NALCS Regional Qualifier 2018 Day One
Echo Fox vs Clutch Gaming
The stage is set, the teams are ready to face off and begin their climb toward Worlds. The first round of the regional qualifier looked pretty one sided on paper. It was pitting Echo Fox, a team that finished the split in a much higher position than their opponents, against Clutch Gaming. Coming into this game, Clutch Gaming finished the regular season in ninth place. The only reason that they were in the regional qualifier in the first place was because of their success in the spring split. It was in the spring split in which they over-performed. Many teams underestimated them, which lead to a top five finish in the spring. The games would be interesting, and if analysts were to believe, easy for Echo Fox to win.
The first game of the regional qualifier is nerve-racking for all those in attendance. Each team has not played in over two weeks and there is a feeling of defeat coming off those in the regional qualifier. It is the realization that they did not play well enough to make it to Worlds based on their performance. Instead, they need to beat out worse teams to make it there at all.
The draft phase looked good for both teams. There were solid picks on both sides and not one side had a clear advantage. It wasn’t until the game began that the weaknesses shined through. It began in the top lane when Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, the Jungler for Echo Fox, ganked Clutch’s Top Laner and killed him three and a half minutes into the game. This death put Colin “Solo” Earnest behind in the lane where he should have been bullying his opponent out of lane repeatedly. The majority of the early pressure in the game was directly focused around the top side of the map and shutting Solo down.
The pressure that Echo Fox was able to exert in the top lane came to a head when the Top Laner for Echo Fox died in the top side jungle. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon pushed too far in the lane, and got ganked by four people, giving up a kill to Clutch Gaming. This, however, allowed for Echo Fox to see where the enemy was and play accordingly. From there, the pressure did not relent and Echo Fox began taking it to the middle lane, attempting to make a play there.
Clutch Gaming was able to draw Echo Fox into a fight in the top lane that looked as if it was in the favor of Clutch Gaming. As they are wont to do, Echo Fox turned the fight in their favor, with Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui securing a quadrakill and Acing the enemy team. Soon after, the pressure was enough for Clutch Gaming and they crumbled, not being able to stand up to Echo Fox’s might. Clutch Gaming stood by as their nexus fell.
The draft of this game was interesting to say the least. Solo chose to play Urgot, a champion who has rocketed in popularity in the recent patches. In response, Huni chose his infamous Cassiopeia top lane. This counter-pick did not seem to go well for Huni because the enemy chose to camp his lane and keep him from getting ahead. In the end, however, it is Huni who gets the most damage in the game and is one of the integral reasons as to why Echo Fox wins.
As the game progressed, Clutch Gaming appeared to be in position to take a game off of Echo Fox. It wasn’t until the mid-game when Echo Fox decided to play as a team and use their composition, which was better at team fighting than Clutch’s composition. Clutch’s condition to win the game was to keep split-pushing and attack anyone who comes to answer the split-push. However, Echo Fox was able to bait them out and make it a team fight game, where Clutch would lose. It took awhile, but Echo Fox was able to get the team fight that they needed to secure the win and end game two.
Clutch Gaming, with their back against a wall, looked to late-game scaling for a win. They drafted a Sivir and Cassiopeia for the late game to be able to do massive damage. However, Echo Fox did not let it get that far. The first blood came at the hands of Clutch Gaming onto the Echo Fox Midlaner, Tanner “Damonte” Damonte. Unlike the first game, where Huni and Dardoch were able to keep Solo down, Damonte was unable to kept down, despite multiple ganks. The game raged on however, and both teams looked basically even.
The longer the game went, the more happy Clutch Gaming was, as it was their intention to push the game late. Unfortunately, an attempted but failed Baron steal by Clutch Gaming was enough to push Echo Fox even more ahead. From there, Clutch Gaming had a number of opportunities to grab the game back for themselves, but failed to do so. Echo Fox would not let Clutch get those opportunities, which is to Echo Fox’s credit. In the end, however, it was a flank from Huni onto the backline of Clutch Gaming that secured the win and the series for Echo Fox.
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