Counter Logic Gaming's 2018 was forgettable at best. The organization missed playoffs in both of the NA LCS splits, and wasted no time cleaning house across all levels. Weldon "Weldon" Green was re-signed to CLG to coach the team with Heo "Irean" Yeong-cheol, formerly of the TCL's SuperMassive Esports. Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin was released in favor of CLG Academy Jungler Raymond "Wiggily" Griffin.
Most notably, CLG upgraded its firepower in the mid lane by signing Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage. The German mid laner had an impressive first year in North America, dragging a bottom-tier OpTic Gaming across the finish line several times last summer, finishing only one game out of playoffs. POE established himself as one of the best mid laners in his new region, and now, he's ready to make a run for an LCS title.
PowerOfEvil joined Inven Global after CLG's triumph over Echo Fox in Week 3, Day 1 of the 2019 LCS Spring Split to talk about his win, his new teammates, and what he learned from his first year in North America.
Congratulations on your win today, PowerOfEvil. Did things go as expected?
I expected the game to be close. I think both teams match up to each other mechanically, and both our teams play aggressively and have tendencies to invade early on. Neither of us wanted to give up objectives in late game fights, so I thought it was really exciting.
It was quite the back and forth game, but what do you think was the difference maker for CLG today?
I believe I played really well around the Nocturne ultimates in the early game. Echo Fox brought a strong focus to the mid lane, and I think we played well around that. Wiggily was there to counter-gank, and that was a big factor as to why the early game went well for us.
In the mid game, we had control for most of the game. We lost a mountain drake, which was our mistake because we set up for it too late after not recalling fast enough. However, overall, we possessed the advantage because we had Tahm Kench, who could always just show up in a side lane with his ultimate. Because of this, even though they had Nocturne, our side laners were really safe. It countered their composition and made it a bit easier for us to play the game.
I think we played pretty well as far as protecting the lanes with Tahm Kench, but we had a few mistakes outside of that. We were caught a few times, and Echo Fox nearly got the Baron, but major props to Wiggily for stealing it. That was really big for us, and afterwards, we played teamfights really well and made sure that the Nocturne and Aatrox flanks were useless.
What were the communications like for you guys when Wiggily stole the Baron?
Everyone was shocked because some of us got caught. I think I was consistently saying that someone on our team needed to mark their Aatrox since he was in our top side jungle. Solo wanted to flank us and kill me and Ezreal to prevent us from poking them while they do baron. My idea was that if someone marks him, I can try to steal the baron withWiggily, but I didn't account for the Nocturne ultimate. Once I saw the darkness fall, I figured we could no longer steal Baron.
I was trying to guess when Baron might go down, and I think Wiggily just jumped or flashed in — I didn't even see what happened — so I'm just hoping for the best. Once I saw the secure message come up for us, I was just like, "Damn, nice!" I think Echo Fox aced us right after that, but they lost all of their flashes. We traded flashes, so it wasn't terrible considering we were in a really bad spot before that Baron. We had gotten caught, and it was their time to win the game.
Communications were still pretty chaotic, but I believe that's normal for a young team that just came together and is not yet used to each other. It's something that we need to improve upon every week, because we aren't going to get a lot of chances in these high pressure situations on stage. In scrims, they are still important, but you know that there's nothing on the line. On the LCS stage, you know that you need to say everything correctly, and if you don't, it's bad. That's a lot of pressure.
How did you end up joining CLG ahead of the 2019 season?
I had multiple offers from Europe and North America despite OpTic's lack of success last year. I was voted second best mid laner in NA, and a lot of teams are convinced of my quality as a mid laner, player, and teammate. This off-season, I had the most offers I had ever received from both Europe and North America. I had a lot of freedom to choose, and I was playing with a lot of different teams and getting a feel for their roster ideas and infrastructure.
I decided I wanted to stay in NA because it's more exciting for me. As a German, living in Berlin is pretty standard, and you don't always get the chance to live in another country. Especially here, in Los Angeles, the weather is awesome all the time.
I really enjoy playing in NA. I feel like I'm respected here. CLG had a really promising roster with mostly veterans, so I knew they had experience and a good mindset and attitude about the game. That energy is really important when it comes to growing together and finding the right synergy.
It did feel last summer that OpTic only won games when you were hard carrying. Did you learn anything from that experience?
The thing I learned about most on OpTic Gaming was helping my teammates improve. I was trying to help them, share as much experience as I could, and keep them calm in the long games. We had a lot of inexperienced players, who had only played half-splits or a year, so they didn't have many games under their belts that have gone 50+ minutes on stage. Overall, I tried to be more of a leader. I don't think that's as required of me in CLG, but it's definitely what I learned most about in OpTic.
What does this team of five players have that your team last year did not?
Experience is a major factor. Biofrost, Stixxay, and Darshan have all won LCS splits prior and attended Worlds. They've all had success and they've been at the top, so they know how to continue to improve their play. If you have the willpower, the staff, and the right synergy between the players, you can get to the top.
Have you had to change your style of play this year since joining CLG?
I would say the biggest change was building synergy with a new jungler. I believe mid and jungle synergy is really important, and at this point, Wiggily and I aren't 100% there yet. We still need to work on things, but I think we are getting better. Echo Fox focused mid lane heavily today, and Fenix and Rush are both very strong players mechanically. Wiggily and I being able to match that, and even come out ahead, shows that we can be really strong.
Due to your veteranship, are you able to help Wiggily grow throughout his career while building synergy?
The whole team is trying to share our experience. I share as much as I can with Wiggily, and he's willing to learn as much as he can. I believe he has a really good mindset about the game and towards learning, we just need to see how we can keep helping him grow until he becomes an insane jungler.
CLG has spoken volumes of its new coaching staff. Can you explain the dynamic between Weldon and Irean?
Weldon focuses more on the mental aspects of competition, whereas Irean focuses on strategic coaching. I think it's been a really helpful dynamic. Weldon has us meditating before we go on stage to not feel any pressure. Irean is really smart regarding having the right team color for us on game day. He knows what we are the best with in each meta, and while we had bad results in scrims this week, we did well on stage. Obviously, that's a good thing, but it's just funny given how scrims have gone.
Our performance thus far goes to show that if we stay focused and get the picks that we want, we can be a really good team.
In your first year in NA, you made a great impression. What impression are you trying to make in your second year in the LCS?
The goal is always to get to playoffs, be successful in playoffs, and possibly go to Worlds. Since last year wasn't that successful, I don't want to set my goals too high. Let's just get to playoffs.
Throughout my career, I have entered playoffs as a dark horse team, usually the fifth or sixth seed. I've been to Finals three times on three different teams. You can go to playoffs as a bottom seed team and show that if you are ready to beat everyone at that time, it doesn't matter who was seeded first or last.
You have already proven that multiple times, so hopefully you can do so again. Thanks for the interview, POE. Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?
Thanks everyone for cheering us on. We're happy about our performance this year thus far; hopefully we can redeem ourselves from last split.