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CLG has always been a team shrouded in infamy. The community loves to hate them, and, at times, their fans hate to love them. After multiple consecutive splits of disappointing showings, missed opportunities and brutal PR hits, it seems a change in leadership was just the thing CLG needed to bounce back from a terrible slump. In hopes of revitalizing its brand, one of the oldest organizations in the history of the League of Legends Championship Series made a few massive internal moves heading into 2022.

CLG General Manager Jonathon McDaniels (formerly of Golden Guardians) and Head of CLG (formerly of Evil Geniuses) joined the legacy org during the 2021 offseason. Since then, the team signed a roster stacked to the brim with talent from North America’s academy and amateur leagues.

Fans saw CLG’s 2022 lineup for the first time during the LCS 2022 Lock In tournament, where they finished top eight. Despite the team dropping out of the bracket stage against Cloud9 this past weekend in a close three-game series, CLG mid laner Cristian “Palafox” Palafox says fans should be excited about the regular season

“All of our players mechanically have such a high ceiling,” said Palafox. “I think we can end pretty high in the standings.”

More CLG hopium from Palafox

In his four-year career, Palafox has played under four different LCS banners: OpTic Gaming, Golden Guardians, FlyQuest and CLG. His professional journey wasn’t always easy, but his skills and experiences have been enough to earn him a spot on a team every split since he went pro. Heading into the 2021 offseason, Palafox said it was important to sign with an org that could sell him on its vision.

“I saw a lot of similarities between C9 and CLG, believe it or not,” said Palafox. “Obviously, they had some rough years, but they were revamping everything.”

When describing his time on Cloud9, Palafox said that the environment felt like a family and that management was fully committed to giving players whatever they needed to grow and improve. Palafox said CLG’s willingness to fully support him when he said that he wanted to boot camp in South Korea before the 2022 season started was a major factor in building his relationship with the organization.

“They were like ‘we’ll help you out wherever we can,’” said Palafox. “It’s just small stuff like that that makes it so I can feel like I want to play for this organization.”

According to Palafox, his learnings from playing in a more competitive solo queue environment have already started affecting the team’s strategic prep in a positive way.

“It’s a big confidence booster. It also makes it so you’re introduced to a lot of things that other players aren’t,” said Palafox. “If you can keep pushing off the boot camp… you’ll be able to bring over so much good information to your team.”

Paying for a boot camp in South Korea helps, but according to Palafox, that’s not the only resource the team has provided to show commitment to the success of its players. The team regularly works with a sports psychologist, a physical trainer that leads the team in stretches before games and a team chef that typically stays at the facility from around 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CLG also pays for its players’ living accommodations.

A new dark horse in the LCS

With so many unproven players, most fans were ready to give CLG a “pass” for this split. With the org rebuilding internally and bringing in all new players, there’s no pressure to come out the gate and stomp everyone. But from the scrappy and aggressive style we saw from the team during Lock In, it looks like CLG is just as much here to compete as every other LCS team.

Palafox describes himself as a player that loves looking for ways to punish his opponent whenever he can, and it seems like his teammates are on board with that style as well. His hope for 2022 is for CLG to sync up quickly on how exactly they want to play the game and execute plays as a unit.

“I think all of us are mechanical. It’s really just small stuff,” said Palafox. “When stuff like that clicks, you know everything’s just going so f***ing well.”

Lock In may be over for CLG, but in the roster’s short time playing together, they’ve already shown that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll be able to catch CLG in action again at the start of the LCS 2022 Spring Regular Season on Feb. 5.