In the second match of the 2019 LCS Regional Final, Clutch Gaming followed up its win over FlyQuest the day before with a 3-1 triumph over Counter Logic Gaming. CG not only got revenge for its heartbreaking reverse sweep at the hands of CLG in the 3rd Place Match of the 2019 LCS Summer Finals, but also survived another round in the gauntlet and is one step closer to qualifying for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.
CG's late summer surge, which the team referred to as a 'hell of a story' if it was able to defy expectations, is now one chapter away from a fairytale ending. If the LCS cowboys can defeat TSM in tomorrow's best-of-five series - something CG did with ease in the Quarterfinals just last month - the team's Worlds qualification will be locked in, which would be the first World Championship qualification for the Dignitas organization since 2012.
Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme joined Inven Global's Nick Geracie after Clutch Gaming's victory over CLG to reflect on his experience in Detroit, preventing another reverse sweep, and give his thoughts on the upcoming match against TSM.
Congratulations, Vulcan. How do you feel about the series and in context of the win, your play individually?
After the first two games, we were all thinking about another potential reverse sweep in the back of our minds. *laughs* We thought it might still happen again, so we told ourselves that even if we lost game 3, we just needed to focus on one game at at time, keep our composure, and close it out.
Game 4 was extremely close. If we had lost, it would have been pretty hard to come back in game 5 on red side. Blue side has the advantage in this meta, so we really had to win that close game. Overall, it was a pretty close series for a 3-1.
When you guys went down 2-1, murmurs of a repeat reverse sweep had already made their way through the crowd. What was the team discussion about between games 3 and 4?
We didn't really talk about the reverse sweep or anything, we just tried to talk about what went wrong in the game. We wanted to change some things in draft after Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon wanted to pick Lucian in the Top Lane. 'The Huni Classic' is a counterpick to Gangplank, and it got us a big lead, but we ended up misplaying a lot of fights against their team composition, especially GP and CLG Jungler Raymond "Wiggily" Griffin's Nocturne.
After the loss, we wanted to change things up and keep our mind in the game. We acknowledged that we made some stupid mistakes, but also, that they definitely wouldn't happen again. We were pretty confident on blue side heading into game 4.
It's important to keep the bigger context of the series in mind, but when up 2-0, the mental approach often utilized is often looking at the rest of the series as three separate Best-of-1 games. How do you balance looking at the big picture with what is directly in front of you mid-series?
When we played against CLG in Detroit and smashed them in game 2 to go up 2-0, I felt that there was zero way we could lose the series. We had three more games to play and only had to win one, so in my head, I was already celebrating our win.
This time around , I was thinking game by game and focusing one step at a time. If I'm thinking the same thing as last time in the same situation being up 2-0, then I'm repeating the same mistakes, and I did not want to allow that to happen.
That 3rd Place Match in Detroit had the biggest stage you've played on in your career thus far. What was that experience like? Do you feel like you’re able to keep more composed after that experience?
It felt really amazing going on that stage. I played pretty well in game 2, and every play I was making, I could hear the crowd roaring around me. It was an amazing experience. Also, I remember I BM'd Rift Herald and started spamming my emotes, and I heard the crowd start laughing and cheering. Those were the last cheers I heard that day, but it felt really good playing in front of a crowd like that.
I was pretty nervous going into the series in Detroit, but as soon as I got on stage and loaded into game, I didn't feel like the environment affected my play. I did get overconfident in the series, but I don't think that was something specific to Detroit or the arena where the competition took place. The same thing would have happened anywhere.
Perhaps the big crowd and all the cheering enhanced my hubris a bit, but I think I would have gotten just as overconfident in that situation if we were playing in the LCS studio instead.
Before today' series, the State Farm Analyst Desk highlighted Support Vincent "Biofrost" Wang as a strong laner and a standout performer on CLG, but you were able to triumph over him today. What was it like playing against Biofrost in such a high stakes situation, and did you have any specific plans with Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu for the 2v2 lane?
Biofrost is a good player, but his and Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes' laning isn't that insane compared to the likes of Team Liquid's Bot Lane. Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in are the clear #1 duo in NA. CLG's Bot Lane is good, but we just played the matchups the way they were supposed to be played.
