How Dyrus is Redefining a Great Career
Dyrus’s performance in this year’s playoffs has taken a great career to a new level
Let’s begin this article with two questions.
1. Do you know who Dyrus is?
Of course you do. Even before this year, Dyrus had already defined himself over 3 seasons of solid play. The best top laner in North America. The rock of TSM. The consistent performer with occasional playoff struggles. But a second look makes me realize just how strange this is. From Seasons 1-3, (the first season was played with Epik Gamer) Dyrus has always remained a top player at his position and a star for his team. Keeping a top tier reputation for 3 consecutive years? The only other North American players who can rival this accomplishment are CLG’s Doublelift and TSM’s Xpecial.
But what makes the Dyrus story so compelling for me isn’t the first three years of his career, but the last one. In Season 4 Dyrus has quietly bucked his trend of play-off underperformance to become one of TSM’s most prominent clutch performers. Don’t believe me? Take a look at how TSM has won some of their biggest series this year. TSM vs. CLG in the Spring split. Their 5-game series against LMQ and Cloud9 in the Summer. This year’s worlds victories against TPA and an admittedly weakened SK Gaming. TSM is a team that wins with brute force outplays all across the map and Dyrus is a linchpin of this strategy.
2. Who has had the best career in North American history?
Dyrus's Career (Seasons 1-3)
In Season 1, Dyrus spent most of his career on Epik Gamer, Dan Dihn’s response to his brother’s Team Solomid. The team contained a fluid lineup but placed second at the WCG 2010 NA Qualifiers, losing out on the tournament spot to Counter Logic Gaming. The team would eventually disband only to reform shortly after with a more solid lineup to compete in the Riot World Championships.
The team featured Dyrus top, Dan Dihn jungle, Salce mid, Westrice AD Carry, and Doublelift support. Westrice and Dyrus would occasionally alternate positions depending on lane matchups and champion pools. The team would begin by smacking a hyped CLG squad 2-1 into the losers bracket and continue their run by beating Rock Solid (now Dignitas) and TSM before losing 2-0 to TSM in the finals rematch. With a second place finish, Epik secured themselves a spot in the Season 1 World Championships. Although Epik was granted a favorable seed due to their great performance at Regionals, Epik would drop back-to-back 2-0 sets to Fnatic and TSM, finishing with a 4th place finish. By this time, Dyrus was already a very notable top laner; his Singed and Jax play was considered the best in the world.
Epik would return to North America in the hopes of building off of their fairly good Season 1 performance, but it was not to be. Star support Doublelift was eventually poached by Counter Logic Gaming, where he flopped as a support until role swapping to AD Carry under the Curse banner. Epik managed a few second and third place finishes but they mostly played a fourth place role to North America's titans of TSM, CLG, and Dignitas. Eventually, Dyrus would leave Epik Gamer to join TSM after they benched The Rain Man. TSM was hoping to begin significantly more serious practice schedules, which clashed with TRM's own practice philosophies. At the same time, Dyrus was hoping to join a more serious team; Epik was renown for their lack of consistent practice times.
It proved to be a devastating fit. The classic TSM lineup would romp through all North American tournaments, not losing a single domestic tournament during their time together. With Dyrus, TSM became MLG, IPL, and Regional champions. Dyrus, TheOddOne, Reginald, Chaox, and Xpecial were arguably the most dominant lineup in North American history (Cloud9 is the only other team in contention.) While on TSM, Dyrus began innovating a new style of top laner. Up to that point, most top lane stars such as Voyboy or Westrice played an extremely aggressive style and tried to snowball their teams to victory. The synergy between a top laner and jungler was of paramount importance. On the other hand, TSM had already established a style where TheOddOne would always back up Reginald's extreme aggression. To better fit into TSM, Dyrus began focusing on a more cerebral top lane style focused on safe play and intelligent trades. Dyrus would seize any advantage he could get but he would never be a liability for his team.
But in spite of their domestic success, TSM struggled against teams abroad. The catalyst for The Rain Man's benching was his poor performance against international rivals, most notably Moscow 5's Darien. Unfortunately, the addition of Dyrus did not help them in the MLG Summer Arena. They would lose 3 games in a row to Korean champions Azubu Blaze and Dyrus was outclassed by Blaze's star and captain Reapered.
