournament that you focused a lot on getting Darshan ahead. Was it just because you had two new laners, so you were more comfortable playing around Darshan, or is that going to be a focus going forward?
Aphromoo: We're really comfortable with snowballing Darshan, so it's just second nature. That's from our past time playing with him, but that was just an easy way to win, and maybe it wasn't the best, but it was easier for us. That's what we went with. Everyone else did really well holding their own, so we could go for Darshan's snowball. We'll probably work on the other side of the map for this year.
The other side of the map being bottom lane?
Aphromoo: Bottom and mid.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.