It’s hard to find something as damning as being TSM’s jungler. Whenever the team falls into a slump, thousands of fans instantly put you under the microscope. Combine that with the pressure that comes from playing for the most popular League of Legends brand in the West, and jungling for TSM is as secure a job as teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
Of course, some of it comes down to perception. Fans will always be inclined to blame the new guy for the team’s failures, and when you consider the turnover rate of Team SoloMid’s junglers… well, let’s just say there’s a steady supply of newcomers in this position. But there’s also no denying that ever since TheOddOne stepped down in 2014, TSM has struggled to find a sense of jungle stability.
At this point, it’s clear there’s something horribly wrong with the way TSM approaches the position.
How many times have you heard that all TSM junglers look like walking wards? And yet, it rarely—if ever—starts like that.
Most old fans remember that Amazing was renowned for his ganking and playmaking, and while his champion pool might’ve been limited, he acted as the driving force behind TSM’s early game.
Surprisingly enough, the same applied to the man who started the ward narrative, Santorin. The Danish jungler made a name for himself by tearing up the North American Challenger Series, and at first, he seemed to carry this momentum into the NA LCS. But at some point, his playstyle changed so much that even casters criticized him for not applying enough pressure.
Riot Phreak speaking his mind on TSM Santorin in view of 2015 Worlds
A similar shift happened to Svenskeren. He joined TSM as one of the most aggressive junglers in the West, but by the time he parted ways with the team, Sven looked so out of his element he couldn't manage half decent invades.
Even MikeYeung and Grig were known as carry players before signing with TMS and spending most of their time tank duty. So, what exactly is the reason behind this dynamic? And can it be fixed?
At the end of 2017, Bjergsen argued that TSM never attempted to limit their junglers. On the contrary, he claims they provided a lot of freedom in jungle pathing and champion pools. But even if you don’t flat-out prevent the player from playing his style, there are other ways to discourage him from being aggressive.
If we go back to the Svenskeren example, most fans would remember the Danish jungler attempting to contest enemy buffs. During such plays, coordination is key, and simple things like not communicating that someone on the enemy team is roaming can lead to the jungler’s demise. Which is exactly what happened to Svenskeren.
The jungler would often wander into the enemy territory only to find out that the enemy laners are already cutting him off while his allies are still farming minions. In this case, no one actively discouraged Svenskeren from aggression. But there are only so many times you can die in the enemy jungle before you develop a Pavlovian response and pick up tanks (because they die slower than carries) or even give up on invades altogether.
So, if TSM are conditioning their junglers to be glorified supports, can something be done to break this pattern? Well, one method is rebuilding the entire roster, allowing for new approaches to old problems. But that’s a very radical option—and it’s definitely not the only way forward.
A much better way to solve this problem would be signing a jungler who knows exactly how he wants to play the game. If we don’t count TheOddOne era, TSM were at their best when they played with Amazing, a confident veteran that could stand up for himself and demand resources from his teammates.
Until they find someone with a similar skillset, TSM will have a hard time solving their jungle issues.
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