Jatt breaks down CLG's strategy in C9's first loss
Jatt breaks down CLG's strategy in C9's first loss
Coming into Week 2 of the NA LCS, Cloud 9 looked unstoppable. They were the sole undefeated team in Super Week and looked to be the new force in the scene. CLG, on the other hand, had a plethora of 50 minute (or longer) games and barely squeaked out a 2-3 record. I wanted to break down how and why CLG was able to come out on top, because they displayed an immense amount of patience and game knowledge to overcome some mental errors and pull out a win against C9. On the side of C9, they actually executed several logical and smart plays that ended up backfiring and leading to their first loss of the LCS.
Cloud 9's picks:
- Top Lane - Kennen
- Jungle - Lee Sin
- Mid Lane - Zed
- AD Carry - Ezreal
- Support - Lulu
Cloud 9's bans:
- Karthus, Nunu, Twisted Fate
Counter Logic Gaming's picks:
- Top Lane - Jayce
- Jungle - Elise
- Mid Lane - Orianna
- AD - Tristana
- Support - Janna
Counter Logic Gaming's bans:
- Zac, Thresh, Rumble
We'll get back to the full impact of the pick and ban phase throughout the article but I want to point out a few things right now:
1) CLG is running five ranged champions. I talked with Chauster after the game and he told me how they were worried about running four ranged champions due to its weakness in dealing with a strong tank line, but that worry was abolished when they saw the Lee Sin jungle get locked.
2) The laning phase from C9 is far superior. Cloud 9 has picked devastating lane compositions in all of their games so far this split, and look to dominate the laning phase so they can take over the map and begin to tower dive.
3) The main objective from the first minute for CLG was to survive the Cloud 9 onslaught until their team composition out-scaled Cloud 9.
Early game domination has been a large part of how Cloud 9 reached their 5-0 record in Week 1. By picking immensely strong lane compositions and strong initiation champions, Cloud9 has been able to attain quick and decisive victories. CLG on the other hand has stuck to running late game team compositions that emphasize disengagement and protecting the AD Carry. In this matchup CLG banned out C9's greatest initiation threat in Zac, daring Meteos to play something else (Lee Sin).
The win was not easy for CLG, as they picked themselves into some very painful lane matchups. Fortunately for them, they played an amazing level 1 and were able to pick up multiple Dragons that kept them alive in the game. Without the level 1 play and clutch Dragon maneuvers that CLG pulled in this matchup, they would have been overtaken by the wave of Cloud 9 map pressure. Once CLG hit their breaking point, their heavy disengage composition paid huge dividends and was the final decider in their victory. Despite having a slow pace, this was one of the most fascinating games of the summer split due to there being such clear lines of early vs. late game and pressure vs. disengage. It also possessed a clear breaking point where Cloud 9 ran out of options for success. Here's how it all went down.
Essentially, C9 played their red invade smart. They rushed down mid lane as a group, knowing it is the fastest way to get to the enemy red buff for an invade. When they did so, they spotted Doublelift and Chauster in the mid lane, meaning there was no way Chauster could have warded CLG's red side of the jungle yet. This told C9 that the red invade was open. They knew that Janna was off on the right side of the river and that there was no way CLG could be waiting as 5 in their jungle. Little did they know that out of the base, Link had run off by himself and warded the far side of his teams Red-buff, which is what wins CLG the early game.
As C9 waited around the CLG red buff, they were assuming that CLG was opting into the red-buff trade that many LCS teams have been doing. They thought this because CLG would 'know' that C9 had no wards in their own red jungle due to spotting 5 Cloud 9 members running through an Orianna ball scout, and Cloud 9 assumed that CLG would take advantage of that fact for a red-buff trade. Despite the ward that CLG had in their own jungle, they didn't even decide to stop the C9 invade until they had the fortune of seeing Balls recall in the warded brush. This guaranteed the 4v5 and gave CLG the confidence to punish C9 for their early game antics.
Catching a team invading while they are fighting at a buff is an advantage enough to win a teamfight, but in this instance it was also a 4v5. CLG rolled over C9 for a 2-0 kill lead early in the game. Based on the direction of CLG's attack, they ensured that if C9 wanted to get to safety they would have to run through the entire CLG team.
