TSM’s history in North America’s LCS

by Brian Bencomo

On Wednesday, TSM, one of the most iconic organizations in North American League of Legends esports, announced they had sold their League Championship Series (LCS) slot to Shopify Rebellion. Few LCS organizations can claim as great a legacy and large a fandom as TSM. TSM won seven LCS championships, the most of any team, and was the home of some of the best and most popular players in LCS history. It’s the end of an era in the LCS, so here’s a brief look back at the history of TSM in the LCS.

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TSM were one of the best North American teams early in the history of League of Legends esports. Formed by Andy "Reginald" Dinh, who was the team’s mid laner at the time, TSM were often the champs of the Go4LoL NA weekly tournament series. They qualified for the first-ever League of Legends World Championship (Worlds) and finished third in the eight-team tournament. The core initial roster was Christian "The Rain Man" Kahmann (top laner), Brian "TheOddOne" Wyllie (jungler), Reginald (mid laner), Shan "Chaox" Huang (AD carry) and Alex "Xpecial" Chu (support).


Photo credit: Vsmak350 / Flickr

TSM had a great 2012 with great results at big events like IEM Season 6 Kiev (second), IPL 4 Las Vegas (first), MLG Spring Championship (first), IPL Face Off: San Francisco Showdown (first) and the Season 2 Regional Finals (first). TSM qualified for Worlds and finished 5th-8th. The team skipped the group stage as they qualified directly for the playoffs, but lost their initial matchup in the quarterfinals. This also was the year top laner Marcus "Dyrus" Hill joined the team. He is one of the best known TSM players during the team’s early history.

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This was the first year of the League Championship Series (LCS), the official North American League of Legends circuit organized by Riot Games. TSM finished first in the initial LCS split that spring and won the inaugural LCS championship that spring too. Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, now a well-known LCS veteran, joined TSM as their new AD carry this year. In the summer, TSM finished second to Cloud9, a team that would become one of TSM’s biggest rivals in the LCS. TSM again qualified for Worlds and finished 11th-12th.


Photo credit: Riot Games

The most notable thing that happened for TSM in 2014 was the addition of Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, who replaced Reginald in the mid lane. Bjergsen would become the most iconic player in TSM history and would be a cornerstone for the team for the next few years. TSM again finished second to Cloud9 in the spring playoffs final but then beat them in the summer playoffs final. The team qualified for Worlds for the fourth consecutive year and had their best showing since 2011. They finished 5th-8th after making it through the group stage with a 4-2 record before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Samsung Galaxy White.

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Despite the existence of the LCS, teams were still competing in IEM events, and in March, TSM won the IEM Season 9 World Championship. Of the 26 global IEM League of Legends tournaments held between 2011 and 2017, this was one of only three events won by North American teams. Of the six IEM World Championships, this was the only one won by an NA team. TSM were once again LCS champions, again with a victory over Cloud9 in the spring final. By winning the spring final, TSM qualified for the first-ever edition of the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), Riot’s new international tournament besides Worlds. They finished fifth out of six teams. During the summer, TSM finished second in the playoffs and qualified for Worlds where they finished a disappointing 14th-16th.


Photo credit: Riot Games

This was the year Yiliang (Peter) "Doublelift" Peng joined TSM and teamed up with Bjergsen to form one of the best duos in LCS history. After losing to Doublelift and CLG in the 2015 summer final, TSM added the CLG AD carry to replace WildTurtle. This also was the year Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell replaced TSM veteran Dyrus. TSM would lose the spring final to CLG again, but they did win the summer final. They qualified for Worlds again and finished 9th-12th despite all the star power.


Wildturtle returned to TSM for the spring season as Doublelift was loaned out to Team Liquid. TSM won the spring split and went to MSI again and finished fifth again, though this time it was out of 13 teams. Doublelift returned in the summer and it was the same result for TSM -- another LCS championship and another Worlds appearance. Unfortunately for TSM, it was another underwhelming 9th-11th place finish at the world championship.

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After many years of being one of the best North American League of Legends teams, TSM had a poor 2018 by their standards. Doublelift was gone again, and the team missed out on both MSI and Worlds. TSM stumbled in the playoffs in both spring and summer and failed to reach a playoffs final for the first time. This also was the first time TSM missed out on Worlds after qualifying seven straight years.


TSM were a little better in 2019 than 2018. They reached a final again but finished second to Team Liquid and Doublelift in the spring final. In the summer, TSM finished 5th-6th in the playoffs and second at the regional finals to miss out on Worlds for the second straight year.


This year started off much the same way as the previous two years, with TSM finishing fourth in the spring playoffs. Doublelift returned for the summer split, and finished fourth in the split but leveled up in the playoffs to capture another LCS championship. With Doublelift and Bjergsen reunited and young star Mingyi "Spica" Lu as their jungler, TSM returned to Worlds with high expectations. However, the team would infamously go 0-6 in the group stage for another disappointing 13th-16th finish.

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Photo credit: Riot Games

This year was the beginning of the end for TSM as one of the standout League of Legends teams in North America. Doublelift retired and would not return to TSM, and Bjergsen retired as a player and became the team’s coach. The team finished third in the Mid-Season Showdown (aka the spring playoffs) and fourth at the LCS Championship (aka summer playoffs). The team did not qualify for either MSI or Worlds.


After a year as coach, Bjergsen left TSM and joined Team Liquid as a player. It was a shocking move as Bjergsen had become synonymous with TSM after spending eight years with the organization -- an eternity in esports. For the first time in their history, TSM didn’t make a split playoffs, and summer was not much better. With a ninth-place finish in the spring, TSM had hit rock bottom. Even worse for the org, a scathing report from the Washington Post described a toxic work environment and “culture of fear” that had been fostered by owner Reginald for many years.


TSM again failed to make the playoffs in the spring. Rumors began circulating that the organization might be looking to sell its LCS spot and perhaps try to acquire a spot in another region. The team didn’t do much better in the summer and finished 7th-8th in the playoffs.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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