This devastating defeat was somewhat alleviated by Team SoloMid's romp through North American regionals, but their success was only a temporary reprieve to their international failings. TSM was seeded into the Ro8 but had to face-off against the skilled Azubu Frost and their top lane star Shy. In game 1, Dyrus picked Darius to try and go for a cheesy first blood invade. But in a controversial moment wracked with (ultimately proved) cheating allegations, Frost managed to avoid TSM's three-man bush strategy. Shy went on to completely crush Dyrus in lane by picking up 3 kills in a row his signature Jayce. In game 2, Dyrus would be the one playing Jayce; but TSM opted to lane swap against Shy's Irelia instead of fighting him head on. Dyrus was able to pick up a first blood on MadLife's Taric and spur TSM to a 4-0 start and a 3k gold lead. In spite of a respectable early game, Frost's teamfighting acumen was simply too much for TSM to deal with and they eventually won the game off of two backbreaking teamfights.
After their poor showing, TSM would return to international competition at IPL 5, only to blown apart 2-0 by CLG.EU and Azubu Blaze. At this point, Dyrus' playoff underperformance had become a widely discussed LoL topic. Heading into Season 3, "Best Top NA" often seemed like a backhanded compliment than a genuine accomplishment. Dyrus had no domestic rivals, but what did it mean if he was so far behind international stars like Reapered, Shy, and MakNooN? However, the first split went by and in spite of early troubles, TSM once again stood as champions when the dust cleared. Their dominance at home was seemingly unshakeable and two of their members (Dyrus and Xpecial) recieved special honors. Joined by jungler Saintvicious, mid laner scarra, and AD Carry Doublelift, the two would repesent North America in the 2013 All-Star tournament. At this time, the Season 2 "bruiser/tank" meta had somewhat changed and teams began emphasizing having a threat in the top lane. Dyrus easily adjusted to this meta change and Jayce soon became one of his signature champions.
When put up against top lane legends soAz, PDD, and Shy it was natural for Dyrus' skill to pale in comparison. Indeed, Dyrus' play was very shaky at the tournament. He would be solo-killed multiple times by PDD in his games against China, but his fortunes reversed in North America 2-0 victory over Europe. Against the Korean team and the monstrous Shy, Dyrus actaully put up a quite respectable performance in a 2-0 defeat everyone saw coming.
However, trouble was brewing at home for Team SoloMid. A team finally arrived that would not just challenge their dominance, but completely overthrow it. Cloud9's incredible 25-3 regular season wins and 13 game winning streak meant that they overtook TSM as the most dominant team in North American history. Cloud9's top laner Balls also rose as a personal kryptonite to Dyrus, completly dominating him in multiple matchups. However, TSM once again recovered during the playoffs to sweep the favorited CLG and Vulcun Gaming before losing 3-0 in the playoffs to the seemingly unstoppable Cloud9. Their second place result saw them seeded into a deadly group featuring the best teams from both China and Korea! (SKT and OMG) At this tournament, Dyrus did nothing to buck his reputation for international underperformance. In fact, he tilted so hard that he began selecting Karthus top lane under the impression that he would die no matter what. He would return home dejected and in multiple AMAs and fan interactions expressed his disappointment at having failed his team and his possibly impending retirement.
Up to now, Dyrus's career had undoubtedly been stellar. Through 3 years, he had maintained a solid top 2 position in his role and had often been the indisputable number 1. Such a long streak of excellent indicates a player who can succeed under any metagame. Indeed, as the years have gone by Dyrus has become known for a wide variety of signature champions, from Singed/Jax to Darius to Jayce and now to Alistar/Lulu. Without a doubt, he had already amassed the best career of any top laner in North American history. 3 World Championship berths, 2 first place Regional finishes, 2 second place Regional finishes, and multiple MLG/IPL victories have already proven his greatness. If Riot continues hosting last year's version of All-Stars, Dyrus will be the only top laner in history to play on the the All-Star team.
