After completing a 2-0 weekend against Team Liquid, I spoke with Counter Logic Gaming’s AD carry Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes on Patch 8.4 changes, their playoff chances, and the emergence of new shotcaller.
Miles Yim: Congratulations on the win. How did you prepare for Team Liquid, considering there were some familiar faces on that team?
Stixxay: Playing versus Team Liquid, I always have this feeling that they’re not a team. I feel in terms of actual teamwork, we are much better at that than them. I always feel like we should have the upper hand, because if you don’t have teamwork, you shouldn’t be winning that many games. I feel like they win a lot of games based off their individual skill. They have a lot of comfort picks they like to play, and outside of those champions I don’t think they’re very good. Even today, they were playing those comfort champions. But we didn’t really care, and I think we had a better plan going into the game.
Why do you think Team Liquid struggles with teamwork, making them, in your words, not a team? Can you explain that more?
For me, when I watch them interact with each other, it doesn’t feel like they support each other that much. For example, I feel like when [Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung] messes up, [Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng] just gets mad at him. Their playstyles look completely different, and I don’t think they mesh very well. I think that automatically gives us an upper hand when we go into the games.
Speaking of support/ADC synergy, you and [Vincent “Biofrost” Wang] had an incredible laning phase against Doublelift and Olleh. It seemed like victory was built off that bot edge.
I think me and Biofrost are pretty well known for our lane kingdom in scrims, and I guess over the past few weeks we’ve been learning how to use our jungler to best help us snowball that lead. In competitive play, if the enemy jungler is coming near bottom, it’s hard for us to play our matchup. But if our jungler’s bottom, we can play it. We worked a lot with [Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin] to make it the most optimal so we can play every matchup as best as we can, and I think that makes it so we have big leads coming out from bottom.
I noticed Reignover got Olaf this game, a champion that propelled Team Liquid to some of their best games last split.
Personally, it’s like a blessing. I definitely think Olaf is one of his best champions, and he almost looks like a completely different player when he’s playing Olaf, compared to a champion he isn’t comfortable on. I think Reignover is a very confidence-based player, so when he’s on something that he knows he’s going to perform on, that game’s over. He will just carry the game. I think Reignover playing Olaf, combined with Biofrost playing Bard…this game’s over.
Let’s focus more on Biofrost, who I thought had one of his best games this split. What did you like out of that Bard?
We gave Biofrost the task of being our shotcaller this week. At the beginning of the week, it was a bit slow, wrong calls and stuff like that. Towards the end of the week, it was picking up a lot. It was a lot easier to play as a team. Vincent was saying everything we needed to do, okay this is what we’re doing, and everyone instantly knows okay, this is what we’re doing. I think that helped a lot with the stress on [Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun], and he’s able to play a lot better individually now. And for Vincent, Bard is one of his best champions, and when he’s able to play the game how he wants, because he’s the one shotcalling it, he’s going to run over a game like you just saw. He pretty much carried the whole game because he has a dominant champion and he’s the shotcaller, so he’ll carry everything.
It’s fascinating, because the narrative around Biofrost on Team SoloMid, and one of the reasons they’ve publicly stated they let him go, was that he wasn’t vocal enough. How do you square that circle, the passive TSM support to CLG’s shotcaller?
Even in previous iterations of CLG with [Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black], I felt like it was a group of everyone talking, then aphro would make the final decision on what we were going to do. And when Vincent first joined the team, it was very similar. He was doing a lot of the calls aphro always did, but he was like, “Yeah, I’m not shotcalling,” and we said, “No, you’re doing what aphro did as well, and you’re doing it perfectly.”
As the split went on, we wanted to be more individually-focused, so we put it more on Huhi. But I don’t think that was the correct decision, because it put a lot of stress on Huhi. He had to learn the role in the middle of the split. But now that we’ve made it more so that it’s everyone talking, and Vincent does the final call. The game is a lot easier for us to play now.
Do you think CLG functions best when the final call comes from the support position?
Yeah, it definitely makes the carry’s lives much easier. For example, when Huhi is trying to shotcall, he has to play his role perfectly, and also make every macro decision on the map. It’s not easy to do as a carry, and I don’t think carries should be doing that kind of thing. It’s a lost easier from support to have that communication.
