Prior to the Round 2 of the Play-In Stage of the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who actually honestly expected Team SoloMid to lose against GIGABYTE Marines, unless you resorted to bringing up obvious Team SoloMid haters, of which there are plenty. Once the games started, however, everything went pear-shaped and for a moment, it seemed like the Marines would actually be able to win against TSM.
Just like in the NA LCS Spring Finals where Team SoloMid played against Cloud9, the series between TSM and GAM started with two wins against a seemingly sleeping team. Only this time, TSM was on the receiving end of the beatdown. In the first two games of the series, TSM were looking like a shadow of its former self. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell was getting beat up by Gragas in lane by a guy who’s only been playing professional League of Legends for several months, especially in Game 1. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen was practically invisible, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, even though he managed to keep up better than most of his teammates, was also not in the shape we have come to expect from him, without even mentioning TSM’s Bot Lane, which had serious problems standing up to GAM’s ADC Ziggs, actually giving up 2v2 kills without the Jungler’s help.
There can be many reasons for TSM’s slump. Even though they might have tried their hardest to convince themselves that the games against GIGABYTE Marines won’t be easy, it’s very likely that in their heart they were already thinking of the series as won. TSM has a long history of underestimating their seemingly weaker competition and dearly paying for it. Another reason, Team SoloMid hasn’t spent that much time scrimming before the tournament. Even if they did do their best to prepare for the matches, playstyles are different all over the world, there’s no real way to get used to it until you actually experience it. Also, TSM might have needed time to warm up and get the idea of an easy win out of their heads. Once they did, however, they did what Cloud9 did to them in the NA LCS Spring Finals, only took it a step further and managed to complete the reverse sweep.
Whatever the reason for TSM’s revival may be, and there could be plenty, like the fact that TSM took for themselves (Gragas) or banned (Ziggs) some of the champions used against them so successfully in previous games, the fact of the matter is that we saw a different Team SoloMid in Game 3. Hauntzer smacked around Phan “Stark” Công Minh’s Renekton with Gragas, even Jason “WildTurtle” Tran played well in this game were he was a frequent source of head-shaking in the previous two games.
After Game 3, the momentum of the series swung in TSM’s favor. It seems like the NA Champions adapted to their opponents and started working for a series win. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, both team’s fortunes swung one way or another like a seesaw quite frequently. When it all came down to it, TSM proved that they have better individual players and more sound cross-map strategies. With that said, we have to give props to GIGABYTE Marines. They had to stand up against the same kind of difference in the level of skill as NA teams face when they come onto the Rift against a top South Korean team. Marines took the shot to show what they’ve got with both hands and played their hearts out, even getting fans to the edges of their seats, anticipating the biggest upset in the tournament so far. They matched Team SoloMid much better than anybody expected of them and that is something to be very proud of, especially when you consider that the level of eSports infrastructure and financial resources is much less developed in Vietnam than it is in North America.