On Monday afternoon, Clutch Gaming fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief, as the NA League of Legends team secured a spot in the Main Event of Worlds 2019, defeating SEA’s Royal Youth.
But Clutch didn’t just win. They swept their opponents 3-0 in what was expected to be a competitive and drawn-out struggle.
Immediately after their convincing victory, analysts and fans attempted to dissect the strategy that Clutch had used to secure victory. And the overwhelming consensus was that Clutch was running set plays.
The exact nature and rigidity of these set plays are open to interpretation, but the basic principle is the same. Clutch Gaming forces the Rift Herald take at around the 10-minute mark, by rotating their bot lane up to mid and creating a mismatch. With the Herald taken, or at least a fight forced around the objective, Clutch can take advantage of the result to push lanes.
Clutch used this exact move in games one and three of their series against Royal Youth. In game two, the set play was interrupted by Royal’s 10-minute dive of Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon in the top lane, and instead, Clutch played reactively. After counter-diving bot lane, the whole team headed to the Rift Herald, executing the play in spirit, even if they didn’t manage to set things up exactly as desired.
Astute observers pointed out that the Rift Herald set play is nothing new, Kasey “Weexiao” Zhang showing examples of a similar play which Misfits had run in the LFL Spring Playoffs.
Regardless of its origin, there’s no doubt that opposing teams will have taken note of the highly effective play which Clutch used so successfully against Royal Youth. The NA team will have to reach deeper into its playbook as the tournament continues, and perhaps we’ll see even more ambitious set plays as the squad advances.
Clutch Gaming, for their part, responded to the set play questioning with their own cryptic answer. It’s clear the team isn’t keen to give away too many of its secrets headed into the Main Event of Worlds 2019.
North America’s underdog third seed now finds itself in a harrowing group, facing off against SK Telecom T1, Fnatic, and Royal Never Give Up. With competition like that, the team will need every advantage it can muster to advance in the tournament.