I’m a huge TSM fan, and I’ve been meaning to write this article when TSM got knocked out of the 2021 LCS Lock-In Tournament by Cloud 9. Unfortunately, life happened, and I never got to it. But I’m here now with a breakdown of TSM in the 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament.
The LCS Lock-In tournament is a low-stakes tournament that LCS teams play before the regular season. Although there is not much to be gained from winning, it gives an accurate gauge of each team’s strengths and weaknesses. From watching TSM’s performance in the Lock-In tournament, I have a few things to say about the team right at the start of the LCS regular season.
It’s Not Just Drafting. It’s Player Playstyles
TSM’s results showed that they were a pretty middling team in the LCS. They went 2-2 in groups and got knocked out by Cloud 9 in the quarterfinals in a best of three that went to the full three games.
A lot of people have been complaining about TSM’s drafts. Why are they drafting Gnar all the time? Why are they drafting super weak jungle-mid duos? What are you doing, Bjergsen?
It’s easy for people to point fingers at something like the draft. Too many people get caught up in the ideals of what champion was perfect for every situation. Having played a couple of small tournaments with myself leading the drafting decisions, I realized that drafting is one of the most challenging things to do.
In its simplest form, drafting is about getting the champions your players play the best while simultaneously denying what your opponent wants to play while creating a team-comp that synergizes and counters the enemy team-comp.
Yes, drafting is an issue for TSM. But perhaps a more fundamental, underlying problem that needs to be tackled is how you’re going to work with each player’s playstyle. After all, your draft is always dependent on what your players can and are willing to play.
It’s still early in the year. TSM needs to figure out a lot of things, but they do have a little bit of time.
The most glaring issue I’m seeing, however, is the drafting issues between TSM’s midlaner, PowerOfEvil, and their jungler, Spica. Historically, PowerOfEvil is the best at playing control mages. He does the best when he’s on picks such as Syndra, Orianna, and Azir. Looking at last season, Spica performed the best on AP junglers such as Lilia and Nidalee.
Generally, if you want a more potent mid-jungle duo, you don’t want to draft a double AP combination such as Lilia and Orianna. There are two significant issues with this combo. One, the opposing mid laner gets so much value building magic resistance when playing against a double AP combination. Just by building Mercury Treads, you will never die to a combo such as Lilia and Orianna.
The second issue lies in the actual power of these champions. Control mages such as Orianna, Syndra, and Azir are looking to scale. They don’t have much power in the early game and generally need their jungler to set plays up. It just so happens that many of the meta AP junglers are also champions that require their laners to create opportunities for ganks.
When a champion like Nidalee wants to gank a lane, she wants to hit her spear. Without some sort of crowd control, it’s challenging for Nidalee to land the spear reliably. If you had something like Orianna in the mid lane, it’s nearly impossible for Nidalee to land her spear.
If we look at the top lane, Huni is being put on champions such as Gnar and Gangplank, neither of which have reliable hard cc options for Nidalee.
That leaves us bot, which I will go into more depth later. But basically, Lost and SwordArt are playing weakside, making it hard for Spica to do much of anything.
Last year, Spica looked terrific because of the lanes that were set up for him. BrokenBlade in the top lane played a ton of strong side picks that synergized very well with what Spica wanted to play. Champions such as Camille, Jax, and Renekton.
Bjergsen in the mid-lane had a champion ocean. He could play pretty much anything that the team required. Crucially, that included picks such as Galio and Twisted Fate, which allowed TSM to dominate any team in the 2020 summer split by playing through the top side of the map.
The new TSM roster brought in a ton of players, each with different playstyles. These playstyles often conflict with each other during champ select, leading to an outcome we see as lousy drafting. To solve this issue, all players on the team need to learn how to adjust their playstyles and champion pools to suit each other. Or else, we need another roster blow-up.
The good thing is that we’re still early in the season. But TSM does have a lot of catching up to do.
The Midgame Macro Is Getting Better
There’s a lot of negativity on TSM’s performance in the 2021 Lock-In Tournament. One positive thing we can take away, however, is TSM’s improvement in their mid-game macro.
Yes, TSM’s macro is nowhere near the top teams in the world. It’s also probably not enough to win them LCS. But it’s an improvement compared to last year’s TSM.
Last year, I felt like TSM was always capable of getting leads. In fact, it felt like TSM was getting leads pretty much all the time and then blowing those leads in the mid-game. Now it’s the reverse. TSM can’t seem to get any early leads, but they start to come back in the mid-game.
The SwordArt pick up was definitely good from TSM. After watching TSM Legends, I realized that SwordArt made most of the calls for what the team should do in the mid-game.
What I would have loved to see was last year’s TSM running it back this year and only replacing Biofrost with SwordArt. If TSM fixed some of their mid-game problems and continued to be a good team at getting leads, they probably would have dominated LCS and had a decent chance of getting further than groups in worlds.
But that’s just wishful thinking. For the current TSM, I hope they improve their ability to get early leads and then use their newfound midgame macro skills to push those leads.
Refine Bot Lane Goals
There’s a lot of flame on TSM’s ADC, Lost. A lot of people are memeing and saying, “Lost is looking lost.” And he is. But not just Lost, the entirety of TSM.
Contrary to popular opinion, I think Lost on Fleet Footwork, boots start Jhin is totally fine. However, TSM needs to understand the objective and benefits of picking Jhin and building safe items. Having played that Jhin build a couple of times in solo queue, the primary goals are to set your team up for success and safely scale into the late game.
Jhin’s kit has a lot of utility. He can help set up vision with his E, pick enemies with his W, and use his ult to either finish enemies from long range or set up fights. This utility provides so much value that it’s okay to fall a little behind in lane. Eventually, Jhin will scale and do lots of damage in addition to his utility.
However, this is only the case if your team can take advantage of Jhin’s utility and get leads on different sides of the map. If your team fails to generate advantages, or even worse, the enemy team gains advantages, your entire team will be choked out, and there is no reason for picking such a safe Jhin build.
That’s precisely what happened to TSM. They were picking Jhin all the time but never taking advantage of the pick. And thus, they slowly got choked out every game and lost.
I would have liked to see either a counter pick in the top lane or mid lane and a lot of roaming from SwordArt with Spica to set up a winning top or mid.
The second strategy TSM could have implemented was to let Huni play weakside top with a pick like Gangplank, put Spica on an aggressive early game jungler such as Hecarim, give SwordArt a hard engage support like Leona, and let Lost and PowerOfEvil play their usual champions. Then I want to see a complete bot lane domination and aggressive invades into the enemy bot lane jungle. But again, Spica’s ability to play AD junglers isn’t all that good.
In general, TSM needs to refine their entire team’s objectives with the team comps they play. But starting with their bot lane will help them a lot in such a dragon-oriented meta.
Become The Best In At Least One Thing
After spending a lot of time playing, watching, and analyzing League of Legends, you’ll begin to notice team composition patterns. Generally, each team comp has a win condition and a clear objective of what the team wants to do. Some examples include front-to-back teamfight comps, diving comps, split-pushing comps, and more.
One issue right now is that TSM isn’t the best at any of these team comps. And most of the time, it doesn’t seem like TSM has any sort of clear objective with what they’re playing. This issue stems from their playstyles and drafts.
I like that TSM has been trying to become more versatile. In their match against Cloud 9, I like that PowerOfEvil pulled out picks such as Twisted Fate and Lucian. It shows that the team has been experimenting and trying to get better.
But being able to play anything isn’t a strength if you’re mediocre at everything you play. I would really like to see TSM become the best in at least one playstyle.
Seeing how PowerOfEvil plays the best on control mages and SwordArt plays the best on engage supports, I would like to see Spica adapt and become good on picks such as Graves and Hecarim.
Last year’s TSM was the best in the league at playing strong top side and split pushing comps. They would pick team comps consisting of Camille/Jax/Renekton, Nidalee/Lilia, Twisted Fate/Galio, Ashe/Senna, and Bard/Thresh. These team comps have a clear identity. Go even bot, snowball top, split push, and catch people who try to match the push with globals.
Because TSM was so good at playing these types of comps, they would consistently draw bans on champions such as Twisted Fate and Renekton. These bans open up the opportunity to pick other OP champions if you can play the other styles. Unfortunately, last year’s TSM was fairly one-dimensional in that BrokenBlade could only play strong-side top.
But this year’s TSM is even worse. They don’t have any playstyle that is a threat. I want to see TSM at least become the best at playing team comps such as a front-to-back or diving teamfight comp and force the opposing teams to ban champions such as Gangplank and Orianna.
Then if they’re also good at playing combos such as Renekton-Nidalee and split-pushing, suddenly TSM becomes so much scarier and unpredictable to play against. Let’s start getting good at everything, one thing at a time.
Can TSM Take Another Trophy?
Even though I’m a huge TSM fan, it will be challenging for TSM to get another trophy, realistically speaking. Yes, TSM has time to fix their issues and improve, but every other team in the league has the same amount of time.
To make matters worse, the top contenders for the LCS are teams that already have pre-existing synergy. Cloud 9 has three members from last year in Zven, Vulcan, and Blaber. Team Liquid has three members in CoreJJ, Tactical, and Jensen. 100 Thieves has the entirety of last year’s Golden Guardians roster minus Hauntzer and the coach.
These teams have so much pre-built synergy, which means they’re already trying to figure out how to take their gameplay to the next level while TSM is still figuring out how to work together. Perhaps more crucially, TSM also doesn’t have the strongest player in any role.
TSM needs a miracle to get another trophy. To win another trophy, TSM needs all their players to overperform while having the rest of the league underperform. That’s tough.