Following week 6 of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, Counter Logic Gaming tweeted a video showing a solemn team meeting in which general manager Daniel "Tafo" Lee told the team that this iteration of the starting roster may have played its last game together.
A change was indeed made a few days later, with mid laner Tanner "Damonte" Damonte being signed to start in place of Eugene "Pobelter" Park.
Inven Global spoke to LCS pros during week 7 of the Summer Split to get their thoughts on Counter Logic Gaming's roster management and the potential impact Damonte's joining will have on the team.
TSM mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage, who played for CLG in 2018, spoke positively about the change for both Damonte and his new team. "I think Damonte is pretty good at roaming and playing low-resource champions. I'd say that's a better trait to have on weaker teams because normally, you will have less resources," PowerOfEvil explained before CLG's week 7 matches. "I feel like Damonte is good at adapting to teams he's playing in, so I think he will do well."
Damonte made his CLG debut on Sylas, a champion that plays to his strengths, but was unable to get much done in a tough laning matchup against the Lucian of Team Liquid mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen. CLG went on to lose the game to TL, and afterwards, AD carry Edward "Tactical" Ra admitted that the and the game itself left him feeling ambiguous, but felt that Damonte could be a better stylistic match with the team in general.
"As far as I know, Damonte is a player who wants to roam a lot and play early proactive champions but it seemed like he didn’t have the matchup to do that particular thing," Tactical explained.
"It was kind of hard to tell in terms of our matchup the differences between Damonte and Pobelter. However, I think for the future it might be useful since CLG is a really proactive team early; maybe champion pool wise he's a more 'on-theme' player for them. So maybe in the future they could try to play it off the early game and try to snowball a lot hard with that."
In theory, Damonte's playstyle meshes well with jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen, who has been the CLG's best performer, but mid laner David "Insanity" Challe isn't convinced that will translate to team success. "I think it’s a weird change," Insanity said. "Obviously, it’s good for Damonte, but I think it’s sort of a sidegrade. Pobelter and Damonte do different things, but I don’t think this will fix the problems that CLG has overall."
After CLG's first game with Damonte in the lineup, Golden Guardians jungler Ethan "Iconic" Wilkinson was skeptica about the change having a sizeable impact. "I don't know too much about the differences in how they play, but I don't think it's going to make too much of a difference," said Iconic. "It's just one player with a few weeks left in the split. I don't think it's going to be a big change.
Having played against both players in 2021, FlyQuest mid laner Stephen "Triple" Li echoed the sentiment that Pobelter and Damonte play at a similar level. Triple said that he expected CLG's style to change with Damonte in the lineup, but that any short-term benefits of the swap could be advantageous outside of the game.
"I think the most it will help CLG is in the form of a breath of fresh air," Triple explained. "Damonte's a pretty chill dude; he's pretty positive from what I can see so maybe that will help them fix up their internal issues and have a honeymoon phase so they can make a run for the playoffs."
Can "Closer" Çelik, who played with Damonte from last summer on Golden Guardians through this spring on 100 Thieves, agreed that Damonte would be a good change for the team environment in a way that could extend past a short-term honeymoon phase as Triple suggested. "I really like Damonte. I think he will be a good addition to their team," said the 100 Thieves jungler.
"Clearly, something wasn’t working and they needed a change. I think Damonte can help with the team environment and change something, so I think it will be good for them."
CLG went 0-3 in its first weekend with Damonte, and while not having as much practice as other rosters is certainly affecting the team's competitive level, the environment the organization is providing for the team has been called into question since tweeting — and shortly after, deleting — the aforementioned roster video.
Cloud9 jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang is all too familiar with mid-split roster changes — he made his LCS debut because of one in the summer of 2018, after all — and stressed the importance of handling these situations delicately. "They should have kept that private and just told the players they were being benched when the time came, for sure," Blaber said. "I don’t think the way they went about it was super great."
Regardless of community reaction, PowerOfEvil commented on the potential effect that hinting at roster changes before changes are actually made could have on a competitor's perception of self. "Even if a player felt like, 'I'm not doing bad on the team. I'm doing well in scrims,’ they would immediately question if they were the player getting removed," the TSM mid laner explained.
PowerOfEvil also praised Broxah and CLG top laner Finn "Finn" Wiestål how they handled the situation with professionalism and weathered the social media storm.
Aside from how the situation could affect the players on Counter Logic Gaming, the video as a piece of content in itself ilicited many a confused reaction from LCS fans, and they weren't the only ones. "I don’t know what they were thinking in terms of what the reaction would be from the community, but personally, it made me sad to watch it," said Immortals jungler Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir.
Another source of confusion was the video's intent, which featured a sponsor tag for CLG's sponsor Bud Light. Regardless of an individual's feelings on the video itself, the majority of the community agreed that if the video was intended to give fans an honest, unfiltered look at what the team at the struggles the team is going through as CLG stated upon taking the video down, the inclusion of a sponsor plug comes off as at best, a tad gimmicky, and at worst, insensitive.
Players shared the sentiment, commenting on the intimate nature of tough team meetings, especially when potential roster changes are involved. "If something like that was put on my team's Twitter as an advertisement, I would be pretty concerned," said Iconic.
If CLG is to improve its standing and try to secure a spot in the 2021 LCS Championship, it's safe to say that the environment must improve along with the team based on what has been made public. However, if CLG can move forward from this isolated incident and take advantage of the potential sparkplug Damonte could be for its roster, the on-paper potential of the roster is more than enough to secure one of the two remaining post-season seeds.
All images by: Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT
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