The quarterfinals of the North American League Championship Series came to a close Sunday when Counter Logic Gaming overcame Team EnVyUs 3-2 at the end of five nail-biting games, forging a new historic series in the process.
It was arguably one of the greatest quarterfinal matches in the history of the North American LCS with twists and turns that were unexpected, to say the least. The first was simply that it ended up being a series at all, as easy money would have said that Counter Logic Gaming were a shoo-in for the semifinals. Team EnVyUs must not have gotten the memo, however, as it fought tooth and nail to make sure it was their team that advanced, not Counter Logic Gaming. EnVyUs was a single teamfight from winning one of the biggest upsets in the history of the league, as Games 4 and 5 were both balanced perilously on a knife's edge for the entirety of its run time.
The greatest contributor to Team EnVyUs' sudden success was an incredible overperformance from both AD carry Apollo "Apollo" Price and support Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent, who utterly crushed the veteran Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes and Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black in every game across the series. Both Apollo and Hakuho have long earned a reputation, fair or not, of role players, and not stars in their own right. Their near victory Sunday may well have reversed all of that, as not only are Stixxay and aphromoo considered one of the dominant bottom lanes in the region, they also looked worse than their opposition on Team EnVyUs every step of the way.
Fortunately, Counter Logic Gaming had other resources to call upon in its time of need. It may have struggled in the bottom lane and the jungle all throughout the series, but that only allowed CLG's solo lanes to shine all the more. Both top laner Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaha and mid laner Choi "Huh" Jae-hyuni played some of the best League of Legends in their entire careers, and it's hard to imagine Counter Logic Gaming pulling out this victory without them. Both of them repaid the abuses that Team EnVyUs paid to their bottom lane twofold, and in the end the series was decided by the solo laners, not by the ADCs and supports.
On that note, it should come as no surprise that the player of the series was Counter Logic Gaming's top laner, Darshan, whose playmaking was the saving grace that managed to salvage what looked to be a lost series. Not only did he outperform Shin "Seraph" Wu-yeong in the laning phase, he did so at nearly every point in the game, and often by a margin so great as to make the two incomparable to each other. Darshan's Gnar was easily the most impressive site on the Rift all throughout the series, and his pocket Camille pick in Game 5 wasn't far behind, as both lined up Counter Logic Gaming for decisive teamfight after decisive teamfight, which was where the match ended up decided.
Counter Logic Gaming will need to contend with Immortals next if it wishes to make its way to the grand finals, which will prove to be just as difficult a test as this one. Its record against Immortals throughout the last year has been spotty at best, and an effort like the one we saw Sunday seems unlikely to get Counter Logic Gaming to the finals. Team EnVyUs, on the other hand, will next take a trip to the regional qualifiers, where it suddenly looks to have a better shot at qualifications at Worlds than anyone might have dreamed.