LoL A Tale of TSM at MSI: The Vanquished and Weary

Ace JackAce Jack 2017-05-18 17:08:41

We all know what happened this past week, and at this point the dust has settled and the average fan’s feelings — although crushed — has rebounded into normal daily life. Although we can wonder all we want about that last draft against Flash Wolves and whether it would have mattered, let’s review what happened throughout their losses against the Flash Wolves and team WE in the group stage, as well as what happens next for North America as a result of the Mid-Season Invitational.

Going into the tournament, TSM looked poised to place either 3rd or 4th some might say. Hauntzer has been looking great all split, Bjergsen was dominating mid, and Bot lane were performing well. They dismantled FlyQuest in the semis and went on to defeat Cloud 9 in the NA LCS finals, clinching their spot on the international stage. All they have to do is beat a Wildcard to get to the main stage and utilize their wide champion pools and fantastic teamwork that won them the Spring Split, right?

Oh boy, did they have a Ziggs shaped Mega Inferno Bomb coming their way. Vietnam’s representative, the Gigabyte Marines, did not come to play around and TSM was not prepared for the level of aggression that was headed their way. Much like Team EnVy Us in the NA LCS, the Gigabyte Marines had a strong jungler and a constant pushing bot-lane that pushed TSM off balance. Although Team SoloMid slowly adapted, they finally managed to win their first international Bo5 in a very long time. Now that they played five full games against this opponent, they should be able to win the next two against them and be set-up to get out of the group stage with ease...

Come day one of the Group Stage, TSM had their rematch against GAM and it seemed like they had forgot every single thing they learned a few days prior. They revert to what lost them games and drafted losing, non-pushing lanes just to run a composition that they probably saw other teams succeed with in scrims. Montecristo spoke to Thooorin about this topic recently, mentioning how it's better for western teams to better use a non-perfect comp than to use a perfect comp less efficiently. They ban the Ziggs, Kennen and Syndra and leave up the Gragas for Stark to play (his most successful champion so far in the tournament.) Why ban Syndra?

If we go back to the recent Bo5, TSM went 2-1 on the champion, while Optimus had a decent game on it. Continue on through the draft and a Lee Sin ban comes out from TSM whereas Levi only had success against TSM on Kha’Zix. Normally, this wouldn’t matter if it was a basic Best of 1, but this isn't. They played 5 full games and had a ton of history on GAM. Fast forward throughout the game and every lane is getting decimated, but TSM’s protect the AD composition starts to come online. They start winning teamfights and are looking like they are beginning a comeback…

...Until they throw away a recall timing and go for a Tier 2 turret and ultimately lose the game.

This becomes the first big mistake of Team SoloMid’s tournament. They start off with a disadvantageous draft, a lack of preparation, and a lack of the basic understanding of their opponent. It almost seemed like a flashback from the first games in the NA LCS Spring Finals, just from Cloud 9's point of view, not TSM's. Luckily this trend does not continue that much (except for in the last game against the Flash Wolves), and they are able to pick up some wins.

After changing their playstyle and beating the Chinese representatives, World Elite, by going back to what they were good at, they decide to just roll the dice the next day when playing against the Korean representatives, SK Telecom T1. There really isn't too much to watch about the game other than a poor draft where Svenskeren is on Kha'zix, a champion he has not seen much success with competitively. Svenskeren makes his move into the enemy jungle early on in order to not get triple buffed, but ends up dying due to SKT planning out this trap thoroughly and moving in on him as he greeds for the wolf camp, costing his team the game from very early on.

Turns out TSM couldn’t win against Taiwan, either, running a comp that we aren't so used to seeing from the North American side. They haven't taken a carry top laner outside of Rumble or Camille, but are putting all their resources into Hauntzer to carry the game.

All seemed to go according to plan early on; Svenskeren on Lee Sin garnered Hauntzer an early lead with a First Blood against the Flash Wolves a little over six minutes in. This is exactly how Fizz wants the matchup to go against a Rumble. If Rumble pushes up, you would be able to set up a kill with Fizz's Chum the Waters and be able to snowball out of control.

