After finalising its divorce from the Tainted Minds organisation with a brief stopover as “TM Gaming”, the New Zealand-based Tectonic returns two of its starters into a roster filled with inexperience and coaches in roughly equal measure. As Tainted Minds/TM Gaming’s 2017 progressed, they started spritely under the Inero-led roster featuring three veterans, Praedyth and NA import Cake, but after the dissolution of that roster, they won only a single match for the rest of the year. Tectonic enters 2018 with an incredibly young roster with real questions over its in-game leadership and watching them will be an interesting examination of just how much youthful exuberance can counteract the absence of experience.
Tectonic received a bit of grief online for their plan with coaching staff, despite it more-or-less resembling what you would see in major orgs overseas, at least as far as structure goes. The team has assembled positional coaches that you may have seen around on the internet in the coaching arena. While this is akin to the staffing structure that Team SoloMid had at one stage, dedicating positional coaches to midgame and teamfighting and getting a separate coach for early game seems to be a bit of cross-pollination of focus. It’s this “too many cooks spoil the broth” risk that saw them catch a few jokes at their expense. The point of bringing up this coaching fiasco is that it all seems to leave little responsibility to their retained Head Coach Jonny “Saiclone” Weatherly. Known as an innovator of unique ideas and strategies, one would hope that it will be his job to solely focus on the strategical play of his team and that his positional coaches will handle the player skill development. By all accounts I know of Saiclone is a popular coach with his players which is an important trait when it comes to a roster such as this. The trust they build between each other will be vital when it comes to facing the challenges that inevitably come the way of inexperienced rosters. The one standout critique of Saiclone is that TM Gaming had a mechanically sound roster in Split 2 that utterly stagnated as a unit and collectively was not any better when they finished than when they started. It will be up to Saiclone and the rest of the staff he has assembled to show Tectonic fans that he has this capability with this newly retooled roster.
Looking first at their carry-over players, and their AD Carry Omar “Low” Abouelkheir, Low was one of the few successes of TM Gaming and it is nice to see him retain his place for the new season. Indeed, even the Dire Wolves noted that he had…well it’s hard to say exactly what they meant but the approximate point is that Low was the only player who seemed to improve at all over the split. It’s a testament to the hard work he put in, and no small amount of credit can be given to what he learned from his former botlane partner in tgun who also brought similar improvement out of Raid and Crayzee in their first splits with the Esports veteran now playing StarCraft. Low had a couple strong Twitch games and only seemed to consistently struggle to farm lined up against FBI and SIN so has all the makings of a competent if not flashy secondary carry.
Slightly more perplexing is retaining mid laner Ari “Shok” Greene-Young. Shok’s highlights included a couple of highlight Orianna ultimates, giving rise to the “Shok-wave” line that followed him around during Split 2. But overall these moments were few and far between and he was dealing nowhere near enough damage to be relied upon as a carry threat, and lost lane far too hard to counteract the utility he provided on the Karma and Galio picks that were frequently his. If Tectonic wanted to retain a control mage player who has a decent Orianna and Karma and has a pocket Zilean, then they already had Wzrd in Split 1 2017 and he rode the bench all last split for TM Gaming…and Wzrd is strictly better version of Shok. Make no mistake, Shok is in this team as a New Zealander representing a New Zealand-based org. There’s nothing wrong with putting a New Zealander on an NZ org in the abstract, on the contrary I think it adds a wonderful identity to the org overall. But when it comes to putting the strongest possible roster onto the rift, then for my money it’s not a good selection metric.
Joining Low in the botlane is Isaac “Tilting” Bellamy. Historically we’ve seen Tilting on mage supports and he is famous for his pocket Sona pick. Tilting returns to the OPL after last appearing on the 2017 Split One Tainted Minds roster, replacing Broler and was uninspiring in his performances. He spent Split 2 with Legacy Genesis in the OCS and was at the forefront of the blow-up involving stand-in coach Burstfire while the rest of the org was away at Rift Rivals. It is hard to judge that team’s performance too harshly, as an incident like that is sure to destabilize any team. It will be up to Tilting to show that with preparation for a full split rather than just the fill-in duty he’s performed in the past that he is more than just an OCS player.
Tectonic completed their roster with two additions from the highly successful Abyss Academy OCS roster. I don’t know a lot about these two players, jungler Ryan “Swathe” Gibbons and wunderkind top laner Daniel “Papryze” Francis. I have watched Papryze a bit in Solo Q and he is rightfully touted as the next Pabu – a pro-ready top laner who has a wide skillset that if develops could fill the void of talent that exists in Oceania once you get past Swip3rr, Tally and Chippys. For Swathe’s part, he didn’t blow me away in the OCS finals that I watched, but he seemed to have a reasonable sense on how to play the pro-style game, more so than a lot of high-elo SoloQ junglers I watched. This is what I’d assign his reasonable Rek’Sai performances in that series to. The other thing I thought he did well is that he got his laners into the game, which is great when you have such a dynamic threat like Papryze on the team. From a roster construction standpoint, the pair coming in together makes a little sense – when the team is likely going to time and again turn to Papryze to need to solo-carry the game to win, it makes sense to have a familiar face in his back pocket coming out of the jungle.
All in all, this Tectonic roster is underwhelming. I hope I’m wrong, because I am super intrigued to see Papryze in the OPL and I’m very curious to see if Low can take the step up and be a leader and show that he’s an OPL-calibre AD Carry all at the same time. I worry about Shok, and I hope this team doesn’t just become a doughnut – solid at the sides but nothing in the middle.