For who might be the greatest player in North American history, it’s difficult to find faults in his gameplay or approach to game theory. From his first win that resulted in a penta kill on his signature Syndra, to his unshakable ability to be the most consistent mid laner in NA, and of course his repeated moments of single-handedly carrying his team to certain victory, Bjergsen has achieved a legacy that many players cannot even fathom, especially at one of the most difficult and independent roles in the game.
This does not mean we’ve seen the peak of Bjergsen. He has been shackled with the burden of leadership that has held him back from being considered a contender in the pool of best players on an international level.
As the mission statement of TSM slowly changed from winning LCS to getting further in Worlds, it is clear that Bjergsen has historically been the best mid laner in his region, good enough to win domestically, but not quite internationally. As he enters the World Championship and the Mid-Season Invitational, his tougher competition demands more of him, but he’s been forced to give up his play to shore up the weaknesses of his team.
Bjergsen has been plagued with the responsibility of leading his team ever since he stepped foot onto the rift with TSM as an organization. After Reginald had left the team at the end of 2013 to commit his time to upper management duties, Bjergsen was put in a tough spot and forced to develop his leadership skills.
With the lineup of Dyrus, TheOddOne, WildTurtle, Xpecial, and Bjergsen himself, this team was made up of quiet and soft spoken individuals and without their commanding leader in Reginald, there was a large vaccum in leadership that needed to be filled. With the charismatic mid-laner coming from the humble town of Holstebro, Denmark, and having difficulties discovering himself and his place in society
, it was evident that his young personality would need time to grow into being a proper captain for TSM.
Bjergsen was so far removed from being a vocal and outspoken player that he even went on to say he would get anxiety from just going to the store to order something as simple as a sandwich. Not to mention, this entire switch of mid laners would be a shock to the infrastructure, as Reginald led with the power of being the team owner, whereas Bjergsen would not have that luxury. Additionally, he would also have increased difficulty leading his team through lack of infrastructure during the burgeoning years of esports.
Bjergsen has continually been denied a strong infrastructure, with a weak or rotating coaching staff, from head coach Ssong unable to take strong command of his team in 2018 or provide them strong leadership and a forum for discussion, to a high school baseball coach turned LoL head coach in Woodbuck.
It seems TSM has had no shortage of blunders with their hiring of coaching staff. This most certainly has taken its toll on the legendary mid laner having to both guide his team in and out of the game; a task that should not be asked of any player.
The one shining light, even though many would disagree, was Locodoco -- Coach of the Split during Spring Split of 2015, Locodoco would not only lead TSM to a Spring Split championship while also training their rookie jungler Santorin, but also be on the receiving end of praise from Bjergsen who would later go on to say that he credits Locodoco, Amazing and Doublelift as figures that allowed him to learn how to criticize others and stand up for his own ideals for the game.
Since then Bjergsen has been able to use this knowledge to better himself and his teammates and in process also realized that his weakness was that he didn’t understand his teammate’s roles well enough to criticize them
. Although he would realize his weakness during Season 6, throughout time he would revert back and hold in criticism. The shy Danish boy from Holstebro would rear his head again.
It is better to disappoint people with the truth than to appease them with a lie.
- Simon Sinek
The Greatest Western Mind
One of the best rosters heading into 2018 was that of TSM. Almost every analyst
had TSM sitting at number one for their power rankings heading into the season, and for good reason.
Zven and Mithy had joined TSM for the ADC and support positions respectively, and being the best western bot lane for quite some time, this would be a worriless area for Bjergsen that would allow him to concentrate more on synergy with his rookie-esque player and junger MikeYeung.
The primary selling point of this team, besides that of Bjergsen, was Mithy. Mithy was expected to be a large and commanding voice, and also supplement the soft nature of their coaching staff Ssong and Lustboy. With his previous accolades of winning 3 LEC (EU LCS) titles with Zven by his side, Mithy was always touted as the strategic mind of his past teams in Origen and G2 Esports, but he would not see what the public thought of as guaranteed success with TSM.
