Counter Logic Gaming has had a rough start to the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series season. Top laner Finn "Finn" Wiestål missed the LCS Lock In due to visa issues, and jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen has been delayed indefinitely due to visa issues of his own.
CLG Academy jungler Raymond "Griffin" Griffin (formerly known as 'Wiggily') has been promoted back to the LCS in Broxah's absence and after the first week of the Spring Split, Alexey "rjs" Zatorski was promoted to the starting mid lane position in favor of veteran Eugene "Pobelter" Park. Despite these changes, CLG continued to struggle to a 0-5 record, but managed to couple its standard strong early game play with a solid finish against Golden Guardians for its first win of spring.
Griffin spoke to Inven Global after the match about Counter Logic Gaming's mood after its first win of the 2021 LCS Spring Split, his dynamic within CLG's current roster, and how Patch 11.3 has affected the current competitive jungle meta.
Congratulations on your first win of the split, Griffin. Would you say the team's mood is celebratory, or is it relieved?
Yeah, there's a lot of relief. Obviously, anything can happen in a best-of-one format; I think we had some really close games early on the first week of the split that didn't go our way. We kind of threw those games, so it definitely feels good to get our first win and focus on improving our play from here on out.
CLG's early games have looked good, but the team hasn't been able to close down the stretch. Today, two bot lane dives went suboptimally, but you still managed to close out the game in the end. What was different about today than in previous games?
I think the bot lane dives were all pretty advantageous in the sense that even if we failed the dives, we knew we would get ultimates and Summoner Spells out of Golden Guardians in favor of one or two deaths on our side.
Giving up kills is bad, but overall, the end results were a net positive. In the best-case scenario, we get a few kills and get a very positive outcome for ourselves. The worst-case scenario is what you saw today, which was not really that bad overall, right? We still got a lot out of the dives, so I think the idea was just good. Even though we didn't end up getting the perfect result, we still gained advantages from the plays.
What was different about how CLG approached the late game in this match?
I think we're just a lot calmer and more collected about when our window is in the mid game and the late game in contrast to our opponents. We're just trying to communicate plans and make sure we play off of those plans and their timings.
I think it's been really helpful to make sure everyone's on the same page so no one is getting caught or randomly fighting. I think that's what we did really well today. We made sure we were just fighting on our terms, and that's why I think the fights were really easy. We just had a really clean game overall...minus a few hiccups *laughs* but I think that's what's helped us improve in the late game.
Another big part of CLG's win was the individual disparity in the top lane. After focusing top early on, how did you adjust following Finn's massive advantage over Niles?
The Aatrox vs. Gangplank matchup can swing in favor of either side very heavily. If one side gets ahead, the other side is kind of unable to play. After we got our first advantage top, our gameplan fully shifted to playing hard-bot side because Aatrox would just win the 1v1 against Gangplank for the rest of the game.
It wasn't difficult; we had options to keep going top as well, but I think in this game it was a lot more advantageous for us overall to use our top lane advantage to help our bot lane. That's what the plan was, and we stuck to it in game.
CLG has had many visa issues cause shake-ups in the roster. First, you were going to be on CLG Academy this year, and now you're back on the LCS squad just like last season. What has that process been like individually, and how do you feel you're playing currently when compared to previous splits?
I think I've had some pretty good games so far, but I've also had some not so good games. I think I still need to work on my consistency and continuously bringing similar levels of communication and play each game. I think that's something I've gotten better at, but I'm still working on it every year. That's been something I'm really focused on, especially after some rough games this year, and it's what I want to continue to improve on.
It's definitely been a pleasure to work with everyone on our team. Even though the start isn't the start we wanted, I think everyone has been really helpful to me. We've all still kept things as positive as we can, and that's why I think we're going to probably continue to get better every week.
When rjs swapped to the mid lane this season, we thought it would be alongside you on CLG Academy, and here you both are starting in the LCS. Did you have a chance to build any synergy with rjs before the start of the season?
I don't think I've ever gotten to play with rjs on CLG Academy *laughs* so there's not a lot of competitive play synergy between us, but we are friends and played solo queue together during the offseason. I definitely think it's helpful to have that level of comfort with someone you are playing with; that's been helpful for me.
It's been pretty easy to work with everyone. Even though we've struggled a lot, I feel like everything that we've been working on kind of came together today. I'm happy about that.
Your head coach Galen Holgate was previously a LCS jungler. How has that changed the dynamic of your relationship when compared to your previous coaches?
It's definitely been really helpful for me to work with Galen. He's been in the same position as I have in terms of playing LCS and in general, when being a jungler, you kind of have to go through a lot to fit into whatever team you're playing in, so I think he's really been working with me a lot individually to improve.
Whether what I need to improve on is pathing, communication, or even mechanics, he's been really helping me improve and it's great to have a second opinion on jungle because the role is so fluid. There are a lot of ways to interpret the jungle, so it's really helpful to have a second person who has played it at a high level himself to give his perspective.
Olaf and Udyr were considered the two best junglers on Patch 11.2, and despite receiving nerfs on 11.3, still look to be the strongest junglers in the game. Did the new patch alter the jungle meta in any significant way?
I think most of the nerfs to Olaf and Udyr specifically were not really that big overall. The champions still function in pretty much the same way. I think they took some damage off of rank 5 Phoenix Stance for Udyr, but the champions still do the same thing. Udyr wasn't hit where it hurts, and when it comes to him and Olaf, they are still meta because they function in the same way as before despite being slightly weaker.
This also goes for Taliyah — same function, but just a little bit weaker of a start overall. There aren't a lot of better options; obviously, you can look for other picks, but Udyr, Olaf, and Taliyah are still highly contested on this patch because they still function the same as the previous patch.
Some junglers seem to think that while Olar was slightly better than Udyr on 11.2, junglers I've spoken to recently are saying that The Spirit Walker is the best jungler on 11.3. Do you think Udyr is better than Olaf now, or was he always the stronger choice?
I would definitely agree that Udyr being stronger than Olaf. Udyr is definitely the king of the jungle right now. Udyr just does everything a little too well. He farms a little too fast, he can solo objectives too fast, he ganks really well, he has a really safe and easy build path that's good in competitive play, he pressures the map a lot harder than a champion like Olaf can — I think even on 11.2, Udyr was stronger than Olaf.
After the nerfs to both champions and the nerfs to Goredrinker, Udyr is even more of a bully to all of these other picks. That's why most teams don't want to have him in the game, he's just kind of a pest to deal with for the opposing laners and jungler.
Thanks for the interview, Griffin. Is there anything you'd like to say to the CLG fans, who, surely, are sharing your relief after this win?
*Laughs* I don't know, I think it's early in the season and a lot of good teams are struggling right now. I think that just because some teams are struggling doesn't mean that everyone should assume the worst. Obviously, I know that's what people are going to do when any team is struggling early on, but I'd say to try and view the season as a marathon.
Both LCS splits are combined now, so it really is a marathon for every team. Any team that's doing well now could be doing badly within a week, so just try to look at the week-to-week improvement. If you can see that improvement, which is something I'm hoping we can show every week, then I think that's what people should be looking necessarily more than the overall record. However, our record will obviously improve as we continue to improve as a team.
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