Why CLG lost the early game despite the lvl 1 "advantage"
You would think that after picking up 1 kill and 1 assist in a level 1 fight, Nien's Jayce would have a large edge in lane; however, BalIs was the only player on C9 not to participate in the level 1 fight. Instead of fighting, BalIs was busy getting level 2 and 552 gold worth of stats (the raw value of stats gained for Kennen, per level). When Nien arrived in bot lane to battle Kennen, he was already down 11-1 in CS and a full level.
To further understand what happened to Nien we need to look at the starting items. As mentioned earlier, CLG was able to attain level 1 dominance by equipping wards on their solo laners. In doing so, both Link and Nien started with a Faerie Charm, ward, and potions. Once Nien arrived in lane with a Long Sword, he was no match for Kennen's level advantage and Doran's Blade opener in terms of combat effective items.
Chauster and Doublelift
While BalIs was busy bullying Nien in the bottom lane, Sneaky and LemonNation were having an adventure of their own in the top lane 2v2. I won't go in to much detail on why Ezreal Lulu is vastly superior in the laning phase to Janna + Tristana, but the advantage was apparent from the get go.
CLG has complete knowledge of their matchup and its inadequacies which is why they are both sitting at level 1 when LemonNation and Sneaky hit levels 3 and 2 respectively. Due to the fact that both Nien and Doublelift were constantly pushed to their turrets last hitting minion waves, it allowed Meteos to mercilessly counter jungle bigfatlp.
Mid lane was the least affected by matchups or by the level 1 action. Both Link and Hai were able to run mid lane after the level 1 fight without missing much experience and without shopping. Only when Link shopped was he able to pick up his advantage. Mid lane was the only matchup that CLG was able to hold steady with.
The C9 clamp and how CLG survived with clutch Dragon control
So far this split Cloud9 has dominated the laning phase and taken turrets quickly. From there they secure map objectives and slowly choke the opponent out until Meteos and crew feel confident enough to towerdive and begin ending the game.
In this matchup, despite losing the first blood advantage 0-2 to CLG at level 1, C9 quickly reclaimed control of the laning phase due to their shoving and team composition. They were able to regain the gold lead at the 8:00 mark when they destroyed top turret.
Also note the gigantic CS discrepancies between teams. 66-37 for top lane, 43-15 for Jungle, and 58-45 for AD carries. Link was the only member of CLG to maintain an advantage and that is due to him being the only member of CLG to gain an edge off of their first blood play. C9 was able to grab these edges because of how Meteos continually timed his counter jungling efforts with shoved lanes. This made it nearly impossible for CLG to collapse upon his counter-jungling without losing valuable gold and XP at turrets. The best example of this play from Meteos was at 4:22 when Meteos walked clean through a ward at red buff to do double Golems exactly as a giant minion wave hit the CLG top turret.
CLG did not have control of their own jungle or their own lanes which is why Dragon control was so paramount to their success. During the Cloud 9 onslaught CLG was able to pick up two uncontested Dragons and smite steal a third.
Generally when the first turret falls, it is standard procedure for that lane to go back to base and convert their gold into items as well as reposition for the next lane push. When CLG lost their turret, instead of recalling to base, Chauster sprinted down through his own jungle and beat LemonNation to the Dragon area. This secured quick vision control for CLG.
This is a Dragon play that C9 should not have reasonably expected. When Cloud 9 took the top turret, it was a 3v3 in top lane with both teams' AD Carry, Support, and Jungler showing. By rushing through the jungle before recalling, CLG was able to surprise C9 and snag the first Dragon despite having limited to no lane advantages.
There is a chain reaction that leads to CLG securing the 2nd dragon of the game. Hai finds Nien in bottom lane. He has recently completed his Blade of the Ruined King which is essential for him to pull off his Zed kill combo. Furthermore, Nien has 1 defensive item to match his Manamune and it is a null magic mantle built to handle Kennen's burst, not Zed's. Hai understandably tries to punish and kill. Unfortunately for Hai, Nien is able to cleanse the ignite damage and escape the fight with a sliver of health. The important thing to note here is that Hai expended his flash in an attempt to kill Nien.
