How far can TSM go at the 2016 World Championship?

SKT vs. Samsung Galaxy for the Summoner's CupCredit: Riot Games
SKT vs. Samsung Galaxy for the Summoner's CupCredit: Riot Games /

The 2016 World Championship is almost here, and TSM is hoping to make history for North America!

The 2016 League of Legends World Championship is almost here. After a fantastic summer that’s featured more LCS games than ever before, we finally get to see the best teams from each region duke it out to see who comes out on top. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to look over our breakdown of the group stage.

Much has changed over the last few seasons of professional LoL, but one fact has remained constant: North American LCS teams just can’t cut it. We don’t have the Korean infrastructure. The Chinese talent. EU’s… well I’m not quite sure why EU has out-classed NA the last few years.

But this year is different. In addition to talented teams from Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming, we are sending, perhaps, the greatest team in the history of NA: Team SoloMid.

Let’s take an in-depth look at TSM to see how far they can make it, and if 2016 really will be different for North America.

Group D: The Group of Death

If TSM want to go far this year, last Saturday’s group draw did them no favors. Initial reaction from many sources agreed: TSM’s group was the toughest of the four. Some called it the Group of Death. Whatever you term it, it’s a strong group from top to bottom.

Royal Never Give Up had a great group stage at MSI and then beefed up what looked like their weakest position with star ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. They are the only ones in the group with Worlds experience. Samsung Galaxy’s jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong played all over the region in search of a Worlds spot, and they just took out an extremely talented KT Rollster squad in the LCK regional finals to make it. Splyce showed all summer that they belonged at the upper echelon of the EU LCS, playing beautifully around mid laner Chres “Sencux” Laursen.

The micro: individual matchups

The first thing I did was compile a list of individual matchups and ranked them from best (green) to red (worst):

worlds-group-d /

Note: the rankings are not based purely on talent level; rather, they take into consideration how each player performs for his team within the current meta. For example, is Samsung’s Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin really worse than TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell? Until they play, it’s unsure. But CuVee’s team does not play around him as well as TSM do around Hauntzer, and he doesn’t have the cross-map presence that Hauntzer does.

Let’s use that example to talk about top lane as this is the most equal position among the four teams. Some of that is due to the current top-lane meta, where egg is the main course: Ekko, Gnar and Gangplank. These guys are all proficient on those champions, and the difference will be their ability to join their teams on-time.

In the jungle, Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu is still on top despite his struggles against ClearLove in the LPL Finals. RNG need the spicy mushroom to snowball their carries, and as good as Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has been for his team, TSM relies much less on his mechanics. There’s a decent size gap between those two and Ambition and Jonas “Trashy” Andersen.

Mid lane was the easiest position to rank. Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is a god. Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao is an aggressive player who makes things happen, but the team dynamic has changed since MSI, and it’s unsure if he’s as effective with RNG having to feed Uzi as well. Lee “Crown” Min-Ho has been fine, but his KDA suffers due to the level of talent in the LCK. Lastly, Sencux is the star for Splyce and gets the nod here.

Next: Analysis of the Worlds Groups and Championship Odds

ADC was tough, but ultimately, Uzi isn’t the same star that, a couple years ago, could be relied upon to carry a series. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng has been much more consistent in lane and requires fewer resources. Of course, Uzi can still win any game by himself — but as fun as he is to watch, it’s just not sustainable for team success.

Mata hasn’t had the dream split he imagined when he campaigned for Uzi to be on his team. They beat nearly everyone in the LPL, but never solved their EDG problem, and in the finals, the duo just fell flat. But he’s the only one here with championship experience, and he simply cannot be put below a couple rookies.

The macro: team matchups

This is where player rankings get a little funky. Look at the three green spots on RNG’s side and you’d believe they are the best team in the group. That may be the case, but it’s forgetting how these players fit together.