2018 would be the worst year for TSM as an organization, breaking their streak of consistently making NA LCS finals and Worlds, and with the lineup of Hauntzer, MikeYeung (Grig for Summer Split), Bjergsen, Zven and Mithy, this was a strong one on paper and was assumed to, at the very least, make top three.
As was later revealed through anecdotes from the players themselves, there was massive internal struggle, from Mithy being prohibited of being the primary shotcaller
, and even criticizing the team for being too passive-aggressive, to then having head coach Ssong demoted to strategic coach. It left little room for Bjergsen to focus on his own gameplay.
Both Mithy and Bjergsen would have to teach rookie player MikeYeung how to jungle on the professional stage. Asking this from any teammate would undoubtedly have repercussions in the form of declining gameplay.
There would be a constant worry on how they can relieve their jungler from undue pressure; how can I set up my jungler to have priority? How can I help him look for opportunities not only in my own lane, but in other lanes? This has been a continued part of Bjergsen’s storyline, as if both his coaching staff and teammates expected him to lead the team and sacrifice his own gameplay to better the entire team. One player would relieve this weight and help him get closer to individual greatness.
“If you can’t be a leader, you’re always going to be relying on someone else for success”.
- Bjergsen (Thorin ‘Reflections’ with Bjergsen)
The Doublelift Era
Doublelift, above all else, is thought of as a highly skilled, but cocky and selfish player, relying heavily on his own capabilities to win games, and often demanding his team to cater towards his lane. When you combine that with a player like Bjergsen, one would think that these two players would demand too many resources to be successful on the same team and create an impossible ask of their support and jungler.
Bjergsen would go on to win two championships with Doublelift, and most recently, secure their third together in the 2020 Summer Split. The key to their relationship, and the rarity that is Doublelift as a player, is that he has the ability to lead.
Earlier in Bjergsen’s career, he was on the EU LCS team Copenhagen Wolves, and as a shy child, he needed to learn not only the game at a higher level, but life and responsibilities itself. This was somewhat remedied through the help of Deficio
, then a player and later turned caster, but one who Bjergsen himself contributes to his growth as a person. Even as recently as 2018, the Dane discounted his ability to lead and be outgoing, but he shines when those around him are assertive, such as players like Hauntzer or Doublelift.
Haunzter, previously TSM's top laner, was the absolute best top laner in the LCS during 2017 Spring Split. This was in-part due to his decisive nature and his shot-calling ability that led to his massive boon in improvement. With Doublelift taking a break to stream, there was a large void left with regards to in-game decision making.
Hauntzer stepped up phenomenally and Bjergsen even cited that both Doublelift and Hauntzer had the ability to make decisions with imperfect information
, something which he himself found difficulty doing.
So while Bjergsen can often inspire and add to the value of a team’s decision-making and thought process, his clear supportive element is an enhancement which needs a base to add upon. Oftentimes this base has been missing in the form of a teammate or coaching staff.
TSM has never seemed to discover the recipe in finding a capable coach to drive meaningful conversation outside of the game, help facilitate personalities, and earn the trust of the players. While TSM has usually had an assertive figure from the player side to contribute with growth through feedback and criticism, whenever that is absent, it is readily apparent because that skill is not available from their ever-shifting coaching staff.
While TSM and Bjergsen can win through raw talent, and a strong fundamental understanding of macro play, as tougher competition approaches, TSM and Bjergsen fall short with alarming consistency.
To challenge the international competition, we have never seen Bjergsen let loose and play with a style of raw mechanics and risky play, as he is demanded to lead his team time and again. Never has he made it into the top five of any Worlds player rankings, and he’s only been a top three mid laner in the world once (2016), but he certainly has the capability to do so.
Where are the teammates and coaches that don’t demand he play Lulu, Orianna, or Zilean? It’s time that Bjergsen gets support, both from his organization and his teammates. Somewhere in there, the shy and humble Dane still exists outside the server, but so too does a festering monster just waiting to be unleashed on the rift. It’s time that Bjergsen is treated like the great mechanical player that he is.
Izento has been a writer for the LoL scene since Season 7, and has been playing the game since Season 1. Follow him on Twitter at @ggIzento for more League content.
Header portrait commissioned from @PapieroweDrzewo
Photos courtesy of Riot Games
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