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TSM vs. TL: Keys to a TSM Victory and What To Watch For

The time has come, LCS Spring Split 2021 Playoffs. Luckily for fans the first matchup should be a fun one as TSM will be taking on Team Liquid. During the regular season, TSM were able to beat TL 2-0 with both games showing some of the major issues TL have been having all season. Now they have a best of five to decide which 12-6 team will have to meet up with Evil Geniuses in the lower bracket. For TSM fans the opportunity to take down one of their biggest rivals is one they would love the team to take advantage of. Here’s what fans should be watching for and the Keys to Victory for TSM.

*Note: All statistics are courtesy of Oracles Elixir.

[Related: LCS Power Rankings Playoff Edition: Race to the Finish]


What to Watch For

Matchup

Huni vs. Alphari

There is no doubt that Alphari has been an absolute monster for Team Liquid and he will likely finish at least in the top three for MVP. Statistically, he is at or near the top in every major statistic and most importantly he is dominating his lane. That said, in their two matchups, Huni has actually not only kept up with Alphari but held him in check. Against TSM, Alphari is a combined 4/4/9 with a -31 cs difference and in both matchups he was given counter pick.

For TSM to win the series, Huni will have to continue keeping Alphari in check. It will be worth watching to see if Spica tries to focus top and get Huni ahead or if they will leave him alone to try and do it on his own. Recently TSM have been playing through Huni who was instrumental in the C9 comeback. That said playing against Fudge and Alphari are two very different things.

With similar champion pools between the two, seeing who gets counter-pick and what each side feels comfortable blinding into the other will be crucial. The reason being that both teams have depended on their top laners to help get them ahead by taking their advantages to other lanes. For TSM specifically, it will be interesting to see how to use Huni. Will he be the tanky CC teamfighter, the carry or the split-pusher? Whatever way they go, TSM will be relying on Huni to at least go even in this matchup.

Champions

Normally this section would just have three maybe four champions but as this is a best of five, the draft will ebb and flow throughout the series with champions that could have a major impact. With that, there will be seven champions worth noting and watching for during this series.

Renekton

This champion starts a common theme seen in the first few champions mentioned. Combined, both Alphari and Huni are 7-0 on Renekton and have a KDA of 10.35. To say that these are amazing statistics would be an understatement. This is why it would not be surprising to see Renekton just get the ban hammer for the series. The only way it should get through is if TL let it since Huni has played only two games on the croc compared to Alphari’s five. Should it get through, then all eyes will need to be on the top lane.

Gnar

During the regular season, Gnar had a 52% win percentage across the LCS. For Alphari and Huni? A 100% win percentage with a 9.13 KDA in seven games. There is little doubt that both of these players enjoy playing the boomerang monster and it would be shocking if he wasn’t seen regularly during this series. The most egregious mistake either team could make and one that would likely ruin both of their perfect records on the champ would be if the teams picked Gnar as either their only tank or only form of engage. Neither team has done this yet so don’t expect it but do expect to see Gnar have a priority in this series.

Azir

Azir is the last of the three champions to note in terms of a 100% win percentage. Both Jensen and PowerOfEvil have played Azir 11 times this Split which is quite a few more games than their top laner’s picks, but their KDA’s are very different. PoE has a 6 KDA while Jensen is rocking a 13.75. The reason for that difference is not in the kills or assists but the deaths. Jensen has died .8 times on average in five games while PoE has died an average of 1.67 times in six games. There are plenty of other differences and interesting stats as well but what is most important is that Azir will be a champion that is likely 100% pick or ban. TSM made that clear when they first picked him in the first game they played against each other. Of every champion in the game, there is a good chance that Azir will be the most important one in the drafting phase.

Orianna

Going into the season Orianna was the most played champion for both of these top-tier mid laners. One would assume then that she would be used regularly during the Split then, right? For Jensen that would be a correct assumption as Orianna was his second most played champion with three games during the Spring. PoE on the other hand did not play her once. This was the first time in his career that he did not play her in a Split. Now it is worth asking, has he been saving her for when TSM need him most? Orianna may be a crucial pick for both sides and because PoE hasn’t brought out his favorite champion it will be worth watching to see if now is the time she breaks out of champion jail.

Hecarim

Not much to say on Hecarim other than Santorin and Spica love to play this champion and normally can do so at a high level. If there are going to be jungle bans expect for Hecarim to be one of them. Should he be played then it will be interesting to see if the Lillia is trotted out or something a bit more interesting. Either way, Hecarim will likely be the priority pick in the jungle.

