Originally posted on lolesports.com by Taylor ''Riot RoboTayCo'' Cocke and Leah ''SpiNN'' Jackson
Team SoloMid isn't just about Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg anymore. Previously, TSM was a team focused nearly entirely on getting their mid laner going, but now they've coalesced into a much more even squad. One with all five members capable of finding victories for their team.
Heading into the Mid-Season Invitational, TSM is looking more and more like the strongest team North America has ever produced. With a wide variety of strategies and team compositions available to them, they're not exactly the easiest team to nail down in Picks & Bans.
So, what can MSI teams do?
THE HARDEST CARRY
Let's get this out of the way. Bjergsen is the best mid laner in North America, and the toughest to deal with both in lane and during Champion Select. Sure, you could ban out his often dominant Zed, but he's got a huge number of champions that he can play at the highest level. Hell, while Keane introduced North America to Urgot, just a week later, Bjergsen was already a master at the Headsman's Pride.
For many mid laners, the best that can be hoped for is to simply contain North America's Spring Split MVP. But at MSI he'll be facing some tough competition. Even his feared assassins like Zed and Ahri won't be as much of an issue, especially with the prevalence of lane counters like Urgot and Cho'Gath romping around the middle of the map.
Bjergsen is an interesting case. He's got so many power picks and adapts so quickly to new metas that he's near impossible to ban out. This season alone, he's played nine different champions and found wins with eight of them. He is decidedly the best player on TSM, but it's almost not worth throwing bans his way. In fact, it's probably more effective to ban out those around him in the hopes that they won't help him snowball things out of control.
THE NEW GUY
As the newest member of TSM, jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen is probably the best player to start banning. He earned the Rookie of the Split title during the regular season by playing carry junglers like Nidalee and Vi, and was a card-carrying member of the North American Rek'Sai Fan Club. TSM could always count on him to pressure the mid lane and get Bjergsen to the spot he needed to be to carry.
Then Cinderhulk happened, and Santorin discovered Gragas and Sejuani. With solid early game pressure and huge, game-changing ultimates, the fat man and the lady on a boar seemed to have clicked perfectly with the Danish jungler. He's taken TSM's already solid team fighting to a new level, giving them new options for both engaging and disengaging.
Of the pair, Gragas is probably the one teams will be looking at to pick or ban away. With a huge 12.5 KDA across four games in the Playoffs on the Rabble Rouser, Santorin's play during the postseason has shown his evolution into a mature, strategically sound jungler. He no longer just camps Bjergsen's lane, but now has presence around the map -- even throwing out a Body Slam for top laner Marcus "Dyrus" Hill from time to time. Plus, his team fighting is damn near pristine, engaging when he needs to and protecting his carries when they're in danger.
The responsibility of that peel, though, isn't only on his shoulders. Jan-Sik "Lustboy" Ham's also got his teammates' backs.
THE BLOODTHIRSTY SUPPORT
If you believe that Janna is a passive, safe champion, you haven't seen Lustboy play her. He's not afraid to look for plays, often Flashing into danger to save his carries or make kills happen. He's even willing to Flash into a Blitzcrank hook to save his mid laner, like in TSM's Week 5 matchup against Team Coast. The two kills in the aftermath were just icing on the cake.
Everyone in North America is aware of his prowess on the champion, and often levy bans against him to take her away. In fact, he saw her banned in three of the four games against Cloud9 in the NA LCS Finals.
Controlling the weather isn't the only trick up Lustboy's sleeve, though. His Thresh has been a serious threat throughout the regular season and the Playoffs. Not to mention some seriously aggressive games on Annie and Leona. Plus, recently, he's even picked up the new hotness that is Kennen support, and doing so to great success.
At MSI, teams are going to have to be aware of Lustboy's immense skill at disengage champions. The support player is a master of single-handedly countering hard diving compositions, and for teams looking to rush the back line of TSM will want to look to ban him out.
All of this doesn't even account for his Lulu, a champion that he is one of the best of the world on. She's always a threat for him, so taking her away will always be a good choice. Plus, against TSM, it's a great two-for-one ban.
THE TOP LANE VETERAN
Yes, that means a Lulu ban also hurts top laner Dyrus. A top laner who has taken on much more of a supportive role in recent seasons, the safe farming and relatively small gold requirement of the Fae Sorceress make her a great pick in the top lane in the 2 vs. 1 meta. He may die a lot to opposing teams' "Camp Dyrus" strategies, but he always manages to find enough farm on Lulu to be a factor in team fights.
He isn't afraid of pulling out the big, fat tanks either. His Maokai has proven to be a disruptive force in teamfights, while his Sion is more than capable of taking a whole bunch of hits while locking down squishier opponents. Dyrus isn't known as a carry top laner, but on TSM, he doesn't have to be. He's just got to keep his damage dealers safe and cause chaos in the back lines of his opponents. If he can do that, he can rely on his teammates to get the kills needed.
THE SUPPORT CARRY
Jason "WildTurtle" Tran is the epitome of a team player. On TSM, a squad that always has a lot of attention drawn to the mid lane, the AD carry is able to dish out consistent damage, while usually keeping himself safe.
TSM went 6-0 with Turtle on Sivir during the regular season, taking perfect advantage of the speed buffs from her On The Hunt to find their desired quality team fights. Really, that Sivir pick is probably the biggest threat coming from the AD carry. Anything that enables TSM to do exactly what they want can be trouble, as most of their wins come from dictating the tempo of the game.
Problem is, the hypercarry threat of his Jinx is also ever present, particularly after WildTurtle's performances late in the season. It's a dangerous game to play, especially when you've got such quality defensive players like Lustboy, Santorin, and Dyrus roaming around the map. Given enough time to spit out damage, WildTurtle can carry TSM out of sticky situations. He did get the lone pentakill in the NA LCS this split, after all.
Picks and Bans against Turtle is made slightly more difficult that TSM is one of the few Western teams to pull out the Kalista/Kennen combo, meaning that leaving both champions up against them is always a risk. Even if his prefered picks are taken from him, Turtle's team-focused style can shine through.
That team play is what makes TSM a tough team to deal with. They've proven that they can play a variety of styles, so throwing them off in Picks & Bans may be more of a matter of countering their team compositions than the players themselves. If teams can sniff out what they're trying to pull off, it'll be easier to nab priority picks out from under them.
Can North America make a run at the Mid-Season Invitational? Lolesports is the place to be starting May 7 to watch the games.