Counter Logic Gaming has achieved something no North American League of Legends team has ever done before: make the final of a major Riot international event. CLG defeated Taiwanese champions Flash Wolves in the Mid-Season Invitational semifinals Saturday, taking down the LMS representatives 3-1 in Shanghai.
Kindred, Ryze, Ekko and Azir continued to be high priority picks in the series -- Ryze won all four games he appeared in -- but there were some other interesting champions brought out as well. NL brought out his signature Varus, to not much positive effect. Aphromoo played Sona twice, and won both games on her. It was the first time Sona was played in a major professional setting since March 2015 in the LPL. We saw exclusively ranged supports in the series, as Alistar was repeatedly banned away from SwordArt.
It was another excellent series for Karsa and Maple, who were clearly two of the top performers from the tournament, but CLG's team play and coordination in fights ultimately proved too much for the Flash Wolves to handle.
Now CLG has to face Korean champions SK Telecom T1 Sunday, the defending world champions and recent 3-1 winners over China's Royal Never Give Up in the other semifinal. SKT's last outing was a perfect game (no kills/no objectives allowed) against RNG, and after some struggles in the early parts of the round robin stage it looks like they're back on form as the best team in the world.
Game 1: Counter Logic Gaming vs. Flash Wolves
Win: Counter Logic Gaming (11-5, 31:25)
This was SwordArt's first professional game on Soraka, and while it worked as a pick stolen away from Aphromoo (who still excelled on bard), Flash Wolves' did not have their usual reliable form of engage from the support position. CLG held the lead throughout the entire game, controlling the pace of team fights and taking the Game 1 win.
CLG took an early lead thanks to a farm advantage for Darshan in the laning phase, and built off that by sending 4 members top to take two turrets. MMD made the poor choice to teleport to his inner turret to try and contest, and CLG was able to easily take him down for First Blood.
At 19 minutes, a fight near Dragon went 2-1 Flash Wolves' way, but CLG still took the objective. The two teams mostly avoided each other for nearly the next 10 minutes, but CLG engaged on Flash Wolves at 26 minutes, picking off SwordArt first and finishing off the rest of the team for a 5-1 ace. That resulted in a destroyed mid lane inhibitor and a Baron for CLG, and the next team fight gave CLG the win.
Bans: Alistar, LeBlanc, Gangpank; Lucian, Maokai, Graves
|Darshan (Ekko) 2||4/2/4||266||MMD (Poppy) 2||1/2/3||195|
|Xmithie (Kindred) 2||1/1/6||133||Karsa (Elise) 3||2/2/2||112|
|Huhi (Ryze) 1||2/0/6||334||Maple (Azir) 1||0/3/4||304|
|Stixxay (Kalista) 3||2/1/8||300||NL (Sivir) 2||2/2/3||299|
|Aphromoo (Bard) 3||2/1/8||20||SwordArt (Soraka) 1||0/2/3||18|
Game 2: Counter Logic Gaming vs. Flash Wolves
Win: Flash Wolves (14-5, 34:43)
This was another slow start, but it was Flash Wolves who came out of laning phase with the advantage. Maple grabbed third of the first four kills of the game, helping build a 5k gold lead by 22 minutes.
At 27 minutes Flash Wolves went for Baron, winning a 3-1 fight decisively, picking off the other two CLG members in their base and leaving just one Nexus tower remaining. Now up 12k gold, Flash Wolves marched into the CLG base, picking off Stixay and winning the resulting fight to win Game 2.
Bans: Alistar, LeBlanc, Soraka; Lucian, Maokai, Bard
|Darshan (Ekko) 1||1/2/2||238||MMD (Poppy) 2||5/0/6||212|
|Xmithie (Graves) 2||3/3/1||155||Karsa (Kindred) 1||2/2/7||150|
|Huhi (Azir) 2||1/3/3||333||Maple (Ryze) 1||6/1/2||309|
|Stixxay (Caitlyn) 3||0/3/1||298||NL (Ezreal) 2||0/1/5||343|
|Aphromoo (Janna) 3||0/3/4||17||SwordArt (Karma) 3||1/1/10||15|
Game 3: Counter Logic Gaming vs. Flash Wolves
Win: Counter Logic Gaming (16-12, 39:27)
For the second game in a row, Karsa was able to play Kindred. This time, he applied tremendous early pressure for his lanes, getting three kills in the first five minutes and giving his team a 4-0, 2k gold lead at 11 minutes. But even with that early lead, CLG was able to get back into this game with a series of successful team fights.
At 25 minutes, CLG picked off three Flash Wolves in the mid lane, using that to even up the tower score and bring gold within 1k. CLG took the lead just five minutes later, when CLG forced an early Lamb's Respite out of Karsa after Maple went in too far after Huhi. Aphromoo responded with a perfect Crescendo after the unkillable zone went away, stunning NL and Karsa and setting up two easy kills. With that advantage, CLG took the Baron and the gold advantage.
That happened once again at 34 minutes. CLG let Flash Wolves engage first, because Sona's Crescendo served as a perfect counter to grab two kills. With the opening, CLG broke open Flash Wolves' base by taking the mid inhibitor, grabbing another kill while they were there. At 36 minutes, Flash Wolves tried to force its fourth Dragon, but Xmithie was able to secure the objective while Darshan took down a Nexus turret. CLG won the next team fight, taking the game.
Bans: Alistar, LeBlanc, Maokai; Lucian, Bard, Soraka
|Darshan (Ekko) 2||1/5/6||290||MMD (Poppy) 2||4/2/3||256|
|Xmithie (Graves) 2||5/1/8||198||Karsa (Kindred) 1||6/5/1||181|
|Huhi (Ryze) 1||5/2/4||333||Maple (Azir) 1||2/2/5||337|
|Stixxay (Ezreal) 3||5/1/8||359||NL (Varus) 3||0/4/5||311|
|Aphromoo (Sona) 3||0/3/16||20||SwordArt (Karma) 2||0/3/8||15|
Game 4: Counter Logic Gaming vs. Flash Wolves
Win: Counter Logic Gaming (17-7, 30:20)
After the first few games of this series began with drawn out lane swaps or quiet laning phases, this one exploded with a bunch of fights at the beginning of the game. Karsa once again nabbed two kills in the first five minutes, but CLG held a 3k gold lead at 15 minutes (despite a 5-5 kill score) thanks to sizable farm advantages for Xmithie and Stixxay.
The Sona pick worked out once again for Aphromoo, giving CLG a reliable source of engage and countering SwordArt's Karma, a champion that becomes less powerful towards the late game. CLG built up a big enough lead that Huhi could simply roam around the map picking off enemies, and a 26-minute Baron turned into a broken Flash Wolves base, with two inhibitors taken by CLG.
Bans: Alistar, LeBlanc, Maokai; Lucian, Bard, Soraka
|Darshan (Poppy) 2||2/2/9||221||MMD (Ekko) 1||1/4/1||189|
|Xmithie (Nidalee) 3||3/1/6||164||Karsa (Kindred) 1||3/3/2||87|
|Huhi (Ryze) 1||4/2/5||296||Maple (Azir) 2||2/6/2||262|
|Stixxay (Ezreal) 2||6/0/5||291||NL (Sivir) 3||1/2/1||292|
|Aphromoo (Sona) 3||2/2/11||20||SwordArt (Karma) 2||0/2/2||6|