Tactical hasn’t had an easy 2022. After a rough Spring Split and a mid-summer trip to academy, the TSM ADC returned to the LCS roster and finished on a high note.
Edward “Tactical” Ra has had a career full of ups and downs. After stepping into the starting AD carry position in place of a benched Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng for Team Liquid in the 2020 League Championship Series Spring Split, Tactical assumed the starting position for summer as Doublelift moved to TSM and qualified for the World Championship less than six months after his debut.
As the third North American seed, TL failed to make it out of the Worlds 2020 group stage, but alongside support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, Tactical was part of the strongest NA bot lane at the tournament and had the best individual performance of his career.
Since then, Tactical has failed to return to that peak. After a self-admitted sophomore slump with Team Liquid in 2021–which saw the team go to Worlds once again, this time as the 2nd seed–Tactical joined TSM, where he got his start as a professional player on TSM Academy at the start of 2019.
While the year was far from perfect for TSM, and Tactical, for that matter, the AD carry ended the season on an upward trajectory and survived the rollercoaster ride of the 2022 LCS season. Let’s take a closer look at Tactical’s 2022 season on TSM.
TSM’s 2022 LCS Spring Split was the team’s worst performance in LCS history, though it was hardly Tactical’s fault. Support Wei "Shenyi" Zi-Jie and rookie mid laner Zhu "Keaiduo" Xiong were both benched at various points throughout the split, and jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu and top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s performances suffered as a result of their extra efforts to try and get their less experienced teammates up to speed.
For the majority of the Spring Split, TSM essentially relied on the sole game plan of pumping as many resources into Tactical as possible to try and allow him to carry the game. With this strategy, any amount of success TSM enjoyed was through Tactical, but with the amount of resources funneled into him, Team Liquid mid laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg thought Tactical could be doing a lot more with what he was given.
“TSM is just drafting for only him to carry, and I don't think he's done amazingly with that,” Bjergsen said in an interview with Inven Global during the Spring Split. “He's been doing okay, but they have five people bot lane literally every single game.”
Bjergsen wasn’t wrong, either. The same positioning issues that have plagued Tactical throughout the majority of his career reared their ugly head in spring. Tactical led all AD carries in the 2022 LCS Spring Split with 56 deaths. The next closest was Golden Guardians AD carry Lawrence “Lost” Hui with 38.
After some roster changes, TSM took a slight step forward in the Summer Split, but Tactical took a slight step back. Through seven games of summer, Tactical posted a 14/20/19 triple-slash line for a paltry 1.7 KDA. As a result, Tactical and rookie support Choi "Mia" Sang-in were sent to TSM Academy in favor of promoting 17-year old rookie AD carry Tony "Instinct" Ng and support Jonathan "Chime" Pomponio, the latter of whom had recently been acquired from Golden Guardians Academy.
TSM’s new bot lane was far from elite, but it did provide a much more stable option to allow Spica and mid laner Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang to provide a strong one-two punch that saw TSM gain traction even after Huni was forced to retire due to wrist problems. After showing improved form late in the Summer Split, TSM qualified for the 2022 LCS Championship as the 7th seed and began their post-season in the lower bracket.
TSM entered the post-season in their best form of 2022. After a brief LCS debut for TSM Academy top laner Alex “S0ul” Luo, TSM signed Colin “Solo” Earnest to provide a stable, veteran presence in the top lane, which he did successfully. With stable side lanes to compliment their jungle-mid 1-2 punch, TSM looked poised to give 6th seed FlyQuest–who had dropped down to the lower bracket after losing 3-1 to 3rd seed Team Liquid–a close match.
TSM took the first game of the series, but after FlyQuest evened up the series in Game 2, a substitution was made. Tactical returned to the starting lineup in place of Instinct for the first time in 13 games, locked in Draven, and immediately got his head bashed in as FLY took the series to match point. Despite the shellacking, Tactical recalled that TSM was able to mentally reset for Game 4 with ease.
“We were really chill about it, actually,” Tactical said. “Spica and I were basically just laughing it off because the game was so over that all we could do was laugh at it. We basically initiated conversations about what we should do in the next game while the game was going on because our chances of winning were literally zero.”
We basically initiated conversations about what we should do in the next game while the game was going on because our chances of winning were literally zero.”
Whatever TSM talked about made something click. They took the last two games of the series and eliminated FlyQuest from the post-season 3-2. Furthermore, TSM played at a more aggressive pace with Tactical in the lineup over Instinct, giving the team newfound dimension for their next opponent to consider.
“Instinct’s obviously leaning towards scaling and then teamfighting,” Tactical explained. “I guess I’m somewhat similar, but I try to look for advantages throughout the game and try to keep options open.”
TSM seemed to like the options that Tactical was looking for–he started all five games in TSMs next series against Evil Geniuses. TSM only narrowly lost to an out-of-sorts EG, and while Tactical was able to get the better of a fatigued Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki in the AD carry matchup, he was caught out of position multiple times in pivotal moments that led to a 3-2 EG win.
Going out on a high note
It’s undeniable that Tactical performed better in the LCS Championship than he had for any other point of 2022. However, his strengths and weaknesses remain similar–he dealt the second most damage per minute of any AD carry in the post-season, but his average of 3.13 deaths per game was the most of anyone in his position.
Nonetheless, playing for TSM Academy was a clear benefit to Tactical. “A part of the reason they put me in Academy was trying to give me a mental break because I was really stressed at the time,” said Tactical. “Honestly, it did make me feel better because there was less pressure. Overall, the level of gameplay was obviously lower in Academy than it was in LCS… It was kind of a reassurance in my head that I could still do it.”
“It was just not a great time in general for everyone... I kind of just deleted that split from my head.”
Tactical used his experience to take on a leadership role on TSM Academy, which also helped him return to a more role-playing focused position on the main roster once he was subbed back in for Instinct. It also gave him some time to put the 2022 LCS Spring Split behind him. “It was just not a great time in general for everyone,” Tactical recalled. “I kind of just deleted that split from my head.”
For the first time in his career, Tactical has missed qualifying for the World Championship, but he ended the season in his best form of the year and knows what he needs to work on going forward. “I do think I should have died that less, especially on hypercarries… I do think I did try to deliver the maximum DPS that I could, but sometimes I’ll reach and have a loss of focus.
I'm just hoping I get to show up and have another chance to showcase myself. I really want to keep playing–I think I just love the competition. It's something I never want to give up. And I look forward to playing more optimally and impressing everyone else in the future.”
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