Hai overstayed his welcome. After forcing Nien back to base Hai was trying to apply as much turret pressure as possible by shoving the lane, because he thought all threats were gone when bigfatlp showed mid. Furthermore, in the previous 14 minutes and 23 seconds of the game, Doublelift had never been spotted anywhere but top lane. Hai did not expect to be jumped by Doublelift in bottom lane, which is why Hai used his shadow cooldown to wave clear, leaving him defenseless when Doublelift jumped in. Thanks to Hai's death, CLG was able to outnumber C9 at the second Dragon.
Keep in mind, in between the Dragon spawns Cloud 9 is consistently out-farming and out-pushing CLG, making it increasingly difficult for CLG to find any room to breathe.
This is when the third turret falls for CLG.
Having a 3-0 turret disadvantage is one of the hardest things to overcome in a League of Legends game. You lose control of all of your jungle entrances, and you greatly increase the distance between neutral objectives and the nearest point of safety. C9's constant pushing in the first 19 minutes of the game resulted in them accruing this edge. Unfortunately for C9, due to their mishap at lvl 1 and the two dragons that CLG picked up, the overall gold and Itemization gap was minor. This meant that C9 did not feel comfortable diving turrets until they could accumulate more advantages. In this case that advantage had to be the third dragon as well as a few spawns of CLG's jungle goodies.
Dragon #3, the breaking point:
Knowing the importance of Dragon #3, Cloud 9 positioned well ahead of time for the re-spawn. Nearly 22 minutes into the game, the first full team engagement finally forms. This is not the pace that Cloud 9 is used to playing at, but they have been held in check due to CLG's savvy control of Dragon and capabilities to play full-defense in lane.
As the teams poke each other, CLG recognizes that Doublelift has a window to push back some of C9's pressure, and they aptly take the middle turret off of the Dragon poke.
After 90 seconds of poking and prodding, C9 finally commits to taking down the dragon. Once again CLG comes up in the clutch and bigfatlp was able to Smite steal away the dragon, costing him his life.
This was the point where Cloud9 started losing control of the game. Applying the type of overall pressure and jungle invades that Cloud9 had to this point usually results in 3 dragons for Cloud9, not their opponent. If this was a game where CLG hadn't pulled off 3 clutch Dragon maneuvers, CLG would be at a 6k gold disadvantage and would be within immediate risk of losing. After the 3rd Dragon went to CLG, Cloud9 began to mount continually aggressive maneuvers to take back the game, each with increased risk.
This exchange at Dragon was also a preview of things to come. C9 tried very hard to engage onto the CLG team during the dragon fight and was unable to. When tracking Cloud 9's team, they have 3 champions who can potentially reach Doublelift who all have varying levels of tankiness: Kennen, Lee Sin, and Zed. CLG also has three straight knock-backs, and 5 overall movement displacements in the form of Janna (Tornado and Ult), Tristana (Ult), Jayce (Melee E), and Orianna (Ult). Initiating onto CLG without their consent was going to be hard, to say the least.
The CLG take-over and how CLG is unique
At a certain point, keeping constant lane shove with a turret kill advantage can become a liability. This is a very rare occurrence, since a team that can accomplish solid lane shove and a turret advantage is usually winning the game. This was one of those games where the lanes became unsafe for Cloud9. At 24:36, after being pushed around while miraculously staying even in gold, CLG began to take back the map.
CLG recognized the pattern in how Cloud 9 was creating pressure, and they knew that after C9 went for turret #4 that they would be able to find an isolated Kennen in the top lane. This play was the first true aggressive play by CLG in 23 minutes, and the first 2 kills of the game that CLG was able to pick up on the enemy side of the river.
CLG uses Doublelift as a split pusher
When we look at the landscape of professional teams and strategies, split-pushing is a very common tactic; however, it is usually done by assassins and solo lanes. This is typically due to their ease of leveling and innate kits that are built for dueling. AD carries typically do not fit this mold, but it doesn't stop CLG from giving split-push duties to Doublelift to amass gargantuan farm.
