And breathe. The Team SoloMid fanbase were prepared to bite their fingernails and exhale both sighs of relief (and disappointment) as their team represented North America at the Mid-Season Invitational… but not during the Play-In stage, this was supposed to be a formality. As TSM stepped on-stage to face Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines, many assumed the NA LCS champions’ group stage slot was already secured, but in an embarrassing episode, GAM came within one game of delivering a major upset.
Far from the clean series sweep that many were expecting, the Gigabyte Marines took Team SoloMid to a nervy Game 5, forcing a reverse sweep from the North American hopefuls to confirm their place at the tournament finals in Rio de Janeiro in a week’s time. The dynamic Vietnamese team, that looked so dominant throughout the Play-In groups stages of the Mid-Season Invitational, appeared unfazed by the reputation of their opposition and came within inches of clinching the series.
Whether Team SoloMid denote their slow start to jet lag or simply an adjustment to their new environment, the series victory over the Gigabyte Marines will be remembered as a great escape as opposed to a great start. Falling to a two game deficit, every subsequent TSM game victory was a welcome relief for their fans whose minds were a whir of the potential backlash the squad would receive for falling to a previously unknown entity.
Whilst Team SoloMid are an eSports brand known across the globe, the Marines squad had triumphed in the minor league of Vietnam, required to prove their worth once more in the GPL regional championship, and then the Group Stage of the Play-In. Other Mid-Season Invitational attendants had refused to scrim the challengers, for whom each second on stage was an invaluable experience; the Gigabyte Marines had worked hard to earn their seat at the table and were going make sure TSM earned theirs.
The Marines certainly put TSM through their paces, forcing a hectic pace to the opening two matches of the series. Jungler Duy Khanh “Levi” Do put his opposite number Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen to the sword, superior pathing, ganking and initiating whenever the opportunity presented itself quickly put the NA LCS Spring Split champions on the back foot.
As Svenskeren perhaps complacently assumed his access rights into the GAM jungle, the underdogs struck early to earn first blood. From there, Levi’s Kha’Zix snowballed to gain small advantages in otherwise outclassed solo lanes. It was expected that TSM’s solo laners would simply overpower their counterparts, yet Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran in the mid lane and top laner Phan “Stark” Công Minh held their own for the Marines.
— lolesports (@lolesports) 3 May 2017
Game 2 served as a wake-up call for TSM, who shot out of the blocks with a potentially embarrassing defeat on the line to establish a foothold in the series. Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had visibly grit his teeth and showed no mercy in solo-killing Stark at every given opportunity. Team SoloMid cruised to victory in game 3, but even then the Marines threatened to win both Game 4 and Game 5.
TSM’s nexus turrets were in jeopardy towards the end of Game 4, and had it not been for some fortunate death timers, GAM may well have grabbed the victory that was dangling so tantalisingly in front of them. Perhaps overreaching for glory, Team SoloMid cleaned out their base, grabbed baron, sieged down the Vietnamese base and cued the silver scrapes for the Sao Paulo area.
TSM sought to take the sting out of the marines’ attack in Game 5, shifting Sven away from aggressive carry-style junglers and onto the Ivern that had been allowed to slip through picks and bans. With shields flying left, right and centre, TSM prevented any sort of meaningful engage from GAM, slowly soothing any fears of a major international upset and completing a 3-2 victory.
— Team SoloMid (@TeamSoloMid) 4 May 2017
Team SoloMid have now confirmed their progression to Rio de Janeiro, where they will not be afforded a two game warm-up against the best regional teams from across the globe. A loss at the hands of the Gigabyte Marines would have been devastating, but to be able to identify weaknesses and demonstrate resilience, at such an early stage in proceedings, may prove to be beneficial for the North American representatives if they hope to make a deep run in the Mid-Season Invitational.
CLICKON eSports’ 2017 Mid-Season Invitational Predictions