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League of Legends: How can TSM make it back to Worlds next year?

For many fans of League of Legends, TSM not making it to Worlds was either satisfying or disheartening. For that team, there is rarely a middle ground. This is because most fans have strong opinions about TSM. Either you love them or you hate them.

In their 3-0 loss to Cloud9 in the gauntlet finals, TSM seemingly played well in most regards. They had leads at different times, were being proactive (something many were critical of) and most lanes were mostly even throughout the series. The simple fact was, midgame, they were outplayed.

This led to many wondering what the dynasty of TSM, who had never missed Worlds before, would do to remedy their situation?

Glass Half-Full?

The story for TSM for most of this year was what was wrong? They barely made playoffs in the spring getting bounced early by Clutch and barely made playoffs in summer finishing third. Then they barely missed Worlds due to failing in their gauntlet run. The word barely can be seen in a good light or bad here. It was a glass-half-full or empty situation.

Fantasy LCS
TSM Mithy. Courtesy of LoL Esports

On one hand, TSM barely missed everything for the negative reasons, or the glass-half-empty mentality. Zven and Mithy looked uncomfortable most of the year, MikeYoung didn’t play on the main stage at all in the summer, and drafting was suspect all year for TSM. This led to the team bringing in Weldon to try and help stabilize a team that was imploding.

One can barely look at this with a glass-half-full mentality. TSM brought in one of the best duo bot lanes ever and while it took them a little while to get comfortable, they did make some major plays to get them close to Worlds. Bjerg showed that he doesn’t need to play carry champs to still carry (Zilean in third place matches for example). Lastly, Grig played well for most of the summer and will be TSM’s future at jungler.

TSM fans can choose which way they want to look at it. It is hard but either way will ultimately show fans that this season may have been needed for TSM. They had to stop being complacent with where they were, they needed a push and this season proved that.

What did this season expose about TSM?

Let’s start by focusing outside of TSM for a second. NA looked terrible during the funnel meta, they refused to adapt and it made the region look weak. Once the meta was back to normal (to a certain degree) NA looked like a much better region, especially at the top tier. Team Liquid, on the other hand, looked pretty solid the entire year and was definitely NA’s top team.

Now back to TSM. With NA being better it made TSM’s problem more pronounced than ever. In the past and most of this season, TSM junglers have struggled. They rely too much on Bjergsen and they seem to draft more to what is good than to their strengths. This was apparent with MikeYeung and Grig at the beginning, although he has seemed to potentially stabilize the position.

The team has always had these major problems but, they were able to get away with them because they were, well just good enough to get past them. Also by paying top dollar for MikeYeung and the formerly G2 bot lane, they were throwing money at a problem that may have required something other than money. While these were some of the best free agents talent wise, ripping apart the team lead to a lot of cohesion problems which were seen throughout the season.

Now that they had this season and didn’t make worlds, TSM will have to look hard in the mirror and see that money and Bjerg cannot get them past all their problems.

Off-season changes

Many fans called for heads and we saw them roll. Ssong, Hauntzer and Mithy will not longer be on the team. They brought in BrokenBlade to play in the top lane and Smoothie at support to fill out the roster. Also, just in case Grig falls into a similar pattern of TSM junglers, Akkadian was brought onto the Academy roster.

Roster changes aren’t the only changes needed. The next needs to be with the team’s ego as a whole. TSM is no longer “NA’s best chance” at worlds. They lost that this year (arguably before then) and that should drive them more than ever. While the current starting roster is very good at their respective positions, their team play as a whole was what made last season so rough.

Lastly, we saw that once Weldon was brought in, the team started to finally gel. Sadly, it was too little too late. TSM should take what they learned from the now CLG head coach and use it early to make sure they go into the season mentally prepared.

Shotcalling

Most of the best teams in the world are cohesive in their game strategies and synergies. If TSM hopes to make it back to Worlds they must make changes in this area.

Losing games because they couldn’t decide whose shotcalling to listen to cannot happen. This was evident when they lost two base races in a row, including a huge upset against OpTic. Then their lack of decision-making almost lost them a game in the gauntlet against Echo Fox. This was when three of the team were trying to end and Bjerg went mid to try and get another inhib on his own. The team needs to make a decision on who is shotcalling at what points in the game and trust that person is making the right call. The old adage of, “win as a team or lose as a team”, comes to mind.

With Mithy out, it is likely that most of shotcalling will fall to Bjerg. It may not be best for him to do it to start games, so we may see Grig or Smoothie take up the job. Either way, once they have made their decision for who is shotcalling TSM needs to stay with it.

Drafting needs to change

When TSM were at their best in the past years, they forced others to bend to their style. While the meta will change one thing will not, TSM will almost always play for late game. Everyone knows it and it has almost always worked. They will build around their carries, Bjerg, Zven and possibly BrokenBlade to try to out-macro everyone. This season and especially for most of summer split, TSM seemed to forget parts of this.

Courtesy of: TSM

While they seemingly wanted to play for late, they would pick comps that did not match this initial thought process. Whether this was on Ssong, Parth, or the team as a whole, does not matter. What matters is they consistently were getting out drafted and it did not seem to get much better. With Zikz coming over it will be imperative that he is prepared to commit to a style.

Zikz will need to either make TSM get used to the meta or he will need to find out how their style fits the meta. Trying to do a combo of both has shown to not bring success for TSM. As long as they have veterans like Bjerg and Zven, TSM can lean on their knowledge of the game and ability to win late.

TSM at Worlds 2019?

As with everything in the preseason, all anyone can do is wait to see what happens. That being said, TSM has made some pretty major changes in the last two years and with this new iteration, they should be one of the better teams in the league. Will they make Worlds in 2019? TSM fans will certainly hope this is the formula needed for them to make a run.


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