Five members of Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming Continues To Disappoint, Thanks to Poor Roster Moves

The esports franchise has made a string of questionable decisions to remove talented players from its League of Legends team which, over time, have led to a decline in the organization's prestige.
March 24, 2021
7 mins read

Counter Logic Gaming, founded by George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis in 2010, is the longest-standing professional League of Legends organization to date. In many ways, the team has achieved unprecedented success for one that started during a time when esports lacked significant funding or outside investment. The organization has achieved multiple League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) titles, expanded to support teams in other games and secured a spot in the LCS during the league’s transition to a franchising model in 2018.

But in many ways, the League of Legends team has seen its competitive performance wane dramatically over the years. The team has not won a title or qualified for a major international competition since 2016. Furthermore, since 2018, the team has only qualified for the playoffs once. Currently, the team sits in ninth place in the 10-team league, with an unimpressive record of five wins and 11 losses. Once one of the most popular and feared teams around the world, Counter Logic Gaming has made several questionable decisions regarding its roster over the years that resulted in the team’s overall loss of prestige over time.

Counter Logic Gaming’s inception saw the team emerge as a global powerhouse, having recruited some of the best players in the entire esports scene. The team quickly established a reputation for emphasizing individual skill, sometimes in lieu of teamwork. Famously, the team recruited future superstar Peter “Doublelift” Peng in 2011, and with the help of his more experienced teammates, Doublelift quickly became the team’s most skilled player and the face of the brand. Despite this apparent upgrade, however, the team failed to replicate its previous successes and found itself eclipsed domestically by its rival Team SoloMid.

Unfortunately, this shift in the North American power dynamic proved to be far from the worst of Counter Logic Gaming’s competitive struggles. At the Season 2 World Championships, despite the team’s lofty goals, Counter Logic Gaming bombed out of the group stages and failed to even progress to the round of eight. During this time, Counter Logic Gaming developed a reputation for making an especially high number of roster changes, and many linked this tendency to the team’s lack of teamwork within the game itself.

Starting in 2013, Riot Games announced the start of the League Championship Series, a competitive format similar to the NBA or NFL. Fans once again expected Counter Logic Gaming to assert itself as one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. Instead, the team began a long series of disappointing performances, oftentimes showing promise in the regular season only to fall apart during the playoffs.

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However, the team’s competitive fortunes began to shift in 2015. During the summer split, Counter Logic Gaming managed to place second in the regular season, the team’s best-ever finish. Then, despite its previous playoff woes, the team went on an impressive run, going undefeated throughout the playoffs to win its first LCS championship, beating rivals and defending champions Team SoloMid in the finals 3-0. Everything seemed to have aligned for the team, but just when things finally seemed to be going in Counter Logic Gaming’s favor, it made a historic roster move that truly defied logic.

In October of 2015, Counter Logic Gaming announced that it had removed Doublelift from the team, despite his individual skill and his pivotal role in the team’s first championship win. Even though the team went on to win another title following this decision, this roster move in many ways marked the beginning of the organization’s precipitous decline. Doublelift moved to Team SoloMid, and despite a narrow loss to Counter Logic Gaming in the 2016 Spring Finals, SoloMid soon became an unstoppable force in North America for the rest of 2016 all throughout 2017. Counter Logic Gaming, on the other hand, fell to fourth place in the summer of 2016 and fifth place in the spring of 2017.

During this time, the team made a controversial roster move that excited many fans, recruiting the infamous jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, who had a reputation for being difficult to work with but had already shown undeniable talent and skill. For the majority of the 2017 summer split, Counter Logic Gaming hovered near the top of the regular season standings. However, the team released Dardoch before the season had even concluded and replaced him with a relatively unknown rookie, Omar “OmarGod” Amin. The team managed to place third in the playoffs, but it was clearly weakened without Dardoch and ultimately failed to qualify for the 2017 World Championship.

The team’s series of poor roster moves did not end here, though. During the offseason, the team elected not to keep its support player and team captain, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, who left to join the newly formed 100 Thieves roster. From this point forward, Counter Logic Gaming’s results plummeted even further. The team completely fell off the map, unable to even qualify for the playoffs outside of one fourth-place finish in 2019. Without the individual skill of stars such as Doublelift and Dardoch, and without the in-game leadership of Aphromoo, Counter Logic Gaming’s new roster paled in comparison to the increasingly competitive rosters that the other North American teams had put together.

To further add insult to injury, consider the career trajectories of the players that Counter Logic Gaming elected to remove. Dardoch, despite struggling with his own issues, managed to make the playoffs during both the spring and summer of 2018 with the esports organization Echo Fox, and he also had a brief stint on Team SoloMid where the team placed fourth. Aphromoo qualified for the 2018 Spring Finals and the 2018 World Championships. Counter Logic Gaming failed to qualify for the playoffs at all during this stretch of time. Doublelift’s career after leaving the team, however, best highlights the organization’s poor roster moves. He went on to qualify for the LCS finals in every full split he played competitively except for spring 2020, and outside of the aforementioned finals in 2016, he won every time his team appeared in the finals.

For all the talent Counter Logic Gaming has been fortunate enough to have on the roster, the team never capitalized on the opportunity to properly develop these players, and as a result, it has faded into relative obscurity compared to its championship days. Whether or not the organization will be fortunate enough to have another star player join its roster is still up in the air, and even if one does, the odds that the team will properly manage that player’s skill and convert it into results remain even slimmer.

Brandon Li, Vassar College

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Brandon Li

Vassar College

Outside of reading and writing, I enjoy swimming, watching mixed martial arts and playing video games with friends.

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