The League of Legends Championship Series kicked off Saturday with Evil Geniuses vs. TSM — the second place Lock In team and a roster that didn’t even get to play in the tournament due to various timing issues with visas and travel. EG took the win, starting TSM’s season off with a loss, but despite the result, TSM’s first game may be positive for the team.
New members, Zhu “Keaiduo” Xiong, Edward “Tactical” Ra and Wei “Shenyi” Zi-Jieonly, joined the only two returning TSM players from 2021, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Mingyi “Spica” Lu. With so many changes, the team needs time to gel, time which they haven’t yet been afforded. The team also consists of players from various regions with three different native languages.
But in their loss, they showed promise. “We didn’t even have 10 days to practice,” Huni said after the game. The top laner also had a slightly delayed arrival to Los Angeles.
“It sounds like an excuse,” he said laughing, but he sees their performance through the loss as a positive thing. “EG should be one of the strongest teams… In terms of our [limited] practice, I think how we performed on stage is not too bad.”
Huni continued, explaining that TSM is still learning what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they can play around each other. “Honestly, I don’t think we’ve figured ourselves out,” he said. “What is the identity for the team?”
Huni said he thinks the big offseason shifts may end up helping TSM in the short term. Quite a few other rosters in the league have similar difficulties and odd, hard-to-predict playstyles, like Cloud9, who also had many members just recently arrive to Los Angeles. “There’s a lot of monkey rosters this year,” Huni said, laughing. “I’m excited to see it.”
TSM in 2022
TSM isn’t just dealing with minimal practice, but also language barriers and varying levels of game knowledge. TSM’s two imports are young players from the League of Legends Development League — basically the Academy league for China. Both Kaeiduo and Shenyi are mechanically gifted, to survive the LDL, you have to be.
Even so, given the prowess of the other three members on the team and lesser need for overall coordination, TSM’s early game is already pretty strong.
“We have a pretty strong laning phase. I’ve never seen anyone [on this roster] actually lose lane,” Huni said. “It just doesn’t happen.” The issue, of course, is that team coordination becomes increasingly important as the game progresses past the laning phase, which is when their broken communication becomes more relevant.
But that’s not an issue unfamiliar to Huni himself, either. During the beginning of his career in 2015, he played on Fnatic in Europe. Huni said Fnatic struggled a lot that spring, relying on Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin to translate for Huni who knew little English when he arrived. But that summer, they claimed the first-ever 18-0 split and went to the League of Legends World Championships as the European first seed.
“Spica is doing the Reignover job; he’s translating and speaking Mandarin to be able to communicate more,” Huni said. But he finished his memory with a hopeful prediction that TSM would have a similar trajectory as Fnatic. “As soon as I picked up English a little bit, [Fnatic] showed up as a team. It was not even comparable between spring and summer.”
Huni said TSM would work hard on their communication and figure out a system that works so that they can level up enough for an impressive summer split. He’s hopeful for the spring as well, of course, but remains cautious about where he sets his expectations and honest about the time it may take to bring things together.
“I can’t guarantee [that we’re top three in spring,] honestly,” Huni said. “I think everything depends on how much we put the effort in, but we have really great passion and everyone wants to really, really win.”
At the end of the day, despite the lack of practice, despite the loss and despite the long road ahead of them, Huni said he was just eager to see how good he and TSM could get this year with the roster and staff they put together.
“We see it as long term; going to Worlds, that’s the biggest goal,” Huni said. “I agree that for spring split, we just have to use the time. We need to use the time really efficiently — be able to speak English, be able to communicate, be able to play a team game — those things are required. It’s not an option, we just have to do it.”