For TSM, Worlds 2020 is a chance at international redemption

For the first time since 2017, TSM are headed to the League of Legends World Championship.

The past three seasons have been filled with question marks, roster moves, and countless doubts. But at the end of a three-year drought, the newly crowned North American champions—with years of endless domestic turmoil behind them—are finally headed back to the international stage.

And while much has changed since the last time TSM played a game on the international level, the formula that the organization used to reach the World Championship bears a striking resemblance to the one it used three years ago.

The bottom lane duo of Doublelift and Biofrost twisted itself throughout the league, separating on occasion, but they eventually found their way back where the original connection had sparked. In addition, the franchise’s longtime superstar Bjergsen never left TSM between the team’s last Worlds appearance and now. The team even brought former head coach Parth Naidu back into the fold—he reclaimed his longtime position with the organization this past Summer Split. 

TSM have recently had the professional scene in the palm of their hands. They’re riding a streak that saw the team eke out five victories in best-of-five series across the course of the LCS playoffs. After playing 25 games down the stretch of the LCS Summer Split playoffs, TSM are most definitely practiced and prepared for what could possibly await them at Worlds 2020. 

But when TSM departed the World Championship in 2017, it was on rocky terms. They entered that tournament as an odds-on favorite to walk out of the group stage unscathed. They were expected to easily secure a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals after being denied a chance at the Worlds bracket stage three out of their last four appearances at the World Championship. 

In the end, however, the team needed to labor their way to a tiebreaker scenario where they ultimately faced off with Misfits, the third seed from Europe who came into the World Championship playing with house money. The expectations, and seemingly all of the weight, was on TSM’s shoulders. Ultimately, Misfits ousted TSM in a 30-minute stomp. From there, TSM were ushered out of the supposed “Group of Life” with a 3-4 record. The organization left another World Championship early, watching the quarterfinals on the plane home. 

During that tournament, TSM’s veterans couldn’t get the job done—Doublelift and Bjergsen both ranked near the bottom of their positional leaderboards in almost every statistical category. The team as a whole struggled, despite their three wins and near-advancement into the tournament’s next stage. Even as they teetered on the brink of elimination, with that one-game playoff against Misfits in full focus, the viewpoint surrounding TSM was one that mainly pointed out the fact that the team devolved into a lesser version of itself. 

Doublelift, in particular, had an incredibly underwhelming performance. He ranked in the bottom three of all qualified bottom laners at Worlds 2017 when it came to KDA, CS per minute, gold per minute, damage per minute, kill participation, and damage percentage, according to gol.gg. In all six major facets of the game, Doublelift underperformed at that tournament. But now, with far more experience thanks to two trips to Worlds with Team Liquid (as well as an MSI Finals appearance), Doublelift has grown immensely since his last time on the international stage in a TSM uniform. If the team is going to perform well this time around, they’re going to need Doublelift to succeed. 

Beyond Doublelift’s full-circle return to the roster, TSM has undergone a complete makeover since Worlds 2017—sort of. Hauntzer and Svenskeren have moved elsewhere across the North American landscape after being replaced by prospects in TSM’s effort to get younger on almost every front. Since the end of the 2017 World Championship, the organization has seen 11 total players swing through the revolving door that is TSM’s starting lineup. 

If there’s been any sort of solidarity on the TSM roster since the start of the 2019 season, it’s found in the team’s solo lanes. Only Bjergsen and Broken Blade haven’t been in a position of uncertainty at any point over the course of the last two years. 

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