The North American (NA) region is composed of some of the most prosperous organizations League of Legends eSports has to offer, but all are drawing from a shallow North American talent pool, which often leads to the extraction of players from the European (EU) League Championship Series (LCS). The most successful organization within the NA region is Team Solomid (TSM) which, over its long tenure in the North American competitive scene, has acquired tremendous resources to support its business. These assets have had a significant influence on the achievements collected by TSM in the past and have been instrumental in the last few weeks during the transition from season 5 to season 6. With the retirement of the seasoned veterans Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Jang-sik “Lustboy” Ham, from the top and support position respectively, and Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen from the jungler position, TSM is using this time as an opportunity to find talented players within the NA and EU LCS to build their roster around their star mid-laner, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.
On Saturday, October 31st, the NA LCS team Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG) announced the departure of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng from the starting lineup. This came as a shock as CLG had spent years with its identity defined by this talented player. In a matter of hours from the formal statement, in probably the most unexpected roster move in LoL eSports history, Doublelift was signed as the starting AD carry for CLG’s storied rivals, Team Solomid. Doublelift’s addition to TSM displaced AD carry Jason “Wildturtle” Tran from the team and ended TSM’s tryouts for the position immediately. Though unforeseen, this change could prove to be the ushering in of a new era of TSM dominance in the NA LCS.
Doublelift brings to TSM something the team has always lacked: a highly skilled mechanical player. Over the years, TSM has developed a hallmark strategy of focusing all efforts on the middle lane, as exemplified by their former mid-laner Reginald and currently with Bjergsen. While this play-style has seen years of success in the NA LCS, it has also ensured their easy dismantling at the hands of more skilled opponents on the international stage. By adding Doublelift, one of the most mechanically brilliant players in the entire LoL eSports scene, TSM gains the potential to utilize strategies that shine the spotlight toward the powerful AD carry, thus adding a level of tactical depth that the team has not been able to show against more qualified opposition.
Despite the optimistic innovation to TSM’s roster, Doublelift also brings several concerns to his organization that could pose challenging. Among his set of attributes, Doublelift contains very little complacency. When problems arose in the CLG house while Doublelift was still a member of the organization, he would often present his opinions in an abrasive and insulting manner. Players that Doublelift has worked with in the past have not always had fond feelings about their previous relationship with the AD carry (see former CLG mid-laner Austin “Link” Shin’s “Donezo Manifesto”). Doublelift has always seemed to have trouble trusting his teammates to play at their best, and once they started making errors in their play, that distrust grew and caused problems within the team environment. This sort of toxic attitude has potential to cause calamity in his new team where players must work on developing synergy. This probable issue becomes more likely when Bjergsen is added to the equation, who is also known to be some-what confrontational. Should the two players have a clash of personalities, it could cause problems in the team dynamic outside of the game. Additionally, both players are quite familiar with being the focal points of their respective teams. Redefining TSM’s strategic identity to incorporate both of the star players could very well prove to be a problem. In contrast to these doubts, there is still reasoning as to why these issues may not come to light. Both players have had time to mature individually, with Bjergsen taking on leadership within the TSM in the past as a shotcaller and Doublelift having shown improvement in his combative personality after being made aware of the difficulties it has caused. For this roster to be successful, the two players will have to find a method to coexist on the same team.
The Supporting Cast
In the midst of their AD carry tryouts, TSM was fortunate to have the opportunity to acquire a highly talented player such as Doublelift to fill their AD carry position. TSM’s owner Reginald now faced the challenge of putting together a roster by IEM San Jose so that TSM could represent North America at the international event. Taking advantage of the TSM organization’s extensive resources allowed Reginald to obtain talented free agents scattered across the LCS.
The TSM tryouts for the top lane trial position concluded in the acquisition of Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, previously the top-laner for Team Gravity of the NA LCS. Hauntzer is set to fill the position formerly held by TSM’s longest standing member, Dyrus, the lauded top-laner in practically every iteration of the roster. There are several likely reasons as to why Hauntzer was chosen for the trial spot. On Gravity, Hauntzer showed his ability to perform strongly given few resources. Additionally, he boasts a diverse and deep champion pool, consisting of anything from carry champions to tanks. Hauntzer is likely to play consistently and has the flexibility to support a wide variety of team compositions. Though he is likely to serve in a supportive capacity to Bjergsen and Doublelift, this team could certainly be the place for Hauntzer to present his potency in a carry role as well.
In the midst of the top lane tryouts, the trial support player for IEM San Jose was secured. Raymond “kaSing” Tsang was previously the support player from H2K Gaming in the EU LCS. In the spring split of the 2015 EU LCS, kaSing replaced Erih “Voidle” Sommermann as the support player for H2K. With the change came the ‘kaSing Effect’, in which the H2K team immediately seemed to mesh into one cohesive unit that went on an eight game winning streak, placing them at the top of the EU LCS. kaSing brought to the struggling H2K lineup (and furthermore will bring to the revamped TSM roster) game skill, strategy and a productive personality. Often when additions are made to a lineup, the community focuses on how this player will contribute to the team in-game. What is often overlooked is what a player may change in regards to the team environment. This is especially important with the formation of a group of players who are mostly unfamiliar with each other. kaSing is well known, according to players and support staff who have worked with him in the past, to have a positive personality that is conducive to productive discussions. kaSing could contribute to building a better rapport between the members of the team and reduce unnecessary conflict. Though his personality could make important contributions to his new team, kaSing’s in-game abilities are still the most significant cause for his procurement; he has an excellent understanding of how to execute lane-swaps, control vision, and manipulate creep waves throughout the later portions of the game. These things could be instrumental in improving the mid and late game of TSM which has been nothing short of abysmal on the world stage.
The final member to round off the new TSM roster is former SK Gaming jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Unlike Santorin, TSM’s previous jungler, Svenskeren is well known for his early game pressure to secure an early lead for his team. The obtainment of Svenskeren implies a desire to maintain control of the early game, a strategy that has been prominent in TSM’s history. More important than his early aggression is Svenskeren’s diversity; he is able to utilize a wide variety of strategies to give his team an edge. This is potentially quite significant in a team that has strong laners in each of its positions. Svenskeren’s abilities provide for adaptability in tactics to utilize differing members within his team. In this way, there is potential to bring out the best from the new lineup and add to their power against teams where one strategy will not be adequate.
Team Solomid’s IEM San Jose roster has a lot of potential. Each player on the team, especially the veteran players of Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Svenskeren, has proven their ability to bring their team to victory, sometimes even single-handedly. The two less experienced players have given good evidence that they are excellent players in their own right. The five-man unit has the right tools to be strong throughout the entirety of each game. Additionally, all of the players are English speakers, so there are none of the language barriers that often arise with imported players. What is left to be seen is how these players will function together; the main concerns still are a conflict of character or playstyle. Doublelift and Bjergsen are both outspoken individuals with a history of being the main carry on their roster. If they cannot find a way to come together on the same side, then the lineup is likely to fail due to a lack of identity or to internal struggles. However, if these issues are dealt with appropriately, the new TSM lineup could very easily become the strongest team in North America, and perhaps finally give the region a hope at international success.
Photo credits to LoL Esports, Team Solomid, Follow eSports, Gamespot, Gosu Gamers, and theScore eSports