Now that you have a lead in the top lane and the enemy AD Carry burned his flash, the next step would be to target the lane without an escape or waveclear to blow the game wide open, right? Nope, Svenskeren constantly returns to the top side instead of generating a lead bottom, and TSM don't utilize the advantage they set up for themselves as much as they could. They play reactively but start to generate some gold due to mistakes being made by the Flash Wolves in TSM's Blue Side jungle, but that does not last for long.

The Flash Wolves are holding the top tower for as long as they can, with Rumble easily clearing waves utilizing his ultimate until the Flash Wolves decide to go for an aggressive play. They send Karsa to the bottom lane and decide to force a tower, one of the first big mistakes of TSM in this match.



The Flash Wolves see Svenskeren and Bjergsen invade onto their blue buff and decide to force TSM into a pressure play. At 18 minutes, Hauntzer shoves up a wave into the tower and MMD burns his Equalizer onto the incoming wave. On the other end of the map, Team Solomid see Karsa and Maple begin pathing towards the bottom lane. They have a ward inside the blue side tribush and have a choice to make:

1. Path top and try to take turret? (Equalizer was already used onto that minion wave, so you have to wait for at least one more so you can possibly lose first turret unless you rush it with Lee Sin.)

2. Go bot and take a fight where you have a flank already set up, an ultimate on your snowballing top-laner that has some tankiness as is, and a better spike at that point in the game.

What do TSM choose?

Neither.

They rotate their bot lane towards Mid, Svenskeren is on wolves instead of on the turret, and they end up losing the first turret for a wolf camp, at which point every viewer is thinking "What in the world?" Where is the communication? This looks like it was straight out of a solo queue platinum game. There is, again, a lack of adaptation to the problem they see before them as well as the lack of communication that is neccesary at this level of play.

Once Flash Wolves changes the lane assignments, Team SoloMid start to throw away their lead. Hauntzer goes aggressive against Maple in a Sidelane at 20 minutes and dies to a roam from Flash Wolves’ Tahm Kench as well as a teleport from MMD, something we have not seen from the North American top laner do much of this tournament. What Team SoloMid should have done is either send Orianna to the top lane and Fizz into the bottom lane, the lane that has its outer turret up and some gold to gain for the North Americans.

After this play, the Flash Wolves are equal on gold but up on pressure. The Taiwanese representative have pushed out the sidelanes and move in to push mid, nearly knocking down the tower. These moves can be prevented through proper lane assignments, a problem that TSM struggles with constantly throughout the rest of the group stage. By the time that Team SoloMid try to fix their botched lane assignments, it’s simply too late. Flash Wolves target Hauntzer again , getting another kill and a trade on turrets, allowing Flash Wolves more room to scale.

Another ten minutes later, Flash Wolves start to take more aggresive actions and net a teamfight win as well as a Baron, which begins the loss for Team SoloMid. They could possibly get some kills in a later teamfight but Bjergsen blows his ultimate on the enemy support alone (Karsa and MMD were already out of range), and TSM lose the teamfight in a 5 for 2, losing the game. Could TSM have won? Definitely. Did they do anything proactive? Barely. Was this a world-class performance? Definitely far from it. This was the standard TSM loss this tournament, and it was heart breaking to watch. There was no communication, no adaptation, and honestly a lack of trust in each other. It seemed like the only one who trusted his team was WildTurtle, seemingly following whatever call was made but inevitably losing due to his teammates refusing to work with eachother.

The next day TSM nearly loses to G2 after creating a 10k gold lead for themselves. Svenskeren, one of the primary points of blame for TSM's failure this tournament, played exceptionally well this game, up 2-0 at 10 minutes already and making moves all around the map. They play the early game proactively, constantly keeping and growing their lead by playing as a team and being quicker with their calls. They get first turret, win a massive teamfight by dragon with a Teleport from Hauntzer, one of his first in the early-game, and manage to start the snowball. Although TSM nearly loses this game, they played most of it together and flourished. If they patched up their problems with lane assignments and pressuring as a team, they would have cleanly won this game and a majority of their remaining games.

A rematch between TSM and WE comes up on Day 4, and you guessed it, TSM again gain an early lead. What happens this time? Hauntzer begins to lose lane against the Fizz, and Svenskeren jumps into a 1v3 that he had vision on. WildTurtle was back in base, so this is already an outnumbered and split up fight which TSM gets washed away in. This game looked so good early on but within just a couple of minutes turns into a massive loss.

