Team SoloMid has flaws this season. This may seem fairly obvious, but it’s a pretty big departure from the TSM we saw last split. Sure, that team lost occasionally, but it always felt random. You could see the reasons they lost and how they fixed them the next week. Worst case scenario they would simply overpower a team with raw talent. That isn’t the case this split. That may sounds like an insult, but it isn’t. The fact is this version of Team SoloMid still wins, they just do it in another way. Their strengths, when they succeed, are on map movement and play calling this split. This difference in style has rarely been so clear as it was on Saturday in their series against rival, Counter Logic Gaming.
The first game of the series provided a perfect microcosm of the difficulties Team SoloMid have faced this year. They had a fairly strong laning phase, but failed to match CLG’s early lane swap which evened the gold. Shortly after CLG managed three strong team fights in a row helping them push down the midlane towers and begin to snowball a lead that prevented TSM from getting back in the game.
.@clgaming ace @TeamSoloMid in the mid lane! #NALCS pic.twitter.com/FbM4DjFDH4— lolesports (@lolesports) February 4, 2017
Team SoloMid was not deterred, however, coming back in the second game with a thoroughly dominant performance centered around Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell playing Camille. With the unexpected task of playing one of the meta’s strongest champions, Hauntzer didn’t disappoint, taking out CLG toplaner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya early and helping TSM snowball their way into a 26 minute victory.
.@TeamSoloMid strike back with a dominant game two victory against @clgaming! #NALCS pic.twitter.com/78lEL2ScSC— lolesports (@lolesports) February 4, 2017
Game three on the other hand was an entirely different experience. With the full weight of the rivalry on their shoulders both teams were playing at the top of their game making cautious deliberate movements with each team’s victory being answered by the opposition almost immediately. But the difference maker in the end came back to TSM’s shotcalling.
While each fight was a constant push and pull, Team SoloMid always seemed to find slightly more gold in fights than CLG, picking up towers and farm in their down moments while CLG preferred grouping. Ultimately, this lead in objectives proved too much for CLG and allowed Team SoloMid to slowly close-out the game in the series’ longest match at 32 minutes.
TSM has won almost all of their games this split, but they never quite looked decisive, until now. TSM created meaningful advantages through shotcalling, rather than hoping that the strength of their mechanics would overwhelm their opponents — something they struggled with and relied on over the season’s first two weeks. A win for Team SoloMid against CLG will always mean something, but this one makes a specific kind of statement. It may not have solved all the issues they have had so far this split, but it does show that they are still improving and that they really are still one of North America’s best teams.