Cloud 9 has reached its breaking point. They haven't been able to accrue their typical advantages by pressuring the map and they see an opportunity for a 4v5 turret push while Doublelift is off pushing bot. This was a forced move from CLG. If C9 catered to CLG's split-push and peeled back their map pressure, CLG would naturally out-scale and win. This was Cloud 9's main chance to take control of the game which was rapidly slipping away from them.
CLG won this fight for a number of reasons:
- Link's shockwave lowers the majority of C9
- LemonNation dies before he can use his Lulu ult
- BalIs fails to land any stuns with his Kennen ultimate due to a perfect Janna ult from Chauster
- Meteos is unable to get in position for a backwards Lee Sin kick due to CLG's speed and kiting
After going 2 for 1 in a 4v5, Doublelift picked up 2 turrets to boot and gave CLG a stranglehold over the game.
Why CLG truly counters logic
If CLG were in top form, the previous engagement would have clinched their victory. They managed to win the level 1 mind game and pick up early kills. Then, they survived the immensely powerful early game that C9 has become known for. After that they held control of multiple Dragons to keep the gold close. All of this was on top of a brilliant picking strategy which made them nearly untouchable in a 5v5 or even 4v5 format assuming they managed to stay close in gold and experience. There was no way for Meteos, Balls, and Hai to possibly close through Chauster's Janna, Doublelift's Rocket Jumps and Knockbacks, or Link's Orianna Shockwaves.
But that play would have made perfect sense.
At 29 minutes, CLG showed three members of their team bottom lane. Instantly Cloud 9 reacted by rushing to baron with 5 and CLG was presented with two options: Try to rush up and stop the baron attempt or take the exposed inhibitor and trade baron for inhib.
Despite calculating nearly perfectly the entire game, CLG was way off with their time approximation for stopping the Baron. They chased up through the entire map and they didn't even make it within spell range before Cloud 9 had taken away the Baron. On top of that, C9 was also able to escape unscathed, even picking up a kill on bigfatlp in the process.
Once Cloud 9 picked up the Baron buff, they were forced into a situation where if they didn't take an inhibitor within the duration of the buff, they were essentially conceding defeat. It had already been established that CLG was superior in team fights and the gold from Baron buff wasn't going to change that. They would need the power of the Baron buff in order to overcome the advantage that CLG had built.
Unfortunately for Cloud 9, the second comeback was not to be. The ticking time bomb in CLG's composition (Doublelift) was nearing max items even before the baron mishap. Combined with the disengage that Chauster's Janna could provide and the back-up carry potential of Jayce and Orianna, CLG proved that their accumulated farm was enough to overcome all minor mistakes beyond this point in the game. CLG ended up holding off the duration of Cloud 9's baron with ease and then inched their way to victory.
While the Nexus didn't fall until 45 minutes into the game, CLG did enough work to 'win' the game by the 28 minute mark. The breaking point was reached for CLG, and their late-game compositional advantages held strong. This is not to say that C9 picked poorly, it is just to say that their composition dictated how the game was meant to play out. Cloud 9 could have won this game if they had maintained Dragon control. The potential 6k gold this would have granted them would have allowed them the items needed to tower dive before CLG had developed true threats. This is also not even taking into account the prospective fights that could have happened if CLG's Dragon's had been contestable since Cloud 9 was substantially stronger during this entire stage of the game.
With their victory, CLG became the first team to beat C9 in the LCS and evened their own record to 3-3 for the season. Watching CLG can be an infuriating experience. They are capable of making the most perfect plays in the world with strategies that completely outsmart their opponents, yet they are just as likely to make the wrong decision, overthink themselves, or sometimes just forget to think. If this game shows us anything, it's that CLG has potential.
For Cloud 9, this may mark a moment in the season when they are forced to change and adapt. Their favorite Jungler Zac was banned out in champion select, and they were unable to pull off a single strong initiation that they were so known for during opening week. CLG was the first team to outlast the Cloud 9 strategy of lane domination and pressure and it's now up to Cloud 9 to come up with a reliable answer.
Did you enjoy this break down? Tweet @RiotJatt to give him feedback.