After two years of relative stability, Team SoloMid used this offseason to shake up their roster, retaining only two players going into 2018. But NA's top team has always struggled to make waves internationally, and it remains to be seen if this squad can get TSM out of groups at Worlds.
This offseason, TSM signed G2 Esports' star bot lane duo, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguierre-Rodriguez, along with the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split rookie of the split, Mike "MikeYeung" Yeung as their jungler, hoping to turn their international woes around. But though the untested roster looks strong right now, even Mithy is wary of calling his shots this early.
"I think it's super early to say," Mithy told theScore esports. "On paper we look like a strong team, but we haven't even had the chance to play a single game together. So, it's a very long shot, we don't know how we're going to match up together, and how everything is going to work out. On paper it looks good and our goal is to make it out of groups at the very least. Hopefully we achieve our goals, because it's super hard to say right now."
Meanwhile, MikeYeung says that he's more excited to learn from TSM's more seasoned players, capitalizing on the raw talent he showed off last year on Phoenix1.
"It was a pretty easy decision for me, because I really wanted to improve myself as a player instead of having a team built around me, where I would be able to learn under players with more experience," MikeYeung told theScore esports. "I really felt like this opportunity was much better for me to be able to become like, two times three times better, and develop even my weaknesses and strengths, and what I'm good at as well."
This will be most TSM's players first time in a while working with a rookie player like MikeYeung. The last rookie to join TSM was Vincent "Biofrost" Wang, who joined TSM in May 2016 and left during the offseason.
However, TSM mid laner Soren "Bjergsen" Berg says that the lessons he learned working with Biofrost will apply to working with MikeYeung as well, and TSM doesn't plan to treat him any differently because he's a rookie.
"I think we all see Mike as the same as everyone else," Bjergsen told theScore esports. "I don't see him as a rookie on our team or someone we need to teach, we're not going to baby him, he's like any other teammate. He can learn from us, and we're going to learn from him. We'll try to find that balance, because that will be the best way for our team to play."
Zven and Mithy will be playing their first split in North America on TSM, and while Mithy says he's excited to make the jump to a new region, he's perhaps more excited to play on a team with the kind of legacy TSM has.
"Leaving Europe has been a choice that I was knew I was going to make this year, because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and honestly Europe was a little bit too easy," Mithy said. "I had won three splits in a row and there was nothing for me to fight for in Europe anymore so I really wanted to come to NA and I was lucky enough to end up in TSM which is basically the team that... it's basically the best a man can get in terms of what a team is."
Mithy is known as one of the best shotcallers in the West, a role TSM has sometimes lacked. Strong shotcalling might offer the cohesion TSM needs to perform to the level they've set as a goal for themselves in the past, but Bjergsen says that even that might be up in the air.
"I don't really like to call myself a shotcaller, because everyone is always communicating a lot, and I'm not going to stop communicating just because Mithy, or YellOwStaR or Faker joins the team," Bjergsen said. "I'm going to be communicating no matter what. I think it's going to come down largely to how Ssong wants to run the team, who he wants calling certain things, or having certain abilities in the game. I have new teammates, so there are new possibilities to get the job done."
Of course, the roster isn't the only thing changing in the offseason for TSM. The NA LCS is moving back to a best-of-one format for regular season matches, which top laner Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell says will keep TSM honest and focused when practicing.
"I think practice will be pretty much the same. I don't think there's really any other way to practice," Hauntzer told theScore esports. "But in terms of preparation, that'll be different because in best of one, more cheap strategies are going to come out. It's not like you can lose a game and then win a best-of-three later just because you're the better team. Now that best-of-ones are back in, you have to beat the other team and that's all that matters. So, it's all about having a strong early game and having strong finishers."
Meanwhile, Mithy believes that this will offer himself and Zven a challenge, since he says that G2 always struggled with best-of-ones when they were on the roster.
"I think it's going to be a good thing for me personally, and maybe for Zven too because in G2, we were lacking a little bit in terms of our best-of-one performances," Mithy said. "So having the best of one system coming back is going to help us improve in that regard."
Of course, it's not all humility from TSM. This roster has a history of winning, in both NA and EU, and many of them want to keep it alive. While Mithy wants to make sure the team makes it out of groups at Worlds this year, Hauntzer wants a little more.
"I want to win both spring and summer, so we have a five championship winning streak, and I think that's pretty good," Hauntzer said. "If we can get that then I don't think any other team will be able to beat that for a long time."
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.