For the second season in a row, TSM will not attend the League of Legends World Championship. One year after Cloud9 swept TSM in the last gauntlet match of the 2018 LCS Regional Final, Clutch Gaming added to its mythos as TSM's kryptonite with a reverse sweep in the last round of the 2019 LCS Regional Final. The past two years are the only seasons in which TSM has ever missed a League of Legends World Championship.
General Manager Parth "Parth" Naidu joined Inven Global's Nick Geracie at the conclusion of TSMs 2019 League of Legends season to discuss the team's struggles through summer, look towards the future, and give a message to the TSM fans.
Parth, this was such a close series. As someone who has held multiple positions over the years within the organization, where do you think TSM came up short?
Clutch Gaming has a very defined style that they're really good at, and on this day, they just executed slightly better than we did multiple times throughout games 3, 4, and 5. That's pretty much it.
TSM had a reverse sweep of its own earlier this year against Cloud9 in the 2019 LCS Spring Semfiinals. Is there anything gained from the experience of performing a reverse sweep that can help players when they find themselves on the opposite end of one?
Yeah, that momentum is definitely hard to stop. Clutch also had a lot of momentum coming into this series after winning two games in a row in the previous two days. They were a lot more comfortable on stage because they recently had felt what it was like to win two series on that stage.
We had three weeks of practice between losing to Clutch Gaming in the 2019 LCS Summer Quarterfinals and playing them today. Based on our practice, I definitely think we put up a good fight, but coming into today, Clutch was the better team.
TSM was considered an afterthought to Clutch Gaming vs. Counter Logic Gaming in the LCS Regional Final, but you put up more of a fight than most expected. What was the team's focus in the weeks between Quarterfinals and the Regional Final?
Before Quarterfinals, we made a large change to commit to Mingyi "Spica" Lu as the only Jungler on our roster. I think what he did is really commendable. Spica joined our academy team this summer and grew a lot over the course of the split, and based on the performances we were seeing, he was the best option for us going forward.
Even though Spica wasn't able to show it much today, he improved a lot in the past few weeks, and we were within reach of taking this series multiple times. I wanted to give a small shout out to him for stepping up.
Spica performed admirably given the circumstances, but was there any consideration of bringing a Jungle substitute back onto the roster after losing in Quarterfinals?
The way you choose substitutes is based on what you think your team needs. Substitutions happens due to variance in style or champion pool, but we were going down a route where we were pretty committed to what Spica brought to our team in terms of strengths. That meant that we had to give him all of the scrim time possible to get him to the level he would need to reach.
Because of this, it really didn't make sense to have a Jungle substitute because we didn't think it would be of any value in the series.
To clarify, the idea was that Spica's strengths were the best fit for the team, so if he was able to have all the practice time to synergize with the team further, that would be best, right?
Conversely, I don't think playing time with Spica or using another Jungler would have helped us in any way compared to what we ended up doing.
It's going to be easy for people to point towards an inexperienced Jungler, but from your perspective, are recent results indicative of other teams catching up to TSM's level and rate of progress?
I definitely think Team Liquid stepped up a lot after franchising, and Cloud9 has always been a top notch organization. We made a lot of drastic roster changes heading into the 2018 season, and at the end of last year, we had to step bad back and see what we wanted to do philosophically as an org. We changed our approach a lot: we built out our own Academy team, who did really well in spring this year. This summer, we've seen a lot of talent from our players on TSM Academy as well.
As an organization in a franchised league, it's all about looking at the long-term. Before this season, we had to scramble a little bit in the off-season. We made our change in the Top Lane to BrokenBlade, who had never played in LCS before. He's gained a lot more experience now. We were figuring out our Jungler situation, and finally had to upgrade Spica.
We think a lot of these changes will pay off in the long-term, and while we had short-term expectations to qualify for Worlds, we fell a little short today.
TSM was commended earlier this season for addressing the team's previous problems with early game passivity and a lack of proactivity in strategic approach, which seemed like something learned from missing Worlds 2018. While you may have fallen short here and missed Worlds once again, do you think there are things TSM can learn from this season?
It's really hard because a lot of takeaways might not be so visible from an outside perspective. Obviously, internally, our organization, staff, and players had the full experience of what it was like behind the scenes.
We learned a lot through this last stretch of the season: how to leverage different players, how to work with different coaches and staff members. I think that's a foundation that we're going to continue building on that will make us stronger for the future, even if last year and this year we fell short and missed Worlds.
Everyone knows how hard TSM's players work. Is there anything you were able to say to the players after this tough loss?
This was definitely devastating for all of the players. After a loss like this, there's really not much to say.
It was a really hard summer, for sure. We came in as the 2nd place team from spring, but a lot of the other teams were catching up to us. In addition, a lot of things that didn't come up as problems in the spring surfaced in the summer. We had to adapt a lot as the summer went on, even because of certain issues that were not even related to the team in general that ended up happening. The public doesn't know about that, and we had to scramble and adapt a lot because of it.
We're proud of the team we put together, and if we had more time with this particular roster throughout the split and in playoffs, then I'm sure we would have made it to Worlds. I'm really optimistic about the future. We have a really good foundation with our current players, including our rookies, and a good approach on how we want to approach League of Legends from the TSM side going forward. A lot of the things that we've learned this year are lessons we can take with us.
No other organization in North America has won as much as we have in the past, and these two years have definitely been eye opening because of how the rest of the league has leveled up. Teams are putting in a lot more resources towards importing more experienced players and leveling up their coaching staffs, so all organizations have to meet that level of investment both in terms of infrastructure and proficiency.
I'm sure that these two years of us falling short are going to make our future that much stronger going forward.
Thank you so much for your time and insights after a tough loss. Is there anything you'd like to say to the TSM fanbase?
I'm really proud of being a part of TSM. I joined the team in 2015 and I've held multiple roles within the organization. I always want to be part of an organization where the fans hold everyone to a higher regard, and that's always been an expectation of everyone in TSM. We strive for excellence, and it is important for our fans to call us out when we're not doing well or when things go wrong.
These last two years have definitely not been ideal, but I can assure you, we have a really strong foundation going forward. If nothing else, the past two years have been full of opportunities to learn from our mistakes, build that solid foundation, improve in working with all types of players, and solidify our coaching system.
I hope you guys will be excited for the future. When we finally move into our new facility, we will have both TSM and TSM Academy practicing there. I know it sucks right now that we didn't make it to Worlds, and our mission as an organization has always been to do well at Worlds. To not even make it there at all is a huge blow and a setback to our long-term vision, but the long-term vision is always going to be there. We will persevere from these setbacks and move forward.