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Xmithie on CLG's Rollercoaster Worlds Appearance

Call him underrated, call him NA’s fourth-place jungler, just don’t underestimate him when you’re in game. Xmithie and Counter Logic Gaming have had an incredible Group Stage at Worlds so far, managing to upset both tournament favorite ROX Tigers and succumb to wildcard team Albus NoX Luma. Some call it counter logic, but Xmithie’s more than used to CLG’s wild ride.

The veteran jungler is part of CLG’s foundation, surviving several roster changes and bumpy splits before the team figured out their winning formula. After two NA LCS championships in a row and a second-place finish at the Mid Season International, CLG have shaken off many of the doubts surrounding their team. A weak Summer Split doesn’t seem to have rattled them. We had the opportunity to talk to Xmithie after CLG’s victory over the ROX Tigers. Are we entering a new Golden Age, or will CLG falter in the days to come? If you ask Xmithie, there are bright days ahead.

That old familiar feeling

"I think this actually happens every time we play internationally," Xmithie says about the wildcard loss before upsetting ROX. "It’s not really underestimating our opponents. It’s more if we make a bad play, the way we act makes the morale or atmosphere go down. It’s like 'They’re a lower tier team, we can’t lose,' that one person makes a comment to bring the team down. It really doesn’t happen against better teams because we’re always trying to win."

If TSM is the brain of North America, and Cloud9 is the gut, then Counter Logic Gaming is the heart. Stixxay’s introduction marked a change to the way the team thought and solidified their choice to go for team players and synergy over individual talent. When asked if CLG is a tight-knit, emotional team, Xmithie concedes: “Yeah, I’ve said this to myself a million times. I don’t know if it’s the truth or not, but that’s what it feels like."

The question is whether this approach remains effective now that the roster has been together for months. “It’s like a double-edged sword because if everyone is really pumped, like during Spring Split, we weren’t really the best of the best, but how we play with each other to the objective, had us won Spring. The way we worked together was really important."

Counter Logic Gaming was the first North American team to score a victory in the tournament, and arguably has the most to prove going into Worlds. While Team SoloMid and Cloud9 scored their spots based on the strength of their summer performance, Counter Logic Gaming scored an automatic seed thanks to their spring dominance. The conversation around the team keeps returning to their focus on teamwork. "It’s kind of weird because TSM, for example, also has really good teamwork. They’re the same way to a lesser extent, as they don’t really rely on emotion."

So, is CLG’s approach better than TSM’s? "Our peak is higher than theirs, but our base is much lower than theirs. They are more consistent, but when we pop off, we’re one of the best. But when we fail, we are worse than any wildcard team."

All for one, one for all

His point is particularly pointed after Counter Logic Gaming took a hard-fought win over the ROX Tigers in an incredible performance. The star player was the often-downplayed Huhi ... although he had a little help from Aurelion Sol.

"The first time [Aurelion Sol] got banned, I think it was in playoffs, some people in our team got kind of tilted. I don’t know if it contributed to our loss, but it was definitely missing. Huhi is really good at it and the champion really caters to his roaming style. We really rely on his roaming so that’s why it was so important."

Huhi is often critiqued for being the weak link of CLG, but the rest of the team is eager to talk him up. They’ve often claimed that his weakness is a team problem based around the inability to play with him.

Xmithie remarks on the synergy that Xmithie and Huhi have, and the way that they control the map together: "There’s a lot of different styles that people play right now. Like some styles go for bot lane centric, some are jungler centric. We’re not really mid centric, but we have mid go to the other lanes. We pretty much fight anyone because of the tempo we had. I feel like that measures our skill very well. When we first came together, we just really tried to figure out our playstyle."

With several games left in Groups, Counter Logic Gaming still has plenty of time to shine. "I think I like this meta the most. Graves and Nidalee have been fun, and I’m really looking forward to dishing it out again.” The blind monk also rates among Xmithie’s favorite picks, but "I don’t think I’m as good at him as I was before."

Speaking of dips in performance, it’s necessary to touch upon CLG’s lost to ANX. While fans found it a shocker, Xmithie and the team were less blown away.

"Wildcards aren’t exactly surprising. We scrimmed the other wildcard team INTZ and we didn’t really expect them to be good, but they were aggressive early game. We didn’t really react well to it since most teams were really methodical. They were really explosive and when they made a play, they get a really big lead from it. It was really high risk, high reward. Other teams focus on objective play, but they really just try to get kills. When they get kills it works, but sometimes they’ll just fall really far behind."

Regional character

The dialogue around Worlds has centered around the idea that "the gap is closing" and NA is catching up to the powerhouse regions, but the wildcards may be the real contenders.

"I can see them taking 50 percent of the games at every tournament because their play is inconsistent but when it works, they pretty much snowball the game really well with decent macro," Xmithie says. "For example, ANX sneaked barons against both G2 and us, showing that they can make good strategical play with vision."

There’s a long way yet to go, and each team still has a chance — no matter how slight — to get out of Groups. "I’m not sure about the top-tier teams in Group A because everyone beats each other, but Group B is probably just SKT. Group C is kind of a flop since EDG lost to INTZ and H2K has been inconsistent, with EU just not knowing where they are right now with their playstyle."

This isn’t to say that North America hasn’t made massive strides. Xmithie touches on some of the reasons that the region has come so far: I think it's just that the infrastructure got better, like Weldon said that TSM plays insurmountable hours every day. That’s where like hard work goes to show that they won NA LCS and now they are showing pretty well, aside from that one game with RNG. I think they are getting to that next level where if you wanna win, you really have to give it your all."

There’s a few massive barriers in the way, and the gap hasn’t closed yet. Among them is burnout. "Burnout is always a problem, especially when you’re losing. There are a lot of teams who could have been good, but got burned out. EnVyUs were pretty decent but they didn’t have anyone to help them after their good start. A sports psychologist could have helped them a lot, and they probably could have been a top three or four team."

The future of North America looks brighter for next spring, especially with all of the big investments dominating the headlines. "I can’t even fathom how big it’s going to be next year. There were already two NBA teams before, one got kicked out ... but Rick Fox is still here, Magic Johnson is coming in. I don’t know! Everyone is going to be rich, I guess!" Xmithie caps the statement off with a loud laugh.

Of course, it’s hard to speculate on the future when the present is so pressing. The groups have a few precious days off, and then it’s a return to the battlefield. CLG have proven that they deserve to be at Worlds and represent North America once again. Now, the only question remaining is whether they can escape their group and make it to the next level.

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