TSM: Stuck in ELO hell
As we all know by now, TSM did poorly at MSI (Mid Season Invitational) and are getting a lot of flak from the community. I would like to take a little of that blame off the players, and put some on the region as a whole.
The problem as I see it, is that there are so few international events, where players can compete with each other. Korea is the dominating region, with China not far behind. Even these two relative close regions, have big differences in playstyle. Korea has for the most part calculated plays, with well planned strategies and pick and bans. China have a more fast paced gamestyle, but with a much higher risk and reward.
The current meta-game, is heavily favoring a fast game, with a lot of rotations. I would say that China is the leader in developing this style, while Korea is mastering it with their extreme work ethics and broad player mechanics.
This is where the problem for the NA (North American) region starts, and won't stop until we see more foreign player injection. TSM stomped their spring split, and every team in NA said they had a problem with TSM in scrims as well on stage. They praised Bjergsen as the best mid laner in NA, and thought TSM would have a chance to win MSI. TSM are the current trendsetters in NA, and the rest of the NA region is happy to sail in their back waters, hoping to someday have a "lucky one" and beat them.
If you analyze this, you realize that TSM can NEVER compete on an international stage, unless they break free from their region somehow. How can you develop a new playstyle, when you don't have any team who are willing to push you to the limits? TSM plays a whole split, against meta picks and a slow, farm heavy playstyle. Having played that playstyle for 10 weeks, and being best of the best in their region, you will get shocked meeting a team like EDG. Even a team like Fnatic, who played a "poor mans china style", would dominate a passive TSM.
If we take Fnatic as an example, they had a much better "practice" environment during their spring split. Not only do they have a young and hungry team, they also have imported a more relevant playstyle. They play aggressive over the whole map, and are never afraid of a teamfight. As I said before, this is a high risk but high reward playstyle, but you have to adapt and play it to have any chance on an international level.
So how could Fnatic adapt this playstyle, and even play it better and better over the split? The answer to that, are teams like Unicorns of Love, SK, and H2K. SK is playing their fast pushing style that they always have. H2K came in with a few new picks, and really show cased how fast rotations are supposed to look like. UOL is the true winning concept for Fnatic here though. UOL was constantly coming in with new picks, and challenging the other EU teams with extreme aggression, to push the region to advance.
Coming back to NA and TSM, and the complete lack of inventive play in the region, clearly show that something must be done. There are a few options for TSM, like getting a sister team, having long bootcamps in China/Korea or even inviting foreign teams to practice with. But if TSM ever wants to have the slightest of chance at winning something important, they need to rethink the regional options. They will not advance fast enough, or even be able to develop an international playstyle that holds up, unless they find a way to improve their practice and competitive environment.
Every region have its own eco system, and with little influence from the outside, the evolution in that eco system will slow down. The players inside every eco system can influence the rate of evolution, by adopting new playstyles from other regions. This seem however, to have stopped in NA, where neither the players or the coaches are willing to try new things during the split.
NA have the mechanics to challenge the top teams around the world, but seem to be lacking in mindset.Innovation and the ability to copy more successful styles from other regions, is an integral part of being best. Doing "What always have worked" isn't cutting it if you want to win a major title. You have to not only be the best in your region, but you also have to be the frontrunner and bring new playstyles from around the world.
I truly hope MSI opened the eyes for all NA teams, so that the whole region can develop a more competitive playstyle, and aren't so afraid of trying new things. When it all comes down to it, I bet every NA team was cheering for TSM, their regions representative.
The failure at MSI for TSM wasn't just about one team, but the failure of a whole region.