TSM: The Big Bet on Spica is Likely Going to Cost Them

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

TSM finalized their roster yesterday by announcing Spica as the starting jungler. The team’s gamble on an unproven rookie is likely to cost them.

Another jungler has escaped the purgatory that is jungler for TSM. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett was released from TSM’s roster shortly before signing with Dignitas. In a video announcement, TSM announced his replacement would be coming from their Academy team in rookie Mingyi “Spica” Lu.

Spica rejoins TSM’s LCS roster after a brief, unsuccessful stint as the team’s starting jungler during the 2019 LCS Worlds Qualifier that saw TSM fall to Clutch and fail to make Worlds for the second-straight year. But the big question most LCS fans, and particularly TSM fans, are asking is whether the decision to move on from Dardoch to Spica was the right one.

To do this, let’s take a look at the Spring Split stats for each Dardoch and Spica (note, some Academy stats were unavailable; Spica was given the average for an LCS jungler in those instances):

Created by Josh Tyler.
Created by Josh Tyler. /

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As you can see, looking at the statistics, Dardoch was graded as a below-average LCS jungler based on his 2020 statistical performance. In particular, his deaths per game (3) and unforced/isolated deaths (27) were some of the highest among LCS junglers. His death share of 30.5% was tied for the worst in the LCS for his position.

On the other hand, Spica outpaced Dardoch in just about every key statistical category except for vision score per minute. Spica’s Academy stats would place him at about a slightly above-average grade for LCS junglers. In particular, we should highlight his early game play, where he tended to get leads in gold, CS, and experience at 15 minutes, in contrast to Dardoch who was usually behind at that point in the game.

However, all of this comes with the big, big caveat that these stats were racked up against far inferior competition in the Academy league. That’s not to say that there are no LCS-caliber junglers in Academy. His competition included three players who played in the LCS in the Spring Split (Shernfire, Akaadian, and Grig) and three former starting LCS junglers (Anda, Contractz, and MikeYeung).

The fact that Spica was only able to put up average to slightly-better-than-average statistics, it’s fair of fans to question whether TSM might have been better served looking for an external candidate. Contrast this with Blaber, the reigning LCS MVP who spent all of Summer 2019 on Cloud9 Academy. He absolutely dominated in the Academy league last year, leading the league in just about every statistical category.

In addition, there are still concerns about Spica’s champion pool.

Last year, during the Academy season, Spica was basically relegated to two champions: Jarvan IV and Sejuani. This was incredibly evident during his time on TSM’s main roster, as the team had to put massive draft priority into early-picking Sejuani.

That has, unfortunately, not changed too much this year. Spica’s most-played champions in Academy last split were, in order, Jarvan IV, Lee Sin, and Trundle. Now it’s nice to see new champions Lee Sin and Trundle in his repertoire (though it’s largely because Sejuani has been largely out of the meta this season), but the big problem is that his win rate on Lee Sin is atrocious (20%) and he only has three games on Trundle.

Over the course of Spica’s professional career, Sejuani and Jarvan IV are the only two champions he has more than 10 games on, and Jarvan IV is the only one of those that he has a win rate over 50% on. These champion pool issues are likely going to be exposed in the LCS against stronger competition and with only one split to practice, he may not be able to solve that problem.

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Ultimately, I don’t believe that TSM made a mistake in moving on from Dardoch, but I don’t necessarily believe that Spica will be an upgrade or even a side-grade. On a team that has aims of making a run to possibly challenging Cloud9 and making a run to Worlds, an unproven jungler who was underwhelming in Academy is a big gamble. Looking at Spica’s body of work, it seems more likely than not the gamble will not pay off.