This piece was originally posted to the Daily Dot Esports.
In the last Super Week of the 2014 Summer Split, Team Solomid was in bad shape. After finishing 1-3 without any particular standout performances, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran’s iconic smile had turned into a scowl. The losses weren’t directly his fault, but his contributions had been mediocre. It was a shell of past performances.
For most of the Summer Split, WildTurtle failed to find his rhythm. People talked of a slump. It was hard to find anyone who believed in his ability to carry Solomid.
Fast forward six weeks into the 2015 Spring Split, and WildTurtle is entering the second half of the season as one of the League’s most threatening AD carries. And he’s become much more consistent—a description that in the past would have only been said in jest.
In every victory, just as Solomid begins to transition from an early game lead amassed by Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s domination, WildTurtle finds his groove. And it’s thanks to his team’s insistence on getting him on the late-game comfort picks he’s found success with in the past.
The Bjergsen show
Team Solomid’s owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh likes to compare his team to reigning World Champions Samsung White. As Bjergsen explained in a post-match interview after defeating Team Coast on Feb. 25, this was to underscore that the team needed to become more complex and diverse on the international stage.
Solomid has always been very good at two compositions: Bjergsen snowballing leads on assassins and “Protect WildTurtle” compositions. Throughout their 2014 Summer Playoff run, Solomid relied on a compositions centered around Tristana backed by control or supportive mages like Lulu and Orianna.
One of the two has always prevailed as the de facto Solomid strategy. Even before the arrival of Bjergsen in the 2014 Spring Split, Reginald called most of the shots in every iteration of the team: true to its name, Solomid has always been a mid-lane focused team.
Still, Reginald never stood out as the definitive carry like Bjergsen does today. Yes, Reginald was captain, shot-caller, and recipient of many jungle ganks. But he was never a player who stood mechanical miles above teammates Shan “Chaox” Huang or WildTurtle, or lane opponents William “Scarra” Li, Michael “bigfatlp” Tang, or Chenglong “Nyjacky” Wang.
In that respect, Reginald’s Solomid looked to the mid lane to mostly engage team fights. But when you add that mechanical superstar, the already important midlane begins to win games for Solomid. That was even more true when that superstar, Bjergsen, easily outclassed (and arguably still does) every mid laner in North America.
Reevaluating Solomid’s priorities
The “Protect The WildTurtle” composition has always been marred by overall consistency issues from WildTurtle himself. Solomid proved that such a strategy could work. His performances on any champion besides Tristana were too inconsistent, however, other than those sets where WildTurtle’s aggression could be accounted for.
As Reginald, Bjergsen, and coach Yoonsup “Locodoco” Choi have pointed out, much of the internal team discussion since week two seems to be centered around Solomid finding a way to evolve past the Bjergsen show. In their two matches against Team Liquid this split, Solomid put Bjergsen on control mages instead of assassins to test both WildTurtle’s stability and carry potential on those late-game champions.
“We’re looking to get multiple play styles, instead of just having one or two,” Bjergsen told the Daily Dot. “That makes a team very predictable. I feel like we personally were very predictable around Worlds. But that’s something we’re looking to change for this season. We’re looking to expand this strategy.”
In week two, WildTurtle on Tristana opened the killing against Team Liquid in characteristic fashion. After an aggressive flash to draw first blood, the team slowed the game down to allow Tristana to snowball, knowing full well that WildTurtle can thrive in these situations.
Bjergsen did enough damage on Xerath for WildTurtle to aggressively seek resets. Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Lucas ”Santorin” Larsen found the engages. Jang-sik “Lustboy” Ham protected his carry with Morgana Black Shields, and WildTurtle carried for the first time in what had felt like forever.
In the second meeting against Team Liquid in week five, Solomid again drafted a late-game team composition with Bjergsen on Cassiopeia. Unlike the first meeting, Solomid fell behind early. Liquid forced Solomid to pick unfavorable fights where the Liquid boys relentlessly focused the Lissandra-Annie combo on Bjergsen. He had the tools to get out of the initial lockup, but he remained the target until his death.
For so long, that focus would’ve shut down the show. But Team Liquid couldn’t find a way to close out their game against Solomid with Bjergsen largely out of the picture —despite having multiple Baron buffs, Aspects of the Dragon, and every inhibitor down. Instead, WildTurtle kept Solomid in the game far longer than they had reason to be.
A majority of the blame for Solomid’s prolonged base defense lies in Team Liquid’s own misplay. Their decisions whether to engage or slow roll the minions into the base were suspect, and when they finally did decide to engage, the resulting team fight left a lot to be desired in terms of coordination.
But maybe one of their largest missteps was forgetting that Solomid actually had another carry. Maybe like the rest of us, they doubted WildTurtle’s ability to carry on a champion just as strong in the late game as Bjergsen’s Cassiopeia. And it’s possible they too forgot that WildTurtle has a proven track record of excelling in these late-game compositions.
In those Team Liquid games—and nearly all of their games this season—Solomid drafted for this scenario. Sure, they didn’t draft to lose all their inhibitors and try to claw back into the game on the back of WildTurtle. But by favoring meta picks like Jinx, Sivir, and Tristana over lane bullies like Corki and Graves, Solomid has subtly highlighted a reprioritization on roles that can carry them to a victory: The team is looking to end the Bjergsen show. They want more consistency out of their bottom and top lanes.
Consistency doesn’t appear out of thin air though. It’s built and established; it’s proven. Wildturtle had a commanding game against Team Dignitas in week six. But he also fall short with suspect positioning against Team Impulse in the same week. And while WildTurtle has always been able to do the damage, position himself optimally, and make the mechanically clutch plays, consistency has always eluded him.
But he’s beginning to prove that that’s no longer the case. Just so long as he’s given the chance to carry.
Credit: Flickr/Riot Games