The top 10 decisions Reginald has made for TSM
Andy 'Reginald' Dinh may be one of the North American LoL scene's most polarising figures, but he is also undoubtedly one of its most successful. His team, Team SoloMid (TSM), has won at least one championship within the region for four consecutive years. As the name most closely linked with the direction of the brand and formerly the shot-calling Mid laner of the team, Reginald has been praised and criticised as TSM's fortunes have waxed and waned, respectively.
Looking back on his unrivalled track record of success within North America, here is a list of the top 10 decisions Reginald has made during his time with TSM, ranked in order of significance.
10. Removing Chaox
In hindsight, this move seems like a relatively straight-forward no-brainer. Having seen Chaox struggle to return to signficance as a competitive player and WildTurtle's S3 rise into one of the elite AD Carries in North America, coupled with TSM's subsequent results, winning the Spring split and finishing top two in the Summer, this was an obviously very good decision. With that said, let's re-examine the context of the time and the decision to remove Chaox solely on its own merits, without the context of the results which came afterwards.
The reason there was so much initial backlash to Chaox's removal was a mixture of his tenure with the team, their history of success together, the circumstances of his removal unfolding on a reality TV show and a cross-section of the community's dislike of Reginald's attitude.
Beginning with the first point, we can begin with Chaox's position as a long-standing member of TSM. Having been a founding member of the team, more than two years prior, Chaox, for some, represented TSM as much as Reginald did. Their famous "Fk it, Baylife!" attitude and bro culture seemed to radiate out from Chaox's own personality as much as it did their owner's, with the two seemingly synergising well in that respect. Chaox was clearly one of the more popular members in the team, particularly as a streaming personality.
Chaox had not just been merely a starting player in the line-up, he had also played a role in helping the team outside of his own play, including contributions to decision-making in the pick-ban phase and even helping the team find their first gaming house, in New York. He was a player who clearly thought of himself as TSM through and through, not merely a role-player playing out his time.
TSM's history of success with Chaox was a highly significant factor in people feeling upset at his removal. After finally rising up in 2011, overcoming rivals CLG, it had been their legendary run during 2012 which had established TSM as the kings of North America. The team were able to win six offline events in the region and finished as the highest placed NA team at a total of nine offline events that year.
That kind of sustained excellence comes not merely from excellent individual play or the right strategical approach, but also, crucially, from a magical line-up. Those kinds of line-ups, where there is something more present than merely the five players, are incredibly rare and near impossible to design. When such line-ups arise, it is in everyone's best interest ensure they remain together, at least until they have shown that they are no longer capable of winning and achieving the success which necessitated they be considered special and untouchable in the first place.
The latter part is the crucial one in this matter, as the TSM which were clearly the best in North America had not been seen since the Season 2 World Championship in October. Following that event, they had finished 5th-6th at the MLG Fall Championship and 9th-12th at IPL5, closing out 2012 on a low. The first LCS split of 2013 had not been going well for the team, with only a 9:5 record over the first five weeks of play, contrasted against Curse's 12:2 and Dignitas' 11:4, both teams TSM had been consistently besting during their run the previous year.
Clearly something needed to change and the quickest way to force drastic change has and always will be the roster move. Looking down the line-up, the only player who could have been removed is Chaox, as the others were all considered top tier at their positions and Chaox had recently been involved in some drama which raised questions about his commitment and dedication to competition. However accurate those anecdotes were or weren't, the sentiment amongst some of the TSM players and the community was that he was potentially a factor holding TSM back from a return to the top of the region.
Knowing what has happened since, the move has been vindicated on all grounds, but even just as a roster swap in isolation, it can been seen to be the right move for the time and circumstances.
9. Removing gleeb
Were this a list of Reginald's worst decisions, then the addition of gleeb to the line-up would be near the top. Instead, we can look at the other side of TSM's dalliance with the former Cloud9 Tempest Support player, as his removal freed up a slot to add in a better player to the team. gleeb's addition to the team was seemingly a hail mary in the hopes of securing some unrecognised talent who might go on to be a future great his position. Instead, TSM found themselves supporting the slow growth of a player who clearly had nerve issues and a shallow champion pool.
