LCS: How do TSM approach 2021 after massive Worlds failure?

TSM’s dreams of Worlds success ended abruptly after a winless group stage

Team SoloMid has disappointed North American fans in every international competition in recent memory, but this Worlds performance was unlike any other. After failing to pick up a single victory in the tournament, TSM must now look towards the 2021 season, searching for answers on how to improve internationally.

Despite winning the LCS Summer Split in exciting fashion, TSM could only watch on as the other LCS representatives – Team Liquid and FlyQuest – challenged in their respective groups, finishing a combined 6-6. Although neither of them made it to the knockout stage, they both made their groups interesting, whereas TSM had no shot of advancing after their first three losses.

Led by a two-headed monster of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, TSM were looking to finally make waves at Worlds after failing to qualify the last two years. Their road to becoming the first seed from North America wasn’t an easy task, losing to Golden Guardians early on in the Summer Split playoffs, forcing them to bounce back from the loser’s bracket.

After qualifying, they were placed in Group C with the LCK’s Gen.G, the LEC’s Fnatic, and the LPL’s LGD Gaming, who qualified through the play-in stage. Many predicted TSM to finish either third or fourth in the group, as LGD had looked quite questionable during the play-in group stage. However, Gen.G and Fnatic are both experienced teams that have had previous international success, making the North American side the underdogs in the group.

TSM went on to lose every game they played at the 2020 World Championship, showing a worrying lack of communication and shot-calling throughout. To add insult to injury, they even traded a Baron for their own Nexus against LGD in their last game of the tournament.

So, after this dreadful performance, how do TSM improve?

Realistically, although Bjergsen and Doublelift have failed to succeed in international events, SoloMid cannot find anyone better to replace them.

While Bjerg is receiving a lot of criticism after their 0-6 finish – in part due to his horrific laning stats – it must be kept in mind that’s likely to happen when he’s playing Galio and Zilean, two supportive champions looking to help the team in exchange for giving up laning power. He shouldn’t be on those champions in the most important games of the year, as he’s the team’s best player, but that’s a problem with the draft, not him.

Furthermore, TSM’s rookie jungler, Mingyi “Spica” Lu, was perhaps the brightest spot for the team at Worlds as he showed growth throughout the Summer Playoffs and even made plays at the international level. Spica should remain on the team for 2021 and building around him should be a priority for TSM, as it is rare to find young North American talent that can compete at the highest level.

A key instance of the previously mentioned poor communication from TSM could be observed during their fifth group stage game against Gen.G in which Spica landed a five-man Lillia ultimate but his teammates refused to follow up. If TSM had committed to the fight, instead of playing not to lose, they probably would have won the game and actually been competitive at the World Championship. Instead, their safe playstyle was punished and they were outclassed by Gen.G later in the game.

Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik had an up and down Worlds performance. TSM opted to draft around the top laner in the majority of their games at the tournament with Camille being picked in three of the six group stage matches. As Camille offers an effective engage tool, Broken Blade was often made to look foolish when TSM’s decisions turned sour.

The top laner still has one year remaining on his contract and unless TSM can snag another promising import, such as Barney “Alphari” Morris from Origen, it’s probably not worth taking a risk on a new top laner.

Bjergsen, Team SoloMid, TSM, LCS, League of Legends

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.

That leaves support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, and coach Parth “Parth” Naidu, TSM’s support and head coach respectively. Biofrost was brought back into the main lineup in the midst of the Summer Split playoffs, just one month after being replaced by rookie support Erik “Treatz” Wessén.

Treatz presents a higher ceiling for the team as he has a more diverse champion pool and better shot-calling which is clear to see for regular viewers of Doublelift’s duo queue streams. Despite an excellent 6-2 record during his eight games in the LCS, Treatz was left on the bench at the World Championship, possibly to make use of the strong pre-existing synergy between Doublelift and Biofrost.

As for Parth, he’s been a part of the Team SoloMid organization since 2014 and has failed to find success either as the general manager, assistant coach, or head coach. In his latest stint as head coach, he has made questionable decisions in the draft on numerous occasions, frequently putting TSM at a disadvantage before the game has started.

Parth has remained a vital figure at the organization without showing any signs of international improvement and, if TSM are serious about competing on the Worlds stage, it is time for the head to take a step back.

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TSM haven’t made any noise internationally since 2014 but it seems difficult to find effective roster improvements for the 2021 season. Without a surprise resurgence from Doublelift, management will look to replace Biofrost with Treatz and hire new coaching staff who better understand the team’s strengths. If they draft appropriately to the strong points of the team, not putting Bjergsen on Galio in international games, TSM has a chance to improve.

Or, they could just go all out for Alphari.