In their loss to EDG in the LPL Finals, RNG consistently failed to play together, respect where they had priority on the map and synergize with their team composition. In Game One, they left Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok on an island against a Gangplank who had a perpetual freeze. Slowly bleeding CS into a matchup where he would be out-scaled, Looper was completely ineffective. All series, EDG punished RNG’s positioning and wave management. It’s pointless to pick good waveclear when all it does is set you up to be ganked.

Compare that to TSM who do a fantastic job managing waves so that when they roam and fight, they still get back in time to catch CS. Or the way that they support extended lanes and how active Bjergsen is around the map. After being criticized so often for not being on the same page in the spring, they have played extremely well together in the summer. That, along with their ability to make decisive objective calls after gaining an advantage, is what sets them apart.

TSM’s path to the elimination stage

TSM should be the best team in the group, but their goal isn’t to win groups as much as to just get through to the bracket stage. TSM’s goal should be to sweep SPY and SSG, split with RNG and go 5-1, guaranteeing them a safe spot in the elimination round. Of course, going 6-0 is always preferable to get the top seed. Then again, weird things can happen and the number one group stage seed didn’t do RNG any favors at MSI.

More from League of Legends Esports

Things would get tricky if Splyce lose all 6 of their games, TSM split with both RNG and SSG, and RNG and SSG split with each other. That would create a three-way tie at the top, with none of the three teams having a head-to-head advantage against the others. That’s the scenario TSM want to avoid by going 5-1 or better, hoping SPY get a game off either SSG or RNG, or hoping that SSG and RNG do not split their two games. Confused yet? Just win, and TSM will be fine.

What are TSM’s chances in the elimination stage?

To be honest, getting out of groups would be a relief. Last year’s Worlds was a complete clown fiesta as top teams CLG and TSM went 2-4 and 1-5, respectively, while upstart C9 (who pulled miracle games out of their butts just to get to Worlds) actually won three straight games before completely falling apart.

TSM and C9 did make it to the bracket stage in 2014, but as second seeds, placing them in first round matches against Samsung White and Samsung Blue, respectively. Those matches went about as you’d expect. Actually, that’s not true — the fact that both teams were able to win a game could be considered minor miracles.

Let’s assume Rox and G2 make it out of Group A (in that seeding order), SKT and I May/C9/FW out of Group B, and EDG and AHQ/H2K out of Group C. The only teams I would put TSM at a distinct disadvantage against would be Rox, SKT, and EDG. Don’t believe me? TSM has 6-1 odds to win the whole thing, much better than G2, H2K, FW, AHQ, etc.

Rox, SKT, and EDG should emerge from their groups in first place, so if TSM wins Group D, that gives them a clear path to the semifinals. At that point, I’m going to write something completely crazy: I think TSM want to play SKT in the semis.

TSM versus the World Champions

SKT has won everything. They’ve won Worlds twice. They have proved doubters wrong time after time. I have

personally written

how we shouldn’t write SKT off. And despite all that, of the top seeds, I think TSM matches up best against the World Champs.

skt /

Top laner Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong will beat Hauntzer in lane. There’s nothing TSM can do about that besides pick someone who scales and/or has global presence (hello, Gangplank). But Duke is also a notably bad teleporter and Hauntzer is great at leaving his lane at the most opportune time. Jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu has better ward stats than Svenskeren, but Svenskeren is a much more aggressive jungler early.

Mid lane will be a struggle. You know how I wrote that Bjergsen is a god? That would make Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok a Titan. Bjergsen just needs to stay alive, and pick enough waveclear to keep Faker occupied.

The duo lane is where TSM would have a chance. Doublelift has really found his form with Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. They will struggle to provide as much pressure as SKT support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan does, but they can make up for it by winning their lane. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Wolf had an inconsistent start at MSI, and if the home crowd can get into their heads, it may be just enough to get TSM into the finals.

That is the goal: make it out of groups in first place. Win an elimination match as the favorite. Put it all on the line against one of the world’s best — a team that’s been there before. And if they’re still standing after that, anything can happen.

Visit our NA LCS section to stay up-to-date on all the news in the region. Also, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook