Team Solomid is an organization with a long history of success in League of Legends, and this year, they put together one of the best rosters North America has ever seen.
The roster is chock-full of experienced and talented players that, when put together, are an incredible “Super Team” — quite possibly the best chance North America has ever had at World Championship title. With this roster, it was expected that the team would breeze through the North America League of Legends Championship Series and be a contender on the international stage, but at the time of writing, the LCS split is halfway through and TSM currently sits in 2nd place with a record of 7-3.
For most teams this would be a great success, but for a team that is supposed to be our Worlds contender, the results are lacking. The team has had troubles trusting each other, and in their games you can tell that communication is a large issue. Many of the wins TSM has had are due largely in part to their mechanical advantages over their opponents, and when pitted against the stronger of the LCS teams, TSM begins having issues in their teamwork and macro-play — a flaw that teams like Immortals and C9 have been able to take advantage of.
So why is this star-studded roster having these issues? And what does TSM need to do to get the results they are looking for?
Too Many Cooks Will Spoil The Broth
Normally, an LCS team has a “core” group of players whom have experience together to build their roster around, or a strong voice of reason who can guide some unproven talent in the right direction. But in the case of TSM, all five players are LCS veterans who have never played together competitively. Each player was handpicked for being a standout performer on their former teams, and in the case of some of the players, they were a big part of the strategical play of the team.
TSM’s bot lane duo Yellowstar and Doublelift have years of experience under their belt, but so far as a unit they have been completely underwhelming. It feels like each player is falling back on tendencies they had on their previous teams, and are unable to work together cohesively.
Yellowstar is arguably one of the world’s best shot-callers, and is famous for having been able to take a completely rookie roster of Fnatic and build it into a Worlds semifinalist in one year. Doublelift is one of NA’s best homegrown talents — he has consistently been the focal point of his team, and has won entire games with his mechanical prowess and aggression. Doublelift is used to being the sole carry of his team and the team’s win condition; normally his teammates build a composition and play style around this idea and are able to back him up when he makes aggressive plays, or has to farm up an advantage on the enemy. Yellowstar is used to playing with some of Europe’s best teamfight ADCs and has never been a strong laner, and thus is used to playing passively and letting his shot-calling and control of the team win the game. Normally this works, as he has become accustomed to a team of rookies who look up to him and will listen to what he says. When this duo plays together, though, their inconsistencies cause problems that seem to radiate to the rest of TSM.
TSM’s mid laner Bjergsen is used to being the main shot-caller, and with the addition of Yellowstar and a much more aggressive jungler than he’s used to in Svenskeren, has had some troubles adapting to the new dynamic of this roster, even when coming out ahead in lane. The only consistent member on TSM currently is their top laner Hauntzer, and I’d argue a lot of that success is due to the lack of weight on his shoulders, as TSM’s playstyle revolves around the mid and bot lane.
The roster has struggled to find wins against the upper-echelon teams of the LCS, who can go toe-to-toe mechanically and work together much more decisively than TSM. Even against lower-echelon teams like Echo Fox and Renegades, TSM has looked shaky, and was only able to pull out one win due to the raw mechanical talent on the team.
Many of the players on the team have very dominant personalities, and as such are going to butt heads in the decision making process. You can almost see the verbal tug-of-war take place on the field: when you have Yellowstar on the team, you need to be able to follow his lead and use his incredible shot-calling to your advantage, but Yellowstar is not a very dominant person. The only reason he was able to command his former teammates was because he had experience over them, while with this roster he is playing with people who are All-Stars in their own right.
My suggestion to TSM is to swallow their pride and let Yellowstar do what he does best. If the team starts trusting in Yellowstar, more and more they will begin to look like the cohesive unit Fnatic was this past year.
Lack of a Stable Coaching Structure
For the better part of a year now, TSM has been unable to find a suitable long-term coach that is able to earn the team’s respect. In the latter half of Season 5, team owner Reginald stepped in for Locodoco as head coach “at the request of the team”, and just this week we learned that TSM’s new head coach Woodbuck was told his services were no longer needed.
While details are scarce on why Woodbuck was let go, it wasn’t hard to tell that the players had a hard time respecting him as a coach.
When watching TSM’s documentary series “TSM: Legends” any scene that Woodbuck is present the team has problems keeping eye contact and seem disinterested, while when Reginald is present the team seems much more engaged at everything he says. When Woodbuck joined TSM, there was a lot of buzz around the idea of having a former professional sports coach as a head coach for a League of Legends team, and he spoke about bringing in coaching practices and theories used in sports into TSM.
In theory this all seemed great, not only for TSM but for the scene in general to have some real-world coaching experience, but in practice it seemed to fall flat. While Woodbuck may have a wealth of coaching knowledge, the players were unable to trust in someone who had so little experience in eSports. The entirety of TSM aside from Hauntzer are LCS veterans, and as such respect someone who has more game knowledge, such as the team owner Reginald or their head analyst Jorge.
TSM did however recently bring in former CLG sports psychologist Weldon to help out, and it seems to have worked, with TSM having their strongest showings so far. Weldon was the perfect mix of real-world experience and LCS team experience, but cannot be a permanent solution due to his inability to uproot his family and move them across the country. My suggestion to TSM is to look for someone with whom some members may have previous experience with, but also has a proven track record of coaching ability. Someone like CLG’s former head coach Chris. Chris was able to take one of the most emotionally volatile team atmospheres and turn it into a 1st place finish in the LCS, which was a first for CLG, and so I feel the strong personalities on TSM’s roster would benefit from his intense coaching style.
Time Heals All Wounds
TSM may be feeling down in the dumps right now with their lack of results, but I really do have high hopes for this roster.
I really do think that this roster can still be NA’s hope for a World Championship, but I think it’s going to take more time than they had hoped. The roster has had moments of brilliance in some of their games, as evident in their most recent game against CLG, and I think as time goes on the roster will learn how to work together and still has a huge skill ceiling they haven’t reached yet. My only fear is that someone in the roster will become impatient with their lack of success and that a drastic roster change will occur. Only time will tell, of course, and for the sake of the TSM fanboy inside of me I hope this roster sticks together.
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