TSM removed gleeb on the grounds of social and personal reasons, but his play certainly made its own case for his no longer being a part of the team. At the time he was removed, TSM were a team heavily struggling to match-up with the best teams in NA, boasting a dreadful winning record against those they were competing with for the top spot. Having seen the gleeb experiment run out over numerous games, it was time to make a decision either way.
Perhaps Reginald did not make the initial decision to remove gleeb, perhaps that came from Locodoco and the rest of the team, but ultimately Reginald either signed off on it or delegated that responsibility to one of the aforementioned entities. So, ultimately it was another good move, even if it was one of the more risky in the team's history, in light of the short amount of time before the playoffs were to begin.
8. Recruiting Lustboy
With gleeb removed from the starting line-up, it created a hole at the Support position that could be filled by Lustboy. The former long-time Blaze Support was close friends with Locodoco and stepped down from competitive play in Korea at the end of the previous season. It was a large risk to bring in such a player, especially at short notice. Not only would he be playing in a duo lane, requiring him to communicate in a second language and synergise with a new team-mate, but the time before the playoffs began meant the team would not get many opportunities to integrate the Korean, before the pressure of the playoff matches arrived.
Having seen the results of the playoffs, with TSM finishing first, it is easy enough to say the addition of Cpt Jack's old Support was the right one, but a more close inspection reveals just how crucial the move was on the team's fortunes. Considering the entireity of the playoffs, one could well make a case for Lustboy as the second MVP of the run, after the play of Mid laner and shot-caller Bjergsen. Lustboy not only propped up a floundering WildTurtle, he showcased impressive mechanical plays and decision-making in crucial games to help TSM win games they may otherwise have lost.
In light of the teams two five game series, in the semi-final and final, such key plays and performances were entirely necessary were TSM to be hoisting the cup at the end of the campaign. They did and Lustboy shone as one of the best additions in the team's history. Another move which may have initially been seeded by Locodoco, but which Reginald ultimately gave approval for.
7. Moving to the gaming house in New York in late 2011
I suspect this will be one of the more surprising and overlooked decisions in TSM history, but it is nevertheless an incredibly important and significant one. When TSM moved into a gaming house in October of 2011, they were not only the first North American team to do so, but they did so with an agenda in mind. As well as being able to stream and practice from the same location, allowing day-to-day operations of the burgeoning LoL empire to run more smoothly, their location on the East Coast would allow the team to practice against European competition on the EU-W servers with no entirely unreasonable ping.
That practice would prove significant in early 2012, as the team found themselves becoming the best side in their region and their practice pool of partners somewhat shallow. Being able to play against the likes of M5, aAa, CLG.EU and SK ensured that TSM could both get an edge on their domestic rivals but also acclimatise themselves to the European meta and competition.
It's also worth noting that the TSM team which moved into the gaming house in October had never won a LAN tournament. There had been a number of top four finishes, but they were stuck far behind CLG for the title of the best NA team. Indeed, their results had been gradually declining, going from second to third to fourth and finally eighth, before moving into the house. After a brief amount of time in their new environment, the team emerged to win MLG Providence. Admittedly, CLG was not in attendance, but the ir rivals suffering a dip in form themselves, that result put TSM firmly into contention for the title of best NA team.
6. Hiring Locodoco as coach
Hiring a coach was a necessary and key step for TSM, were they to seek to vanquish C9's strange-hold on NA and become a legitimate international contender. With that said, though, there was certainly no clear proof that hiring Locodoco was the right solution to that problem. There are two Locodocos in the esports community, one is a reflective and intelligent thinker, who has worked with numerous players and been able to give and take knowledge. The other is the goofball who sometimes shoots himself in the foot with his social media excursions and has found himself ousted from team after team due to inability to fully integrate himself with the unit, often due to attitude clashes.
