I won't go over each game and explain why TSM or GGU won their specific games. There was too many minutes played to drone over each and every detail. However, I WILL tell you the recipe to Team SoloMid's success at the end of the Spring Season, and give 5 reasons why they are still the top team in North America.
Reginald's Aggressive Shot Calling and Top Mid Play
Out of all the reasons behind TSM's success, this is the big one. Reginald is the mid player and shot caller of TSM. It is a rough task to micromanage mid laning and shot calling for Reginald but he has been doing it for a long time now.
Reginald is known to take the brunt of the criticism any time TSM is having trouble; the 'sponge' of the team. He takes harsh criticism at times because his team lives and dies by his shot calling. Sometimes his aggressive shot calling style works out and TSM can get an early lead, riding their way toward victory. At other times he makes questionable calls. However, his shot calls have been very consistent throughout TSM’s LCS playoff run to 1st place. Reginald has shown a new found level of consistency and proved once again why he is one of the best shot callers and mid players in North America.
His brand of hyper aggressive shot calling allows TSM to constantly put pressure on their opponents, rarely the other way around. In team fights he seeks out the tiniest window of opportunity and pounces on it, often shocking his opponents with the insane aggression.
Reginald prefers dive-heavy champs that can initiate team fights. He loves champs that dive in and pulls the damage to himself. His favorites are currently Diana, Karthus, and Twisted Fate. A testament of this play style is the way he plays with Diana, it is not uncommon for him to dive into three or four people at a time by himself.
Note how these champions all use Zhonya's Hourglass as a staple item. Reginald likes to call the best possible time to fight, and then initiates with either a Diana Lunar Rush, Twisted Fate Destiny, or Karthus flash and Defile into the middle of the opponents. Reginald pops the Zhonya's Hourglass once the damage gets thrown on his champion. This type of engage allows the other major damage dealers, such as Dyrus and WildTurtle, to follow and dish out their damage with ease.
Here's his Twisted Fate build in game 5 of the Finals:
His team, for good or bad, always follows through on his initiations now. Most of the time he makes the right calls, but whether they are for good or bad they give TSM as a whole a very tenacious, aggressive style. The perfect style in the new season 3 hyper aggressive meta. Thank Reginald for that.
TheOddOne is the Most Consistent Jungler in the NA LCS- By Far
In Season 3 the junglers have an even stronger presence throughout the game. Saintvicious and TheOddOne are the two most mentioned when fans and pros alike argue about the top jungler in North America. Saintvicious may pull off more flashy plays and will seem like he carries his team to victory time and again. However, TheOddOne is much less prone to making mistakes. He rarely has a bad game, keeps his cool and makes the smart plays, not just the most exciting plays at the time. As a result, he is the true backbone of Team SoloMid.
TheOddOne is also one of the most well versed of the junglers in North America. He can pull out the current tier 1 pro junglers such as Nasus, Jarvan IV, and Volibear to fit his team comp. However, his recent showing with Nocturne and especially Cho'Gath has made him unpredictable and 'unbannable' as a jungler.
His recent Cho'Gath play in the North American LCS playoffs has been an eye opener. He has played him 5 times, and TSM won every game when he pulled out the Feast stacker. Here's the crazy part: TheOddOne has a next-level combined KDA of 54 from those 5 games. He only died once the whole time he played Cho'gath. This catapulted him to the top of the KDA rankings for the playoffs with a 10.4 total KDA. The second best was BloodWater with a 6.4 KDA. Of course KDA doesn't mean everything- but that is still very impressive and indicative of his recent stellar play.
Here's his Cho'Gath build in game 5 of the Finals:
Experience Still Matters
It's not all about crazy strategies, gimmicky plays, and swapping players in and out of a roster. Sometimes the key to success is experience playing together as a team.
Formed in 2011, Team SoloMid are one of the most storied teams in the North American pro scene. They dominated season two, winning multiple tourneys such as IPL 4, the 2012 MLG Spring Championship and the Season 2 North American Regionals. As a result, they have acquired the most tournament earnings of any North American team by far .
Playing in all these major tournaments even before the Season 3 LCS has given them a huge experience advantage going into it. They also learned to work cohesively as a team: Dyrus, TheOddOne, Reginald, and Xpecial have played on TSM together since March 13, 2012 when Dyrus joined the team. You can see their cohesion clearly in their team fights. These four players have figured out each others strengths and weaknesses, and they know how to execute as a unit.
As good as the upstart teams (Good Game University and Team Vulcun) have been playing, they are still a step behind Team SoloMid in the pure team fighting aspect. TSM's long experience playing together is a major reason why. I understand that WildTurtle is a new addition, however, only one player change over such a long duration means that TSM still remained a very stable roster in League of Legends.
