There's no way better way to say it: TSM are in a hole right now. The former LCS dynasty is currently glued at last place with 1-8 record after 0-3 superweek in week 4 of the 2022 LCS Spring Split. TSM's only win was against Immortals, and the factors that led to the victory had far more to do with IMT misplaying than TSM outplaying.
After losing their first match of week 4 of the 2022 LCS Spring Split, TSM jungler Mingyi "Spica" Lu sat down with Inven Global to discuss how the team is trying to fix their problems, his role in doing so, and the reasoning behind promoting TSM Academy support Wang "Yursan" Sheng-Yu in place of Wei "Shenyi" Zi-Jie.
Are there things you can take away from this game in terms of improvement despite ultimately losing the match?
Yeah, I think the biggest improvement I saw is that the bot lane is playing really, really well. Obviously, Yursan's only been with us for two weeks at this point, so I'm really proud of how they performed today against FBI and huhi, who are one of the best bot lanes in the league. I think they played really, really well against them and even got a kill against them, so I'd say that's a very big positive for us.
It does feel like Tactical is looking better with Yursan than he was with Shenyi. Is that due to a lesser language barrier or a synergistic element in terms of style?
I would say that language definitely matters a lot. Being able to communicate with your lane partner in terms of how you want to play is huge, especially when it comes to synergy. I think that part alone helps Tactical perform better because he's able to know what his support is thinking. I feel like Yursan is a lot more vocal in-game. He always says what he wants to do and that just makes things a lot easier.
Yursan played for TSM Academy for a good amount of time before his LCS promotion. How do you think he's adjusted to his new level of competition?
He's a rookie, so there are a lot of things he has to learn. What I really like about Yursan is that he's really open to feedback. Whenever he doesn't know something or feels like he doesn't know why we are doing something, he always asks questions. I can feel that he's very hungry to improve based on that and I really like that. He works really hard and he played pretty well today, so hopefully, we'll see that in our next two games as well.
What's it been like building jungle-support synergy with a rookie midway through the split? Are you taking a leading role in that dynamic?
We're not focusing on that very much right now because we are a new team. There are a lot of things to figure out. Right now, I'm just trying to help Keaiduo. He's very new, so I'm helping him a lot on in-game stuff. He's always asking questions about where he should ward and I'll always help him in terms of whether he should push his wave or other things like that. That's what my main focus in-game is right now — I want to make sure he is okay and doing well.
Once he builds up in terms of his mentality, I won't need to... babysit as much in-game and then we will be able to build jungle-support synergy in general.
In the past, you've had other veterans on your team's roster, but this is the youngest roster you've played on in your LCS career. What has it been like adjusting to that for you while trying to maintain your own individual level of play?
I will say that it's been difficult. I definitely did not expect to step into this role. However, I think this is the role I have to play. Our mid laner and support are very inexperienced so there are a lot of small fundamental things that they don't really understand about the game.
Right now, my focus is to try to help them in-game as much as I can, and I definitely feel like my own gameplay has suffered a bit. However, that's what I have to do, and as I get better at this, hopefully, I can level up my own individual play as well and we will do better as a team.
Your top laner Huni is the other really experienced player on your team. How would you describe both of your roles in the TSM communications structure?
I would say that we don't really have a designated shotcaller. It's more democratic. I don't like it when one person shotcalls because I feel like everyone has their own ideas on how to play the game. It's good to have a common direction, but sometimes, someone will have a really good idea that not every player will see. It has really surprised me that Tactical calls a lot of good things in game that I don't see myself. He makes some really good macro decisions.
Right now, it's mainly the three of us veterans trying to figure out how to play the macro game. Hopefully, as we get better at that, we can have a more uniform idea of how to play the game.
I spoke to Tactical before the start of the Spring Split, and he said he was excited to play with you again after your time together on TSM Academy. I know it's been a rough split thus far, but has your connection with him helped keep the team atmosphere light?
Yeah, it's definitely really fun to play with Tactical. We were teammates in 2019, but it's definitely very stressful when you're losing and much harder to have fun. Still, we try to have fun and keep the environment lighter. Before games and outside of games, the atmosphere has been really enjoyable, so I think once we get more synergy and start playing better as a team, everything will be great.
How does Chawy compare as a head coach to previous coaches you've had in your career?
His main goal right now is to help Keaiduo as much as possible. Chawy is a very experienced mid laner. He's played a lot of international tournaments against prolific mid laners, so he has a lot of mid lane knowledge, specifically in terms of how to help your team through macro play. I think that's something that Keaiduo was lacking when we started scrimming. He is very good mechanically, but on some of the smaller-scale things regarding helping your team win the game, he's a bit lacking.
Chawy is pretty much coaching mid-lane like a positional coach; that's what he's mostly focused on and what we are doing right now.
Has Keaiduo's English improved? He was able to speak a bit of it in our interview earlier this split.
Yes, I feel like his English has greatly improved in the past two weeks. Before, he didn't understand a lot, but now, I feel like he can communicate exclusively in English.
Obviously, there are some terms he doesn't understand and he will ask me to translate, but I really feel like he's had great improvement on his English. He's really hardworking and we have an English teacher for him as well, so he's learning at a super-fast speed.
So you're jungling, making calls, and occasionally translating in-game?!
Yeah. I feel like the most difficult thing is making sure everyone is on the same page. When our team first started practicing and playing together, I would sometimes make a call but be unsure whether everyone understood it. We've definitely worked on our communication in that regard and started using simpler terms. We've also made sure terms in League of Legends like 'tempo' are understood because those are a bit harder to translate.
Yursan's English is much better, so we don't usually run into too many communication problems right now. Once we get to the mid game, we still have that issue, but it's a bit more complex, but I do think our communication has improved a lot. Therefore, we need to focus on team synergy and the small stuff right now.
What would you say are the realistic expectations for TSM in the Spring Split at this point?
Right now, playoffs are definitely still our goal. We aren't doing super well, but you have to start small. As long as we see improvement week-to-week, I'm happy. Everybody says Spring Split doesn't matter, but all I want is to just see improvement. I feel like that's the most important thing and what I felt was lacking in the first two weeks of the Spring Split. It didn't feel like we were moving forward. That's why we brought in Yursan.
I feel like now, when you look at our games on stage, you can at least see improvement. Today, Tactical and Yursan 2v2 killed the bot lane of the defending LCS champion, and Tactical has played really well recently, so he's gaining more confidence. All I want to see is improvement.
Thanks for the interview, Spica. Is there anything you want to say to the TSM fans?
There are a lot of things behind the scenes that fans don't see, but I hope that they are understanding that there are always reasons for a situation. Sometimes, the decisions that are made are best for the team. You don't have to be okay with that, but you do have to accept that the team made a decision for what they think is best for them. Aside from that, my message is to be more patient.