Counter Logic Gaming went from the top of North American Legends to the middle of the pack in a short amount of time.
After winning the spring League Championship Series split for the second time in a row, CLG took second to reigning world champion SK Telecom T1 at the Mid-Season Invitational in May. expectations were high heading into the summer split, but CLG struggled at the beginning of the split as Team SoloMid and Immortals ran out ahead of the rest of the pack.
But CLG slowly made improvements and rose in the standings through the rest of the split and finished 6-2 over the final four weeks of the split to close with a 10-8 record, good enough for fourth place. With another playoff berth, anything can happen as CLG looks for its third straight championship as it enters its quarterfinal match this weekend against Team Liquid.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with CLG’s top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya during Week 8 of the LCS to talk about what changed for CLG, lane swap changes and how tilting affects players.
Vince Nairn: How have you guys been able to continue to take the strides to have a better second half?
Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha: I think we’ve just been more focused on getting to the root of our issues and realizing what really needs to change from a mindset perspective, and a day-by-day basis to actually improve. We’re still not there yet, but we’re getting a lot closer. It’s allowing us to play a lot better as a team
VN: What were those things you needed to change?
DU: I think mostly just our understanding of following a call or understanding of knowing what to do to snowball a game, or how to win a game. As teams get better, it’s harder and harder to snowball a game, and it’s also harder to prevent a snowball once it’s already happened. You need to be more creative, and you need to out-think your opponent, and I feel like that’s where we need to get if we want to be on the next level.
VN: Did getting back into the playoff picture change your perspective going out there and playing?
DU: I definitely feel like, at least pressure from myself, to perform and improve. I expect us to win. I expect us to get better. Myself especially, I haven’t been playing the way I want to play the game and I haven’t been performing the way I see myself performing. So I still think as we’re improving as a team and going in the right direction, I’m not making the changes necessary to communicate with my team well and get myself ahead. I think that’s the biggest thing I want to change in these upcoming weeks, and I think I’ll be able to fix that in time for playoffs.
VN: What are the things you’re not doing or that you need to fix?
DU: Just over-committing in a lot of plays I don’t need to. I feel like we end up making a good play and then we want too much. Not being on the same page with my team at certain parts. Most of the time I’m on the same page, but sometimes there will be miscommunications and things like that, even though we’ve been a team for a while. I think it’s just really understanding each other and understanding we don’t need to win everything when we go for a play. And I feel like mechanically I still have a lot of that and I’m still better than most of the top laners mechanically, but I think what I’m messing up is just the decision making as a team for how we’re gonna make a play happen and when I need to play safe.
VN: What do you think of the lane swap changes?
DU: So I think overall, over time it will make there be less team play and more individual play, which is an aspect I do like, but I feel like the way they’re doing it might not be the best way. I do like the fact that I can 1-on-1 my lane opponent as much as possible, and 2-v-1s definitely weren’t my favorite thing. But we still learn how to be good at that. We adapt to that as part of the game. I feel like it’s weird because they’re making the map uneven, when you can kind of think of Summoner’s Rift as a chess board. Everything is kind of even: You take this, you get that. Now it’s, if you go to one side of the map you get something more than if you go to the other side of the map. That’s kind of weird that from the start of the game, you get a disadvantage for sending two people top lane because I feel like that really limits the creativity and sort of forces people to play a certain way.
I feel like what’s great about a game is how people can be more creative and how people can kind of change the game. Even now, people don’t have to send two people bottom, one person mid, one person top, one jungle. Yes, that’s the best setup, but there are scenarios where other things can happen. It’s just, I feel like, there hasn’t been enough experimentation to change that.
VN: I was curious to ask you about tilting. It’s something that seems to affect everybody from time to time. Can you remember a particular instance where it affected your game?
DU: Yeah, there was one game against P1 where I had a really bad mindset. I feel like that never happens to me because I feel like tilting is how you prepare your mindset before you play. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have the right mindset going into the game. For that game against P1 I didn’t have the right mindset, and I played maybe the worst game I’ve ever played in the past year in that series. A lot of it just comes down to how you prepare, how strong is your mindset and then when you get into the moment, how do you handle it. I like to meditate. That helps me a lot. You can just let go of things quicker, and focus on what you need to focus on. It’s all about how much control you have over your mindset and your mind, and how quickly you’re able to focus on what’s important. Because I think that’s what tilting is. You essentially have a slower reaction time because you’re lost in your emotions and you’re not thinking about the right things. So that’s how I see it. Your teammates can help you with it sometimes, but the best thing is to help yourself.
VN: I know you said you like to meditate. What are other ways players can handle tilting, and why do you think it’s so common?
DU: I think tilting is something that affects everyone because everyone has emotions. Everyone gets tilted in a sense at some point. The question is not “Do you tilt?” The question is “How well do you control your emotions?” That’s what’s really important to be a top-level competitor. Having a strong focus at all times. Meditation is just a really useful skill. Everything I do, my mental health and my mindset is vital in order to improve and in order to analyze and criticize myself properly.
VN: How did education weigh into your decision to become a pro player? I know it’s something that a lot of players have different opinions about
DU: It was definitely something I thought a lot about as I moved out of my house. My parents didn’t really want me to go into a gaming house. My dad said “What’s the point of going into a house to play online games when you can just go and play from home?” That’s when I was really thinking about if I wanted to go to college or if I wanted to do this. I decided on doing this, and honestly I’m really glad I made this decision. It’s hard to tell if I made the right decision because you can’t tell with 100 percent certainty if every major life decision is right or not, but it sure as hell feels like I made the right decision. I don’t think about going to college that much because I feel like I have so many other opportunities in life, not only in esports. I’m not too worried or concerned about that. I am learning things, and I’m learning things in the game, but I feel like I could be challenging my mind more, and I could be expanding my knowledge horizons more than I am currently.
VN: Society says you’re supposed to go to college after high school. Gaming is already something that kind of goes against the grain of what “society” says you’re supposed to do. Does that play into a decision like this at all?
DU: I would say if you’re in a decision where everyone else is going to college, there is that pressure or weirdness where it’s like “Why aren’t you going to college?” For the most part, I don’t really care about that. I’m completely comfortable that I took this path, and I realize that while most people do go to college after – and that is a great choice – you don’t have to do that. And this worked out great for me and I’m really happy with the way my life is going. I think people see that when they hear me talk about it, and they realize it.
I’m comfortable and I’m confident chasing what I’m passionate about, and trying to be the best at whatever I do. Whatever I do, I’ll work my ass off to be the best and push myself harder and whatever I’m exploring or experiencing, I won’t be disappointed in myself because I’ll push myself harder. I’m really content that even though I’m a pro gamer right now and anything could happen, whatever happens, if esports poofs in a year and I lost all my money, I’ll be able to find something I’m passionate about or do the next thing I’m passionate about, and follow that and be successful. I think it’s all about having the right mindset and being confident that whatever you’re doing in life, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t have any worries about going to college or money about that.
VN: If you could buff one champion and nerf one, what would it be and why?
DU: If I could buff one champ, it would probably be Riven because she’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing League, and I feel like there’s a way you could buff her and you could truly show the finesse of great Riven players without (going over the top). Champions like Riven and Yasuo are really intriguing to me because I can keep playing them and get better every game.
Nerf one would probably be Malzahar because that champion is busted.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.