Olivia R. September 9, 2019
Clutch Gaming is going to the 2019 World Championship.
The underdog team took Team SoloMid to game five, defeating their rivals to become the third seed for North America. After today's intense reverse sweep, Clutch will be representing the region at Worlds in Europe along with Cloud9 and Team Liquid.
"Holy shit. This is surreal. I just feel we went through so much shit this split. So much shit I had to go through. It's just crazy," Tanner "Damonte" Damonte exclaimed after the win.
Damnote's father, who was in attendance, could be seen holding back tears in the audience while sporting a Clutch Gaming jersey.
Indeed, Clutch Gaming had gone from ninth place at the start of the summer split to becoming the third best team in North America. But for Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon, being third best still isn't good enough. WIN.gg sat down with the accomplished top laner to find out what going to Worlds means to him and his team.
How do you feel after defeating TSM today?
Huni: Of course, it’s good. It was really tough, getting serious. I’m proud of myself, I proved I play really well. I’m satisfied with how I performed on this stage. Now it's time to prove myself internationally.
It’s pretty unreal that we’re going to Worlds. Nobody was expecting it. I’m just really proud of myself and my teammates, and of our staff. We changed this team from ninth place. It’s just incredible.
It looked like you guys were very emotional up there after the victory. What does going to Worlds mean to you?
I'm the first player to go to Worlds [representing] three different regions. That’s pretty good. That’s been my goal. I kept saying, "Let’s win LCS. How cool would that be?"
I went to Worlds as a Europen player with Fnatic. And in 2017 I went as part of SKT. I think I proved that, as a player, I’m really flexible. I can be on any team.
You made it to Worlds in Korea, in Europe, and now you’re going representing North America. How does it feel to have done it with Clutch Gaming?
It’ll be tough. We’re not in the best shape. This is my first time going as a third seed for me. It was easy to get out of the group stage with the other teams. Getting out will not be easy because we're a third seed. We’re still going to do the best we can and play well.
Clutch Gaming was counted out so many times this year, and you were considered underdogs at the start of the season. How were you able to remain motivated and keep improving?
I think as underdogs, we have good strengths. There's zero pressure on us. If we lose, that’s what people expect. But when we play well, people go crazy. Even people wearing TSM jerseys, they were chanting our team name. And my name! I couldn’t believe how crazy it was. People want to see that. They thought TSM might win 3-0.
How did it feel to have the fans behind you like that?
Honestly, it was crazy. The crowd was chanting even when we were down 0-2. They were supporting us for three more games. That’s why we are playing on this stage, in front of a crowd, in front of fans. The support from the fans gives us so much energy.
You guys have been fighting your way up through the gauntlet all weekend. Meanwhile, TSM have been practing for this moment for some time. How were you feeling coming in to this match today?
They were really motivated after going 1-3 against us in the [LCS playoff] quarterfinals. We beat them easily then.
They were better today in the first two games. They’re still better at some things than us. We had to pull out our strengths. I guess it worked!
Cody Sun was on Kog'Maw, which he hasn’t pulled out in the summer before today. What was the strategy behind that pick?
We picked Kog'Maw because we needed AP damage. Cody Sun on Kog'Maw was out damaging them in every team fight. He can hyper carry it and he was very confident about that, and we can play around him.
When TSM took the first two games, what was going through your mind?
For me, I played really well in the first and second games. I was satisfied and felt we were still going to win. Our attitude was good. After game one, even though our new pick didn’t work, we were just chill. Who cares? Just start from zero.
We just have to win three games in a row. Definitely not a hard job there.
So it was about staying confident?
I had the enemy top laner shaking.I thought, "I’m going to be winning versus this guy." I just won every single game.
What do you think was going wrong in the first two games?
We just messed up our side. We chose to fight when we didn’t have to. We fought when we were losing. But everyone felt that TSM was getting desperate after game three. We reminded ourselves of how we lost those first two games.
Just wait for them to make a mistake. They're going to be desperate. After game four it was kind of easy to play it out.
In the fifth and final game, when did you feel confident that you guys were going to take it?
Game five was a pretty close game, not going to lie. But they were not playing as good as they were in the first two games. Their mentality… they were choking. They lost two games in a row. A reverse sweep can easily happen like that.
After our team fight win at baron, I was extremely excited. But I realized that the baron didn’t mean we were going to Worlds yet. So we had to keep going.
How does it feel to be considered one of the best teams in North America?
It’s always good to prove people wrong. People were definitely wrong about us, and we proved it. That feels great. We just have to focus on what’s next.
I’m not satisfied being the third seed. I want to go to the quarterfinals, at least.
Which region's teams do you think will be the most difficult to face at Worlds?
No idea yet. We have to just be there and practice for it. We will see. Nobody knows.
We’re going to have some fun. I would like to play European teams again. I want to prove myself.
Are there any teams you’re excited to face on the Worlds stage?
I want to be in the same group as SKT. That would be pretty fun. But honestly, also pretty tough. Meeting at the quarterfinal, that would be pretty fun to play against my old teammates [in the playoffs]. It’s going to be insane.
Even today, I played against Smoothie and it was really fun. I felt sorry for him, but whatever!
How will the team be preparing for the World Championship?
I don’t know yet. We’re just going to keep doing our job. I will try to keep carrying.