Keith and the Turtle: a look at the battle for TSM's starting AD Carry

by theScore Staff Jun 23 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Damian Estrada / theScore

On Monday, Team SoloMid announced that they would be bringing Liquid Academy AD Carry Keith to have an in-house tryout with the team. The reigning back-to-back NA LCS champions are currently tied for second place in the NA LCS with a 6-2 record, but they have taken it upon themselves to test the waters with new strategies that prioritize the top lane alongside their usual mid lane supervision.

With Dyrus' rise this summer — he has already scored 25 kills compared to 27 last split — WildTurtle's play has become a growing concern for TSM. Coming off of a strong spring split where he looked to be back to his rookie form, WildTurtle's performance at the Mid-Season Invitational left much to be desired. While the team as a whole struggled and were quickly ousted from the tournament, Turtle's struggles took centre stage as he only managed to grab a mere eight kills in the five games that TSM played.

During the offseason, the two players that were tasked with stepping up their play were the team's two longest tenured players: Dyrus and WildTurtle. Dyrus' improvements have been evident as his team play, movement around the map, and smarter play are much improved over the first four weeks. Be it through the rest of the team or Dyrus demanding more attention, the top laner has been getting the support that he's been sorely lacking over the past year.

WildTurtle's career NA stats
Season Kills K/PG Deaths D/PG GPM 
Spring '13 87 6.2 28 2 414
Summer '13 127 4.5 92 3.3 365
Spring '14 144 5.1 48 1.7 422
Summer '14 109 3.9 52 1.9 381
Spring '15 108 6 42 2.3 422
Summer '15 29 3.6 26 3.3 388

When you look at Turtle's stats, you can notice a clear separation between his spring seasons and his summer seasons. Ever since his debut in the inaugural NA LCS season, Turtle has always put up big numbers in the spring. He's died less, output greater damage, and has been atop the standings when it comes to KDA and other positive statistics. However, things start falling apart in the summer, as his worst season was his sophomore split where he almost hit 100 deaths.

With Turtle, you know what you're getting — a wild gunman who is going to get shot down and be overzealous at times, but will take down three people before he dies. That's been enough for TSM over the last few years, as Bjergsen has become the team's ace carry with Turtle acting as his second-in-command when it comes to being a threat on the squad. It didn't matter if Turtle was mispositioned or taken out of a fight because as long as he did enough damage to the rest of the opposing team, Bjergsen could clean up and sweep those mistakes under the rug.

The big difference between Turtle now and the Turtle of seasons past is that he isn't getting enough kills to justify his deaths. Turtle's currently on pace to score around 60 kills for the entire season, putting him well below his usual output. While he usually doubles his kill to death ratio, he's only up three kills on deaths this season. He leads the team in deaths and has been caught out countless times this season, as the old routine of going down while taking a couple of opponents with him has been replaced by him simply dying.

He currently ranks last out of all starting AD Carries when it comes to damage percentage and gold percentage, showing the disconnect he's had with the rest of the team on the Rift this season. His kill participation is down eight percent from last season, chipping in less with kills, overall damage, and not making up for those times where he makes small positional mistakes. There have been criticisms before about Turtle's impatient offense, but he's always been able to make up for it by grabbing kills and being a capable secondary carry to Bjergsen.

The new TSM hopeful, Keith, is no stranger to competing for a starting job in the NA LCS. Last season on Team Liquid, Keith served as a substitute for Piglet and needed to fill in for the former world champion in the first few games of the season due to visa issues. In those games he did not perform like a rookie and kept his cool on a team that was expected to make a run for the title. The biggest thing Keith showed in his early run with Liquid is the thing that's currently troubling Turtle — he doesn't force the issue.

Keith played a background role when he was on Liquid and put up great stats when he was played, except he let the action come to him. Xpecial, Dominate, and the rest of the team set up Keith, and he knocked everything he was given out of the park. Keith only died 11 times in his six games, participated in 74 percent of Liquid's kills, and did 33 percent of his team's damage when he was starting.

Keith's time on Liquid did not produce any highlight reel moments that showed off his insane mechanical skills because he never had to. He gelled with the team, did what they needed him to, and quietly put on one of the best debuts for a rookie in League of Legends' history.

In the end, Piglet did win the starting job on Liquid. Keith certainly played well enough to be Liquid's full-time starter, but unfortunately for him Piglet's pedigree was too large to overcome. If Piglet was not a former world champion and a former member of one of the best teams to ever play the game, he wouldn't have gotten the number of chances he received to fit into the team. It took the entire spring season for Piglet to finally start playing like people hoped he would when he came to North America, and he's now one of the best players in the region.

During his in-house tryout, Keith's being pitted against another experienced, successful AD Carry. Turtle doesn't have the same credentials that Piglet possesses — a world title, most notably — but it's still an uphill battle for Keith.

He might be the better player right now and if he gets a chance to play with TSM he could do the same thing he did on Liquid: fit in seamlessly behind Bjergsen, do his job, and help his new team get a string of victories. The thing is, though, that Team SoloMid have never before benched a player due to performance issues. Turtle, unlike other players in the past, hasn't stopped trying and hasn't been a negative factor for the team in-house, He just isn't putting up the numbers that the team would like him to following their failure at the Mid-Season Invitational. For Keith to win the starting job, he'd have to do something that's never happened in TSM's history: beat out a current starter.

Keith's presence on Liquid lit a fire that pushed Piglet to get better, faster. With the threat of a capable player who fit well with the team, Piglet had to improve and get Liquid into the playoffs or he could very well have lost his spot after being given countless opportunities to secure it. This could be a similar scenario with TSM.

The setback at MSI didn't result in Turtle coming into the season stronger.

We're at the point where Turtle is on a knife-edge and his possible replacement is staring him in the back, hungry for what he has: a starting job on the biggest, most successful team in North America. If Turtle doesn't improve or doesn't turn around his play quickly enough, everything he's worked for could be taken away — his chance at Worlds and his job on the team that he's started on for the past two years.

WildTurtle likes to get into wild, unpredictable gunfights.

Keith is going to bring him one.

Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.