In one day, the 2019 LCS Regional Final will begin. TSM, Counter Logic Gaming, Clutch Gaming, and FlyQuest will be seeded into a gauntlet format to decide who will join Team Liquid and Cloud9 to represent North America at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.
Clutch Gaming's rise to top 4 status has been due to teamwide improvements, but highlighted by fantastic individual performances from Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and AD Carry Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu. Clutch Gaming narrowly lost to Team Liquid in the 2019 LCS Summer Semifinals and the subsequent 3rd Place Match to Counter Logic Gaming in back to back 3-2 series, and enters the 2019 LCS Regional Finals as a close second behind CLG for best team in the gauntlet.
Cody Sun spoke with Inven Global's Nick Geracie Clutch Gaming's mid-summer rise to LCS elite,, the 2019 LCS Summer Playoffs, and the upcoming LCS Regional Finals.
How do you think playoffs went overall for Clutch Gaming?
No one really expected us to do against Team Liquid except for ourselves, obviously. Our series against them was pretty close; I definitely think we could have come out ahead and won if we were a bit smarter in the draft phase. We're not happy with what happened, but we're pretty confident in ourselves now because of our performance against TL.
I think the way we're playing right now is a lot better than before playoffs. We're really confident in our draft and what we want to execute in game.
A lot of people underestimated Clutch Gaming before playoffs. What do you think people specifically overlooked about your team's ability?
Our team got a lot better in terms of macro, especially in the late game. Teams thought that we can only play a chaotic, one-dimensional style. While we can do that and play aggressively early, but we're also fine playing a normal match with a more conventional style. Against TSM and Team Liquid, we were able to get what we wanted in the draft phase for our wins and were able to execute upon that strategy in the game.
There was a great moment at the end of the series, when Huni was down after the hearbreaking loss and you and your teammates went to console him. What did you say to Huni after the series?
Even though it was a long shot, I feel like even before we made playoffs, we all bought in to the fact that if we made playoffs, despite the odds, we could win the whole thing. We were going to try our hardest to do that, and after beating TSM, we all thought that what we wanted to accomplish was definitely possible. We were improving at such a fast rate that we knew our best hadn't been shown yet.
I think even now, we're still improving day-to-day. I told Huni after the match against TL that "even though we lost today, we still have the gauntlet, and we still have worlds to look forward to. The journey hasn't ended, so we should all focus on moving forward." Our team is pretty confident that we are going to be able to be the 3rd best team in NA. Then, we'll keep going on to Worlds.
Just a few months ago, you were on Clutch Gaming Academy. Since you joined the main roster, the level of the team has skyrocketed to top 4 status. How much is this improvement individually about you, and how much is it about the team?
I think any type of rapid improvement like that is always a mixture of both. If you have good individual players, then they're able to help the team more, and the team helps the individual carries to succeed.
My goal has always been to win NA LCS and be the #1 seed to represent NA at Worlds. That has never changed for me, even when I was playing on CGA.
Throughout my time in Academy, I was able to find more joy in practicing the game in terms of Solo Queue, as well as scrimming day by day.
I had a really positive environment in CGA, and I was able to carry that vibe over to the LCS team. Everyone is pretty happy doing their jobs for the team day by day; scrimming and improving on whatever we need to improve on. Playing on stage and playing in different arenas is are the bonuses of what we do every single day, which is get up; play the game; theorycraft; and work with each other to understand where everyone is coming from so we can all get along.
It sounds like your team has a very process-oriented approach, but looking at your individual statistics from the 2019 LCS Summer Split, you set the standard in both the CS Per Minute and CS Differential @ 10 Minutes categories and made the 3rd LCS All-Pro Team. Do you feel you've proven to your doubters that you are a top LCS AD Carry, and are you playing to your own standards as of now?
In terms of my individual performance, I was pretty focused on improving throughout the summer of last year when I was being subbed out for Samuel "Rikara" Oh on 100 Thieves. I think I made a lot of progress in a lot of different areas, but there's definitely still things to work on. Still, I'm pretty confident in how I've improved in the areas I set out to improve on one year ago, and I think what I'm able to show right now is simply the fruits of the labor of working on myself.
It's pretty awesome going day-by-day; just scrimming with the team or interacting with everyone on Clutch Gaming. It's pretty fun, and since I've played for three different organizations in my three year career, I've learned that you're not going to always be working with the same people all the time. It's really important to be in the moment, and cherish what you have in that moment. It's important to try your best in whatever situation you find yourself in.
That's a great perspective for an esports career. Speaking towards your career, I'm noticing a pattern of people either thinking you're one of the best ADCs in the region, or absolute dog****— no in-between! Would you say people are extra critical of your mistakes, and that this is the cause of people's polarizing opinions of you? Also, do you feel that you've finally silenced the doubters for good with your recent performance?
Probably not. There's always going to be haters, so whatever. I know for myself that I know how to improve and I know how to play well, and I feel like I'm pretty good at working with my Support and my teammates as well.
I like when my teammates play well themselves and are comfortable in whatever strengths they have. For example, when I played with Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung on Immortals and Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black on 100 Thieves, I liked to make them shine as much as they made me play well. There's a meme in the scene that my Supports are always playing for the LCS MVP Award *laughs* but I don't really mind it.
If people are extra harsh on me, I don't really care because I want to go as far as I can for myself and if I have to achieve a higher level of success than normal players to gain respect, then I'm fine with doing that. That's the kind of player I want to be anyway, and everyone else is trying to motivate me to become the greatest I can be, so that's been helping and is going to continue helping me in the long run.
What are your thoughts heading into the 2019 LCS Regional Final?
Whoever wins is going to be the team that deserves to go to Worlds. I think our team has a pretty good story as to why we should be there, but we're not going to get cocky. Everyone on the team and our staff are pretty confident in what we've been practicing for the past few months, and we're going to try our best to showcase the best performance we can give on stage.
We want to inspire the rest of the North American fans to support us in our endeavor to go through the guantlet and qualify for Worlds. It's definitely doable, and it's not something we're going to shy away from. Everyone in our team is pretty confident, and excited at the opportunity to potentially go to Worlds this year. It would be pretty fun to go, but the whole journey of trying to qualify is fun as well. *laughs*
Is there anything you want to say to the CG fans?
Thank you for supporting the organization for these past two years. I think everyone already knows that we're going to rebrand to Dignitas, and that this is the last year of Clutch Gaming. I think everyone in the org is trying to send the CG brand out with a bang, so hopefully we qualify for Worlds and do well there. After that, we'll become Dignitas going forward.
As for me, I'm grateful for the people that support me on social media. Social media has been both rough and good for me in the past, so I'm always grateful for the fans who message me positive things to keep me going. Thank you for that.
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