(Skip to 18:21 if it doesn't appear right away)

Another ten minutes later, Flash Wolves start to take more aggresive actions and net a teamfight win as well as a Baron, which begins the loss for Team SoloMid. They could possibly get some kills in a later teamfight but Bjergsen blows his ultimate on the enemy support alone (Karsa and MMD were already out of range), and TSM lose the teamfight in a 5 for 2, losing the game. Could TSM have won? Definitely. Did they do anything proactive? Barely. Was this a world-class performance? Definitely far from it. This was the standard TSM loss this tournament, and it was heart breaking to watch. There was no communication, no adaptation, and honestly a lack of trust in each other. It seemed like the only one who trusted his team was WildTurtle, seemingly following whatever call was made but inevitably losing due to his teammates refusing to work with eachother.

(Skip to 39:40 if it doesn't appear right away)

There are a lot of intricacies in this fight, but the most important thing I want to focus on is target selection. While Hauntzer on Galio tanks 4 WE members for the team, WildTurtle, Biofrost, and Svenskeren are all on 957’s Fizz. Bjergsen on the other end only uses 5 spells, never truly targeting the Fizz along side his team even after Fizz uses the Playful Trickster and ultimate. Killing Fizz here would ultimately net TSM a teamfight win (Xiye was on 10% HP, Lee sin on 25%, most of TSM is healthy and Biofrost has exhaust. This teamfight win would give TSM the baron and possibly the game. Instead, the teamfight loss happens and Svenskeren gets caught trying to flank WE due to the WE’s vision control and WE gets baron, and after a recall and bot-side push, the game.

Could this loss be prevented? Yes. Could TSM have communicated with each-other on these calls and played to win instead of not to lose? Definitely. The issue is, I cannot say whether these losses come from terrible communication or a lack of trust in the call. The rest of their losses are almost of the same exact symptoms: Improper lane assignments, lack of coordination, lack of making a call and heeding to it, lack of an actual push to win.

The Team Solomid that North America wants to see moving forward is an aggressive team that makes a call together and listens to each other. The team that thinks through what they will do in the next minute or so instead of jumping into the enemy jungle alone and falling to their own carelessness. The team that adapts from one game to the next and does not repeat the same mistakes that lose you games in the first place. This was a sad tournament for North America, and not even due to the fact that Team Solomid did not get out of the group stage. It’s because it looked like they didn’t even give it their all. The only excuse I can give to them, if any at all, is that they look burnt out. They look beat up, they look like they threw in the towel early, they look like they just needed a break.

And maybe they do. They will have some time to relax but are probably already practicing for the next split. Who knows, they might win the league again. Problem is that all these other teams have been playing just as much, and excuses don't matter in competition. Want a trophy? Then win.

Team SoloMid after their loss in the tiebreaker against Taiwan's Flash Wolves, credit to Riot's Lol Esports flickr.

So now that North America did not place in the top 4 at MSI, the region does not hold at Pool 1 seed at the WOrld Championship anymore. To be honest, who cares? Team Solomid had the Pool 1 seed last time, they didn't do anything with it then anyways. TSM held that seed and got slaughtered by RNG on their way out of the World Championship with some of the same mistakes that they have not fixed since. So to Team SoloMid, to Regi, Hauntzer, Svenskeren, Bjergsen, Doublelift, WildTurtle, Biofrost, Parth, everyone else working towards summer and Worlds: It’s time for you guys to put-up or shut up. This is your split to prove that you have what it takes to be one of the best teams in the world, this is your time to wrap up all your mistakes and make it out of groups without a fluke, without some easy way out. It’s time for you guys to reach an international milestone again.

This isn’t IEM Katowice back in 2015 where the GE Tigers underperformed and you won it all. This isn’t Season 4 where you got “lucky” with a 3-game-ban on your competitor in SK Gaming’s jungler to squeeze you out of the group. This is your time to crush the summer split, crush your group stage, and make all the fans of North America proud to cheer you on when you are on that stage this upcoming World Championship.


Photos: Riot Esports Flickr

Albert "Ace" Pariente-Cohen is a freelance esports writer who primarily writes about League of Legends. You can follow him here!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvWNs3Bgn_bIZLJA2JLYelg

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