Team SoloMid has risen to the top of the North America scene behind a string of first place finishes throughout Season 2. They have become the most popular team by far in a competitive scene that is booming, and wherever they go chants of "TSM, TSM, TSM" aren't far behind them. I managed to catch up with their AD Carry Shan 'Chaox' Huang to talk to him about the changing dynamics of bottom lane, TSM's recent struggles, the outlook of the game for Season 3 and much more.
Season 2 is wrapping up, how do you think you grew as a player over this season and how did TSM grow as a team?
Chaox: As a player, I think I've learned a lot about the game, the most basic and fundamental aspects of winning. My communication in a team atmosphere has also improved dramatically. Surprisingly, my mechanics stayed reletively stagnant, as it has always been good. TSM has grown tremendously as a team, turning from just a group of Solo Queue players into the best NA team in a span of a year. We adapt well, learning a lot applying it fast. This has obviously helped us take down all the LANS that we've won.
You guys had a very dominant run in Season 2 taking first at several LANs in a row before not finishing as well as you probably would have liked to. Was it just you guys not being ready for the way Asian teams play and do you think you guys have learned enough to change your fortunes in Season 3?
Chaox: Asian teams are quite dominant at the moment due to their great practice regiment and dedication. For us, as a region, to be able to compete with them it will take equal amount of effort and dedication that currently NA teams lack. TSM knows how to practice effectively and we have the talent, but that's not enough to beat Asian teams at the moment, we also need better scrim partners.. which hopefully will come with Season 3.
What do you think of the NA scene right now then? Is it really that far behind the curve and do you think the Season 3 5v5 ladder changes will help that at all?
Chaox: I really do hope that the 5v5 ladder and Season 3 having 8 sponsored teams (in gaming houses) will be able to change that, a huge reason why NA hasn't been able to dedicate themselves was due to school and other obligations, which will be fixed by Riot sponsorship. As for NA being behind, to be honest we're behind in terms of efficient practice and dedication, not talent and innovation, as this is significant since each and every patch changes up the game. Once we get the dedication and practice down, the NA meta might just come up on top on certain patches.
TSM's popularity has blown up right along with LoL's to pretty crazy heights and probably outshines any other team in the world. What has it been like dealing with an almost celebrity status particularly at events and did you ever think being a pro gamer would be like this?
Chaox: I've had so much fun since joining TSM. Everything happened so fast, thinking back just a year and a half ago I was a junior in college studying computer science, now I'm playing games for a living and traveling the world. I suppose I've been growing with the fame, fans and even interviews(such as this) just seem natural nowadays. Still.. having a huge following is certainly an honor and also a lot of work, but it's been a blast.
TSM has been together now with only 1 roster change in over a year while every other team has been shuffling around every few months. Do you think the stability has helped you guys have success and how much time do you guys spend with each other when not practicing?
Chaox: We're all great friends, and enjoy joking around. We hang out everyday, practice or not, this has certainly helped with team coordination and communication, which is a huge part of League.
Where do you think you and Xpecial stack up against the other bottom lanes around the world? Is there anyone that gives you guys a problem stylistically?
Chaox: We do our job, very very well. Usually TSM picks ad/support early, so I'm stuck on Corki or Ez which just does decently (won't lose nor dominate) against other lanes. I think style is becoming less and less apparent as everyone is starting to play at least the laning phase near perfectly, I can't think of any AD/Support that gave us more trouble than another (at least in the laning phase).
Recent tournaments have seen AD's like Vayne and Kog'maw come back into popularity especially with a lot of lanes 2v1'ing. What do you think of the dynamics of the duo lane and what do you think of some of the lesser AD's coming back into viability?
Chaox: Vayne and Kog'maw were under-played in tournaments because of how easily it was to counter them in the laning phase. However with duo-lane and lane swapping, every lane becomes just that, a lane. Instead of mid/top/bot having set roles of AP/bruiser/ad+support and only having to counter your enemy champion in certain lanes, people have gotten smarter with simple lane swaps to avoid bad match-ups. This made late-game scaling AD's such as Vayne and Kog become much stronger since they can avoid being outlaned early and simply become more effective than traditional AD's such as Graves/Corki later in the game.
What changes when going from a 2v2 lane to a 2v1 lane? Is it something you like to do or do you prefer facing the enemy duo lane?
Chaox: In a 2v1, as an AD, you just last hit perfectly and set up the wave so you can tower dive or push the tower as soon as possible. The basic things to consider is how good our 1v2 / 2v2 and their 1v2 / 2v2 are (which gets even more crazy if mid decides to swap). Swapping speed is also important, Nunu can swap insanely fast so it's disadvantageous to do so against one. I could go into detail but it's a bit much to explain.
What can we expect from TSM going into IPL 5? You guys didn't really get a chance to practice as much for MLG with the move across the country happening when it did, but the level of competition at IPL 5 will certainly be more fierce.
Chaox: We're going to be extremely solid. As solid as we can be, to be honest, with the current level of practice partners in NA. We're hoping to adapt on the fly and learn a lot from the Asian teams there even during a bo3 and come out on top. It won't be easy but this time we're going for gold.
Have you gotten to play with the changes they are working on for season 3? How much do you think the game is going to change with all the new items and mastery changes?
Chaox: I haven't. Xpecial played it a bit and it sounded like the game will be significantly changed. Pro teams will be scratching their heads for awhile to define the meta.
So what do you do to unwind when you aren't playing LoL? Do you have a particularly hobby or something you like to do when you aren't playing?
Chaox: I recently really enjoying Magic, I bought 2013 on steam and now I draft a lot on MTGO. Being the typical Asian nerd I love reading Manga (Ares by Ryu Guem Chel is my favorite). I also enjoy working out with Dyrus, and eating fantastic San Francisco cuisine.
Thanks to all the sponsors that make it all happen: Solomid.net, Origin PC, Ventrilo, Razer, and Gunnar. Check me out at Facebook.com/TSMChaox + follow me on Twitter @ChaoxLoL.. I'm much less intelligent there ;)
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