Mingyi ‘Spica’ Lu’s TSM salvaged first place in LCS Summer 2021 with a perfect 3-0 week to start the split. While the squad’s ambitions lay higher than just another domestic title, the longer season has made the 20-year-old jungler wary of the long road ahead.
Three games down, 24 to go. That’s where we sit after one week of LCS Summer 2021. It’s a long road when you put it like that — especially when the tantalizing prize of Worlds qualification feels so far away.
For TSM though, it’s starting to seep into their thoughts. After seizing first place following a perfect start to Summer, it’s been hard for jungler Spica to stop mentally drifting to China. “I think Worlds is always on our mind,” he told Dexerto.
However, there’s a “really, really long” path ahead of them to not just make it to Worlds and show off another subpar performance, but actually prove their worth 12 months on from an embarrassing 0-6 groups exit.
“What is really important for us right now is to win [in] NA. If you’re the best team in NA, you have a higher chance at doing well at Worlds. Playoffs is something we should focus on first, and once we qualify for Worlds, we’ll start focusing on that.”
Rival roster swaps “surprise” TSM
LCS Summer 2021 has already been an eventful season. Before players stepped foot back on stage, Cloud9 benched AD carry star Jesper ‘Zven’ Svenningsen for Academy player Calvin ‘k1ng Truong.
Then, after TSM beat Liquid on opening day, Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris found himself in the second-tier with Thomas ‘Jenkins’ Tran replacing him.
TSM, surprisingly to some, have managed to find some stability after a tumultuous couple of years. Settling in on a locked-in five for the full years has enabled them to get off to a great start, but the last thing they want to be is “complacent”.
“Last split, in the beginning, we were having a lot of issues, but as we played more games we fixed those. As they add in new players, they’re changing up how their team functions — it’s never good to think ‘this is a free win, we can coast through our season’.”
The moves have surprised Spica, who believed both Zven and Alphari played key parts to both rivals’ winning ways.
“TL played through Alphari a lot last split; he had the best stats out of any top laner. He was playing really well and carrying a lot of games. Zven has been playing on Cloud9 for almost a year and a half now and has won two LCS titles,” Spica explained.
“Cloud9 and Liquid still even though they switched out their major players. They have the infrastructure, especially C9, and TL have very solid players like Jensen and CoreJJ who have won multiple LCS titles.”
Despite the shake-up, the LCS competition is still incredibly close in Spica’s eyes. It’s not just Cloud9 and Liquid — although the jungler did isolate the two heavyweights as their main threats. It’s squads like Immortals and 100 Thieves storming up the power rankings too.
“The other teams are catching up. There’s a lot more rookies. In Spring we saw a lot of new players coming in and that’s healthy for the league. New players have their own way of playing the game. It brings variety and forces other players to get better,” he said.
“The weaker teams have made a lot of improvements too. Immortals are on their way up. 100 Thieves changed their mid laner and they’ve been doing decently well. I think it’s going to be really exciting come playoffs to see who can contend for those other [Worlds] spots.”
The new meta, and preparing for Worlds 2021
There’s also been a learning curve for TSM despite being on top. Every region had to deal with a pretty drastic meta swap across the mid-season break with the addition of Gwen and Viego to the pro champion pool.
TSM themselves have admittedly had to fix flaws in their style, bringing more early-game aggression and skirmishing into the fray to not only deal with other LCS teams, but better prepare themselves for Worlds. It’s been a lot more enjoyable for Spica though.
“I’m actually a really big fan of this meta now that a lot of bruisers are becoming meta. Lee Sin is meta in the solo lane, Viego, Nocturne — those bruiser dive champs that want to fight. It makes the game a lot more fun than last year when it was control mages and tanks with slow games.
“We’re trying to play more champions that have agency in the early game. It would be good going to Worlds because all those teams are really good at playing that [style], LPL specifically, because they’ve been playing the skirmishing style champions for years.
However, TSM isn’t throwing their identity out the window just because LPL is winning. Spica used the motto “if you’re imitating them, you’ll never beat them,” but said the NA powerhouses draw inspiration from other regions before putting their “own twist” onto that.
That game plan — while simple on paper — combined with a consistent roster could pave the way to glory for TSM once again. Spica is mentally prepared to take on the longer split, and looking forward to soaking in the stage experience ahead of another dig at Worlds.
“I’ve seen teams just break down in Summer. In 2020, we weren’t doing so well and then we gradually improved over the season. Even though we’re doing good right now, we can still [improve]. You can still improve if you’re still winning.
“You can’t solve some things really quickly, and some things you can. Some weeks you might not look good, and some weeks you might look unstoppable.
“This Summer we’ve finally found our groove. It’s going to be a very competitive split, there’s a lot of good teams.”
TSM takes on 100 Thieves to kick off LCS Summer 2021 Week 2 on June 11.
Interview conducted by Dexerto’s Isaac McIntyre.