TSM bounced back from a loss against Dignitas to open week 5 of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split with an imperfect, but far cleaner victory against Immortals. TSM currently sits one game back of 1st place 100 Thieves, and will face Cloud9 in its final match of the weekend. In its first 14 games of the Summer Split, TSM is 10-4 and has surpassed C9 and Team Liquid in the LCS season standings due to its recent success.
After defeating Immortals, TSM mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage spoke to Inven Global about the new mid lane meta, how TSM adapted to it to start the Summer Split strong, and the trajectory of his LCS career since coming to North America to play for OpTic Gaming in 2018.
TSM has had a strong start to the LCS Summer Split. How are you feeling about the team's current form in context of the season?
I'm still feeling pretty good. Today was a really nice game and was really clean compared to our game yesterday. I think the true test is tomorrow when we play against C9. Hopefully, we can end the week with another 2-1.
Speaking of Cloud9, has TSM ascending above C9 and TL in the standings this summer been a result of them getting worse, or TSM getting better?
It's obviously a combination of multiple different things. Their roster changes didn't help them that much, and I think us not having changes helped with our synergy and communication.
I feel like we've done a good job at adapting to new champions and playing them, so I would say there are a lot of different factors, as always.
The other team to rise to the top this summer has been 100 Thieves. Has 100's improvement just been a matter of bringing in mid laner Felix "Abbedagge" Braun, or has the team improved as a whole since spring?
Abbedagge is definitely an upgrade to their mid lane, I have no doubt in that. It's always hard to tell what helped a team and how much it helped.
100 Thieves made some changes to its coaching staff, too, or it even could have been due to the shift in which champions are power picks. It's hard to tell what all of the factors are from the outside.
I would say it could be Abbedagge, or the changes to the coaching staff, or maybe in a shift in mentality. Those are the likely factors from where I can see.
The mid lane meta is very different compared to the control mages you played in spring to many a TSM victory. How did you and the rest of your teammates have to adapt to this new meta in terms of your approach to winning?
We definitely needed to improve on that, and we still do. Individually learning the champions is one factor, but another factor is how we play around these champions. When you play things like Viego or LeBlanc, you have to ask yourself how good the team is at playing with these champions in 2v2s and 3v3s with the jungler and the support. There are a lot of times where that's really, really important. It's as important as actually learning the champions.
We've seen some AP champions come back on Patch 11.13, but control mages specifically still aren't as prevalent as before. What do you think has led to this meta trend?
Recently, if you played Lee Sin at a skill level that was 80% of his maximum, you will win a matchup very hard against an Orianna playing at a 100% skill level. That was a big factor. Lee Sin can make multiple mistakes and still win the matchup.
That's why there haven't been many mages. If you played a melee champion poorly, you would still win out against most mages because they were just too weak. With the item changes, I think it is a little bit more balanced to where we will see mages a bit more than before, but you still need to decide whether you want to play towards the early game or scaling and teamfights. The melee mids still win out in the early game quite a bit.
There are several champions who can be played in multiple roles currently. Is this due to those champions being strong, or is it because of the state of the game itself at the competitive level?
*Laughs* I'd probably say a champion is OP if you can play it in multiple roles. There are champions that are too strong and you can play them in mid, top, jungle, and sometimes even support. You just take what you think fits you the best.
It wasn't like this in the past competitive metas. It was tougher to fit champions into multiple roles, so you had to make sure you could fulfill multiple roles with champions who gank, supportive champions, champions who get priority in lane, and champions who fight. Now, if a champion fits all of these roles, you can put them anywhere.
Do you think control mages are in a healthier position on the current patch?
I don't think the mages should be overbuffed. Right now they're coming back in the meta, they're just not always the really, really strong champions. It's always hard to tell. The melee mids are exciting to watch, so they shouldn't be overnerfed. *Laughs* It's hard to tell, I'm not a game or balance designer, but maybe some small nerfs to the items for melee mids might make things more balanced. I think buffing mage items further would make the game unbalanced in favor of mages.
You mentioned that not making any roster changes has helped TSM continue to develop synergy, but in what other concrete ways has the team improved since spring?
I'd say our teamfighting is a lot better, especially in the macro sense. I think our teamfighting was pretty bad in the Spring Split and I think it was one of the things that held us back from winning the semifinals of the LCS Mid-Season Showdown against Team Liquid. They got to finals by out-teamfighting us, mostly around dragons, so we as a team decided that we needed to talk about teamfights more and how we can play neutral objectives better.
That's kind of what games come down to nowadays. A lot of the time, it's about who gets the Dragon Soul, who wins the Baron Nashor fights, and who wins the Elder Dragon fights. That's a big part of the game right now.
When you first came to North America in 2018, your strong individual play didn't transfer to positive results with OpTic Gaming, but each year, you've had more and more success in the LCS. The only imported mid laner who has been in the LCS longer than you now is Team Liquid's Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen. Do you think the upward trajectory of your success in North America is testament to players retaining their level of play after going to another region?
Obviously, my first year in North America with OpTic Gaming was unsuccessful, but I took it as a huge learning experience that year. I feel like I went from just a strong mid laner to a shotcaller/leader. I really built up my leadership skills on that team, and if we ever won a game on OpTic, we were all really happy. It kind of rekindled my passion.
On CLG, we went from 7th place to 3rd place from spring to summer. I was really happy because I made the team a top team alongside my teammates once again. Since then, I've been on top positions in the standings on FlyQuest and TSM. I'm personally pretty happy about how my growth has gone in North America and that my rough start in the region didn't make me lose confidence in my ability or doubt my skills.
All images by: Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT