When Stropse last spoke to Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg after his first experience as a coach, his team had just been eliminated after a meager showing in the LCS Lock In tournament. He noted his main goal was to focus on building the team’s relationships in the future.
Now, six weeks later, TSM is entering the Mid Season Showdown as the number two seed. Bjergsen spent time building relationships with his players, identifying strengths and weaknesses key to the formation of the clearly-defined roles we see today. Bjergsen’s team has become one of the best squads in the LCS.
Bjergsen and general manager Parth “Parth” Naidu took the time to talk to Stropse about the foundation of the vastly improved TSM roster competing in LCS Spring 2021. We left looking forward to what this team has in store.
Relationships and Establishing Roles
“I think we just really figured out what our kind of playstyle is, and how we win the game the best with our players,” Bjergsen said.
Top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon was one of the more controversial signings of TSM’s offseason. Many fans thought he just wasn’t the best fit with the roster, while others believed him to be washed up after mediocre stints with Dignitas and Evil Geniuses.
However, after sliding into the weak side carry position, Huni has been one of the more dominant top laners in the LCS. What’s more, his control over the top lane has opened up TSM to play through other areas of the map and facilitate players such as Mingyi “Spica” Lu.
TSM’s has established clearly-defined roles and fully found its identity, and it all comes back to how Bjergsen has built lasting relationships. “Søren is someone who likes understanding how every player thinks,” Parth explained.
“If you have a structured approach in terms of how to look at it and learn, then it just takes a period of time before you start, like, putting all the pieces together.”
Bjergsen puts those pieces together to fantastic effect. Identifying one player’s strengths, he said, “SwordArt, similar to CoreJJ, is a really big roaming player, so we try to enable him to roam as much as he feels like is good for the gamestate.”
Matching SwordArt’s roaming style with the aggressive nature of jungler Spica has created some impressive coordinated plays for TSM, skyrocketing the team’s success in 2021. Within the team, there are a number of these gameplay intersections which all culminate in game wins.
TSM’s catalyst for success has been their team’s varied roles. However, those roles wouldn’t matter in the slightest if the team couldn’t draft itself a composition capable of proper execution.
Learning to Facilitate Through the Draft
At the beginning of the season, TSM looked like a team without any direction. It seemed like 2021 would be another year of TSM stumbling its way through drafts and sometimes getting lucky with a nice comp. But in just six weeks, using their defined roles, the team has established a strategy for drafting, which has worked well for them.
“I didn’t do a good job of understanding how to draft for the players that we have. So, we had a lot of really rough games,” Bjergsen said of the early season. “Even in Week One of LCS, I think we had some really terrible drafts. I just kind of learned over time what is best for us and what works best for our team.”
TSM’s drafts haven’t been anything spectacular; for the most part, they’ve been pretty dry and standard. While teams like Cloud9 have been experimenting with all different sorts of unique picks, TSM has been busy focusing on standard, easy-to-execute compositions which align with their player roles.
Put Huni on a powerful weak side top laner like Gnar or Shen. Have Spica and SwordArt run proactive roamers like Hecarim and Alistar while Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui play for comfort. This is the formula which has won TSM so many of its games in 2021.
It’s not a perfect formula, and along with the rest of the LCS, TSM has its share of issues to iron out. But under Bjergsen, TSM has managed to exceed all expectations and is heading into the Mid-Season Showdown looking strong.
Learning to Trust Yourself and Others
“It’s definitely gotten a lot better, just trusting myself.”
As the head coach and leader of TSM, a lot of weight falls on Bjergsen’s shoulders when it comes to properly setting up the draft and his players. During the LCS Lock-In, Bjergsen found himself doubting his own knowledge in the presence of differing opinions. Learning to trust his gut, he told Stropse, was something he needed to work on.
“I have the final say, so it’s important that what I say is something that I believe in,” the head coach said.
But as the season progressed, Bjergsen learned the value not just of trusting himself, but of trusting those around him as well. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, Bjergsen will now facilitate discussion around the subject and try to understand why the person’s opinion is different from his own.
“If they are right, then I can speak with confidence because I truly believe in it. So it’s not just about trusting my gut, it’s also just about being educated and talking to the people around me and understanding what they think.”
It’s Not Perfect
While the defined roles and development of the drafting strategy have been wonderful for TSM, their focus on these areas have caused them to lose sight of other aspects of the game, such as objective control.
In-game, TSM always seems to be at a disadvantage, constantly playing against opponents with Dragon Soul and baron buffs. Parth brought up how this trend has harmed their games: “Dragon is just a really important objective and if as a team you don’t prioritize or even contest, then it’s gonna be a problem especially against higher, I guess, better teams who, if they get a small gold lead, can set up around Dragons pretty well and choke out any win conditions you have.”
Team Liquid is a perfect example of this. One of the more sturdy and dependable teams in the LCS, Team Liquid is great at capitalizing off mistakes, taking map control and shutting down the opposing team. TL isn’t the only strong team competing in the Mid-Season Showdown. Cloud9 looks as dominant as ever, and Dignitas won both contests with TSM so far in 2021.
The rapid improvements made by TSM in such a short amount of time have been remarkable, but the team isn’t perfect, and it still has a lot it needs to focus on going into the latter half of 2021. But with coach Bjergsen at the helm and a strong foundation keeping them afloat, TSM will look to make waves in 2021.