For one week at least, Counter Logic Gaming fans can rejoice in their League of Legends’ team first-place standing. After beating Dignitas, TSM, and Golden Guardians, the rebuilding Counter Logic Gaming are in a tie for first place with their best start since 2017. It’s a very small sample size and a knee-jerk reaction, but the team that was playing in the shadows of Team Liquid looking to rebound and Evil Geniuses trying to defend their championship was firmly in the spotlight last weekend.
Despite most of the team joining last November with newest member Niship “Dhokla” Doshi starting in the top lane for the beginning of the summer split, the 3-0 start represents the winning potential of the squad as well as the hard work and experience of its coaching nucleus headed by Thomas “Thinkcard” Slotkin. Thinkcard, himself a former professional player, is using everything he has learned from his amateur grinding days where he witnessed growing pains to his successful stint as the coach for Golden Guardians Academy.
“I saw a lack of infrastructure during my tenures on various teams and was able to experience what could be strengths and weaknesses or what worked to build a good coaching system when I played,” Thinkcard tells Nerd Street. “If you put in the time through amateur and academy, the whole thing will work all around.”
Instead of collecting credit for instilling a winning formula for a relatively inexperienced team, Thinkcard credits his entire coaching staff for all their individual attention to player growth. He says that each coach works specifically with their respective players every game to accelerate their development, and the fruits of their labor may be showing a lot earlier than many anticipated.
It helps to have chemistry with your own assistant coaches, and his experience with Chris “Croissant” Sun helps a lot. Both Thinkcard and Croissant were coaches for the Golden Guardians Academy team and developed their working chemistry and overall coaching philosophy before landing at CLG.
“I wanted to build something from the ground up and create great foundations and infrastructure to make a long-term success in League of Legends; that was what attracted me to CLG,” Thinkcard said. “We showed a lot of our strengths, and I’m very happy with the results. I couldn’t ask for a better result for it.”
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
What exactly is working for CLG so early? For starters, there’s clear communication when the team orchestrates movements or objective clears. On a new team, when the communication is concise, the clarity toward its path to victory is simplified. Last weekend, the team moved together for better or worse toward agreed-upon goals, and because its stance was unified, the end results were overall team growth. Thinkcard credits the individual players’ abilities as the key to their rapid improvement and says that comparing this team to the one from the spring split is like night and day.
It also was impressive that CLG did so well on a patch that wasn’t fully fleshed out yet. CLG’s drafts and execution throughout their games were excellent. Although the team’s identity is still an aggressive fighting lineup, there is more patience to the approach. The question of “why should we fight this?” is asked more, and that is a direct result of the wisdom and experience of the coaching staff. Thinkcard calls their system very fluid and emphasizes adaptability over everything. Overall it’s a difficult philosophy to fully figure out, but the results say that CLG are very well on their way.
“Our job as a staff is to build on their abilities to fight, but we’re giving them tools on when they can build upon that. They like to fight, but we’re giving them the proper steps to identify good fights and why they should take those exchanges,” Thinkcard said. “We’re making them think about the game in a more complex way.”
It’s still early in the split, and CLG will have a target on their back, but that comes with success. Any way you spell it, CLG are still an underdog team, and their development can very easily be dangerous for other North American teams.
“We love being the underdogs, it gives us a lot more energy to prove people wrong. We did a lot of good things, but there are still so many things to improve on,” Thinkcard said. “It’s just the first week, and if we need to compete with the top teams, we need to buckle down on our mistakes because those will be exploited. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT