Long known as the kings of North American League of Legends, Team SoloMid entered the 2015 Summer Split as two-time defending champions. After a disappointing sweep at the hands of bitter rivals Counter Logic Gaming in the Summer finals, TSM went through a complete roster overhaul before the 2016 season, replacing every starter except for former NA LCS MVP Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg.
That haul of new players was led by two marquee signings: star CLG AD Carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and five-time European champion Bora "YellowStar" Kim in what was expected to be the best bottom lane in North America.
It didn't exactly work out like that: the team struggled to find consistency in its shot-calling, and YellowStar ended up dying far more than at any other point in his career. TSM limped out to a slow start, but a hot streak through the playoffs salvaged a spot in the finals -- where the team once again lost to CLG.
Fast forward about six weeks and YellowStar is back in Europe, while former Challenger Series support Vincent "Biofrost" Wang is in to replace him. On paper, replacing a multiple-time European champion with basically an unknown rookie might seem like a step down. But Biofrost's arrival came with high praise, especially for his mechanical prowess, and if the first series is any indication, TSM's new bottom lane is already clicking in a way the last iteration was still looking for at the end of last split.
Doublelift with YellowStar during the Spring NA LCS semifinals. Photo via Riot Games.
TSM's Summer season started with a finals rematch against CLG, in a series many expected CLG to take after a strong performance at the Mid-Season Invitational.
TSM was able to first-pick Lucian, arguably the best champion on Patch 6.10 and inarguably the best AD Carry by about a mile. TSM then picked a composition focusing on protecting and enabling Doublelift's Lucian, with peel (Maokai), survival tools (Zilean and Karma) and speed boosts (also Zilean and Karma).
TSM was gifted an early lead for its duo lane when CLG's went for a jungle invade and came up empty. Armed with an early experience and farm advantage, Doublelift and Biofrost pressed forward aggressively, opening up a bigger lead and allowing the team to make plays around the map, TSM played entirely around Doublelift that game, picking up kill after kill for him -- six by 25 minutes with three of them coming against Choi "Huhi" Jae-Hyun, who TSM focused mercilessly in the early game.
It wasn't just Doublelift making plays: Biofrost was incredibly active with his AD Carry, sneaking through CLG's jungle to help pick up kills and making two (very different) highlights. He helped Bjergsen pick up a kill with a flashy Flash forward to make sure his stun landed, and he helped Doublelift pick up another kill by recalling on a ward, baiting Darshan to his death.
Doublelift was named player of the game for that effort. For Game 2, while CLG banned three parts of TSM's Game 1 composition (Zilean, Karma and Graves), Doublelift was still able to select Lucian again while Biofrost picked Braum, giving him less utility but more protection. This time, however, he was up against signature champions for both of his opponents: Ezreal for Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes and Bard for Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black.
Without a poor invade from CLG to get TSM an early advantage, Stixxay was able to keep level with Doublelift in farm and experience this time. With CLG top laner Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaha now playing Fiora, a dangerous split-pushing threat, TSM applied its pressure to help Hauntzer rather than its duo lane (like it did in the first game), and it worked: Hauntzer ended up putting on a player of the game performance of his own with a 9/1/7 mark on Ekko.
CLG responded to the top lane pressure by forcing skirmishes in the bottom lane thanks to a classic Bard performance from Aphromoo.
Minutes after this play, CLG sent four to the bottom lane again, winning a 3-2 fight. Doublelift and Biofrost, now forced to play from behind, were able to stop the bleeding and allow for plays on the other side of the map before a big fight near Dragon. Doublelift picked up a kill and an assist, as it looked to start quite well for TSM, but the fight ended up 3-2 in CLG's favor (nifty footwork from Biofrost and constant application of his passive kept it from being worse).
Aphromoo had a strong Game 2, but CLG still fell 0-2. Photo via Riot Games.
Aprhomoo continued to cause problems, starting the game 4/0/8 and helping build a lead for CLG, but TSM took it back after an excellent engage from Biofrost set up three kills for TSM.
Aphromoo died for the first time when -- you guessed it -- a well-timed Braum stun from Biofrost set up a kill. Doublelift, who up to this point had still been playing relatively conservatively, picked up two kills in the ensuing skirmish, surpassing Stixxay in gold.
TSM closed out the game soon after, winning a team fight near Baron and securing the sweep.
In the two games, TSM totaled 31 kills. Doublelift participated in 22 (71 percent) while Biofrost participated in 28 (a staggering 90 percent) in his first two LCS games. It's early yet, but after how last season started, Friday was a strong sign for TSM's new duo lane.