How TSM's Fall Spells Disaster for North America
Last year at the Mid-Season Invitational, Counter Logic Gaming made a strong statement to the rest of the World, earning a second-place finish and securing bragging rights for North American fans over their non-Korean counterparts. Last week, however, Team SoloMid fell flat, bowing out of the main event with an underwhelming 4-7 and
It's easy to make excuses for TSM's failings. However, those excuses don't eliminate the consequences at for North America. What caused TSM's underwhelming performance and how can they — and the rest of the region — can improve before the World Championships later this year.
Painting a Target on Bjergsen’s Back
Any conversation about Team SoloMid must start with
“By constantly keeping mid pushed out, [jungler] Dennis ‘Svenskeren’ Johnsen could pick a side lane to gank,” Kelsey Moser pointed out. This was one of the biggest reasons top
Against world-class competition, however, Bjergsen struggled to have the same impact. He was still the team's best player by far — securing a 5.1 KDA and a 1.2 CSD10 — but he wasn't able to force their opponents to dedicate as many resources to stopping his snowball potential. Instead, enemy
As a result, TSM were often left playing from behind, and their 45.5 EGR was second-to-last in the event.
Their overreliance on Bjergsen’s lane dominance is concerning: it's incredibly difficult for any mid
The lack of versatility in Team SoloMid's strategies is a huge concern, and it's hard to imagine these one note strategies working consistently on the International stage.
Doublelift: TSM’s Beacon of Hope
Luckily for TSM, Worlds is a long way off, and they likely are not in as bad of shape as their performance implies.
Some fans have said that they performed to their expectations considering the roster, and there's a good deal of truth to that. Both
There are many reasons to believe that TSM will be much stronger in the summer split with the return of star ADC Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. Doublelift's strong
Mitch "Krepo" Voorspoels has urged fans to send positive messages their way rather than flaming the team on social media. With Doublelift, TSM's 2016 Summer split was far stronger than their efforts so far this year. The increased flexibility when he returns could go a long way when the World Championship rolls around.
Doublelift’s return will give fans plenty of reasons to get
Svenskeren sounded unsure in his pre-event
That lack of confidence is apparent in his performances: Svenskeren hasn't shown the same play-making potential that defined most of his career, and that trajectory is far too similar to previous TSM
It wasn't just Korea giving Svenskeren problems, although SKT's Han "Peanut" Wang-ho was the only player to call out his struggles, saying, “It was really easy playing against Svenskeren."
That was clear — Svenskeren's early pathing and poor jungle control
Head Coach Parth “Parth” Naidu is also a concern, as his pick/ban strategies have let TSM down in big moments. This was especially true in their tiebreaker game against the Flash Wolves, where his
There are also big question marks surrounding the team’s shot-calling capabilities. As LoL Esports writer Kien Lam noted, “the biggest problem is TSM’s unwillingness to make an aggressive play with their leads.” TSM failed to capitalize on many of opportunities that could have swung the momentum in their favor. Without stronger in-game leadership, it’s hard to see TSM living up to their potential when it matters most.
Team SoloMid has too many resources at their disposal to justify these issues, many of which plagued them in their underwhelming performance at the World Championship last year. Even with Doublelift, TSM suffers many deep-seated issues that put their impact beyond North America at risk, which speaks poorly not only of them but every regional rival they beat.
A Tougher Road at Worlds
Because TSM did not secure a top-four finish, the 2017 NA LCS Summer Champion will be forced into Pool 2 in the World Championship seeding. TSM has
TSM's performance also leaves serious questions about the quality of competition in the North American scene. Despite their clear flaws and weaker line-up, TSM had few significant obstacles on the path to the NA Championship. They had the best record in the regular season and crushed their Semifinals opponent, FlyQuest.
Cloud9 proved they could keep up with their weakened rivals, but the drop-off in quality after that point is increasingly concerning. When Doublelift returns to the main roster, it's hard to imagine many teams seriously threatening TSM's regional dominance.
It's difficult to grow as a roster when you don't have any serious competition pushing you forward. Without opponents who can expose these flaws and force them to adapt, it’s likely these issues will continue unabated until it is already too late. Fans who expect TSM’s regional play will result in a strong international performance will likely find themselves disappointed.
Fixing NA’s Issues from the Ground Up
One of the biggest issues plaguing North America is a lack of homegrown talent that can carry a successful team. Because 3/5 of a starting roster has to include native players, the NA LCS has become a constant struggle between those with top NA talent (TSM, C9, and CLG) and those without it. There's a reason those three powers have been the only teams to ever appear in an NA LCS Championship series (outside Good Game University's improbable playoff run in the 2013 Spring Split).
This issue stems from a systemic neglect of NA's challenger talent. As popular twitter
There have been only six starting NA mid
It's easy for
It may be too late now.
Jungroan Lin of Esports Edition noted back in
The inevitable result of this poor incentivization structure was a heap of Riot bans on Challenger players. That creates a lack of viable alternatives for top-tier native
That result is the same regardless of whether you think the bans were too strict.
Instead of forcing their way into relevance, high-level players with strong personalities would be better off trying to make it big in the lucrative streaming market. Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana has become the model for success, turning the former Dignitas ADC into a full-time streamer allegedly making $2 million per year.
This doesn’t have to be the end of NA’s relevance. CLG’s performance just one year ago proves that with the right chemistry and a strong work ethic, North American teams can still compete with the best the non-Korean regions have to offer. However, this won’t happen if organizations are unwilling to fix the systemic problems that plague the current Challenger scene. Without proper support for top-tier talent, NA risks the worst fate in esports: international irrelevance.