A bit of history
Throughout the years, a few rivalries developed in the League of Legends competitive scene between various organizations. We cannot start talking about these classic rivalries without first touching on the oldest one: TSM vs. CLG.
It all started during the LoL closed beta days. For a brief period of time, Andy “Reginald” Dinh and George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis both played for the same team: CLG. Due to some ideological differences their path split and Reginald went on to for his own team: Team SoloMid. Since then, TSM and CLG have battled constantly over the number one spot in NA. Despite CLG having the better start, with no.1 finishes in tournaments like World Cyber Games 2010, IEM cologne 2011 (where they even defeated TSM in the final) and MLG Raleigh 2011, TSM slowly but surely evolved into the most prestigious team in NA, mostly thanks to Reginald’s performance as both player and manager.
With both teams having considerably large fan bases, every game between them is much anticipated, and we can always expect both teams to perform at their highest levels in order to please the fans. The first game between them this season will take place in the fourth week of the NA LCS. Having similar records for the first three weeks (5-1), and sharing the first place spot, we can expect the game to be a very close one, and it being decided by one team making a mistake and the other one capitalizing on that mistake.
CLG and the new golden age
With an almost perfect start, every CLG fan has high hopes for this year’s team. Bringing in a new head coach, in William “scarra” Li, and a new top laner and jungler – Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero – , seems to have fixed all the issues that plagued CLG last year.
While the same could be said about the team of last year’s Summer Split, the most important difference has to be the addition of ZionSpartan. First of all, there is no language barrier anymore between the top laner and the team. Secondly, he is one of the few carry oriented top laners in North America, thus presenting a new threat, aside from Doublelift, that opposing teams cannot ignore. With the Doublelift / Aphromoo duo performing at maximum level it’s hard for any enemy jungler to decide what lane to focus. ZionSpartan’s ability to do well in lane without jungle pressure, frees his own jungler to put pressure on other parts of the map. It must also be noted that the only loss CLG suffered was in the first week when ZionSpartan was banned.
Another point of interest in this new CLG team is the new jungler, Xmithie, and the fact that Link is still on the team.
With no big expectations to be had from Xmithie, he nevertheless appears to be a very solid acquisition for CLG. His plays with confidence, he trusts his teammates and is an overall good supportive jungler, even when facing strong counterparts like Meteos. Harshly criticized after the end of last season, Link had to go through a tryout period in order to maintain his spot on the CLG roster. By his own admission he understood what went wrong last season and took measures to fix all the issues, and in fact he does seem to have regained his form. What remains to be seen now is how Link’s connection with Xmithie develops. If they manage to have a relationship even somewhat close to what Xmithie had with mandatorycloud, Link is sure to become a serious threat for even the best NA mid laners.
TSM – defending the title
TSM did not have such a striking roster change, during the off-season changing only the jungler – they replaced Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider with Lucas “Santorin” Larsen. The first chance we had to see this new lineup was at IEM IX – San Jose. To say they had a bad performance would be an understatement, but nevertheless it wasn’t because of Santorin but due to a lack of form from the entire team.
If any TSM fan had doubts about how they would perform during the Spring Split though, they were gravely mistaken. TSM showed up in just as good a form as they did last split starting the season with an impressive victory against Cloud 9, and showing everybody that they were back in business and not a team to be trifled with. Riding high after the victory against C9 they made the mistake of underestimating the newcomers Team 8, a team that served them the first defeat of the first three weeks. With the lesson learned, TSM set out to four victories in a row showing exceptional game control and decisiveness.
As always the best player of the team is Bjergsen, and we still have to see a game in which he does well and TSM loses. While it may seem simple for any team facing them, that they need to keep Bjergsen down, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Bjergsen’s ability to bully his lane counterpart, challenging him for every cs, coupled with the vision provided by his team, means that not only is he hard to gank but that whenever a gank is attempted there’s a real chance that Bjergsen will come out with a kill of his own.
Since Santorin joined TSM he has developed a good bond with Bjergsen, especially since they are both Danish. This translates into a good atmosphere for the team, and a boost in confidence for both players, and having such a young player as Santorin in a comfort zone is crucial for the team’s success.
Last year TSM had a 5-3 record in their direct matches against CLG, and with only 4 games to be played against one another this year each game is worth twice as much. Both teams look as good as they could, and it’s no wonder they are sharing first place in the NA LCS. Provided they both win the other game they have in Week 4, the match between them will be one for the first spot. It’s hard to predict what the outcome will be, but what is sure is that the losing team will nonetheless remain a heavy contender for this split’s crown.