That one player change sparked a dominate winning phase for TSM. His Name is WildTurtle, and he's one crazy turtle!
Aggression Injection Through WildTurtle
Jason ‘WildTurtle’ Tran joined Team SoloMid as a permanent AD carry starter on March 25th. The last major addition to Team SoloMid was more than a year ago when Dyrus replaced The Rain Main in the top lane on March 13th, 2012. When Dyrus joined TSM he injected new life into the team. They went on a tear, winning the next three major tournaments - IPL 4, MLG 2012, and the GIGABYTE Esports LAN. Their streak continued and they dominated the rest of season 2.
When WildTurtle joined Team SoloMid, replacing long time AD carry Chaox, the same thing happened once again. He infused a more aggressive AD carry style into the team (a perfect synergy with Reginald's aggressive style) and Team SoloMid went on another tear; catapulting the team from third place to first over the next few weeks. He was the new blood that TSM needed again at the perfect time.
It is not that WildTurtle is a 'new' or 'fresh' addition that made them better. He's an incredibly skilled AD carry and his ballsy attitude to pick fights in lane and tendency to jump ahead in team fights makes him a very exciting player to watch. He's known mostly for his full damage Caitlyn builds and for his Draven play. Teams have already banned out both champions against him in the LCS matches. However, he also showed he is skilled with Varus and Miss Fortune, giving his team a wide flexibility for choosing their team roster.
Here's his Miss Fortune build in game 5 of the Finals:
To put this point home, WildTurtle has very consistently held the highest Gold Per Minute in all of the North American LCS, and finished with 393 Gold Per Minute average at the end of the season. He constantly knows how to maintain a high creep score on various Ad carries while pushing for kills throughout the whole game. If there was a name for the opposite of a passive AD carry, it would be WildTurtle.
TSM is Unbannable and Flexible in the Crucial Picks & Bans Phase
The picks and bans phase has become a science of it's own in the League of Legends pro scene. Teams have largely won or lost games simply by outsmarting their opponents during this phase.
Team SoloMid is by far the most difficult team to outmaneuver during the picks and bans phase. They have a strong team fighting mastery when using the global based champions such as Shen, Karthus, and Twisted Fate. As a result, teams have to either ban these champions out or steal them away themselves. However, when they use a ban on champs such as Shen or Twisted Fate, this gives Team SoloMid too much breathing room in other areas.
Each of the five players also have too wide of a champion pool:
- Dyrus can play a wide pool including Shen, Renekton, Malphite, Rumble and Jayce. Teams have banned out his Shen and Renekton often, but then he just picks Rumble or Malphite and his team still moves on to victory.
- TheOddOne is one of the most versatile jungler in North America. He can play champs such as Nasus, Cho'Gath, Jarvan IV and Nocturne at any time. Look for him to also pull out Nautilus in the near future. He doesn't fixate on one for too long, so he can't be banned out either.
- Xpecial's favorite champion is Sona by far, and he is a scary person to give Sona to for free. If you ban her out, he will just default to Lulu, Thresh or Leona, champions that he is almost as good at anyways.
I'm sure you get the picture by now. All five of these guys can't be banned out individually. Three bans AND picking away some of their best champions are still not enough to stop them from getting champions they still favor and are comfortable with. They have a team composition ready for any situation that happens in the picks and bans phase. This is a very underrated aspect of team success in League of Legends.
TSM tends to go for a global-dominant team core, featuring champions such as Twisted Fate, Shen, and Karthus. They also favor dive-heavy compositions that can initiate their own 5v5 teamfights on their terms. They do this because they want to force actual, definite team fights, as pure team fighting has always been TSM’s biggest strength in North America. Reginald’s Diana has headlined this type of composition, with Dyrus’ Renekton their preference to follow through in the dive. Xpecial also favors Sona for the pure value of a Crescendo follow up on these hard initiations by Reginald and company.
Overall, it is too difficult to prevent TSM from getting a variation of either 1) A global dominant team comp or a 2) Dive, hard initiation team comp. They are flexible in going with either type of composition or a mixture of both.
Can They Take The Next Step?
Team SoloMid is back on top... in North America. They know that being the best team in North America alone is not enough to compete at the world stage. Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asia and Europe boast incredibly powerful teams. Now they set their sights toward being a great team internationally, where they have faltered in the past. If they continue to study the top teams from the other pro scenes and train hard there is no reason why these very talented players cannot excel at the world stage.
Here's the link so you can see their games against Good Game University. Scroll down to the Grand Finals to see each game.
There is also a good interview with all of TSM that gives their personal insight into their recent success, as well as their plans to remain focused rather than get complacent.
All pictures from lolesports.com