But claiming that a player has had the best career all-time is a very strong statement. But name another player who could contend. Doublelift has the skill, but lacks the tournament success. Dyrus has been playing twice as long as any C9 member has been relevant. Dyrus' only possible rivals are his TSM teammates. Reginald and TheOddOne were always strong players but never achieved the same respect Dyrus did. In fact, Dyrus' only rival for the best career in North American history has been Xpecial. But whereas Dyrus would always shrink in international competitions, Xpecial always rose to the occasion. We thought the last 3 years had shown that Xpecial was a monster in the clutch and Dyrus was, if not an outright choker, just an average performer. If Dyrus was so great, why couldn't he beat any Asian teams? If Dyrus was so great, why did he always get crushed by Cloud9? After all, the playoffs are what really matters. Who cares about Game 20 of the LCS season, even if it's against a rival like Cloud9 or CLG? It would be impossible to call Dyrus to best player in North American history without some dominated playoff performances.
So why exactly has Dyrus's Season 4 performance elevated him so high? It all began with TSM's 3 game series against CLG. In game 2, Xpecial's clutch hook on Link swung the series but on the other side of the map, Dyrus was able to solo-kill Nien's Jax and stop the CLG split push. In Game 3, Dyrus completely dominated Nientonsoh to secure TSM the victory.
However, TSM's subsequent 3-0 sweep by Cloud9 more or less quieted my hopes of a Dyrus renaissance. Dyrus definitely brought out some clutch wins against CLG, but he still couldn't overcome his psychological barriers when faced with opponents like Balls. But then something crazy happened. The Dyrus renaissance continued. A mediocre series against Dignitas turned into a complete demolition of Season 3 Worlds finalist ackerman. I thought that the Dyrus-ackerman matchup would be a classic Dyrus playoff underperformance. Instead, Dyrus ran roughshod over his opponent and powered TSM to a come-from-behind series win. Heading into the series against Cloud9, most people believed the only question wasn't whether or not TSM could win the series, but whether or not TSM could win a single game. Knowing that Dyrus usually tilted when camped or dove, Cloud9 repeatedly sent multiple members to dive Dyrus. However, Dyrus once again bucked the trend. Rather than falling apart, he stayed his usual steady self and brought out massive plays in TSM's Game 4 and 5 wins. The shaky playoff player had matured into the kind of player every team needs. Building off of his successes against Nientonsoh, Dyrus would repeatedly step to the plate and crush his opponents in solo situations. These kinds of big stops do wonders for a team's in-game and emotional momentum. If it weren't for Bjergsen's own stellar play, Dyrus would have completely deserved the playoffs MVP.
This kind of playoff success would continue at Worlds. Dyrus was able to completely dominante TPA's achie and spearhead TSM's run to the Round of 8. With their victories over SK and TPA, TSM guaranteed that they would advance for the first time at Worlds since Season 1. However, Dyrus and his teammates weren't finished. They went on to defeat group favorites in a narrow victory with Dyrus shifting away from his usual tanky champs to bring out Rumble against Cola's Ryze.
This was the first time in several years that Dyrus played to a carry role in international play and the results were spectacular. He repeatedly solo-killed Cola's Ryze and his teamfight changing Equalizers played a critical role in TSM's victory. Sadly, TSM would fall to SK Gaming and miss out on a first-place tie-breaker against Royal Club after a hasty finish call threw away a mostly secured game.
In the Round of 8, TSM is facing off against tournament favorites Samsung White and it's extremely unlikely that they will succeed.
4 years as a top 3 top laner in North America (with over 75% of it as the indisputed best.)
4 trips to the World Championships (Only YellowStaR can rival this accomplshment.)
2 Worlds round of 8.
3 North American Regional Champion.
2 North Americal Regional Runner-Up.
1 North American All-Star Top lane representative.
Just in terms of sheer accomplishments, nobody in NA can rival him. And now he's finally putting together the clutch performances his fans, myself included, had hoped he had in him. I don't think even the most ardent TSM fan thinks that they will beat Samsung White. Not even Locodoco or Reginald can honestly say they are the favorites. But history isn't everything. After all, I thought I knew who Dyrus was after 3 years.