Clutch Gaming must aid rookie, put pressure on veterans to survive
Clutch Gaming is set to battle Team SoloMid, also known as TSM, on Sunday in its franchise debut North American League Championship S playoff appearance.
Clutch was viewed as one of the weaker teams in the NA LCS at the season’s start. However, it has now secured a playoff spot and looks to make a statement as it faces TSM in the quarterfinals.
Clutch finished its season 11-7, good enough to place it in a four-way tie for third place. However, after losing both of its tiebreaker matchups, the team dropped to 11-9 and the sixth seed.
One of Clutch’s tiebreaker matchups was against its soon-to-be playoff opponent TSM, which Clutch was 2-0 against in regular season play. TSM won both of its tiebreaker matchups against Clutch Gaming and Team Liquid, leaving the team in sole possession of the third seed.
For Clutch Gaming to win, the team needs to successfully attack TSM’s base, destroy its turrets and kill the enemy nexus. To do that, there are a few crucial elements it must focus on.
First, Clutch must use the pick-and-ban phase of champion selection to its advantage. In each League of Legends match, both teams may ban up to five, for a total of 10, of the 140 available champions. It is imperative that Clutch use its bans to eliminate champions TSM players excel with, such as Syndra, Ryze and Taliyah.
Second, Clutch cannot abandon Colin “Solo” Earnest in the top lane. League of Legends is played in three lanes: bottom, middle and top. The top lane is characterized by being forced to play alone most of the game without team support. Contrary to this play style, in both of Clutch’s victories against TSM, Solo had successful games playing champions Camille and Gangplank where the team incorporated him into their play early on rather than leaving him alone.
In its only loss to TSM, as well as during the team’s 1-3 losing record to finish out the season, Solo was essentially left on an island by himself, allowing enemies to send two, three, or sometimes four players to the top lane for an easy kill and a free early game turret.
Second, Clutch must look to punish TSM’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez early in the game. They have a tendency to pick bottom lane duos like Braum and Ezreal who struggle early but thrive as the game progresses.
Clutch’s Apollo has favored the champion Caitlyn this season, but only has a 4-3 record using her. If Apollo opts to play as Caitlyn again, his lane buddy Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent needs to pick a support champion that will allow them to be aggressive early such as Thresh, which would place a tremendous amount of pressure on the TSM bottom lane.
Lastly, look for Clutch to secure the Azir champion pick if it does not get banned by TSM.
Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is 5-0 on the season when playing as Azir for Clutch Gaming, one of the champions he is best known for.
If Clutch Gaming can shut down Zven and Mithy early while allowing Apollo and Febiven time to scale to a point that TSM can no longer deal with their damage output, it will be a very difficult team to beat.