It was far from certain which Locodoco TSM were getting. The South Korean former AD Carry had long been a player who started strongly with his new teams, dedicating himself to an intense approach, filled with optimisim for the future and belief that the team could become strong with his help. That didn't always last so long though, as other factors could come into play and derail efforts to improve the team, eventually leading to him leaving or being removed.
As it happens, TSM's gamble paid off and the team acquired a coach who has steadily, but not too rapidly, been able to develop a messy line-up into a real team which can win big games. That they were able to twice overcome a fifth game decider in the playoffs speaks to the team's nerve but also their preparation. One often stems from the other, as the teams who have prepared properly can fall back on a faith they must merely execute what they've discussed previously, while teams who feel as if they aren't sure what to do will often become flustered and fall apart.
The TSM line-up which began the split would have needed a number of successive miracles to have even qualified for the World Championship. The TSM team which finished atop the region, having edged out Cloud9, and owning the important number one seed for the World Championship, can be traced in large part to the arrival of and impact of their new coach. As the man who put that coach in a position to have an impact, Reginald gets the credit for having delegated correctly.
5. Recruiting Wildturtle
As the first point outlined, removing Chaox was a good move on its own merits, but even moreso when one considers the context of what followed. WildTurtle was certainly not some superstar amateur player who was just awaiting a chance to wow the world. Former team-mate NintendudeX even stated that of players he had played with it was not Turtle he thought was the most obvious to have a future career as a top pro, instead assigning that title to ZionSpartan.
When WildTurtle was added to TSM, he was replacing a veteran who had a very established role and play-style in the team, as well as a long history of success and synergy with them. As it turned out, Turtle was a key addition, allowing TSM to turn their 9:5 fortunes around and go on a monstrous 12:2 run over the rest of the split, finishing in first place in the regular portion of the split. When Reginald and company were able to take the title in the playoffs, TSM had returned to the top of the region and were seemingly set for a new golden era as kings of NA, especially with potential contenders like Curse, Dignitas and CLG all having faltered late in the split.
Despite being incapable of stopping C9's rise to dominance in NA, TSM were able to make a late surge in the Summer playoffs and qualify for Worlds. At Worlds WildTurtle was the member who impressed the most, showing himself to be capable of competing with some of the best players in the world at his position. TSM's recruit had not only become a part of their line-up, he was now considered arguably the best in his region at the position.
For a player stuck in the amateur scene, with no top teams knocking on his door, that was quite a transformation. One must credit TSM and Reginald for having chosen the right man to give an opportunity to.
4. Standing down from the starting line-up
When one thinks of TSM they think of Reginald, but not merely for his presence as a personality. As the Mid laner of the team and shot-caller, everything revolved around and was predicated upon Reginald. Think of the classic 2012 line-up in their heyday and you have a Top laner who was phenomenal at consistently going even or playing against 2v1 dives and a botlane who knows their limits and goes even against almost everyone. The Jungler is one of the definitive supportive Junglers, from champion pool through to playing style, and practically lived in Reginald's lane, ensuring he was capable of setting up his patented hyper-aggression early on in the lane.
Reginald not only shot-called to make his aggression work, but also because his entire style was so intense that the team was either to win with him snowballing or lose because he fed and was camped by the enemy team. scarra really highlighted Reginald's approach in our first Grilled interview, back in March of 2013.
During Season 2 and the early part of Season 3, Reginald's approach was fine enough, at least in North America. Dominating the region was enough to mean he still had a viable place in the team, but as Season 3 developed, finishing first was no longer a certainty. From a Spring split in which Reginald was competing against the likes of scarra and NyJacky, he found himself facing a field of much improved players like Hai, Mancloud and Link. Internationally, Reginald relied moreso than ever on TheOddOne camping his lane to give him a chance against the likes of Faker, Cool and Nukeduck at the S3 World Championship.
