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Of Bard and Biofrost: Finding a fit with TSM

by theScore Staff Jun 15 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

During Team SoloMid's search for a new support to replace the departing Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was probably the least exciting option on the table. Biofrost had floated around the Challenger Series scene for the past year, most recently spending six unremarkable games with Dream Team.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the other names being floated in the rumour mill, Biofrost won the job.

Two weeks and nine games in, Biofrost can no longer be described as “least exciting” or “unremarkable.” Biofrost’s team has won all four of their best-of-three series so far, looking like a confident and cohesive unit, and Biofrost himself has stood out on the highlight reels.

But while the early results suggest that Biofrost is fitting in great with his new team, there are aspects of his play style that might still end up being a downgrade for TSM, and there remain imperfections in his game that TSM will need to resolve if they want to continue to grow and find success as a team.

Making the Choice

TSM’s choice to sign Biofrost was likely influenced by many different factors, but one of the main questions a team has to ask itself is whether a player will be a good “fit,” both in terms of personality and play style.

By personality, Biofrost ‘s teammates have applauded him for being receptive to criticism and eager to learn, very important attributes for a rookie joining a team of veterans.

Playstyle is both a more observable and often a more complicated question to break down. In TSM’s case, they were tasked with not just finding a support player who could slot in smoothly alongside Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as a duo in the bottom lane, but also someone who would mesh with the team's overall strategic identity, hopefully better than YellOwStaR had in spring.

Based on how they played last split, TSM needed a player with two main playstyle attributes: stay-at-home laning to mesh with Doublelift, and active playmaking, particularly in teamfights. Biofrost's play with Dream Team suggested that he was a strong fit for the former attribute, but there were reasons to feel he might be a downgrade in the latter.

Stay-At-Home

Playing with Dream Team, Biofrost was mostly reactive and protective, holding the fort with his AD carry during the laning phase with only occasional roams to place a shallow ward or two in the enemy jungle or toss out a skill shot in the mid lane. Biofrost looked above-average in 2v2 laning, and paired with Doublelift, a very good laner, there was reason for optimism that TSM's 2v2 would be strong.

So far, this element of Biofrost’s play is paying off. YellOwStaR’s roaming tendencies were frequently criticized as a sign of the poor stylistic fit between him and Doublelift, but Biofrost shares Doublelift’s philosophy of playing the laning phase as a close-knit pair and beating the enemy duo lane head-to-head. Through the first two weeks, Doublelift is boasting a +4.6 CSD at 10 and +204 GD at 10, which are fairly impressive numbers. Interestingly, though, while that gold lead is more than Doublelift was earning last split, Doublelift actually had a better CSD at 10 in spring. That’s possibly a vagary of lane swaps, but it's something to keep an eye on going forward.

Evolving as a Playmaker

Playmaking and team fight initiations were the bigger question mark around Biofrost, by far. In his six games with Dream Team, Biofrost never contributed to a First Blood kill, and his team earned only one First Blood in 10 games. In the mid-to-late game, Biofrost was a participant more often than a leader, using Braum’s Glacial Fissure mostly to disengage or using Thresh’s Death Sentence and Flay to peel in teamfights rather than attack priority targets. In the different phases of the game, Biofrost did his job, but only rarely took matters into his own hands to create positive action for his team.

One of TSM’s main struggles during the spring split was a lack of clean, crisp playmaking, and particularly teamfight initiations. Svenskeren struggles as an initiator from the jungle, being more of a secondary engager himself, and while YellOwStaR attempted to be the playmaker, the coordination between him and the rest of the team was often lacking. Biofrost can’t rival YellOwStaR’s playmaker pedigree, so from that perspective TSM was downgrading the roster in an area where they were already relatively weak.

Enter Bard, the Wandering Caretaker.

Biofrost has spent a third of his time with TSM so far playing Bard, a champion who seems perfectly suited to straddling the gap between Biofrost’s more supportive play style and TSM’s need for active playmaking. Bard is designed to be a roamer (though Biofrost tends to spend most of his time in lane, regardless), but even while roaming, he can leave Caretaker’s Shrine health packs behind to help his AD carry stay safe in lane. And even while Bard is being a creative mid-game playmaker by using his ultimate, Tempered Fate, to create teamfight engages, the range on the skill is so long that Bard doesn’t have to put himself in danger while using it, or separate himself from the vulnerable carries that need his protection. With Bard in his hands, Biofrost has emerged as TSM’s primary playmaker — alongside Bjergsen, when he gets his hands on a champion like Azir — despite continuing to play an overall lane-oriented, contributive style.

Biofrost has already shown growth in his assertiveness on the Rift compared to his time with Dream Team, and while it has been most noticeable on Bard, he has also made some gains in his proactivity on other champions, like Karma. Biofrost seems to feel enabled and supported by his new teammates, giving him the confidence to look for plays. He isn’t forcing things too hard, trying to create opportunities that don’t really exist so that he can prove that he belongs; neither is he sitting back and being overly cautious, deferring to the veterans playing around him. Biofrost looks comfortable in his own skin, even while walking in the shadows of Doublelift and Bjergsen.

Room to Grow

Biofrost's existing strengths have produced good fruit so far, and his use of Bard has shored up an area of potential weakness or poor fit, but there are still areas where Biofrost needs to improve. Coordination with his teammates during his playmaking is one: there have been several examples of Biofrost using his Bard ultimates awkwardly, missing some that he should have landed and sometimes unintentionally interfering with his teammates’ efforts. So far those miscues haven’t hurt TSM in any significant ways, but Biofrost and his teammates clearly need to work out some kinks in their communication.

Vision control is also an area for growth: Biofrost’s 1.18 wards per minute ranks him just 8th among NA LCS supports, and you can’t get away uncriticized with a number like that unless you’re aphromoo (who, to be fair, still deserves criticism for his perpetually poor WPMs, including the measly 1.06 he’s posting so far this split). Biofrost has been learning more assertiveness in his playmaking, but he still needs to learn assertiveness in his warding, and could add more value to his team by breaking the leash with Doublelift just a little bit more often and joining Svenskeren to get more map control in the river and the enemy jungle.

Riding the Wave

Biofrost’s early body of work is impressive. He has been an excellent pickup for TSM so far. Despite the potential for TSM’s playmaking challenges to recur, or even worsen, after picking up a rookie with Biofrost’s tendencies, they have found ways to improve, and they are looking like the best team in North America right now because of it.

However, while it's easy to call to mind all of the pretty Bard ults and clutch Nami bubbles Biofrost has landed over the past two weeks and praise him as the perfect piece that has brought TSM together as a whole—and Biofrost certainly deserves to be praised for how he is playing — Biofrost can’t join the upper echelon of supports in North America until we see how he responds to adversity, like his first LCS losing streak, or meta shifts that threaten his champion pool and perhaps thrust him into a more direct initiating role that requires him to take more active risks, possibly exposing an area of weakness. Before Biofrost can reach the heights of his potential, he still has to pass through those storms and valleys, the lows that his veteran teammates have experienced before him. Those challenging moments, the incoming Tidal Waves, if you will, tell the true story of a player, a person, a team — just ask the Immortals what they learned about themselves from the spring semifinals.

Biofrost’s performance under the TSM TSM TSM spotlight so far has been encouraging — he hasn’t looked like a rookie, by any means — but his resilience and his versatility as a playmaker haven’t really been tested yet on the LCS stage. They will be, eventually, and that is when Biofrost will truly begin to write his story.

T1im "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs OraclesElixir.com, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.

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