Would TSM Xmithie work? A deeper look at the TSM jungle curse

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If you’ve watched Harry Potter like a lot of people across the world, you would know about the Defense Against the Dark Arts post which is supposedly cursed. No teacher that assumes the post lasts on it for more than a year. The history of junglers on TSM is quite similar as the team has gone through a lot of them. In-fact a lot of the past TSM junglers end up playing better after leaving TSM and joining a new team. This can be attributed to many things and a lot of information has come out on this in recent years. For those of you that already know all of this, I won’t bore you with the same repetitive details! But for those who don’t, here’s the gist of it:

  1. TSM is heavily focused on playing a certain way and their style of play usually requires that the jungler take on more of a supportive role and play engage heavy champions that can’t carry the game on their own.
  2. Playing for TSM is a lot of pressure because of how popular the org is and because of the said curse of TSM junglers. Every new jungler that steps in may feel like there is a “looming doom” over their head.
  3. Junglers are historically the scapegoats for their teams often times in the eyes of the spectators. This is even more so the case on TSM where fans keep even a closer look at every move the jungler makes.

Because of all of these reasons, it’s a popular fan theory that Xmithie would work well on TSM because his style suits exactly what TSM needs of their jungler. But would he really work on the team? And is there really a TSM “jungler curse”?

When did the “curse” even begin?

This is a somewhat subjective topic but I personally believe that the curse started right after the retirement of TheOddOne, the first major TSM jungler and their longest serving one. A lot of TSM fans still fondly remember him since he was part of TSM’s early “baylife years”. Back then TSM was the top dog in North America and TheOddOne did play a big role in that. His style was exactly what TSM to this day tries to emulate in their junglers. A supportive role that doesn’t play carry style junglers and focuses on engaging and being the catalyst for the team. In-fact when TheOddOne retired, the jungle meta favored carry champions like Elise, Vi and Lee Sin. That’s when he started to struggle as a player because he had played the supportive style for three years and was so used to it. His champion pool consisted of engage heavy champions like Amumu and Maokai. So it’s no surprise that when carry junglers became meta, TheOddOne was out of his element.

TheOddOne decided to retire after Spring of 2014 and knowing that they would be bringing in a new jungler anyways, TSM tried to experiment with bringing in a more carry oriented jungler. That’s when Amazing joined the team. Throughout his tenure on TSM, Amazing did play mainly carry champions, with Elise and Lee Sin being his favored ones. He did also play the occasional engager like Jarvan IV, but for the most part he was allowed to play his style. And would you believe it, it actually worked! Well somewhat. The team was able to upset Cloud9 in the Summer Playoffs finals and reclaim their LCS title. They would also have a respectable showing at Worlds, placing second in their group and trading a game with eventual runner-ups Star Horn Royal Club.

They did unfortunately have the bad luck of being drawn against Samsung White (the eventual winners and quite possibly the most dominant team to ever win Worlds) and did lose 1-3, but nevertheless it was a solid showing from TSM, better than their last two seasons for sure. So what went wrong then? Why did TSM deviate from that style once more? Well for one thing, although TSM did win the LCS that split, they did have a ton of struggles on-stage and off-stage to get there. Amazing himself did have a lot of inconsistent showings and left the team shortly after Worlds due to feeling homesick.

Now this is only speculation on my part and I can’t prove anything, but I personally believe TSM decided against the carry style jungler primarily because they saw how unstable it can be. As the owner of TSM and a former mid laner, Reginald was a teammate of TheOddOne for years and he saw how stable and effective the supportive style jungler can be. I do believe that this is exactly why TSM to this day continues to try and mold their jungler in that exact same style, because while it’s not flashy it’s consistent if done right.

Has the curse always been a thing?

Well contrary to popular belief, the answer is no. It hasn’t always been a problem. In-fact I’ve done some digging and I’ve noticed a very interesting trend. There are no in-depth stats in this digging, mainly just champion picks. However the noticeable trend is something quite interesting and it supports my theory that TSM simply revert to a supportive jungle style because it’s their “tried and true”, not because they necessarily want to.

