What options are available to TSM before 2022 LCS kicks off?
TSM are one of the few LCS teams without a confirmed or rumored complete roster. With most teams having announced their squads for 2022, what options remain open to TSM?
It has not been the best offseason for TSM.
After missing out on Worlds 2021, all hell has broken loose for the iconic North American org.
Behind the scenes, major beef erupted between Yiliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng and TSM owner Andy ‘Reginald’ Dinh. The org also saw longtime player and 2021 head coach Soren ‘Bjergsen’ Bjerg leave, a move that was cited in the departure of president Leena Xu.
When it comes to the League of Legends team, three starters have left – mid laner Tristan ‘PowerOfEvil’ Schrage, AD carry Lawrence ‘Lost’ Hui, and support Hu ‘SwordArT’ Shuo-Chieh.
So what is left of TSM’s roster? And what options remain open to them to fill their vacant roles?
Who is playing for TSM?
TSM currently have three of their five starters for the 2022 LCS season:
- Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon (Top laner)
- Mingyi ‘Spica’ Lu (Jungler)
- Edward ‘Tactical’ Ra (AD carry)
Two-time Worlds semifinalist Huni joined the team ahead of the 2021 season. 2021 LCS Summer MVP Spica graduated from TSM Academy ahead of the 2020 Summer Split. Former academy prospect Tactical was the first free agency move for TSM in 2021, rejoining the org after two years with Team Liquid.
It’s a strong lineup that should help TSM remain as one of the top teams in the league. Spica is in the conversation for the league’s best jungler, while Huni brings both talent and experience to the top lane. Tactical may not be an elite AD carry, but he has shown that he can hold his own in the bot lane.
However, that leaves the mid lane and support roles vacant, and this deep into free agency, the options for replacements are starting to become scarce. So what options can TSM still pursue?
Prior to the start of free agency on November 15, Travis Gafford revealed a TSM roster that hinted at the outside possibility that the org would sign two LCK starters – mid laner Yoo ‘FATE’ Su-hyeok and support Kim ‘Life’ Jeong-min. Neither move played out, with FATE joining Afreeca Freecs and Life signing with KT Rolster.
The LCK has been a popular recruiting ground this offseason for teams in the LEC and LCS. Rogue are rumored to be signing Dawmon Gaming’s substitute jungler, Kim ‘Malrang’ Geun-seong. Meanwhile, Cloud9 signed Park ‘Summit’ Woo-tae.
The problem: The LCK has been very busy, with many teams making moves in the second week of free agency. As a result, there are just three mid laners who started in the 2021 LCK Summer split and are still available at the time of writing:
- Song ‘Fly’ Yong-jun
- Son ‘Ucal’ Woo-hyeon
- Kim ‘Gori’ Tae-woo
While Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su is technically available, he is likely re-signing with DWG KIA.
Of the other three, one name is especially intriguing. Fly, who spent 2021 with Afreeca Freecs, has NA experience. He won the 2017 Summer split of NA Challengers with Gold Coin United before joining FlyQuest for the 2018 LCS Spring split. However, that is no guarantee he would be interested in coming back.
The market for LCK supports is even direr, with just one starter from 2021 still on the market – Cho ‘BeryL’ Geon-hee.
Unless TSM want to follow Cloud9 and take a risk on players from the lower tiers of Korean League, the window of opportunity might have already slammed shut.
The LPL is a league that exists and therefore is an option for TSM to acquire talent from.
However, various rumor accounts and Chinese insiders have linked so many Chinese players with a move to TSM that it is difficult to approach anything with certainty. FPX Blaze support Wei ‘Shenyi’ Zi-Jie was a name seemingly heavily linked to TSM, until he denied the rumor while streaming. It feels as if every player who is rumored to be leaving an LPL team has been immediately linked to TSM by fans. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Yuan ‘Cryin’ Cheng-Wei
- Liu ‘Crisp’ Qing-Song
- Zhu ‘Keaiduo’ Xiong
- Lin ‘Creme’ Jian
Speaking from the inside, the biggest off-season advantage T1 & TSM have (besides gobs and gobs of $$$) is that they are involved in every trade rumor so it’s almost impossible to tell what they’ll actually do. Have so many people asking what move they’ll make.
— Gen.G Arnold (@arnoldwh) November 20, 2021
If TSM signs players from the Chinese system, great. Legitimately good for them. But right, there is a lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak.
TSM have a mid laner and a support in their academy system who could be promoted to the LCS roster if all else fails. Support Wang ‘Yursan’ Sheng-Yu spent the entire 2021 season on the academy team after joining from Alpha Esports of the PCS. Mid laner Ji ‘Takeover’ Cha Hyeun-min was brought in ahead of the 2021 academy summer split after starting his career in Latin America.
While both players would require import slots, TSM have the room to accommodate that.
- Read More: 2022 LEC & LCS rostermania
The problem: TSM Academy wasn’t great in 2021. They finished seventh in both splits of the academy seasons, well off the pace of teams such as 100 Thieves, who have seen multiple academy players leave for starting spots in the LCS. Realistically, TSM are not in the same position as 100 Thieves or Evil Geniuses, who have academy players ready for the transition to the LCS.
While TSM could look at other LCS academies, it might already be too late as the players expected to move have already done so. While TSM have the experience in the starting lineup to mitigate some of the risk of fielding multiple rookies, it still puts them at a disadvantage they’d rather not have if they want to return to Worlds in 2022.
NA free agents
There is a wealth of free agents who recently played in the LCS, especially in the mid lane position. Half the LCS has acquired a new mid laner and/or support for 2022, meaning there is plenty of talent available for TSM to pursue.
The problem: Just because the talent is available doesn’t mean it’s worth acquiring. Eugene ‘Pobelter’ Park and Tanner ‘Damonte’ Damonte were both released by a CLG team that finished last in the LCS in Summer. Daniele ‘Jiizuke’ Mauro was dropped in favor of an academy prospect.
And even if the talent would help TSM progress, there’s no guarantee they can acquire those players. The biggest mid lane question of the offseason, Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen, revealed he had tried to create a superteam with Doublelift and that he might not play in the LCS in 2022.
While TSM have been linked with a potential move to acquire Evil Geniuses support Lee ‘IgNar’ Dong-geun, as well potentially picking up benched G2 support Mihael ‘Mikyx’ Mehle, questions remain about the mid lane.
2022 could be a boom or bust season for TSM. While the roster they already have is talented, two vacant positions raise a lot of questions for a team in North America’s top league.
The problem is that TSM find themselves in a catch-22 situation. They can either rush to a decision to ensure they have a full roster and deal with the consequences that come with that, or they can continue to wait and work methodically but run the risk of watching opportunities slip away.
We could be in for a long wait until TSM reveals their plans for 2022. But one thing is certain: time is not on their side.