In a recent post-game interview on the LCS Spring Split broadcast, TSM head coach Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg threw in a bold statement, highly praising the proficiency of the team’s current mid laner, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. “PowerOfEvil is a better mage player than I ever was,” Bjergsen told Gabriella “LeTigress” Devia-Allen — a commendation you can’t just skim by.
One has to ask: Why did Bjergsen sign such high, very definitive praise of PowerOfEvil? Maybe it’s because PowerOfEvil often appeared as Bjergsen’s kryptonite throughout his career, so frequently that Bjergsen perhaps suffers from a form of “nemesis bias” if you will; or it could be that he was simply trying to heap extra praise onto his player after a particularly strong performance.
Either way, it got us wondering whether Bjergsen’s statement is really true. And if there’s an easy starting point to any form of direct comparison, it’s statistics.
If we’re to assume that Bjergsen’s praise comes from how POE has been playing this split and with the TSM jersey, we have to start there. POE has been a very flexible player for his former CLG and FlyQuest teams — more than he’s given credit for, in fact — but on TSM in 2021 Spring, his pool has been only five champions deep: Azir, Syndra, Viktor, Corki, and Seraphine. Bjergsen never played Seraphine in his career, and Corki is not a control mage, but the other three are champions that both players have been known for. Bjergsen’s love affairs with Azir and Syndra in particular have been a hallmark of TSM’s style for years.
Bjergsen vs. POE on control mages: A quick glimpse into the past
If there’s any evidence that POE outperforms Bjergsen, there should be pieces of it somewhere below:
|Career Statistics||Azir WR||Azir KDA||Syndra WR||Syndra KDA||Viktor WR||Viktor KDA|
There isn’t one here, however. Bjergsen has massively outperformed POE on Syndra and Viktor, while maintaining a much better KDA. POE has a diminutively better Azir winrate, but Bjergsen has historically had a higher KDA on that champion too.
So far, there’s little to support the thesis that POE is better than Bjergsen on control mages, but that’s just a sample size of a few champions. What if we expand it?
|Career Statistics||Orianna WR||Orianna KDA||Cassiopeia WR||Cassiopeia KDA|
Beyond Syndra, Orianna is the other most played champion for both players. Bjergsen wins this duel on overall win rate, but loses on KDA. Then there’s Cassiopea, a regular pick for both players, where Bjergsen wins on both accounts once again. Once again, Bjergsen’s high-praise evaluation is not supported.
If the evaluation is not rooted in comparison of historical data directly between Bjergsen and POE, perhaps it stems from POE’s recent form. His control mage games, especially on Azir, have been a hallmark of TSM’s victories all season. So even if historically POE is at a disadvantage, perhaps he’s massively elevated his level, compared to his two seasons on CLG and FlyQuest?
|2021 Spring Split||3.6||60.5%||-138||-104||9.6||511||28.9%|
|2020 Summer Split||6.0||70.8%||-34||144||9.7||552||29.6%|
|2020 Spring Split||3.9||70.1%||-62||44||9.2||583||35.6%|
|2019 Summer Split||4.8||64.2%||-61||-5||9.1||470||25.8%|
|2019 Spring Split||2.9||78.5%||-40||15||9.3||536||34.7%|
Still nope. In fact, just by the numbers, PowerOfEvil was a stronger player on CLG and FLY than he has been on TSM.
Even compared to his peers in the 2021 Spring Split, PowerOfEvil’s statistics are surprisingly uninspiring for how vital he’s been for TSM. Despite holding the highest CSPM of all LCS mid laners at 9.6, the rest of POE’s laning stats are rather pedestrian. He’s farming up a storm, but isn’t necessarily pressuring the opposing laner or matching roams in the early game.
However, there is a twist to these numbers (and this whole section, really). We can argue whether POE is better than Bjergsen on control mages. We can look at years of games from both and try to find a numerical argument for one or the other.
But here's the thing: we don't need to. There's beauty in math and numbers, but not every League of Legends team is playing Moneyball. This is the case with TSM and POE. While our short historical trip hints that Bjergsen has been overall better on control mages than POE, it led us to a new theory and a (perhaps shocking) revelation — that despite his inferior statistics, POE fits current-day TSM more than Bjergsen the player ever could.
Screw statistics. It’s all about stylistic matrimony
The farming-centric, passive playstyle of POE isn’t news. He’s played it for years and while he flirted with aggressive picks like Rumble on Qiyana on CLG and FLY, his comfort zone fits TSM’s identity better than any Bjergsen-era roster. POE is only in the top 3 of four statistical categories in 2021 Spring, but he is excelling in the exact areas that the TSM of today needs him to.
Beyond his top level CSPM, PowerOfEvil had the third most kills with 65 and was tied for third in damage per minute with Cloud9 mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perković at 511. Among all mid laners who played more than a third of the split, PowerOfEvil boasted the highest team damage percentage at 28.9%. When contrasting these numbers with PowerOfEvil’s garden variety laning statistics and below-average kill participation, a picture begins to form.
TSM’s weakest point is in the early game — they know it and they’ve made peace with it, which is why they avoid taking team fights early on. Therefore, they’ve embraced the approach to simply allow PowerOfEvil to farm as much as possible without needing him to roam or pressure the enemy mid laner and create plays.
This comes handy mid/late game, because while they stay passive early, TSM will take fights as the game progresses, which is where POE’s style shines. TSM sacrifice early game playmaking to secure a farmed damage dealer who can carry the fights under the leadership of SwordArt.
What’s darkly ironic is that TSM have been trying to play this style long before PowerOfEvil's signing. When Bjergsen came to North America to play for TSM at the start of the 2014 NA LCS season, he was known primarily for his Syndra, Zed, and LeBlanc. While Syndra remained at the forefront of his champion pool for the entirety of his career, Bjergsen was pushed more and more towards control mages despite intermittently hard-carrying on aggressive picks like Akali when given the chance.
POE is not Bjergsen. If we’re to look at only numbers, POE is actually a straight-up downgrade to his iconic predecessor AND to his days on FLY and CLG, where he looked way more threatening individually. But at the end of the day, POE has clicked with the TSM roster — a team that wants to play around these scaling control mages — at a level Bjergsen was unable to achieve on a consistent basis despite a superior level of skill to POE for the majority of his career.
The historical statistics might disagree with Bjergsen on the “Who’s better” question, but at the end of the day, POE doesn’t need to beat the numbers. TSM looked to find a Bjergsen replacement in POE and so far, he and his control mages have fit the new era of the team like a glove.
All images by: TSM
Champion statistics courtesy of Games of Legends
All other statistics courtesy of Oracle's Elixir
Esports editor and journalist of 10+ years. Lives on black tea and corgi love.