Team SoloMid is riding a four-game win streak and are starting to look like a team that could truly battle for a top spot in the LCS going into the final week of the split.
Part of that can be attributed to the slight decline of once-first-place Cloud9, tied with TSM for second in the LCS standings. Cloud9 trounced TSM in mid July, but half a month later it was a total turnaround with TSM taking the impressive win.
At the heart of it was midlaner Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg -- in particular against C9 he went 2/1/13 on Twisted Fate, while his lane opponent Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer was unable to secure a kill in the game and also lost his flash at level 5 against Bjerg. But if you ask the long standing TSM competitor, his team's recent success is the result of a massive team effort.
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"I think we have some good practices this week," Bjergsen told ESPN. "We were able to take a lot of things that we practiced to the games. Obviously, [we played Caitlin and Morgana] both matches this week, I believe. It was pretty successful in both. And we got a really good comfort pick for Broken Blade. I think individual play really elevated this week as well. We're doing things much better as a team and we're more on the same page. But the individual play has been kind of lacking in certain instances where we're getting caught or miss playing a fight or we don't know what our role is in the fight. But today, it felt like everyone really stepped it up. Especially Spica had some really great team fights on Sett."
In a video posted prior to Week 8 by TSM, the team discussed improving comms, not repeating themselves too much, and not listening to one another. Bjergsen noted that comms this week were "much, much better."
Winning is often a remedy for the ailments of any team, but TSM in particular has had a roller coaster year with a host of roster changes. You had the return of former TSM star player Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. Then the promotion of jungler Mingyi "Spica" Lu following the departure of Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett before the summer split began. Lastly, Erik "Treatz" Wessén replaced Vincent "Biofrost" Wang in July, Bjergsen says this has been a blessing and the morale of the team is higher than it's been in a long time.
"I've seen consistent improvement from the beginning of the split," Bjerg said. "I think my motivation is much higher than it has been in the last split and even last year, but not necessarily because of anything different about me individually. But because of the potential that I see in the team and the players that we have. In the last couple of years, I've dealt with a lot of players who don't really fit into the culture. Maybe they're very negative, or they just don't see being a team and being a player on TSM the same way that I do. That's really hard when you disagree at a very fundamental level. But now I feel like we have five players who want the same things."
There are certainly strong voices on this team, and very successful players. Bjergsen is now a part owner of TSM, Doublelift is the most successful LCS player of all time (much of that success started during his first stint with TSM). Not to mention wearing the black and white jersey of TSM, one of the longest standing organizations in esports and by now is an institution in many scenes, not just League of Legends. But according to Bjergsen, the egos are checked at the door and the team is focused on winning.
"Of course, taking criticism can be a little bit difficult," admits Bjerg. "Now, that's also something we worked on; when someone is giving you that direct feedback, not to be immediately defensive and understand that this guy is just trying to help you become a better player. He's not trying to tell you that you suck or that you played this like crap. But it's harder when you have players who don't really talk and they don't voice their opinion. They hold their opinions in and they don't really want to spend as much time with the team or they just want to go home as soon as scrims are over. But we have five players who are fully engaged. They're all in on this team."
At 11-5, there's no playoff pressure for TSM; they are already in. If they find success in the playoffs and come in at least third, they will qualify as one of three LCS teams to head to the League of Legends World Championship in Shanghai (which will look quite different than worlds past). This means travel across the world during a pandemic. While TSM haven't spoken about it at length because the path to qualification continues, Bjergsen did note that he has had asthma since childhood. Contracting COVID is certainly a concern.
"Once we're sure we're going to worlds [travel during COVID is] probably something that we're going to talk about," Bjergsen said. "I wouldn't hold it against one of my teammates if they don't feel safe. I have asthma personally. So if I was to get COVID, I know that it could impact me really strongly. I don't know how that will be if I'm in China, and I would have to be hospitalised. So of course, it's a little worrisome when I have had pretty bad asthma since I was a kid. But that's something I've thought about too much. But I'm sure we'll be talking a lot more about it once we actually know whether we're going or not."