Reigning North American League Championship Series champions Team SoloMid head into the upcoming 2017 spring split hoping to win their fifth NA LCS title.
- Top – Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
- Jungle – Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen
- Mid – Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
- ADC – Jason “WildTurtle” Tran
- Support – Vincent “Biofrost” Wang
Following a disappointing group stage exit at the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, Team SoloMid decided to use the offseason to rebuild its roster. In what was the biggest roster transfer in the history of western LoL, TSM’s first addition to its 2016 lineup was none other than Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, formerly the AD carry of TSM’s long time rivals, Counter Logic Gaming. Nobody expected Doublelift to join TSM, especially after CLG beat them in the previous NA LCS final. To put this transfer in context, this roster move would be like if Stephen Curry left the Golden State Warriors to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The next two players announced to join the roster were former SK Gaming jungler Svenskeren, and former Gravity top laner Hauntzer. Along with the addition of these two players came the announcement that former H2k-Gaming support, Raymond “kaSing” Tsang would be trying out with the rest of the team at IEM San Jose.
The final announcement made by TSM before IEM San Jose was their new coaching staff. Bringing in a head coach with a sports background, as well as Fnatic’s former head analyst, TSM were adamant on having the best coaching staff possible.
After losing to Origen in the semifinals of IEM San Jose, KaSing chose not to sign with TSM, opting to remain in Europe. With KaSing’s departure, TSM needed to find a new support to complete their roster. After a couple of months speculation, TSM finally announced that legendary Fnatic support, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim would be joining the roster.
TSM came into the spring split with an unreal amount of hype surrounding the team, many calling this roster the “NA superteam.” But sadly, this superteam failed to live up to the community’s expectations. Unable to find synergy (especially between YellOwStaR and Doublelift), TSM struggled in the regular season, losing many games they had substantial leads in. TSM finished the regular season in sixth, just barely making the playoffs. In what can only be considered a miracle, TSM were able to beat both Cloud9 and Immortals, the third and first seeds in the playoffs, making their seventh NA LCS finals appearance. Unfortunately for TSM, they were unable to complete the miracle playoff run, losing to CLG in a very close NA LCS final.
After their playoff loss, YellOwStaR announced his departure from TSM. With the loss of YellOwStaR, TSM used their mid season break to find a new support. After an extensive tryout, TSM revealed that their new support moving into the summer split would be Biofrost, formerly of the NA CS squad Dream Team. Along with the addition of Biofrost, TSM decided to sign sports psychologist Weldon Green. After seeing the success he had with the team during the spring split, TSM chose to employ him full time.
Moving into the summer split, the community had many doubts on whether or not Biofrost could perform on stage. Blowing away these doubts, Biofrost and TSM took the NA LCS by storm. Dominating the league, TSM finished the summer split in first place, losing only one series to Phoenix1. TSM continued their dominating play through to the playoffs, easily winning the organization’s fourth NA LCS title.
Heading into the World Championship as North America’s top seed, TSM had an extraordinary amount of hype surrounding them. Even ESPN ranked TSM as the fourth best team in the world. Sadly for all of us, TSM could not live up to these lofty expectations, failing to advance to the round of eight after finishing their group in third.
Shortly after worlds, Doublelift announced he would be taking a break from playing competitively, opting not to participate in the spring split.
Being a main leader on the team, the loss of Doublelift was a huge blow to TSM. Short on time after accepting an invitation to play at IEM San Jose, TSM decided to tryout out WildTurtle, who recently became teamless. Shortly after playing at IEM San Jose, TSM announced that WildTurtle would be staying on the team permanently, replacing Doublelift for the foreseeable future.
Even with the change in AD carries, I can’t see TSM finishing the spring split lower than top two. Aside from Bjergsen, who is undoubtedly the best western player right now, TSM also has Svenskeren. Throughout the previous summer split, as well as the world championship, Svenskeren proved that he was one of North America’s best junglers, arguably second only to Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin. Even with the new jungle imports coming to NA like Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo, Svenskeren still looks to be one of the best junglers in the league.
The top lane role will definitely be more competitive in the NA LCS, with the addition of high profile Korean top laners such as Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. And while Hauntzer most likely won’t be as domestically dominant as he was last season, there is no reason to believe that he won’t be able to at least put up a strong fight against these new top laners. Hauntzer has shown that he can hold his own against world-class talent, and there is no reason to believe that this won’t carry over to season seven.
The only possible problem TSM might encounter is in the duo lane. With Doublelift’s departure, Biofrost is going to need to step up if he wants his team succeed. WildTurtle will also need to clean up his play for the upcoming season. Still flashing poorly at IEM San Jose, WildTurtle will have to fix his positioning issues or the rest of the teams in the league will take advantage of them. Thankfully for TSM, the bottom lane is arguably the least important role in the game right now, so they won’t have to worry about this duo very much.
TSM’s biggest challenge in spring will be learning how to play without the leadership of Doublelift. If TSM can overcome this hurdle, there’s almost no reason to believe that they won’t win their fifth NA LCS title.
Do you think Team SoloMid can win the NA LCS? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.
Article by Malcolm Abbas. Follow him on Twitter @SmashhLoL.
Photo via LoL Esports