Clutch Gaming proves their worth silencing the doubters and dissenters, qualifying to the Worlds 2019 Group Stage after a quick and easy 3-0 victory over their Turkish opponents, Royal Youth. Clutch came into the Play-Ins losing both their games against the Unicorns of Love, and facing a near disqualification altogether. They did, of course, end up winning their tiebreaker game against those same Unicorns, finishing first seed to draw the Turkish representative.
In their opening game, Clutch came out firing, getting their signature player's signature pick, Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon on Rumble. After winning an early skirmish, two for one, Clutch start to set the pace of the game. They skirmish well, and rotate often, utilizing superior macro and rotation to gain advantages across the map.
While they often play a predictable, single threat style, they showcased their ability to play as a full squad in this series. Usually - and especially when Huni is on Rumble - Clutch play towards top side and through Huni only, keeping Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu on a hyper carry as a backup for late game teamfights. Nam "Lira" Tae-
But coming out in their Play-In Knockout series, Damonte locks in Lucian in the mid lane Game 1, another Huni special and not quite the supportive style champ he usually plays. And Clutch actually utilize Lucian's strong early game to win skirmishes. Then in Game 2, they play through LirA of all options, utlizing two pushing solo lanes to hijack everything from Can "Closer" Çelik's jungle and get LirA ahead.
The story of all three games is rather similar, they gain a push advantage in mid and top, and work together with LirA to invade, track Closer, and win early skirmishes. Around 8 to 10 minutes in, the bot duo would roam North to join their team and either pressure mid, top, or the Herald. In each game, they won out on their telegraphed rotation, always securing Shelly, even more plates, and map pressure.
From there, they just rotate cleanly. They had proper lane assignments, near perfect objective control, found critical picks while not getting picked themselves (not too often anyway), and closed it out as a team. It isn't often we see a North American respresentative utilize teamplay outside of the famous NARAM, but Clutch barely fell into that trap that plagues their region in this series.
It was the first time Huni was given his Rumble in a month and a half. Ten teams in a row said
Rumble would be perma banned against Huni, and yet he got it twice this series. But it isn't just the Huni show as it once would have been, Clutch finally found how to best utilize his advantage and convert it to a team advantage.
This isn't even the only big pick Huni gets this series. In their last game, Huni locks in Ezreal which hasn't been seen in the top lane in five years, and hasn't won a top game since 2012. Even still, he is not the main focus of the team, rather they play together through all of their windows and spikes to ensure victory.
Aaron "Medic" Chamberlain's analysis after the series reflects this as he recounts their style. "It wasn't just the Huni show, it wasn't just playing through the top lane. It was all about how they synergized as a five man roster."
And his counterpart, Bryce "EGym" Paule, agreed, backing him up with, "It's not just the individuals winning this game, It really was a cohesive effort, an attack on the jungle, an attack on the lanes, and everything working together."
Even after all of this, no proper credit has been given to the bot duo of Cody Sun and Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme. Yes, Huni was granted his signature pick, yes LirA had a stellar performance, yes Damonte was involved in all of that top side success, but the bot lane is a masterpiece of its own.
While Cody Sun and Vulcan often play weak side, they usually look to go even or lose gracefully and scale up for their late game insurance. But in this series, they make sure to leave their mark on their opponents. More impressively, however, is the fact that, yet again, Cody Sun didn't die once in the entire series.
Cody Sun's KDA for all three games was 2/0/4, 10/0/4, and 11/0/4 for a whopping perfect (35) KDA. And he wasn't just playing safe or being a KDA player, he just has perfectly calculated risk-assesment and knows when to play forward. And Vulcan perfectly assists him in that.
Halfway through the final game, Medic calls out a stat that Clutch Gaming is 16-4 when Cody Sun goes deathless, which is an incredible stat that he has been able to go deathless so many times in just one split. Remember this name, Cody Sun is a player to watch. Just because he is quietly farming for the first 15 minutes doesn't mean he won't Quadra Kill your team at Baron 10 minutes later.
All in all, Clutch Gaming seem to have found their footing. Whether they just needed a warm up period, were actually bad, or were just limit testing the Play-Ins is yet to be known. But it is safe to say they will go into Groups confident and a better team than they were a month ago when they ran the Gauntlet to make it to Worlds in the first place.
Clutch, along with Damwon Gaming, has qualified for the Group Stage, and will be drawn into their Group (C?) after Tuesday's games.