LCS: How Bad Drafts Cost TSM Against FlyQuest

Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games. /
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TSM Broken Blade. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games. /


The bottom line that, from my perspective, TSM was too locked into certain picks and bans. Constantly banning Ornn, picking Aatrox, Nautilus, and Jarvan, are all indications that TSM either didn’t have answers to giving up champions like Ornn, Sett, and Syndra (who they constantly banned as well).

To me, their inability to adjust during the series is a big problem for concern. The Game 2 “salty runback” made no sense for TSM, who was clearly thinking that their poor play in Game 1 was a result of Dardoch getting invaded early, not the draft.

Even in their other win, a Game 4 victory, I was convinced they lost the draft heavily because they had to basically hard-stomp in 10-15 minutes, which they hadn’t done. Of course, TSM did manage to get that massive lead early and (uncharacteristically for this season) didn’t throw it. But this game was also the biggest diversion from their set of ideal picks that TSM went into the series with and shockingly, it was the one that TSM looked the best on.

The big problem with this thinking is that TSM is not drafting to its players’ strengths and to what FlyQuest has been showing throughout the series. FlyQuest puts a lot of priority on Xayah and Rakan? Three straight games where TSM gives it away for the theoretical winning matchup and loses rather than adapt and force a trade that FlyQuest might not want.

Jarvan is ineffective in Dardoch’s hands? Broken Blade seems committed to playing Aatrox? They decide not to pick a stronger early game jungler that Dardoch has succeeded on and not prioritize top lane control and dominate Rift Herald takes (they lost the overall Rift battle in the series 4-6 and got only one in the games that they lost).

A bad draft once or twice is excusable. One or two champions that get picked into bad lane matchups or don’t fit with the rest of the team’s goals can be remedied. But TSM’s decision to run the exact same types of drafts for four of the five games is a large reason why they failed.

Whose Fault is It?

While many fans are blaming Peter Zhang for the draft issues, he alone cannot bear the brunt of the blame. Clearly, there were certain players who were either too vocal about their desire to play certain lane matchups (Broken Blade) or weren’t vocal enough about their own champion limitations (Dardoch, Biofrost).

However, it is fair to put the majority of the blame on Peter for having too rigid an idea of what these drafts should look like, not understanding his own players’ strengths, not considering what his opponent might counter those strengths with, and repeating his mistakes. The priority was far too much on what should be a good blind pick here or a good lane matchup there, rather than what his players had actually succeeded on during the split and what his opponents showed during their regular season games.

In fairness, the coaching staff is certainly making those considerations in planning their drafts and they have more data from scrims than we have access to. They may well have seen TSM having tons of success on these drafts against other, stronger opponents in the scrims that week.

They may say that Dardoch normally played harder through top lane and the bully Aatrox, they’re able to control Rift Herald and transfer that lead down to the mid and bot lanes, but execution in this series was lacking. To be sure, the team’s execution in these games was sub-par, but the job of the coach is to put his players in a position to succeed. By not pivoting away from something that was not working and not recognizing that scrims are a completely different environment from even remote play, the coaches doomed TSM.

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Whether he got pushback from his players on certain picks, either during the week or in the actual pick/ban, TSM’s coaching staff simply didn’t have cohesive strategies for forming a composition and flexibility in forming these compositions. League of Legends is a game where teams must consider not only lane matchups but also how their five champions function together and how the enemy team can form a team to hinder that goal.