CLG: Rebuilding a legacy

CLG, bright spots, and falling short: Name a more iconic trio.


Image Credit: Riot Games

CLG was at one time the premiere North American organization for League of Legends. For years they stood toe to toe with rival TSM for supremacy in North America and on the world stage.

Heading into 2019, however, CLG are reeling from 8th and 7th place finishes in 2018. They’re looking to put back together the pieces to a lost dynasty that’s been absent since 2016. 

How did they get here?

Pre-NA LCS

Before the NA LCS brought together the best of North America, League of Legends teams formed much more tacitly. There weren't big consistent organizations like we know today, but rather groups of players that often met in solo queue and decided to give it a go with money on the line. 

In a time of disarray, CLG stood out as a well-oiled machine.

CLG formed in 2010, and before the year's end they had already brought home big results winning the 2010 World Cyber Games over SK Gaming. This segued into their performance in the first ever World Championship. While they only managed fifth overall at Worlds, CLG proved themselves as one of North America's biggest threats.

The next couple years for CLG were punctuated by big results in tournaments like MLG Raleigh and IEM Cologne, but while they returned for the Season Two World Championship, they left a smaller mark. 

CLG began their drift downward in international competition, something that foreshadowed their fate domestically.

NA LCS

While CLG didn't enter the NA LCS with as loud a bang as one would expect from their veteran experience, things got better for them. After disappointing in 2013 and 2014, CLG rallied.

Good things came together to the org in late 2015 and early 2016 when CLG finally managed to string together back-to-back NA LCS championships. The best part? The two rosters that made their mark in the NA LCS history books were fundamentally very different from one another. CLG found major success initially with players like Pobelter and Doublelift, but even heading into 2016 with new players like Stixxay and Huhi, CLG were able to keep ahead of their region. They proved it wasn't just a fluke, and it wasn't just synergy. They were the whole package.

No one would expect the disappointing years that would follow.

Falling off

If you asked fans where CLG would be in 3 years after they defended their NA LCS crown as repeat champions, none would get it right. 

CLG went from back-to-back championships to having just one 3rd and 4th place finish in the league over the next five splits. Even worse, in 2018, they ended 7th, then 8th. With that, their momentum is all but evaporated.

Now CLG are left scrambling to defend their distant supremacy in an increasingly competitive North American scene. For those keeping score, to keep up with their one-time archrivals TSM, they've got about four NA LCS banners to go.

So with their reputation on the line, how will CLG approaching 2019? How will they rebuild their legacy?

The roster

CLG enter 2019 with some old names still in the mix, something the org has been critiqued for in the past. But that isn't the whole story.

Top lane

CLG has been around for about 9 years, but there's no top laner more synonymous with the organization than the returning Darshan. Now the longest running member of CLG today after joining back in 2014, Darshan is making yet another return to the Rift for his team. 

Once considered the best top laner in North America, and equally considered a weakness for the team at other times, Darshan has had a mixed history on CLG. Some will undoubtedly critique the org for returning to a recipe that has lost plenty in the past, and if they think that shifting the pieces around Darshan might unlock his potential to be the threat he's been before, this isn't the first time they've tried.

Still, Darshan at his best is a dangerous thing for competition.

Jungle

In the jungle, CLG have landed on Academy prospect Wiggily. While he is the least experienced on the roster, that doesn't mean he has no history here. The former Cloud9 Academy jungler made his move to CLG in mid-2018. From there, he performed on the CLG Academy roster where he impressed as a big part of his team’s wins across a successful split.

CLG have now called Wiggily up to the main roster, and while it may not be as exciting as some other jungler pickups in the NA LCS heading into 2019, we've seen young Academy players make huge waves in North America recently. In fact, the NA org that called up the most Academy League players in 2018 just so happened to make it to the semifinals of Worlds 2018, North America's first time in 8 years. And they did it by eliminating the last Korean team in Quarterfinals, a region that hadn't even missed the finals of Worlds in 8 years.

Taking a page from Cloud9's book (and a jungler from their Academy) may be exactly what CLG needs to return to glory both internationally and domestically.

Detractors will be quick to point to OmarGod as an example of this strategy backfiring for CLG just a year ago, but it doesn't mean that new blood is inherently a bad move. 

Mid lane

In the middle lane, CLG have decided on European veteran and North American transplant, PowerOfEvil. POE has had a unique history in League of Legends which you can read all about here.

This journey has led PowerOfEvil to CLG. Much like his new org, POE is looking to prove himself after a disappointing time with Optic Gaming. This makes things seem like the perfect fit.

While it of course matters which PowerofEvil makes it to Summoner's Rift, CLG seem to have significantly upgraded from longtime midlaner Huhi.

Bottom lane

Finally, in the bottom lane, CLG bring the returning combination of veteran Stixxay and support Biofrost. 

Stixxay came to CLG as a young prodigy in 2016. He joined just after CLG won their first NA LCS split, and managed to excel enough to bring the org right back to that same promise land in early 2016. Since then, however, Stixxay has been on-board for all of CLG's fall from grace. While it's hard to blame the mechanically sound ad carry for his teams mistakes, it's clear we've seen better from Stixxay in the past.

His lane partner, support Biofrost, can be equally lethal. While Biofrost is known for his soft-spoken personality and even-keel temperment, he speaks loudly enough through his on-Rift performance. Biofrost is a veteran that has sound mechanics and instincts, and he's taken on the mantle of sole-shot caller for CLG in the past. Whether or not Biofrost will still be at the helm for calls, he is perhaps the most consistent member of the team, and can be relied upon to keep things together.

Looking ahead

Surrounded by teams jamming in as many imports to their roster as possible, CLG is somewhat of an outlier. With just one pseudo-import in PowerOfEvil, they've made a statement that they believe in North American talent. 

With one of the richest histories in North American League of Legends in the balance, CLG can only hope they've made the right bed to lie in.

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Brandon Ridgely

I'm the League of Legends Editor for RealSport, and a longtime competitive League of Legends fan. I focus most on the NA LCS but watch a bit of everything. Notable C9 bias. I'm probably the only person that misses Team Vulcun.

Well met.

Tips/story ideas? Let me know at [email protected]

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