TSM finally decided on their jungler for the LCS playoffs—and it’s not one of their intended starters.
Instead, the team promoted Mingyi “Spica” Lu to the starting position and moved the other junglers (Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Jonathan “Grig” Armao) to play out the rest of the season in NA Academy. To make things even more surprising, TSM will take on the playoffs without a substitute jungler. This means Spica will play for the entirety of the knockout stage.
Will this move help Team SoloMid qualify for Worlds 2019? Or is this the last desperate attempt to rebuild a failing roster?
No room for mistakes
To say Team SoloMid had a hard time in the 2019 Summer Split would be an understatement. After a great showing in spring with the organization barely missing out on the chance to sweep Team Liquid in the finals, many expected TSM to put on a clinic in summer.
Yet so far, Team SoloMid’s performance on the LCS stage has been anything but surgical. The team’s 10-8 record placed it in the middle of the standings. And it wasn’t until the last week of the regular season that it managed to secure a playoff spot.
One of the main reasons behind this lies in the jungle.
TSM entered the 2019 Summer Split with the intention of choosing between Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Jonathan “Grig” Armao for their starting jungler. However, neither delivered a satisfactory performance on stage. And while TSM did seem to settle on Akaadian at one point, they elected to go back on that decision.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make their current situation any better. Spica is still a young jungler. In fact, he spent most of his career in NA Academy. Even though he did get to play a couple of LCS games during the last week of the 2019 Summer Split, that’s nowhere near enough to make him ready for the high-pressure playoffs. To make matters worse, TSM elected to enter the knockout stage without a substitute jungler.
Thus, if Spica fails, the team will go down with him.
The all-in approach
Of course, a risky move isn’t necessarily a wrong one. The fact that TSM doesn’t have a jungle stand-in shows they’re willing to put all of their stock into Spica. The clock is ticking, and there’s not much time to develop any synergy between the laners and the newly-promoted jungler.
However, Spica has already shown a lot of promise in the NA Academy league. And considering how shaky TSM looked with their other junglers, taking a chance on a hungry up-and-comer doesn’t seem like that bad of a prospect.
Another angle to examine is the bot lane. TSM’s current duo of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Andy “Smoothie” Ta has been notoriously shaky in the laning phase. Taking no jungle substitutes allowed the team to go with the bot laner Edward “Tactical” Ra and support Erik “Treatz” Wessén as their emergency stand-ins, so TSM will now have a Plan B in the event their bot lane crumbles.
Team SoloMid’s situation isn’t ideal. Introducing new blood to the team so late into the season is a tremendously risky prospect. However, TSM have already been pushed into a corner. And it’s much better to go down swinging than quietly accepting your fate.
Image courtesy of Riot Games.