There wasn't a massive mismatch in the level of skill between the Bot Lanes in this match, so Cody and I just focused on doing our jobs for the team.Cody Sun and I have crazy teammates , and we need at least one stable lane on this team, so that's our personal focus.
For Support specifically, CLG plays around Biofrost when he is on playmakers. Last time we faced off, he played a lot of Thresh and was running around looking for picks. I communicated to my team that I wanted to be able to find Biofrost in the game through vision control to make sure he wouldn't get his plays off to set up his team.
This was true especially in true in game 4, when Biofrost was on Alistar and Wiggily was on Elise. We had to make sure we had eyes on CLG's playmakers, and then we could play the game out as long as we had that information. I wouldn't say I was scared of Biofrost, though. I do respect him, and he's a good player, but I don't think he does anything too crazy.
This series featured the continuation of a trend in which Xayah and Rakan are extremely popular picks, but almost always end up on opposing teams. Can you explain Xayah/Rakan’s current place in the meta and how they influence the draft phase in competitive play?
Xayah and Rakan have insane laning if you get them both together, but even alone, Xayah provides insane scaling and safe waveclear due to her ult and feathers. Rakan has insane engage and is extremely versatile, so both champions are very well-rounded with no clear weaknesses. However, you have to be able to pick them without being countered.
Against FlyQuest yesterday, we played Caitlyn/Morgana into Xayah/Rakan and the game was pretty much unplayable for them at that point. If the team on blue side is able to pick the lovers duo as its second and third draft selections, then red side only has one pick to answer before the second ban phase. Because of this, most of the time, red side will counter by drafting Xayah early on to make sure both champions don't go to blue side.
You can't ignore Xayah and Rakan as a duo right now because they are too powerful.
What do you think was the main difference in today’s series when compared to your 3rd place match in Detroit that helped you guys win today?
For the first two games today, Huni popped off really hard on Irelia. I was Rakan in both of those games, and Huni was fed and able to go into CLG 1v4 without dying, so I would just jump on Huni and CC anyone trying to kill him. It's a pretty huge combo, and Huni was a huge difference maker in the first two games.
Game 4 was a very back and forth banger, but I think at the end the whole team played together really well...we played bad at first, but when it came to the final fight, we played it better than CLG.
Tomorrow, CG faces TSM for the final spot at worlds. What are your thoughts before that match?
We don't really know what to expect from TSM. We scrimmed against them once in the past two weeks, and they looked a lot stronger. However, since TSM's Jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu is a rookie with very little LCS experience, we don't know if he'll be able to maintain his scrim form on stage. The pressure is going to be higher in this matchup than our match against TSM in the Summer Quarterfinals about a month ago.
We may not know what to expect, but we don't think they will be better than us, so we're focusing on us being able to show up and play at the high level we know we're capable of playing towards. That's always been how we've felt about ourselves — we've always had good players, it's just a matter of how well we can mesh together and play as a team on any given day.
Something all of Clutch Gaming has been saying since your team's rise to top 4 status is that your triumph would be a 'hell of a story' - how much of a story would it be for you to qualify for Worlds in your first full LCS season?
Every pro player wants to compete at the highest level, so for me, that's the most important thing. To do that, I need to be the best player I can be, and going to Worlds would show how important it is for me to be the best player and teammate possible.
Also, going to Worlds is an insane experience overall. If I were to go to Worlds and play against all of the good Bot Lanes that will be attending, I would come back to NA and smash everybody. If you can experience Worlds early on in your career, especially as a rookie, I think it's a huge boost going forward.
Since you mentioned the other Bot Lanes at Worlds, are there any specific pairings or Supports that you'd like to face off against if Clutch Gaming was to beat TSM tomorrow and qualify?
I don't know if I would love it...*laughs* but I would like to test myself against Royal Never Give Up's Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao and Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming for sure. There's this aura around Uzi about him being a crazy laner, and Ming is absolutely insane as well. They mesh really well together, so I'd love to be able to see how hard they would destroy me if I played against them for the first time so I can learn and adapt to how they play.