– Spring 2015, TSM Santorin’s most picked champions: Rek’Sai (6), Vi (4), Gragas (4), Jarvan IV (4)

– Summer 2015, TSM Santorin’s most picked champions: Gragas (11), Rek’Sai (6)

– Spring 2016, TSM Svenskeren’s most picked champions: Elise (9), Lee Sin (8), Graves (7)

– Summer 2016, TSM Svenskeren’s most picked champions: Rek’Sai (22), Gragas (13)

– Spring 2017, TSM Svenskeren’s most picked champions: Lee Sin (14), Rengar (14), Kha’Zix (9)

– Summer 2017, TSM Svenskeren’s most picked champions: Gragas (14), Lee Sin (12)

– Spring 2018, TSM MikeYeung’s most picked champions: Sejuani (7), Skarner (5)

– Summer 2018, TSM Grig’s most picked champions: Sejuani (15), Trundle (12)

From this information we can deduce some interesting facts. Starting off with Santorin, during his first split with TSM he did play a mix of champions but was given freedom on what to play. But following TSM’s disastrous showing at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational, his champion pool was narrowed down and he mostly played the same two champions.

Moving onto Svenskeren we notice a similar trend. In his first split he played mostly carry champions. In Summer he was less flexible but he did have some pretty insane carry performances on Rek’Sai, so his narrow champion pool can be forgiven. At that time TSM was stomping the LCS pretty hard and Svenskeren, Doublelift and Hauntzer did pick Rek’Sai, Lucian and Gnar respectively often times. Following their poor showing at Worlds, TSM did not immediately relegate Svenskeren to a supportive role and he was allowed to play his style in Spring of 2017 as well. But after another poor international showing at the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational, that would take a complete 180 and aside from playing his signature Lee Sin a lot as well, Svenskeren was for the most on Gragas engage duty.

In 2018 TSM played out the spring split with MikeYeung. Although the rookie was noticed for his talent on carry champions, on TSM he played mainly tank engage champions. This also happened after yet another poor international showing at Worlds 2017. In Summer TSM would switch to Grig but he was also put mostly on Sejuani and Trundle, another set of tank engage champions.

So what can we say in conclusion from this information? Well it’s obvious that in previous seasons, TSM didn’t really force the supportive playstyle on their jungler right away. But after poor international showings, for one reason or another their jungler would often revert to that supportive playstyle. This has become even more prevalent in recent years with MikeYeung and Grig being strong examples, as TSM has lost its dominance in NA as well and continues to try and regain their title as the best in NA.

So would Xmithie work on TSM?

That’s the ultimate question that we’re here for right? Well simply put, there’s just too many factors that speak in favor of Xmithie working out very well on TSM provided he is motivated and hungry to do well with the team.

  1. Xmithie’s more supportive style is perfect for TSM. It’s exactly what they want and there’s no reason to assume that they wouldn’t be a great fit for each other.
  2. Xmithie is also able to play some carry junglers like Lee Sin or Kindred. They aren’t his strongest but he’s solid on them and if TSM is in need of some firepower in the jungle, Xmithie can definitely provide that too.
  3. There is already pre-existing synergy between Xmithie and Doublelift. The two have almost never not won LCS when playing on the same team together. The only exception is Spring of 2015.
  4. Bjergsen and Xmithie likely wouldn’t have any trouble working well together. Both are seasoned veterans and have a mature attitude about the game. And both are more than willing to play towards the team even at the expense of themselves.
  5. Xmithie’s calm personality would go along well with Bjergsen and Doublelift’s more outgoing shotcalling.
  6. Being such a storied veteran, Xmithie would not fall prey to the pressure of playing for TSM and jungling for TSM.
  7. Having played on orgs like CLG and TL, Xmithie likely wouldn’t have any issues with the more strict and critical approach that TSM takes.

There are simply way too many factors that point towards Xmithie working really well on TSM. None of the issues that have happened with previous TSM jungler are likely to happen with Xmithie because of his relaxed and rational attitude, his status as a veteran and his flexibility as a player. If any native LCS jungler can finally eliminate the TSM jungle curse, it would most likely be Xmithie.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games