More Than a Semi-Final
It's no question that this semi-final is a pivotal moment for this year's CLG team. For Pobelter, it will be his first LCS playoff experience ever and a chance to prove himself on a bigger stage. It will be ZionSpartan and Xmithie's chance to regain that former glory of at one point being on one of the strongest teams in the LCS. Although they are relatively new to the team, few remember that ZionSpartan fought TSM to a game five in the first LCS playoff finals under GGU and that Xmithie was a part of Vulcun - one of the most dominating early game teams in the same year.
"I don't really feel the pressure when people say that we tilt during playoffs," Xmithie said. "I went to worlds two years ago and I want to show that all those experience will help us win this time. I'm pretty confident in my team to play at their peak and hoping to do so myself."
Lastly, Doublelift and Aphromoo - one of the most consistently high performing bot-lane duos in North America - have repeatedly tasted success only to let it slip from their fingers. "This is the first time CLG has gotten top two in the regular split, it's so good for confidence," said Doublelift. "But it's also a lot of pressure for us to do well. Our story so far has been choking at playoffs, so we feel that." It's only a semi-final, but the team knows the effort they put in to get themselves here and because of that, it means so much more.
Same Game, Different Methods
Team Impulse, like their name suggests, play the game with a primal instinct. Led by their aggressive jungler Rush, TiP will look to snowball early kills into objective control. "It's very important that we be able to shut down Rush," Doublelift said regarding TiP's jungler in LoLeSports' teaser. The jungle meta has shied away from the abuse of tank junglers to much stronger early game junglers that fit Rush's playstyle such as Elise, Nidalee, and Rek'sai. Yet TiP has shown that despite their ability to take leads and teamfight well, that they have moments of mental lapses and can make mistakes even with large gold leads. Their impressive 3-0 against Team Dignitas was marred by a large misplay in each of their victories. Each time TiP were able to shrug off the mistake and finish what they started, but those mistakes could have been far more dangerous against a better opponent.
Going into the TiP match, the team is doing really well and feeling confident. We accomplished all of our goals that we wanted to before playoffs coming up, so we'll be ready to put up a great performance that everyone has been so eagerly waiting for all these years.
Interestingly, CLG plays a similar style to TiP in that they take control of the early game regardless of their composition due to superior early lane control. Doublelift and ZionSpartan have the highest positive CS differential at ten minutes for their positions because of the team's strong understanding of playing the early-game. In the Spring Split it was paramount that CLG get the early game lead, but they have shown resilience and the ability to make comebacks without it in the past months. "They've dedicated their lives this split to the team instead of to themselves," said Coach Chris in a Reddit comment. "I don't think a single person on this team is the same person I met when I first got here. They're all better versions of themselves, and that takes nothing short of 100% dedication and sacrifice."
What Makes Playoffs Unique
ZionSpartan knows how little your regular season record matters when it comes to winning playoff matches. His first LCS team, Good Game University, nearly won the Spring Split with an 11-17 regular season. It's about preparation and how strong your team is coming into the match. "We are feeling really good about facing off vs TiP because we had three weeks to train and prepare for this one Bo5 match," said ZionSpartan. "We also got to watch TiP play a Bo5 while we have been preparing our secret strategies in the dark. This should be a very good match for us."
There are also mental aspects that have to be considered when it comes to playoffs. Teams have been playing in Bo1s which require a completely different type of mentality than a long and potentially grueling Bo5. "In preparation for the playoffs format of best of 5's, we've taken to changing our practice regime to best of 5s in an effort to emulate a similar environment that we've had from previous playoff series," Coach Zikz said regarding playoff preparation. "Having played mainly best of one formatted games during the regular season, this change is necessary to get back into the swing of how we need to adapt game by game to have the best chance at winning."
One Step Among Many
The clash of carry top laners; ruthless versus controlling; two new-to-the-playoffs mid-laners; and an oppressive bot-lane against a consistently performing one. For all of these players, the semi-final is just one step among the many it took to get here and one step among the many that they know lie ahead.
"It will be my first time participating in the playoffs. I hope to have a good showing, and expect us to come out victorious in the end," replied Pobelter when asked about his feelings about his first LCS playoff match.
As for CLG's veteran player Doublelift - well, he knows what he has to do. The pressure is on him and he can't be bothered to think about his feelings; he just has to go out there and play. His response to how he feels going into his second LCS semi-final appearance?
"Pretty good, thanks for asking. I'm thinking a 50% chance of winning, because we either win or we lose."
Written by Chris Han (@itsSlicer)
Photo Credit: lolesports/flickr and lolesports/YouTube