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Team SoloMid on the Gauntlet, Meta and Grudges

After a 17-1 season and a commanding 3-1 victory over Cloud9 in the finals at Toronto, Team SoloMid are heading into Worlds. This is the strongest that they’ve ever looked as a team — and also the most mature. At the post-game press conference, Team SoloMid looked confident and seasoned as they fielded questions on the meta, their team, the series against C9 and Worlds.

That doesn’t mean they’ve entirely lost the Baylife spirit — there were a few shots fired during the conference as TSM discussed their present and future as they head into Worlds as the number one North American seed.

On teamwork, communication and burnout

TSM saw a huge surge in performance between spring and summer. Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg commented on how the team philosophy shifted between the two Splits: "The playoffs in spring, we learned how to play with each other with teammates and players. When we brought in Biofrost, the four of us had gotten accustomed to playing with each other, and bringing in a new player taught us a lot about each other. We’d play 10 hours a day, practicing with each other, we got really close and we learned how to play as a team."

Weldon had more thoughts on how the team managed such incredible hours: "I think our approach of burnout this split has been to find the edge between maximum possible effort and avoiding burnout. We use some trackers and gauge their physical and physiological and psychological health. Twice during the Split we got up to the edge, and we pulled back, it’s really important to time your breaks to pull away and avoid that burnout."

Bjergsen expanded on that schedule: "Every team scrims between 6-9 hours, 5-6 days a week." It doesn’t end there. "The difference between the top teams and the middle of the pack teams is what they do outside of scrim time. Watching VODs, having conversations with your team, theorycraft, scheduling more scrims ..."

Bjergsen specifically cited Korean players' practice schedule as TSM’s inspiration for such a schedule, but he admitted that he’s "still learning how to optimize those hours." Bjergsen hasn’t found a way he can improve without spending more and more time, based off watching the 15 hours a day that the Koreans spend. Team SoloMid, under the guidance of Weldon, has learned to practice until the point of burnout and then pull it back. Bjergsen admitted that they’re still learning how to optimize those hours.

Looking back at the series

Many people suggested that Cloud9’s Impact should have received Player of the Series instead of Svenskeren, despite Cloud9 ultimately falling behind. Hauntzer clearly had a lot of respect for Cloud9’s top laner: "Impact definitely set it up during the series, and I got caught a lot. It’s an honour to play against a World Champion, and he’s definitely one of the best. It was a really close match."

TSM was a little less impressed with the Zac pick coming out from Meteos. Svenskeren summed it up with: "It’s pretty bad ... I was surprised Meteos had the balls to play Zac."

The team still felt like they could have done better, with Bjergsen remarking: "Even today I was disappointed with how we played, games were slow to end, we were sloppy."

Gauntlet hopes

Team SoloMid are hoping that the Immortals go down in the upcoming Gauntlet. "I hope Immortals loses, because they really want us to lose, and they wouldn’t scrim us," Doublelift said. "So we had low practice heading into the finals. It makes sense, they wanted us to lose because they didn’t want to play C9 in the gauntlet, but it was a scummy thing to do." (Noah Whinston, the CEO of Immortals, doesn’t quite agree with this interpretation of events.) The Immortals currently stand as the final boss of the Gauntlet, standing only one best of five away from being the third North American seed at Worlds.

Doublelift noted that he was cheering for Cloud9. "Cloud9 is good, they should be able to beat IMT in the gauntlet." There’s clearly a lot of respect between these two North American titans; relatively new team Immortals, meanwhile, has earned some bad blood with TSM.

The metagame

Bjergsen had a lot to say about the current patch, noting that the lane swaps had dramatically changed the game:  "The patch timing was suboptimal, but for me it's easier to play without the swap lanes. We had more control over the game. For me, I think the patch was okay. For the fans, the games are more exciting, more bloody and easier to follow. For us, it was challenging at first. There are different timing, different jungle routes, we had to relearn playing 2v2 every single game. It was about finding a middle, where you want your comp to be good but you still want strong lanes. Some people thought it’d be about super dominant laners, like Caitlyn and Nami bot, but people figured out you can play safe and smart and still have strong team comps."

Biofrost also noted that the support meta had been shaken up with these comps. "Everyone thought that ranged supports would be the new thing with the bottom lane changes, but Karma is always banned out, and the meta falls to Melee supports. Melee supports are really good at making plays and setting up dives. Bot lane players are really good and know how to play safe, so playing a Melee support is better in that scenario because you can avoid ganks. In that sense, it’s better to play a tanky support like Braum."

Doublelift and Bjergsen talked about their double shotcalling setup, calling it "natural." Doublelift mentioned shotcalling has a weird perception from the days of Hai and Reginald as "dictators," but really everyone contributes to shotcalling and gives everyone on the team a big picture from what's going on in their lane. Doublelift admits he’s not a patient person and doesn’t want to wait for someone else to make a call, but everyone on TSM contributes and can make a call. When it comes to working as a team, TSM are confident and this should carry over into Worlds.

The press conference gave a lot of insight as to the inner workings of TSM and how they’ll be approaching the next World Championship. While they are focusing on keeping their heads down and working hard, there were still a few shots fired. It remains to be seen whether TSM can keep their dominant streak going as they head into Worlds as the number one seed for North America. As they hoisted the cup, they were all smiles — but they know better than anyone that there’s still a long road ahead.

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