Back to the win, it seemed like Liquid stalled the game out after you had built this massive early lead through the bot lane. But then came Baron, and the game ended soon after.
From a composition standpoint, they had a comp where it’s two late game carries (Azir and Tristana), so it makes it so they can stall out the game pretty well. I think we did an okay job of snowballing, I don’t think it was perfect. But it was definitely slow after we got the bot tier 1, we were a bit slow on snowballing, we could have maybe ended the game three or four minutes earlier. But when they have a composition like that, pretty much the only way you can end the game is with Baron and forcing a fight on them. I think a lot of games in this meta come down to that, where it’s really hard to end the game without Baron, unless the enemy team really messes up. It comes down to having Baron and a good fight.
Let’s talk about this 8.4 meta. How has CLG adapted to widespread changes like Banner of Command, the removal of Tracker’s Knife, and mid itemization?
I think Patch 8.4 is really good for us. First of all, it removes Tracker’s from the game, which allows ganking junglers to have a lot more success. I feel like Reignover knows how to gank every lane, from any situation, so that meta is really good for him. In terms of Banner, I think we adapted surprisingly well to it. We play around it really well and play against it really well. I wasn’t really expecting that, it was kind of a random thing.
Tell me more about the Tracker’s Knife removal, because I don’t think everyone gets how massive this is from a gameplay standpoint.
In competitive play at least, junglers were essentially put on a timer after they finished clearing their camps, because they needed to base as soon as possible to buy their Tracker’s, and get wards down for their team as fast as possible. If they don’t do that, their team can get ganked. On the flip side, if they clear their camps and try a gank, and they fail, the enemy has already based and is putting down Tracker’s wards in the jungle. It was really snowbally like that on the last meta, so in that sense it was really risky to gank. In this meta, since there are no wards like that, ganking is a lot less punishable, so that’s why you’ll see more volatile games.
Do you think that this change, combined with the shift to tankier top laners who benefit from Banner of Command, swings carry junglers back into the meta?
I don’t know if I would say carry junglers, but definitely more ganking junglers, junglers with mobility and CC in particular. I don’t know too much about top lane, but I guess you just need a champion that can buy Banner [Laughs].
We’ve talked about how the changes to other positions, but how do you see 8.4 affecting ADs?
8.4 brought back Xayah and Rakan, but to be honest I think Xayah/Rakan was good before, just not many people were playing it. I do think Kalista getting nerfed was a big part of it, because Kalista was also good against those champions. So it brings back Xayah/Rakan, Varus, Caitlyn, Ezreal’s still good. It comes back to more Level 6 bot lanes, where it’s okay we’re Level 6, we can make a play bot lane now, a more utility AD carry. Pretty much you need a playmaking bot lane and a ganking jungler, and it’s free wins.
The cutoff for playoffs last time the NA LCS had best-of-ones was 9-9. You end the weekend 5-9, meaning you’ll have to win out to get to .500. How do you rate your playoff chances after your first 2-0 weekend since Week 3?
We went into this weekend knowing we’d have to win every single game, go 6-0. In our game against Cloud9, it felt a bit hopeless because we were down so much gold. But no one gave up. Even though it felt hopeless, we knew we could win if they messed up. I guess our win versus C9 sparked something, where it was wait, we can actually do this. This isn’t unrealistic or anything, we just beat one of the top teams. Going into TL today, everyone felt really confident. Not only did we need to beat this team, but we felt like we were going to beat them. It wasn’t a super-pressure thing where we had to win or else. We just felt like we were going to win.
Has that confidence been lacking in recent weeks?
Yeah, I think losing definitely gets to teams. Like I said earlier about Reignover’s confidence, I’m also a confidence player, so if we’re losing a lot, I think my individual play goes down a bit. But if we’re winning a lot, me and Reignover will look really good. I think that teams that win a lot generally have more confidence, they feel like they’re going to beat everyone. Teams that lose will have less.
One of the best memes about your team is the “counter logic” idea: When you expect CLG to win, they lose, and vice versa. Does that get into your head as a player?
To be honest, I don’t think about it at all…Sometimes I do go into a game, a game we’re not supposed to win, and think we probably have a better chance than normal. But yeah, it’s usually something I don’t really think about.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.