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CLG Darshan Is Keeping His Head High

In some ways, Counter Logic Gaming exceeded expectations in their group, falling just one game short of making it to the quarterfinals and taking a game off the ROX Tigers. In other ways, CLG fell short of their potential by not being able to climb over the shockingly strong wildcard team to secure the second spot out of Group A after the fiery collapse of G2. Some players would be shaken after coming so close to success and falling just short, but veteran top laner Darshan has been in the game for a long time. We had the opportunity to talk to him after the final games of Group A and collect his thoughts on ANX’s runaway success, the ROX Tigers and the future of CLG.

Earlier this week, we interviewed his colleague Xmithie, who spoke about CLG being an "emotional team" who live or die off the energy of the squad. Darshan wasn’t so convinced: "I wouldn’t say that [the team’s atmosphere] really affected me that much, but I can say I felt the pressure of the match. I knew it was a really important match and winning or losing this match was everything the year had built up to. Like, losing this game we’re out of worlds and winning this game, we’re on the way to quarterfinals. I could feel that pressure, but I felt like that it didn’t really make me play worse, but it made me play better."

While the ROX Tigers delivered the death blow that knocked CLG out of the tournament for good, Albus NoX Luma are the biggest reason why CLG couldn’t secure that coveted second spot. "I think [ANX] are really strong with picking an aggressive jungler and picking Poppy top, they’re really good with running that composition. And the way they move around the map in the mid to late game is surprisingly good. After we lost to them the second time, I don’t really see them as a wildcard team. I don’t really see them being like any derogatory term. I’m sure a lot of people see it the same way. I feel like they really figured out how they want to play and how to play in this meta. The champions to pick, the style to play, and they just translate well to late. I’d say they’re pretty solid."

Darshan was less complimentary about the No. 1 seed for Group A and the tournament favorites, and fired a few shots: "I feel like the ROX Tigers are really overhyped. I feel like people were heralding Smeb as the best top laner in the world. I played against him on both sides of the gnar/poppy matchup and I won both times, I solo-killed him as poppy and had a 30 or 40 CS lead as Gnar."

Darshan went further into breaking down Smeb’s strengths and weaknesses: "I’d say he is a really strong Rumble and Kennen and that he could contend for best in the world on those champions, but for example on his Gnar, he has a lot he needs to work on. I still feel like Peanut is still really good and I would definitely rank him as one of the best in the world. The ROX Tigers are overhyped, but they’re definitely good, don’t get me wrong. They’re just beatable and not really on another level above the other teams at Worlds. Seems like they’re middle of the pack to me at Worlds."

This has been the most competitive Worlds yet, and Darshan expects that trend to continue as the Groups resolve and the teams move into the playoffs. "I wouldn’t really put any team at the top. A lot of the game depends on the draft and I feel like the draft has had a bigger and bigger influence on the game. I feel like the compositions drafted and the power picks taken play such a huge role in the game, like if you take a look at two compositions after draft, 95 percent of the time, you can tell who is going to win. I don’t really think any team is that high above another. It just comes down to how well you prepare and how you draft."

Sure, Darshan fired some shots, but overall he’s happy to have gotten a chance to be with the other teams at Worlds. "It’s always pretty cool to go to international events to play against other styles and play against other players. It’s also nice meeting other pro players since they’re in the same position and we naturally get along well."

Don’t think that he’s here to make friends, though: "I would say that I’ve been to a lot of international events and that I’ve met a lot of international pros and it isn’t too new for me. I feel like it’s lost its shine. I was pretty excited to play against Smeb when everyone was hyping him up, but otherwise I don’t have that feeling of awe when I’m playing against another player. It’s more like, 'I’m playing against this champion,' rather than that player.”

While Darshan takes a practical approach to Worlds, the magic still hasn’t worn off completely: "I definitely still am super excited to play internationally. Worlds is basically the most important tournament of the year. I spend the whole year trying to be the best and hope to work towards becoming the best that year. I hope to show my talents at worlds and obviously this year I wasn’t able to do that."

While this year fell short, Darshan has high hopes for next year. "Honestly, I feel like we’re really close. No team, especially ROX, felt that much better than us, but they were better. They were just more on page when it came to the actual game so probably just a lot of reflection about my future and how to use my time more efficiently. I think I need to spend more time learning to be more efficient and improve at a higher rate. I’d say it’s really demoralizing to make it to worlds and not do anything because pro gamers sacrifice a lot of things. They sacrifice their careers, their health, their time and everything to be a pro. I feel like I spend the most time thinking about the game, thinking about matchups, and thinking about drafts. I spend the whole year doing that and to not advance, that’s disappointing." It’s a bittersweet reflection, but there is hope that Counter Logic Gaming is back on the upswing after a surprisingly disorganized Summer Split.

Sacrifice continues to be important to Darshan, and it is how he defines the real pros. "You could look at any challenger player and put them on a pro team and call them a pro player. But what I feel like a pro player really is a person who has taken a sacrifice, being a best at the game they choose. That’s why I sacrificed everything to be a pro player, to be the best at League of Legends and I feel like that’s what a lot of pro gamers do. Sacrifice so they can chase their dreams."

While Counter Logic Gaming have fallen short of those dreams this year, the squad has shown massive signs of improvement. Now, they return to preparing for 2017’s Spring Split — and if Darshan's teammates share his mindset, it's a strong bet that CLG will be ready to bang with the best of them when the new season starts.

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