Bjergsen: “I think we have shown that NA is definitely not garbage, that we are not garbage.”

Photograph taken by: Michal Konkol / Rift Rivals

After a very promising performance on the first day of Rift Rivals, TSM is the only team that is unbeaten so far. We got to talk to their Midlane majesty Bjergsen about getting revenge on G2 and UoL, the developments taking place in NA and EU and his take on the rivalry between the regions. 

First, thank you very much for your time. You just went 2-0 on the first day. How to you feel right now beating G2 and Unicorns of Love? It’s been the first time you were able to beat UoL!

Yeah, it’s good to get our revenge on both teams. I wasn’t really thinking too much about the last time we lost against Unicorns at IEM Oakland, because it was kind of a last-minute tournament and we didn’t get to practice much but when I heard their coach was talking about like “Oh, TSM probably really wants revenge.”, I was like “Yeah, I really want revenge actually!” and then also get revenge against G2 for MSI. So of course, it feels good to beat both teams.

It was only a Best of 1, so many people will argue it doesn’t really count. But there is a decent chance now that you will face one of these teams in the final, to get your proper chance of revenge on them this time.

As a player who is from EU and has played in NA for quite a while now, what do you think about the EU vs. NA rivalry? Some people see it as a little bit childish, others as cool banter that fires up the crowd. What do you think about it?

For a while, I found it kind of silly because Korea is the best region and I always wanted to see a rivalry between the West and Korea. But once I got more competitive experience, this way of thinking got a little bit boring because the Western teams always lose to Korean teams. So I think EU vs. NA is something that’s making the fans watch the games between EU and NA even though they are not the best regions. It makes it more fun and more exciting and even more competitive for the players. It’s a bit weird for me because I’m from Europe and I live in NA, so if we lose everyone is like “Oh, he is NA, he is so bad.”, and when we win everyone says, “He is from EU so EU won anyways, it’s fine.” For me, it’s just fine overall.

There are five EU Midlaners at this tournament. Is there maybe a lack of really high-quality Midlaners in NA?

I think it’s riskier to give a Midlaner a chance on a team. I think many people view it like this at least because when the Midlaner loses hard, you lose so much control over the map and I feel like a lot of these teams who want to build a strong team want to import a strong Midlaner. There is a lot to oversee on the map. When you win the Midlane matchup, it’s really easy to translate it to the other lanes. Echo Fox chose to import Froggen, TSM chose to import me, they really want that strong players in the middle of the map. They didn’t like the risk of picking up a rookie because if he fails you lose a lot of games basically.

Do you think franchising in the NA LCS would change that?

It will definitely change that in the terms of that everyone will have to have a B-team so you have to get talent that you can work with. When we get a B-team, if we make it into the franchise hopefully, then there will be a Midlaner that I can work with and teach him and he can help teach me so we can learn together. This way I can help a player to improve without him having to be on an LCS spot. Any team will have the chance to work with and make new players better without taking the risk that you might drop out of the LCS because you field a rookie. I think it will help a lot building up new talent.

You guys picked up MrRallez relatively recently. Was that a first step for the B-team or is he a regular substitute for the main team?

We haven’t signed him yet because we are still figuring out with Fnatic.That said, I was really happy with the trials and liked playing with him.If he comes on now, he is good enough that we’ll field a six-man roster. With franchising on the other hand, it’s going to be a ten-man roster. There is not really an A-team or a B-team. We will swap players in and out based on the performance or who fits better in the meta or with the current team. I think MrRallez is definitely a player who is good enough to threaten Doublelift’s spot, which is what, ideally, we want for every role. I wouldn’t even mind if we find a Midlaner that is good enough to push me to play better and is a legitimate threat. It just makes the team better if you have ten good players instead of five.

Would the feeling of almost being threatened for your position make you want to commit even more time and effort?

Yeah, that’s a big thing with people that aren’t really mature. They grow a big ego really fast and say “I’m winning! Oh yeah, I’m winning. That’s all I want.”, but if you don’t have that winning mindset of constantly working hard then you’re going to be thrown off your throne eventually.

In your Legends Rising interview you mentioned that you very much dislike always playing on the same level and that you always want to improve year to year. Last year at Worlds it was though that it was the best roster TSM ever had and the result was a bit disappointing. Despite that, there weren’t any chances to the roster. Do you think this is the right way to go and that with more time you will be a much better team than before?

It’s difficult to say. Maybe we can get new players and make the team better but there were not players available on the market where we thought that this player would instantly make our team better. So I think continuing with this roster and then learning from that experience, especially when we get exposed at international tournaments, it shows a lot of our issues. That’s a thing that is bad for us. These international mistakes are not being abused in NA. International tournaments give us a better perspective of how to be better at finding these problems that are not being taken advantage of, which makes them super difficult to fix. That’s the thing you should do when you are the best team in your region. You must fix mistakes that aren’t being abused. That’s kind of our focus now. It has become a big meme that “TSM is practicing for Worlds over there.”, but we kind of have to do that because I’m tired of winning in NA and then losing internationally so it’s stuff that we focus on.

Fair enough. Is there any chance you will ever go back to EU potentially or are you settled with NA and TSM for life?

I don’t have plans to go back to EU because I’m happy with TSM and the management. They give me the control to lead the team and if there are things I think we need to improve the team Reginald is willing to provide it and is really helpful. I’m not going to say I will be with TSM until I die (laughs) but until there is really big reason for me to leave, I don’t see myself leaving TSM anytime soon.

From what you said you guys are trying to fix some of your international reputation at this tournament. What more can we expect from TSM at Rift Rivals?

I mean we just played to decently solid games, nothing really too flashy. We played as a team and it wasn’t just one player popping off. It was a team effort in both games and I think if we can continue to play at this level or better, which I am sure we can, then we just going to look better as a team, beat all these other teams and hopefully go 6-0.

What would be your favorite team to play against in the finals?

I think a rematch against G2 would be nice and I think playing against Fnatic would be interesting because they play so differently from NA teams. While G2 have a style where they play kind of similarly to Korean teams or just teams that play international tournaments just in terms of how I see them drafting, how I see them playing. They play very standard kind of like we do and others teams do but Fnatic is just.. they do whatever they want.

Are you exited to play against Rekkles specifically?

Yeah, I mean playing against Rekkles is fun because right now at least he doesn’t care about the meta at all. He just plays whatever he wants and he seems to do really well with it. Obviously, it’s a pretty selfish style he doesn’t really seem to play for the team or sacrifice himself for the team in any way it’s just the team sacrificing for him. But that’s working for Fnatic so it’s definitely not a bad way to play if you are so good at it. Kennen gets nerfed? He doesn’t care!

Frozen Mallett gets nerfed? He doesn’t care!

He just goes “Whatever, I’ll just build Infinity Edge!” It’s great! (laughs)

Anything you would like to say to your friends or to TSM’s fans?

Don’t go too hard on us if we lose one game. We might lose one game throughout the tournament but that doesn’t mean that we suck. I think we have shown that NA is definitely not garbage, we are not garbage and we are not going to be smashed by all these teams so I hope we can make our fans happy at an international tournament.

Thank you very much for your time!