When I found out I would have the honor of being able to vote for the 2016 NA LCS Summer Split Awards, I knew MVP wouldn’t be an easy decision. The level of play in the region has never been higher, and we saw one of the most competitive splits to-date as a result.
TSM and Immortals established themselves as the class of the league, and each has multiple players that deserve consideration for the award. TSM AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng picked up his all-time best 1,000th career LCS kill and top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had a career season to help lead his team to a 17-1 mark. Meanwhile, the reliable Immortals duo of top laner Seung-hoon “Huni” Heo and jungler Yeu-jin “Reignover” Kim was the class of the league once again, and even though the team could not conquer TSM in the regular season, they put together many jaw-dropping performances.
Many of the teams lower down in the standings also had individual star players that carried them out of an even worse position, like Team Liquid jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Phoenix1 jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, who joined an 0-7 team and left it 5-13. Cloud9 mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, the reigning NA LCS MVP, had an excellent season in his own right, leading the league in kills and improving from last split in nearly every meaningful statistic.
But ultimately, it all came back to TSM mid laner Bjergsen, already a two-time winner of the NA LCS MVP award (Spring 2014, Spring 2015) and quite possibly the best player North American League has ever seen.
Sure, he was second in North America in KDA, behind only teammate Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. And sure, his 4.05 kills per game was a full kill more than his mark last split, and the most he’s had in a regular season since his last MVP campaign. And yes, his average farm advantage at 10 minutes of +4.4 is second only to Liquid’s Jae-hun “Fenix” Kim among NA mid laners.
But the most impressive thing about Bjergsen this split to me? How infrequently he died.
When you’re playing against Team SoloMid, you do so knowing their gameplan relies largely on playing around Bjergsen — it’s literally in the team’s name, and it’s something they’ve done since he joined the roster before Spring 2014. Many teams attempt to deal with this by camping Bjergsen early, hoping to keep his gold production down for a chance to steal away a game before he gets the items he needs to dominate.
Well, take a look at the leaderboard for least deaths by North American starting mid laners this split:
- Bjergsen, TSM -- 62
- Jensen, C9 — 90
- Froggen, Echo Fox — 91
- Keane, Apex — 91
- Fenix, Team Liquid — 92
62!!!! That’s 28 less than any other North American mid laner this split. And it’s not like there are big gaps between the rest -- the next five are all between 90 and 100.
It’s frankly incredible Bjergsen died so infrequently while being the focus of every enemy team.
Bjergsen’s ability to build leads for himself while receiving so much attention from his opponents opens up opportunities for his teammates to build leads of their own. Even if they’re unable to do so, he’ll make sure to help out with a timely roam or superior play in a team fight situation.
Then there’s his champion pool. In 41 games this split, Bjergsen played 12 different champions. That’s not all that massive — eight of the other nine NA LCS mid laners played at least 12 — but he was able to quickly master counter matchups and new champions in a way few other mid laners could.
Bjergsen was the first North American mid laner to convincingly play Taliyah as the roaming terror she is meant to be, and was one of the first in the region to adopt Malzahar. But to me the signature Bjergsen champion from this split is Zilean, an excellent (and rare) Malzahar counter that provides utility and damage and won seven games in seven tries for TSM.
Yes, there are many reasons for TSM’s success. The addition of Biofrost turned out to be the perfect solution to the team’s bottom lane problems from last split, and career seasons from Hauntzer and jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen gave the team a starting roster without a single weak link. But ultimately, TSM has found the success it has because it can always rely on Bjergsen to constantly make leads for himself, set up plays around the map and not die. That’s why he’s my pick for MVP this split.