After the first round-robin of the World Championship group stage, three teams sit at 0-3: PSG Talon, Unicorns of Love, and TSM. However, while PSG Talon is in the most stacked group (featuring DAMWON Gaming and JDG, along with a well-performing Rogue), and UOL has Top Esports in its group and the excuse of being an emerging region team from the play-ins, TSM is in the weakest group and is the NA first seed.
Their problems are glaring — from draft to in-game decision making. And frankly, they look like a shell of the team that won the NA finals just weeks ago in Los Angeles.
Each of their games was winnable, but that's kind of been the theme for the entirety of Group C's games. Almost none of them were one-sided, and usually, it was due to both teams playing poorly and giving their opponents opportunities to attack them and take advantage of their mistakes. That means if TSM had prepped better, drafted better, or just played better on the day, they could just as well be 3-0 right now instead.
First, let's look at the draft. It's very clear that NA as a whole is weak in the draft phase. Not only are the players' champion pools limited, but they also have less competition at home in NA and they're not challenged often with counter picks and flex picks in the same way as they are internationally. That leads to weak drafts against strong opponents who are very willing and able to take advantage of those mistakes.
Game 1: TSM vs. Fnatic
In their first game against Fnatic, TSM got everything they wanted. Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik got Camille, Mingyi "Spica" Lu got Nidalee, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg got Syndra, Yiliang "Peter" "Doublelift" Peng got Senna, and Vincent "Biofrost" Wang got Alistar. The problem is, Fnatic got everything they wanted as well, and their team comp posed problems that TSM couldn't handle.
In our post-game interview with Mithy, he stated that "it turned out to be easier than expected in terms of the draft, they gave us a lot of comfort..." So even though TSM picked for full comfort, they did not gain any advantage out of it, because that resulted in their opponents getting their own comfort, which was arguably better.
Game 2: TSM vs. Gen.G
In their second game, the draft looked fine until the second round of bans and picks came through. Gen.G had built a strong dive comp in their first pick phase, and TSM had Renekton, Nidalee, and Rakan. No AD carries were yet locked in, and Caitlyn and Kalista were banned away.
While Ezreal handles dives really well and complements the poke of Nidalee, and Ashe can provide engage to help Rakan function better, TSM banned Ashe, left Ezreal open, and selected Senna. Senna struggles with all the heavy dive, and has a hard time chunking through tanks unless she gets ahead early and can collect a lot of souls. In doing so, TSM not only made their own game harder to execute, but they also gave Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk one of his best champions.
They rounded out the comp with Zilean, meaning they had almost no real consistent DPS in a teamfight and no clear way to help assist in a Rakan engage nor follow up on one. Additionally, TSM had three losing lanes and a Nidalee that wants to hyper farm early and invade with lane priority, something Spica was never really able to do, though he could have if they banned and picked differently in the second phase.
Game 3: TSM vs. LGD Gaming
TSM's last draft was okay in the long run, but was still somewhat suboptimal, especially considering who they were playing against. Broken Blade had a good skill mismatch top lane, but instead of a normal carry champion, TSM had him on Shen and tried to make Bjergsen 1v9 on Le Blanc, who ended up not performing the way the comp needed him to.
Likewise, Doublelift went with a new champion in Ezreal, which was only the second time he picked a non-Senna/Ashe champ in 22 games. And while he definitely has a ton of Ezreal games, he did not perform to his standard, ending 4/5/1. So, while the draft didn't necessarily pose any glaring issues like the first two, the Le Blanc first pick was a bit bold, and Bjergsen and Co. couldn't pull off a win.
Beyond draft is their gameplan, which in all three games has fallen apart, for a few various reasons. They opened Game 1 vs. Fnatic pretty well, focusing around Broken Blade and his Camille pickup, but the problem is that his topside advantage never amounted to anything. Even after countless ganks for him, Broken Blade did not garner any significant lead, and FNC was able to neutralize him through the mid-game. Up through 25 minutes, the game was tied, and TSM led two drakes to one.
Though they won a few skirmishes, all the fights were on TSM's side of the map. Despite any teamfight win they had, there was rarely any further action taken afterward. TSM rarely had vision control over any portion of the map - not even their own - and that allowed FNC to create plenty of opportunities for picks. Doublelift failed to purchase Edge of Night for the opposing Evelynn, and he and TSM paid for it, getting one shot from out of vision in their own portion of the map in only half of a combo from Eve. Furthermore, they lost five buffs throughout the game — even though the game was very even through the first 30 minutes — simply due to their lack of vision and control over their own side of the map.
Overall, they were not able to make any proactive plays to control or push the pace of the game. And even with a strong late-game Camille, they never made any big picks or found any strong flanks for BB. They gave up two Barons due to their poor vision control and lack of pressure, and the second Baron spelled their demise.
In their second game (against Gen.G), they got a small lead in early kills, but Kim "Clid" Tae-min's Lillia was nearly 30 CS ahead, making him a strong threat into the mid-game. Other than Doublelift, everyone was down considerable CS, and that's when TSM started playing desperately, perhaps trying to make up for their inaction in their first game. They over-forced in multiple lanes, using Bjergsen's TP top lane just to secure one plate, but that gave up multiple plates mid, first turret bot, and Biofrost's flash as a cherry on top. Then minutes later, they over forced bot, and Gen.G cracked mid lane with a Rift Herald.
This pattern never let up. At 18 minutes, TSM sent three bottom to try and kill the Volibear who just ulted away to safety. At nearly 20 minutes, Doublelift only had 20 Adoration stacks. The main way Senna scales is by stacking souls that drop when you hit enemy champions and when minions die, but Senna needs around 80 stacks or so to truly come online in the late game. Other than Broken Blade's Renekton, which is entirely an early game champ, everyone else was pretty far behind. Finally, at 23 minutes, they made their last overstep. Gen.G turned around their engage and "slapped them with their wallets," showing what a good strong CS lead can do for a team.
It was "same story, different characters" in Game 3. Time after time, TSM made plays that would work well for them in NA against weaker teams like Counter Logic Gaming or Immortals, but that put them in a heap of trouble against LPL's LGD. Time after time, Broken Blade and/or Bjergsen would be TP'ing back to base and then caught out of position and getting closed in on by multiple LGD members.
TSM seems to lack a cohesive plan for how to cover the holes in their plot. It's a bit like watching Machi Esport's Huang "Gemini" Chu-Xuan, who gets his top laner ahead with some nice early ganks, but then loses so much on the backend in his own jungle and other lanes that it ends up being a loss overall on the play.
This isn't solely Spica's issue. In fact, Spica may be one of the least responsible members of their shortcomings. But the team needs to closely examine their gameplan and find ways to cover their tracks with wards and more suitable champions that fit what they want to accomplish. If they do, their fate is in their hands, they can easily turn things around and go 3-0 if they improve more than the rest of the group in the few days that they have. But if they don't fix up those issues, there's almost no way they don't just end their run at Worlds with a 0-6 record.
From draft to early game cover-ups to mid-game rotations and giving their opponents slightly more respect, there's a lot that TSM needs to shape up. And they'll have to do it fast if they want to make it to the knockout stage.
Images by Riot Games
For more LoL Esports news and content, head over to our dedicated League of Legends section!
Find full schedules, brackets, and more for your favorite esports on Juked.gg!