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A New Fire Begins, LDLC at IEM Chicago

 

One of the most surprising and refreshing runs to happen at IEM Chicago was LDLC’s run to the quarterfinals. The French CS:GO scene is one of the most important in the CS:GO world. They have created some of the greatest lineups, won Majors, and have been a force through nearly all of CS:GO history. However in 2018, they were a disappointment. The G2 all-star roster was no longer possible as internal issues tore the team apart. After the internal French Civil War, Richard “shox” Papillon came out the victor and the new G2 was formed. However the team has been unable to get anything off the ground and look to be at least on roster change away from becoming a top team. The results and growth of the scene has felt stale as the community inevitably waited for the change that needed to happen. It was in this setting that a new fire blazed forth, one that swept Chicago as LDLC showed the world the face of a new French team.

LDLC was a French team that no one had on the radar. G2 had assembled a lineup that was built around Shox’s vision. Vitality had brought together the remaining star players of the French scene and the young French AWPer Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut. Outside of those two teams, no one had any particular hopes for the French scene outside of that.

It was hard to blame them, considering the history. LDLC had recruited Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans after he had been removed from the G2 lineup back in 2016. During that time, he made it his life’s work to raise the young French scene to moderate success. LDLC were able to improve and started to do well online within half a year under his leadership. They qualified for ESL Proleague and were never relegated from the league.

However for reasons unknown, Ex6TenZ was benched from the team and was replaced by Logan “logaN” Corti. The team then bombed out of ESL Proleague and were relegated. The team then made a drastic overhaul as Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez retired from professional play and Timothee “DEVIL” Demolon was removed from the team. In their place, LDLC recruited Francois “AmaNEk” Delauney and David “devoduvek” Dobrosavljevic.

Both AmaNEk and devoduvek had made their names playing in the NA circuit under Sean Gares in Misfits from 2016-2017. It took a lot of grinding, but by the end of 2017, Misfits looked to be a good team as they got 2nd at the Americas Minors and got top four at ESL Proleague Season 6 Finals. Soon after, Misfits disbanded and both AmaNEk and devoduvek were released from the team on Feb. 13 2018. While both returned to France, neither player joined any professional team until LDLC on May 16th 2018.

With that, the five man lineup of LDLC became set. The original core of the squad was: Antoine “to1nou” Pirard, Alexander “ALEX” McMeekin, and logaN. Among the three, ALEX looked to be the best as he was an aggressive playmaker who liked to play around the wings of the squad. He was the shining light in the Ex6TenZ lineups and combined with AmaNEk and devoduvek, LDLC now had a core of reliable star fraggers that they could build around.

At IEM Chicago they made their first premier tournament debut to the scene. Their first match was against FaZe where they narrowly lost on Mirage 14-16 and were then knocked down to the loser’s bracket. From there they made a shocking run through the lower’s. They won three bo3 series against Renegades, North, and NRG. NRG was by far the biggest scalp as they are a top 10 team in the world, bordering on top five and had just come off of a tournament victory at the CS Summit.

In the quarterfinals of the tournament, they ran into Team Liquid where they tactically outplayed Liquid with mid-round calls and fast rotations that Liquid couldn’t keep up with. On the CT-side, their raw aggression completely caught Liquid off guard. This momentum continued as they carried through on the T-side of Cache. However at that point it stopped as Liquid’s players and structure came online and they made a comeback to close Cache and easily closed out Mirage.

Despite that loss, it was an impressive run for a squad that has relatively little experience on the international stage. What was most impressive to me is how the team is playing. On the T-side of their games, they try to enable three players: ALEX, AmaNEk, and devoduvek. ALEX plays the wings and is often used as first contact for the team. He will often try to make a play or take map control either by himself or with another player. Devoduvek is the solid consistent passive rifler. He powers the actual hits of the team as is a solid second entry for the squad for the squad. AmaNEk is their mid round lurker. When the rounds start to break down into smaller man scenarios like a 4v4 or 3v3, he is the one that creates second contact by himself, often creating a pick or getting a critical piece of information that allows the rest of the team to respond and rotate across the map. To1nou is still the AWPer of the team and Logan is the support player. He often plays the sacrificial entry roles or the spots that no one else seems interested in playing.

When you watch them play, there is a certain fire and freedom to it all. ALEX and AmaNEk almost never seem afraid to make plays. As a team, they are as cavalier with their economy and often use mixed forcebuys using both the AKs and mac10s to try to use their speed and decisiveness to overwhelm their opponents. In one particular game on Nuke, AmaNEk went full Tomas “oskar” Stastny as he mained the auto-shotgun against North. With each victory and each play, you could hear the roar of the LDLC players across the stream as they continued to upset team after team with their aggressive almost free-flowing style.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this LDLC squad is their spirit. In their victories against Renegades, North, and NRG, LDLC lost their own map picks. Against Renegades they lost Overpass, against North they lost Dust2, and against NRG they lost Nuke. However that never seemed to dissuade them, but rather filled them with a fire to continue trying to outplay the opponent. That fire seemed to catch the other teams off guard and nearly knocked out Liquid as a result.

In the end, that fire couldn’t carry them further, but the LDLC run has put another French team on the world map. One that has none of the legendary names of the past on it. LDLC have lit a fire at Chicago and we will see in the coming months as to whether or not that fire is but a brief flare that will be snuffed out by the harsh winds of competition or the spark that ignites the rise of a new wave of French players to the top of the scene.

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