One of the more interesting side effects of franchising in North America has been how teams have used their Academy squads. Replacing the Challenger Series, the Academy league has shown promise in raising North American talent steadily for successful debuts on the League of Legends Championship Series stage.
We caught up with Counter Logic Gaming Academy jungler Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin to talk about differences between the previous Challenger Series and Academy, why teams are taking more chances on NA talent, and what it was like to face his old organization in Cloud9.
The last time I saw you was when you were commentating Scouting Grounds.
Oh wow, that’s so long ago. (laughs)
So catch me up on what you’ve been up to and what life has been like with Counter Logic Gaming Academy.
It’s been a pretty big blast honestly. I was just talking to Jean [Jean-Sébastien “Tuesday” Thery] my mid laner, he was just saying that, because this is the only team he’s ever been on, they’ve been together for forever, everyone on the team other than me. He was just saying that, “Oh man, it really sucks. This might be the last time I’m ever on a team where everyone gets along in and out of game really well.” I feel like it’s pretty emotional for everyone but especially them since they’ve never been on another team and everyone’s like, “Oh man, we get along so well” that sort of thing. They know there’s potentially going to be changes made next year.
Obviously it’s been really fun playing with everyone. I got to take on more of a leadership role for the first time and kind of help people with things, obviously I learned a lot too but it was just really fun.
How did it feel facing your old organization in Cloud9 Academy? Your CLGA teammates all have been playing together for a while even before 2016 Scouting Grounds, but the C9A team was the org that you were most recently with before CLG.
It was really fun to play against them. I wouldn’t have wanted to play against any other team in the finals if I had to choose. I think overall they were definitely the better team. We knew going into it that it was going to be pretty difficult because they basically have, you know, an LCS-caliber team. It’s going to be hard. (laughs) We knew going into it it was going to be a rough set but overall I don’t think we did too bad. There was definitely a lot of issues that we had in game that we struggled to overcome but at the end of the day I’m still pretty happy with how things went considering the circumstances.
You also were able to start for the CLG LCS team as well. What was that like?
Oh yeah that was really fun too. I kind of knew it was going to happen but even then it was still a little surprising. Everyone on the main team they helped me a lot, showing me how they run through things. It was a short period of time where I had to meld in with their team but it was a really fun experience. I just took it in stride, I guess.
You are a player who came up through the old Challenger Series system before the more recent Academy system. What do you think of the current path to pro? Has changing it to the Academy system helped?
It’s definitely better than the old system in terms of growing new talent and giving new talent more opportunities to fail and succeed. Before, I feel like the amount of times you could fail was very low. It was like, okay, if you’re playing challenger and you don’t perform right away and you lose, you’re just going to get instantly replaced by a former LCS player or someone else. But in Academy, teams have more leeway. For example, this [CLG] Academy team before, they failed a lot but I feel like they developed their players a lot better because of it. The idea behind Academy is like, as an amateur player I don’t have to immediately be almost as good as an LCS player in order to get into LCS, which I think is good. It makes things more stable as a new player so you have more time to learn.
Lastly, we’ve seen you on the broadcast desk more than a few times in the Academy season. How did you land that gig and what has it been like for you?
I don’t know exactly. There’s kind of a thing in esports where there’s definitely people who are a lot more timid around people in general. I think I kind of stuck out as someone who wasn’t necessarily that way. So they were just like, “Hey, you seem to be able to talk in front of a camera. You want to do this?” And I was like, “Yeah why wouldn’t I?” (laughs) It’s not like I have more important things to do. Honestly, the casters are all really cool too so it’s been easy to mesh with them. I find it pretty fun.