Clutch Gaming has finally found its footing. The Houston Rockets affiliate took early control of the game before walking it into OpTic Gaming’s base, snapping the GreenWall’s five-game winning streak while ending a five-game losing streak of its own.
CG drafted brilliantly with new Head Coach Anand “Curry” Agarwal, including a classic bot lane duo in Lucian and Braum for Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Back in the starting lineup for Week 7 of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split, Clutch’s dynamic duo took full value in the synergy of their picks and jumped out to an early lead.
Clutch Gaming kept things slow and steady, never breaking pace as they slowly suffocated OpTic into submission before destroying their nexus just before the 43-minute mark. Following the team’s first victory in six games, Apollo sat down with Inven Global to discuss Clutch Gaming’s recent adjustments.
I’m joined by Clutch Gaming AD Carry Apollo following the snapping of a 5 game losing streak. You guys held a lead the entire time today, what was your game plan and what differed in your execution?
I think in general we just wanted to play more aggressive today. It felt really s****y to keep slowly losing games without being proactive. It felt like we weren’t even trying to get back in the game before, so I had much more of an aggressive mindset coming into today’s game. We were constantly fighting and going in with no regrets, and I thought that was a lot better than just slowly losing games, which was the main characteristic of our entire split thus far. I think this time around, we decided to play a lot more aggressively and kept that in mind when drafting as well.
Getting your first win in six games has to feel great. What’s the current morale of the team? Were you more ecstatic or relieved after winning?
It was definitely more relieved. If you saw us after the win, we weren’t exactly jumping for joy, like “Yay we’re 10th place still!” (laughs) but yeah, I think we did a good job today. It was “clean” in the sense that we didn’t mess up. We had a lead the whole time and didn’t throw it, but it’s not good to take 43 minutes to end a game you’ve been leading the entire time. We probably could have ended the game a lot earlier.
There was good and bad. We obviously have stuff to review, but it was a solid win. It was really hard to close out the game because after losing a lot, you’re really scared to throw. You don’t want to push the envelope and that makes you more hesitant to pull the trigger in situations where you need to be decisive. I was so scared to mess up once we got a lead, and we need to be more comfortable with our advantages.
Echo Fox is very good at this, they fight non-stop. They may mess up here and there, but more often than not, they’re going to beat you more times than not and they’re never going to slow down. I’m not saying that we want to be Echo Fox, but that’s the type of mentality we might need to shift towards if we want to keep putting wins together.
Right, you guys have always been known for slow, methodical play so that would definitely be a change of pace for Clutch Gaming. We also saw a change of pace last week with a roster swap that brought Moon, Piglet, and Vulcan to the main roster. When you were subbed out, were you able to gain any perspective on the team’s play that you brought into this week?
Yes and no. It was interesting to view the team from an outside perspective, and that was somewhat helpful. The game against Team Liquid was just bad; there wasn’t much to look at in that loss. But our game against 100Thieves was the longest game of the split, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I was subbed in. It’d look the exact same -- we just do nothing.
All we do is get baron control, then go back mid, then repeat for like 25 minutes. That’s an issue. Neither team being pro-active and doing anything about side waves is really sad to watch. The game goes 55 minutes, then one teamfight blows up the game, and it’s win or lose off of just that. From an outside perspective, that was hard to watch. I was thinking “Wow, I really don’t want to watch this, I don’t want to see this happen on stage.” It motivated me to change my mentality towards playing when I got back on stage.
It makes sense that you guys took things slower towards the late game, but overall you looked much more pro-active. This was also your first weekend with Curry on stage as your new Head Coach. Was your improved side wave control a result of your coaching change?
Honestly, I don’t think our side wave control improved that much. That has nothing to do with Curry stepping in as the Head Coach though. I think the transition has been pretty smooth. He’s worked with us before and has run drafts for us before as well, so it’s been pretty seamless. What I like is that he was a lot more adamant about only drafting champions on which we were well-practiced. We had a problem of sometimes falling into drafting compositions we hadn’t practiced before. I think today we got pretty much exactly what we wanted.
This is the first week in NA LCS where teams have been allowed to have two coaches on stage. The Houston Rockets are an organization known for their analytics and wealth of support staff, so will we see Clutch Gaming benefit from this rule in the near future?
I think having two coaches on stage could be beneficial in specific situations in the draft phase. I don’t know if we’re going to have another person on stage or not, but I doubt things will be too different for us regardless. Our players and coach have a good idea of what we want to do, and I think if we need another person to help us with that, it’s a little excessive. We’ll see, though.
In a recent interview, Doublelift praised your synergy with Hakuho as a Bot Lane. Who do you think are the best Bot Lanes in NA currently?
Doublelift and Olleh are good, obviously...just don’t put Doublelift on a mage, and it’s fine. No flame, I just think his ADs are really good.
Zven is a really good ADC, but Mithy isn’t playing very well. I honestly don’t think any of the bot lanes in NA are very good, including us. Doublelift and Olleh are the only ones that stand out as being on a higher level.
There’s a lot of parity right now in NA, not just with the bot lanes, but the teams in general. In last place, Clutch Gaming is only a few games out of a playoff spot with two weeks of regulation left to play. How are you guys feeling about the remainder of the season?
Personally, and maybe this isn’t the best mentality, but while I know playoffs is something we can achieve, I’m not too worried about it. I don’t think it’s something I should be stressed about because our main goal is the 2018 NA LCS Regional Qualifier. If we get playoffs, then great, but our main focus is to improve as a team until the gauntlet. It’s very likely that we end up there, and it’s very unlikely that we qualify for the 2018 NA LCS Summer Playoffs given our current standings.
We’re not very good as a team right now. If we went to playoffs in our current state, right now, there’s no way we would win. I think we would probably lose in the quarterfinals. So while I think it would be good for us to go to playoffs, I would much rather focus on improving and looking towards the gauntlet.
I’m not going to speak for everyone on my team or the coaching staff. I’m just speaking for myself here. For me, I want to improve and I know there are things that we need to get better at as a team, so worrying about our current standings is too much for me.
Thanks so much for your time and insight, Apollo. Looking forward to Clutch Gaming’s home stretch. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Thank you for supporting us, even though we haven’t been doing so hot. We’re on a 1-game winning streak right now, so we’re about to turn things around real good. See you in playoffs, etc...also! We got some new jerseys, check them out at the Clutch Gaming LCS store. They’re really sick, and we’ll be wearing them for the rest of the season.
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.