Unicorns of Love came back from a one-game deficit Sunday to upset TSM in the best-of-three semifinals of IEM Oakland. Even a first-round bye and the home crowd support were not enough to propel TSM.
The loss caps a disappointing end to the year for TSM, who failed to advance past the group stage in last month’s World Championships.
Rookie mid laner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert continued to impress, carrying UoL for the second consecutive day.
Even after his counterpart Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg spearheaded a miracle team fight at the 26-minute mark to get TSM back into game three, Exileh continued to charge into fights with his fed Kassadin.
“I’ve always looked up to him as the best western mid laner,” Exileh said after the match when asked about getting to play against Bjergsen.
The series started out favorably for TSM as they controlled the pace from start to finish in game one. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen ran wild with Olaf, picking up three kills in the first nine minutes in addition to helping Bjergsen get first blood.
Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, who joined TSM for IEM after Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng decided to take a break from pro play, carried the late game once his Ezreal hit his power spike.
TSM’s troubles started in game two, when the NA champions seemed to underestimate their opponents, allowing two sloppy deaths within the first five minutes. Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell got stunned in the middle of the creep wave and died without flashing during a trade with Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss’s Kennen at the three-minute mark.
Moments later, support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang stepped too far forward without his AD carry present, which allowed Kyoung-min “Veritas” Kim’s Ashe to pick up a solo kill.
UoL was able to snowball this early lead into a 29-minute win. Veritas finished 6/0/12, and Exileh went 10/4/6 on Orianna.
Motivation and preparation may have contributed to TSM’s loss. During a pre-taped interview aired on the tournament’s broadcast between games two and three, Bjergsen said TSM did not prepare for the tournament with the level of rigour for which they’ve become known.
Bjergsen said the team went their separate ways after their disappointing Worlds exit, and that they were looking at IEM as an opportunity to see how they can perform with “just a few days of practice and trying out a new player.”
Meanwhile, Unicorns of Love committed early to keeping the same lineup for next split, and they prepared extensively for IEM as an opportunity to both make up for falling one game short of a berth at Worlds and gain momentum heading into next split.
Unicorns not only outplayed TSM, but they also won the pick-ban. Similarly to Worlds, TSM continuously drafted Jhin despite having AD carries that clearly aren’t totally comfortable on the champion. TSM picked Jhin in both of their losses Sunday even though he’s one of the few champions with which Wildturtle has a win rate less than 50 percent.
Although his game three performance was solid, TSM may have been better off getting Wildturtle a champion with more mobility so he could play his naturally aggressive style.
Unicorns now await the winner of the series between Flash Wolves and Longzhu to play for the $50,000 first prize.