Tristana

While everyone is hyping up Kai’Sa and for good reason, Tristana may be a better champion currently. Not only can she be played in both mid and bot lanes but her split-pushing ability is nearly unmatched in this meta. She has self-peel and can bring down towers faster than any other champion in the current meta. So far neither mid has shown the desire to play her but both have played Lucian so far this season which stands to reason that they will play an adc mid. Should they decide to bring out her in the mid lane it wouldn’t be completely surprising but more than likely Lost and Tactical will be pining for her. Look for Tristana to be in nearly every game whether she is picked or banned.

Jinx

Jinx is a pick that is becoming more popular in the LPL and is quite the scaling pick. Her new range and extra early health have allowed her to survive what was otherwise a terrible early game. Now though with the right champions around her, she can absolutely hard carry a game. For either team, she could be a strong surprise pick. While she still comes with plenty of risk, even one or two early kills can be enough to get her snowballing. It is still a low chance she is played in this series but should more ADC bans start coming out as the series goes on, Jinx could hear her name called.

Galio

This pick is specifically for TSM. SwordArt is 3-0 on Galio and brought him out last time against TL. There is no doubt that the global jump with a nice shield and knock-up along with the plethora of CC that Galio brings is perfect for SA’s style. Against a team that loves to get advantages in the bot lane, Galio is also great for counter-engaging. Considering how great Galio has been for TSM it would not be surprising to see them bring it out in at least one or two games in this series.

Keys to Victory for TSM

Out-Macro TL

The reason that TSM have won a lot of their games is through their strong macro play. Whether it is split-pushing, prioritizing towers over nearly everything else, vision or just moving around the map as a unit, this team has excelled at their macro game. This is likely why TSM have some of the best mid and late games in the LCS. They are able to use their vision, no team places more wards than TSM, along with great roams from SwordArt and PoE to get man advantages. This allows them to either get kills or easy tower pressure.

TSM fans should be looking for this to continue as it was crucial in both of their wins against TL. They moved around the map better and knew when to sacrifice certain objectives or even give up kills in order to get ahead in other areas. If TSM lose the macro-game then they will likely lose the series very quickly.

Punish Tactical

Tactical has had a pretty rough split to say the least. He was near the bottom in most categories and finished third in the LCS in percentage of his team’s deaths. Normally this would be the fault of the support but CoreJJ was definitely not at fault for this. Once they leave lane, Tactical seemingly forgets how to play the game. This is where TSM need to strike.

They will need to look to kill Tactical when he is either alone or in transition across the map. PoE was able to do this in the second game when he caught Tactical twice in the mid lane with Syndra stuns. Now that they know this is a trend instead of an off chance, TSM need to be looking for it.

Keep the Early Game Close

According to Oracles Elixir, along with the eye test, TL have the best early game in the LCS and it is really not even close. Their 78.1 early game rating is 17 points higher than 100 Thieves who are in second. More specifically they are 27.4 points higher than TSM in this area. This should come as no surprise to any TSM fan as the early game has been questionable but less so lately. The advantage for TSM comes in their mid and late game where their rating is second in the LCS at 16.0. The most interesting note though? TL have a -11.4 mid and late game rating, exactly 27.4 away from TSM.

What that means for TSM is that if they can just go even or be slightly behind in the early game then they have a much better chance of winning. Look for TSM to focus on this as they know their mid and late games are much stronger. If TL are not able to snowball with early kills or objectives then TSM are definitely going to be setup for success.

Dragon Control

As was discussed in the last Takeaways from TSM’s games, Dragon control, especially early on has been an issue for TSM. TL on the other hand have been great at early dragon control, thus their strong early games. For TSM to be able to keep the early game close they will need to make sure they get first or second dragon as much as possible.

Even if they are down early, the dragons will provide an extra layer of late-game security. TSM will need to make dragons a priority over the Rift Herald. They have struggled with this throughout the year and it has been part of the reason that their early games have been so bad. If TSM want to win this series they have will have to end it with more dragons killed than TL.

Last Thoughts

This is definitely going to likely be the closest series of the weekend and probably the more fun one to watch. These teams are even in a lot of ways and the 2-0 regular-season record in favor of TSM can likely be thrown out the window at this point. Many fans will hope that this one goes the distance because these games will likely show some of the best the LCS has to offer.


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