Clearly something had to change. Reginald had long spoken of retiring or stepping down and now was the time. TSM needed a strong Mid laner who would not only put them back into contention domestically, with the gap between C9 and them quite wide, but also ensure that the team would not have an obvious weakness at the position when competing for a potential World Championship in future seasons. Ignoring the player that was chosen to replace Reginald, the decision to step was, in itself, an excellent one and well-timed, as all factors had finally aligned to suggest it was the right moment.
Where HotshotGG probably held on for at leastsplit too long, Reginald departed from the starting line-up once it became clear that it was time to bring in a different player.
3. Not going to Korea during Season 2
CLG's two jaunts over to South Korea to compete in OGN were rightfully heralded as significant steps for the Western esports community and bore out a lot of excitement, as the regions clashed. Nevertheless, the ultimate impact on CLG was not necessarily a positive one in any respect. In the game, they showed no extra aptitude for dealing with international competition and domestically they both were unable to unseat TSM from the top spot and lost ground in terms of fanbase to their rivals.
By not going to Korea, TSM were free not only to focus on the domestic tournament circuit, which they dominated, but also to build their fanbase by streaming heavily and keeping up community interaction. Going to Korea might well have opened their eyes to the incoming Asian invasion of dominance a little quicker, but the rewards for staying at home clearly outweighed that benefit, viewed through the eyes of hindsight.
2. Recruiting Bjergsen
Recruiting Bjergsen is one of the easier decisions Reginald has made. Europe has historically always been the home of the best Mid laners, on average, and Bjergsen had really shown his high skill ceiling and individual potential in the previous split of LCS competition. If the likes of Froggen and xPeke can't be lured away to NA, then Bjergsen or Nukeduck were the next best options out there. NA was still shallow at the position, especially in terms of international experience. Mancloud was the best Mid laner in NA and his team seemed convinced that their line-up would only improve the next split, even if that turned out to be a mistaken assumption.
That Bjergsen's team had gone to the relegations also meant there was no way staying in Europe, on a team uncertain of finishing top three, would be a competitive option in comparison to joining TSM, where the field of opposing Mid laners was weaker, the exposure was much higher and the streaming revenue and salary would flow bountifully. For Bjergsen and TSM this move was an obviously great match. It allowed Reginald to depart from the starting line-up, but instate a new star to take up his role. That it also helped strengthen TSM's EU fanbase, it is a bonus that simply came along as a happy side-effect.
Bjergsen was a monster for most of the Spring split and even in spite of his lulls, has remained in competition for the best at the position in the region. His revival late in this Summer split, leading TSM to the LCS NA title, makes his addition resoundingly one of the best decisions in TSM history.
1. Recruiting Dyrus
Many may have assumed that some of the modern day additions would claim the top spot in this list, but it's one of the earliest roster moves which has proven to be the most important. Before Dyrus joined TSM, they were a team who had manoeuvred themselves into contention for the top spot in NA, but had not secured it convincingly. When Dyrus joined, the team immediately hit the next level and became a dominant force in NA. That he has endured, as the only remaining line-up, to this day and continues to put it in consistent performances shows just how key his addition has been.
Dyrus came along in an era of offensive Top laners, like Voyboy, Angush and sOAZ, who all wanted to battle and snowball their lane hard. Dyrus was one of the first Top laners to understand the importance of being able to play safe, go even and survive being camped and ganked. Playing against the likes of prime Reapered and Shy did help with his education in that respect, but he was very much the first Western Top laner to really adopt that approach and to much success.
TSM wins might have seemed focused around Reginald's Mid lane action or, later, the improved ADC input of WildTurtle, but they all began and ended with the rock-solid stability that Dyrus could deliver. Dyrus is a player who has been able to survive all metas, never dropping off from a top spot at his position in North America. In many ways, he is the foundation for all of TSM's success since joining in 2012 and thus, his addition marks the most important one in the history of the team.
It's entirely reasonable that one can question Reginald's methods and some of the other decisions he has made during his tenure as the leader of TSM, but his successes can not be denied.
Photo credit: IPL, Riot Games, ESL