Clutch Gaming get in gear just in time at League of Legends World Championship play-ins

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BERLIN — North America’s Clutch Gaming clinched a spot in the next stage of the League of Legends World Championship play-ins, but it didn’t come easy.

As the No. 3-seeded team from one of the five major regions in the competitive League of Legends world, the route to the main event was never supposed to be this difficult for Clutch, which qualified for the tournament by reverse-sweeping Team SoloMid in the North American regional finals. For a starting roster built through a mixture of veteran leadership and promising blue-chip talent, the play-in stage at worlds should have been a light warm-up.

Clutch Gaming were expected to feast on the domestic champions of non-major regions with their raucous, skirmish-heavy way of playing the game. Clutch’s mistakes, which would come with their somewhat heavy-handed approach to the game, could be considered learning experiences against weaker opponents before the team jumped into the deep end of the pool with the world-class squads on display at the world championship.

Those mistakes did come throughout their first two days of the competition, but they were much more dire than anticipated. On Friday, Clutch needed back-to-back victories just to qualify out of their play-in group as the top seed. Although the North Americans did what was needed to get by Oceania’s MAMMOTH, Russia’s bombastic Unicorns of Love tripped Clutch up time and time again.

The Unicorns, dressed in bright pink attire, took both games against Clutch in the group stage. In the latter of the two victories, UoL formed a major comeback victory fueled by punishing Clutch’s lack of awareness and need to always be bashing heads with the opposing team. The losses might have been jarring for a team expected to easily qualify for the main event, but a message from the top gave Clutch’s players some confidence.

“Our CEO was like, ‘It’s 1 right now; at 1:45, you can’t be mad anymore,'” Clutch support Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme said. “So some people went outside, some went to get food. When we came back in the room, we just laughed at the game — not like nothing happened — but we got over the tilting part of that game and focused on the next game.”

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