There was good news and bad news for North America’s LCS champions, TSM.
Flash Wolves had a just taken down SK Telecom T1, holding them to their lowest ever MSI kill score (two). Importantly, they showed how it could be done, by playing around mid Syndra and taking away Lee Sin from SKT jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. Syndra is a champion that TSM mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg plays exceptionally well. And Lee is one of struggling jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen’s remaining reliable picks. So TSM could execute parts of the Flash Wolves’ draft.
On the other hand, when SKT lose, sometimes they get angry—particularly mid star Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. And you don’t want to make Faker angry.
So what would win out: TSM’s preparation and draft, or SKT’s anger? It wasn’t even a question—SKT stomped.
To be fair, TSM actually got a lot of what they wanted in the draft. They banned Lee and took Karma in the first rotation—a priority support pick. Then, fortuitously, Ivern fell to Svenskeren in the second round of picks (TSM was on blue side). Ivern’s quirky jungle clear, ability to save teammates, and sieging power has made him another one of Svenskeren’s best champions.
It appeared that things were going well, because it seemed like TSM was replicating the Flash Wolves’ strategy. The problem was that their draft was lacking the nuances of the Flash Wolves’ draft. For example, Flash Wolves hid the Syndra pick behind a Fizz, forcing Faker into a defensive counter matchup. TSM didn’t do that, getting Kennen instead for Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell. SKT was able to sit back and counter most of TSM’s moves.
To counter the Kennen, SKT top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon took Galio, a recent meta pick that some teams are still unfamiliar with. Hauntzer is familiar with Huni, having spent most of 2016 duking it out with the then-Immortals star. But he didn’t look comfortable against Galio at all.
That one kill set the tone for the rest of the game. TSM were out-executed by SKT at a mechanical level, making TSM’s best plans moot. Sure, they had some success around the mid lane, and Svenskeren actually had a pretty good game on Ivern—many more kills would have gone to SKT if not for his clutch saves.
But this dominating victory by SKT proved that the talent discrepancy between these two teams is too great. TSM was never expected to win this game—they just needed to compete. But they didn’t compete nearly hard enough.
North America’s champions have a lot of work to do on the last day of the MSI group stage to prove that they are worthy of moving on.