TSM and IMT will face off for a second time in Week 5 of the NA LCS, in what is unexpectedly a battle for first. Immortals have only dropped one series thus far, and are looking like the team to beat with crisp macro game and great understanding of how to accrue leads and close out games.
TSM, on the other hand, have always been pegged as de facto winners in any NA matchup. While this might still be true in the minds of their legion of fans, the players have had other priorities. Throughout the past few weeks, the TSM members have stated multiple times that their main focus is to be a more well rounded team and not necessarily win every match. They’re trying to find new styles and compositions that fit them well.
TSM ALREADY HAVE AN IDENTITY; THEY JUST WANT TO EXPAND THEIR ARSENAL
It’s important to dispel a notion before moving forward: TSM aren’t struggling to find an identity; they already have one. As Doublelift mentioned in an interview with Travis Gafford, TSM could always resort to putting Bjergsen on control mages. They have many times relied on him to exert strong pressure from the mid lane and translate small leads into coordinated invades or roams to side lanes.
But the team is looking two steps ahead, to tackle playoffs and international competition with versatility. That means mastering more playstyles to avoid getting banned out and going into game with a suboptimal, untrained draft.
So far, TSM have mainly been swapping around their centerpiece, Bjergsen. Instead of placing him on the more standard control mages such as Syndra, Orianna, or Taliyah, we have seen the Dane pick up Galio, Karma, and Kassadin instead--each champ fulfilling drastically different roles. With Galio, Bjergsen acts as a supportive, follow-up tank. With Karma, TSM played a siege comp with Doublelift’s Caitlyn as the main threat. And lastly, with Kassadin, TSM did something they rarely do: completely yield mid priority and play for scaling.
IMMORTALS HAVE FINALLY FOUND THEIR GROOVE: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT
Meanwhile, Immortals have finally found their main style and have been focused on refining it. Put simply: they like to fight, and they like to do it on their own terms. Their compositions almost always stack up on a lot of proactive crowd control.
Just look at Xmithie’s champion pool. His most played champion is Gragas, a jungler that can always force engages whenever flash is up. His 2nd and 3rd pick, Lee Sin and Elise, also have great tools for picks and initiation.
Cody Sun’s most played AD Carries include Varus, who can start a fight with Chain of Corruption, and Jhin, who can provide a lot of long range follow up CC with his ultimate and Deadly Flourish’s snare.
Olleh’s current most played champion is Bard, with a stunning 6-0 start to summer with the pick.
Flame is usually on damage-oriented bruisers such as Renekton, Jarvan, or Kled (which constitute 14 of his 20 picks). When the matchup is favorable, he can accrue CS advantages in the laning phase, but more importantly, these picks all give him backline dive potential.
Pobelter’s most picked include Ahri, Galio, and Orianna. All relatively safe picks that can be played into almost any matchup without major problems -- solid blind picks that give IMT a lot of wiggle room in their draft.
ThEY MATCH UP EVENLY IN EARLY-GAME, BUT MID-GAME ONWARDS...
Both Immortals and TSM have performed very similarly in the early stages of the game, with similar stats regarding their gold advantage at 15 minutes and how often they get first turret. At the 0-15 minute mark, it would probably be fair to call both teams equals, but it’s after that where Immortals shine.
Once the outer turrets are down, it’s the Immortals’ map play that sets them apart from the rest of the league. Their lane assignments are usually correct, and they take the initiative to stay in the lead and make sure it keeps growing.
how immortals dominate
In their first game against CLG, after what was a fairly close early game, Immortals within just 2 minutes extended their gold lead from a close 600 to 2000.
At 13 minutes, the teams have just traded turrets in opposite sides of the map, with Immortals getting first brick.
In the top lane, Flame on Jarvan pushes hard, so the minions crash into the enemy tier 1 turret. In the meantime, Cody Sun slowly starts pushing the bot side so the minions move closer towards the tier 2.
Jarvan roams down to mid and forces an engage with his ultimate and Galio’s. This doesn’t net them a kill because of Tahm Kench’s Devour, but it forces out important enemy cooldowns.
CLG are forced to respond to the minion pushes in their side lanes, and both Camille and Caitlyn show up in their respective lanes to push them back out. Cody Sun then uses this tempo advantage to roam up to mid, and opens up with Curtain Call. With this ultimate and a 2 man advantage, Immortals push up 5 strong and take mid tier one, allowing them easier access to the enemy jungle.
After resetting and then picking up a kill onto a wandering Tahm Kench, Olleh pushes forward, and lights up the enemy bot side jungle with wards before recalling back to base to refill his sightstone once more.
The trap is now set. At 16:10, they notice CLG’s bot lane pushing forward in a lane without an outer turret, and immediately pull the trigger. With the wards placed by Olleh, there is no shortage of options for Flame to find a TP flank. Immortals catch out CLG in the side and grab two more kills, extending their gold lead and keeping control over bot side river so that they can take another Mountain Drake.
The rest of the match shows a very patient Immortals, always one step ahead of CLG as they move from lane to lane, chipping at turrets to extend their lead before eventually forcing a fight when they feel comfortable to do so. The plethora of engage and pick tools frequently present in their compositions allows them to dictate when and where they want to fight. Eventually, they take down the enemy nexus in just under 34 minutes.
WILL TSM TRY EXPERIMENT DRAFTS AGAINST IMMORTALS?
Matching or even coming out ahead of the Immortals in the first fifteen minutes of the game is something TSM are perfectly capable of pulling off. The big question is whether they can keep the game in contention after this stage. Once the map opens up, Immortals have understood better than any other team in the league how to distribute players throughout the map for success, and how to find openings for favorable fights.
For TSM, it might be wise to take Immortals out of their comfort picks straight from the draft, namely Xmithie’s Gragas or Olleh’s Bard. But what’s more interesting is whether we will still see the Spring Split champions trying out new compositions, or if they will resort to their usual, featuring Bjergsen on a strong control mage, in order to take down the league leaders.