Counter Logic Gaming has a very rich history as one of the longest standing professional teams, especially since they have been in the spotlight for most of their life. In the most recent change of this split they have changed their roster significantly leading to some interesting dynamic changes for their playstyle. While with longstanding member hotshotgg they played a more doublelift oriented 2 threat strat. However, ever since the roster swap we have seen a significant playstyle change in the team. While Doublelift still plays a key part in their strategy, as you can see on the right they have significantly increased the gold distribution to the top laner and even to mid a bit, dropping the jungler and support down. This has moved them from an old 2 threat playstyle to a more well rounded comp with typically 3 or so threats and even possible hyper-carries mid like Karthus allowing Doublelift to expand his champ pool to things like Urgot. This freedom has revitalized their team strategy, but they still keep their roots in their late game focused style with a low priority on objectives.
Another significant effect of this roster change has been their champion pool and teamfight strategies. Many people would think after a roster swap a team would try to define their comfort picks by selecting a small batch of champions as the new roles slowly learn new champions. However, CLG has done the opposite, having the most varied picks and strategies of any team in the league right now, they have chose 40 different champions, tied for most diverse team with VES, the average is only 35 picks. CLG is trying a bunch of different team comps to try to define their strategies and learn which style they are most successful with.
Early Game Strategy
CLG has always been known as a “late game team”, and while there have been some mix ups this greatly effects their early game strategy. They do not prioritize objectives, instead they play a very defensive game focusing on counter ganks and anti-pushing. In a non CLG game the first tower’s death is averaged at 6:12; however, in a clg game the first tower death is averaged at 9:03. Also, as we can see from the stats above, CLG gets the first drag in less than 25% of games, while they get first blood in an above average 65% of games. While this strategy certainly extends the lane phase, it doesn’t usually catapult them ahead. In the 8 games I analyzed they only had a gold advantage at 10 minutes in 25 % of games, with one of those games being their early game Pantheon strat.
This focus on extended laning phase and low objective priority can be seen in Bigfat’s jungle style as well. He spends more time ganking (14% personal vs 10% average) and more time anti-pushing (21% vs 15%), while less time pushing (5% vs 9%). Bigfatlp invests over 3 times more time protecting towers than C9’s Meteos (20% for Bigfat vs 6% for Meteos). This gank and protect style of jungling allows for the ap and ad carries to get more farm, which transitions well to their mid game playstyle where Doublelift farms for about 20-30 minutes before grouping up with the team. Extending the lane phase by prioritizing protecting towers rather than trading allows for more safe room for Doublelift and Link to farm and pace the game for CLG’s late game which is seen as their best phase of game.
Teamfighting, picks, and mid-late game strategy
While CLG has picked a wide variety of champions like talked about above, they still have a very distinct mid to late game strategy which create these signature CLG games. Everyone mentions how long CLG games are and they are right, the league average game time is about 37 and a half minutes, while CLG’s average game time is 45:12, a 20% increase! This long game style plays into their pick phase, going for picks which have great late games like Trisana/Cait, Shen/Jayce, and Orianna/Karthus. This game pacing idea is something that CLG does great, pulling every team into playing their style of game. The first thing to look at is how they extend the game to such long lengths, what do they do mid game? While we know CLG extends their early game, mid game they play more of the same with a heavy farm strategy. They split out the lanes farming all 3 as much as possible,
Anytime you analyze CLG people always bring up how much farm doublelift gets. Looking at the statistics he does average the most farm per average length game of any ADC (322 cs vs. 287 average). However, there are many questions to be asked such as: where and when does he get this farm? who is giving up this farm? To address the first we look at the chart on the right. Doublelift farms a bit more than average in the first ten minutes of play, but his real growth on the average opponent is in the mid game 10-30 minute marks, where he averages 210 minion kills in those 20 minutes, compared to only 170 minion kill average. In the transition from lane phase most teams group up to push or control objectives, while CLG and Doublelift do the opposite, spreading out to farm as much as possible mid lane. This may lose them towers or dragons but it gives them supreme growth in farm and extends the game as it is hard to push deep inner turrets when all 3 lanes are being constantly pushed out. Only after roughly the 30 minute mark does CLG really start grouping and teamfighting, by then Doublelift typically has 300 minion kills and 3 big items (BT, PD, and Last Wisp or other equivalents).
So, now that we know that doublelift farms a ton extra during the first 30 minutes, where does this farm come from? who does he take this farm from? and how does this effect their teamfighting strategies? Looking at the graph on the left is your answer to where the farm comes from. It isn’t taken off mid because Link gets above average farm, and top gets about equal farm, but to keep these two above average farmers Link and Doublelift, Bigfatlp is the one who suffers, getting an extremely small slice of the farm pie. While we covered in the last article how big a farmer Meteos is, compared to Bigfatlp at the 45 minute mark he has about double the average CS (94 jiji vs 186 meteos). This happens because in CLG’s mid game since they are farming all 3 lanes at once with Link, Doublelift, and Nien someone has to rotate between all these lanes to protect the farmers, this becomes Chauster’s and Jiji’s role and Jiji’s farm drops right off at about the 20 minute mark, even sacrificing his jungle to these carry farmers. This underfarmed frontline strategy creates a very different teamfight strategy than the previous looked at Cloud 9. Even though it is hard to generalize due to the varying picks of CLG, they very rarely run very much initiation. Compared to picks like Zac and Ashe of C9, CLG runs more counter-initiation oriented picks like Nocturne and Orianna. This creates a defensive style teamfight where they look to force teamfights by baiting the other team to initiate on them, then counter-engaging and protecting the farmed Doublelift as the initial team attempts to dive him. This lack of farm on the jungle puts him in less of a playmaker role, he cant initiate fights that he wants because he doesn’t have the tank items, so instead he focuses on protecting the farmed Doublelift and Link, and this creates an overall very defensive teamfighting strategy for CLG.
While CLG is still feeling out their new roster and picking a wide variety of champions, they have established a very specific late game style. What is especially interesting is how significantly CLG dictates the pace of these games, even teams like TSM who average the shortest games at 35 minutes fight long games vs CLG (42, 61, and 38 min games). They accomplish this late game pace with their extremely defensive style of play, from early game strategy focused on extending lane phase, a mid game strategy focused on farming and defending, to a teamfighting strategy focused on counter-engaging and defending doublelift. With these defensive elements CLG has pulled off a very interesting late game strategy which seems to force every team to play by their rules.
I wanted to thank some of the people who helped on the stats. First big thanks to @3leven for big help on gathering the CS data for this article! Again thanks to 2×2 for the art. And to Vesca (and the team at www.leaguepedia.com), bfar2, Oberyn, and a few others for help on misc. statistics.
The gold distribution charts, KDA, GPM, etc. were all calculated using all stats this split (first 5 weeks). The CS graphs and stats were based on a 10 game analysis pool of CS breakdown at 30 second intervals. The average CS pool was made of about 15 games including non-clg games. The Jungle Time distribution pie chart is for the first 10 minutes (1:45/55 – 12:00) for 7 games or 70 minutes of footage. The averages were made up of about 30 or so games. For more info on how the times are calculated specifically look <here>