Counter Logic Gaming kicked off the 2019 LCS Spring Split with an 0-2 weekend, but secured its first win last Saturday against a red hot FlyQuest. Coaches Weldon "Weldon" Green and Heo "Irean" Yeong-cheol drafted a superior teamfight composition to outlast FlyQuest's early game aggression. While FlyQuest managed to set the pace of the game for the first half, CLG slowly took control. By the time the game ended, Top Laner Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya's Sion was unkillable, boasting over 5,000 health. Darshan joined Inven Global following CLG's first win of the 2019 LCS Spring Split.
Congratulations on your first victory of the season, Darshan. How are you feeling after putting a scratch in the win column?
It feels really good to get a win, especially against a good team like FlyQuest who's already 2-0. We want to prove that we're contending this split. We had a bad first week, but we're coming back. However, even though this game was a win, I wouldn't say we were strong. We snowballed really slowly and poorly, and I think there's a lot we can take away from this game.
I think the main reason we won was the draft. We had a much better teamfight composition, and I don't think FlyQuest snowballed as well as they could have with their early lead. Then, when we were in the driver's seat, I feel like we could have snowballed the game faster, but I'm happy we didn't make as many individual mistakes in terms of getting caught out and things like that.
We're still not as confident as I'd like us to be, and we still aren't doing the right things fast enough, so I think we can definitely get better. Still, it feels good to get a win, despite it not being a clean win.
It's definitely a step in the right direction when compared to week 1. What was the adjustment that you guys made?
I'd say there are two main factors. First, I was personally pretty sick for a week and a half during the pre-season scrims, and I feel like I wasn't able to give much to the team. Secondly, after I wasn't sick anymore, we were switching around our rosters a lot and practicing with different players. I felt like I didn't get that much time to mesh with the team, and the team in general hasn't gotten a ton of time to gel in general.
This week, we had the same roster for the entire week and I feel like we were able to get more on the same page and iron out some issues. I think practicing a lot with the same five people allowed us to be a lot more cohesive.
You mentioned the team fight the superiority of your composition, especially as the game went on. You played Sion and tanked so much damage this game; what is your preferred style of play in this meta?
I think my favorite style is probably the carry, split-pushing style. It's probably the most fun to me, but my mindset is wanting to play whatever is best to win. I feel like I can play any style, but maybe this season we'll see more of the ZionSpartan flavor return with more split-pushers. It would be exciting if I get to back door some nexuses this split.
That would definitely be exciting. Early last year, CLG was trying a lot of different shotcalling heirarchies. Is there something your team has settled on this year? If so, how does it compare to last year?
I think we're still in the phase of figuring out systems and trying different things. I don't want to get too much into the specifics of what we're doing, but I don't think it's ever been just one person who carries the load of communication. I think it will be really different depending on who is ahead in-game, and depending on what you need from each person in that game.
Everyone is picking up communication responsibilities and it's been good. No one person is carrying the load, it's a team effort.
FallenBandit from CLG Academy started the opening match of the season, and Moon and Wiggily have split time in the Jungle. Can you tell us more about the roster dynamic on CLG?
I think the coaching staff sees different values in what Moon brings vs. what Wiggily brings, and similarly, what I bring vs. what FallenBandit brings. I think it's always good to have someone who is trying to get your spot, because that motivates you to be better. If not, you're just replaced.
If there was a Faker of Top Lane, like TheShy, for example, I think it'd be great to share a spot with him. Even if I was in the B team slot, I feel like I would get better so much faster if I had the chance to compete with him. I've always told CLG they should get the best player possible for the sub spot, or even the starting spot. The best player should be the one starting, and competing for the spot would give both players an opportunity to get even better.
I'm happy that 10-man rosters are a thing. I think the only drawback is that the quality of Academy scrims is lower. It can feel bad to miss out on scrimming LCS teams with the main team, but overall, I think it's a good change and I think the player who deserves to be on stage will be playing on stage and in LCS scrims.
You also gained a new teammate in the Mid Lane in PowerOfEvil as HuHi joined 100 Thieves. How has it been playing with him thus far?
Short and sweet: I like PowerOfEvil a lot. I think he's a great player and great teammate. He brings good things to post-game meetings, and his play is pretty consistent as well. I think he's a really solid teammate to have; I don't really have any complaints.
In hindsight, I'm sure you've had time to reflect on CLG's 2018 in the off-season and its results compared to your expectations. What did you learn from last year?
I learned a lot of things. A team game has a different context than a 1v1 game. For example, if you're a professional Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player, and you lose a professional match, you take away wondering what you can do better. It's only about you.
When you're playing a 5v5 team game like League of Legends, there is always so much complexity and depth to the problems in the team and the reason you win or lose. I'm always focused on what I can do better and how I can improve my gameplay with what I do both in-game and out of game. However, I also focus on my teammates and how I can help them. I ask myself questions like, "How do I work with these group of players?" because every group of five people is different.
People want to be treated differently and everyone has their perks and their weaknesses. I want to learn to be more flexible and accepting and make the best with what I have. I want to try and be the best I can every day and help others improve, and not be so focused on expectations based on past success.
I'm always thinking about how I can help a player, or help our team improve, or play to my teammates' strengths. Instead of trying to conform or playing the 'conventional way' you have to think how your group of five people work together and their own best way to play. That's what I learned a lot about last year, and I think it's a really important thing to understand. I think it's good to be flexible.
Do you find that you occasionally put more pressure on yourself when thinking of past results and higher placings?
I think recently I've been getting better at learning to isolate and focus. Winning is a journey. We've got this whole split and whole year to improve, and I think it's important to take it day by day and realize that we're all human, we're going to make mistakes and we're just forming as a team. I can't expect anyone to just be amazing, or for our team to be amazing together as five right away.
I think that when I change my expectations in this way, it's a lot easier to not get frustrated when we are losing scrims and be more productive. That's what's really important. It's not about which team is best right now. Team Liquid is looking pretty good, as are some other teams, but in reality, the most important thing is how much you are improving every day in scrims and how it translates on stage.
It can suck to have an 0-2 week 1, but I can clearly see the improvements we're making day by day. We owe a lot of that to our coach, Irean. I think he's doing a great job at helping us learn and improve. He was a professional player himself and participated in OGN and NLB in Korea back in season 2 and season 3.
Irean knows a lot about the game, and when you have someone who knows optimal ways to play the game that most players can agree with, then it's really easy to have him cover post games and we learn a lot from it. I'm really hopeful for the future and I'm really excited for more practice.
CLG also re-signed Weldon Green as the Head Coach, who previously worked with the team as a sports psychologist as well. What is the coaching dynamic like between him and Irean?
So far, they're working pretty well together. Weldon will cover the emotional aspects of scrims like player personalities, tendencies, frustrations, communications, and player-to-player interactions. Irean will cover team macro, mechanics, and every single thing about League of Legends. He's got it down pretty well gameplay-wise, so I think they work pretty well together.
As you said before, there are a lot of variables in a team of five people. What held CLG's five players back last year, and what about this year's group is different?
I think it's pretty hard to pinpoint the reason of CLG's downfall, as it was a lot of factors. Individually, we weren't good enough, straight up. As a team, we also weren't good enough, and our practice wasn't effective enough. Our team cohesion just wasn't up to snuff, so we were lacking in a lot of areas, and it showed.
This split, we're not perfect, but things look a lot more promising from the coaching staff, the amount we're playing the game, and how much players want to win. I think things are improving and looking much better, so I'm a lot more hopeful this split.
That's great to hear. As a veteran player, do you change things about your day-to-day structure in the process of the season to keep things fresh?
Yeah, I mentioned flexibility earlier, and I think it's always good to be adaptable. As a pro player, but also as a human being. A person is not going to need the exact same things every day. There are good habits that you can have like exercising and eating healthy — those are a given and I could definitely be more consistent in those categories.
A pro player should also be setting the same habits for how many solo queue games you are playing; or how often you are reviewing vods; or having a conversation with a teammate; or even how you're relaxing in your free time. I think that's very important, and I think as a veteran how you prioritize your time is what makes a big difference. It's important for me to constantly reflect on that.
You joined Counter Logic Gaming almost four years ago, making you the longest active player on the roster. If there was something you could say now to the Darshan that joined CLG in the summer of 2015 from where you're sitting right now, what would you say?
Personally, I don't know if I'd tell myself anything. I'm really happy with the way I approached the off-season and how I grew as a person. I think there are always things that can be done better, but I will just tell myself to keep believing in myself and keep on going.
Thank you for the interview, Darshan, your time is appreciated. Is there anything you'd like to say?
Thank you to the CLG fans for your support. Also, I'm looking forward to the next Inven edition of Ssumday and Impact's tier lists at the end of the split.