Team Solo Mid's Andy "Smoothie" Ta had been quiet for most of the interview. The support player immediately responded first for the final question of what TSM needs to do moving forward for their highly likely playoff bid.
"Good meme, but not dying before five minutes on the upwards side of the map."
Bot lane partner and AD Carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen filled in the remaining details.
"I think we have a habit of taking 2v2s top that we don't need to take," the Zven said. "Everyone knows it at this point. We know it ourselves that we have a bad habit of taking 2v2s to the point where it swings the top lane matchup so that we can't play to it even though it's our draft's strong point."
TSM are still the default face of North American League of Legends. Team Liquid may have had dominion over the standings for this and last summer's regular season, but TSM's brand name still carries. It's an LCS legacy that invites intense scrutiny and consideration. Yet, for the first time in a long time, TSM have escaped relative scrutiny, despite some lackluster performances that resulted during the split.
Simply put, winning erases all manner of mistakes, even if you are TSM. Yet this erasure never hits the minds of the players themselves. No players know about mistakes made on the Rift more than the players who make them, even in a game that ends with a blue "Victory" screen and a long sigh of relief. TSM's games haven't been pretty, and they're more than well aware of this fact.
"We had a good streak for a while," Zven said. "A good three or four games against TL we played really well. The last couple of games it's been like, early game we fall behind, suddenly our comp has no win condition anymore, so we afk the game and hope they make a mistake. Which was basically the story of the game against FOX last week as well. I think we have to stop falling behind early so that we can't actually have a win condition anymore. In this game it was that our top counterpick is our win condition and our mid/jungle has a higher kill pressure on their Syndra and that failed, at least the top lane part failed so we just kind of threw the whole game because of that. That's why the games have been pretty bad I think?"
Smoothie interrupted with an emphatic "Yeah" before Zven continued.
"We rely too much on our opponents making mistakes," Zven said. "Like FOX and 100 Thieves who just can't end games because they don't know how to onstage. So it's pretty bad right now I think."
Smoothie interjected. "Yeah, I think the thing is that, with our team, we're really willing to play a lot of styles and high-execution team comps. On my previous teams, C9 for example, it was just play [5-on-5] teamfight and better fingers win. So at least [on TSM] we're getting the hard team comps out of the way first and then maybe we'll go back to easier ones once we go to playoffs."
Smoothie repeated this on broadcast the next day after TSM's win over OpTic Gaming, adding that top laner Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik was ill for most of the past week, leading to minimal quality practice going into Week 7. Zven was quick to add that they're not simply trying out compositions for the sake of experimentation -- they're playing what they believe are the strongest champions and compositions for what they want to do on the Rift, even if the execution is difficult or lacking.
"We don't go in thinking that we're going to play something that's hard to play or easy to play we just play what we're comfortable playing and what we think is good right now," Zven said. "We value counterpicks a lot on top lane most of the time. We have a really good four man and then a fifth pick that doesn't really fit, like the Neeko didn't really fit our poke comp but it has a good laning matchup against Aatrox. I think if we played better that game we would have smashed C9 but we just once again screwed up the matchup a bit and it was a long game. We don't aim to play any kind of level of execution comp. We just play what we think is good."
As attention has switched to a significantly more open top lane without pressure to draft flex pick stalwarts Urgot and Aatrox of previous patches, Zven and Smoothie have found themselves in a comfortable and familiar position of holding down the bottom lane while Broken Blade and TSM jungler Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham try to best opponents in the top/jungle 2-on-2 matchup.
"I'm sure that people know that we like Ezreal, and Tahm Kench," Zven said. He and Smoothie looked at each other and laughed. "Both of these champs are often picked in our games or banned against us because they're very good in 1-3-1, they are hard to kill, have good waveclear, and Tahm Ult is global so you can support your side laners really well. So we always like those champions and if you have teamfight champions you can still teamfight with Tahm/Ezreal. They're also blind-pickable. They don't have any hard counters. Sivir is good against it I think but it's not like you can't lane against it. It's comfortable and fits our playstyle."
"I think we're really good at playing, I don't want to say to not lose, but I think right now the meta favors defensive play and hoping that your solo lanes can do a lot of work in the game," Smoothie said. "When Thresh and Tahm are prevalent in the meta, it's always a thing like that."
As for their bot lane synergy, it's only improved in these past few weeks, especially with the team primarily favoring the aforementioned scaling Ezreal.
"I think the first half of the split we did play a lot of these high-agency bot lanes and had more impact in the games but I think now, the way our team works, it's better for us to be more independent and mid/top/jungle-focused and we're fine with that," Smoothie said. He snuck in a compliment for his new laning partner.
"We can play a lot better than most bot lanes at that style, it's part of Zven's strengths. Even playing versus Zven and Mithy last year, it was [hard] to break their tower. And if you broke it they would take something for it every time."
"I think our tunneling has been pretty good so far," Zven said. "If we fall behind we do a good job of making our opponents screw up more than some teams do. The early game just needs to be better since that seems to be our biggest problem right now, in the games we lost at least."