LOS ANGELES -- The first player to walk on stage at the Team SoloMid press conference was Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez. The wide-eyed Spanish support was grinning bigger than any other player on his new League of Legends team. He nearly bounced up and down when he put on his TSM jersey.
Less than 24 hours ago, he stepped off a plane onto North American soil. The day before, his bottom lane partner Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen arrived. A week before that, TSM announced the acquisition of the former G2 Esports bottom lane. Rumors surrounded the duo in the beginning of the offseason, which was accelerated due to an early free agency period that accompanied a new franchise system.
Mithy has wanted to come to North America and join TSM for years. And he doesn't stop smiling throughout the afternoon.
"Honestly, it's awesome. It feels super surreal for me," he said. "I keep saying it, but it really is true -- it's something I've been looking forward to like a dream. I see myself with the jersey on and it feels weird, and it doesn't feel weird in a bad way. It feels weird in a good way, but it's something I need time to get used to."
Mithy and Zven have spent the better part of three years as one of the best bottom lanes in Europe, first on Origen in 2015, then on G2 Esports in 2016-2017. Together, they have attended every World Championship in that timeframe and won three EU League Championship Series titles.
Every time the offseason rolled around, Zven and Mithy committed to staying together. Their similar personalities and desire to win have fueled them to become the best bottom lane in Europe (and in the west) since Zven joined Origen as a rookie. Mithy was his first support partner in professional play and the two have been a duo ever since.
"We don't want to hold anything back from each other," Mithy said. "We're both good at our positions and we understand each other pretty well in terms of how to give each other feedback and how to play in game. It just made no sense. I don't see anyone else that is better than him for me to sacrifice my experience to go play with that person."
Zven and Mithy are in good company. Other bottom lanes who have decided to stick together include Longzhu Gaming's Kim "PraY" Jong-in and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon and SK Telecom T1's Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Lee "Wolf" Jae-wan. These pairings have been at the top of South Korea for the past two years. Increasingly, South Korean teams are choosing to stick together and stay with the same organization and/or roster.
Yet, in a world where NA and EU both have had no small amount of upheaval in this offseason due to franchising, Zven and Mithy are an outlier. The two most well-known bot lane pairings, Counter Logic Gaming's Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes and Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black, and TSM's former bot lane Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Vincent "Biofrost" Wang both split this offseason. Zven attributed this to having found his ideal support early in his career, suggesting that perhaps those AD carries haven't found their best bottom lane partners yet.
"I can't imagine playing with anyone else other than Mithy," Zven said. "And I can't see the purpose of playing with someone else."
Their desire to continue playing together coincided with TSM owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh's search for "the best bot lane in the west."
"Going to Worlds and losing was so discouraging. After such a disappointing season, I went into the offseason with the expectation of building the best possible team in the western hemisphere," Reginald said, grinning. "I practically got it all this offseason."
"I think we both have always wanted to play in North America, but we never felt like we could join an American team without lowering our standards of the level of play," Zven said.
Mithy smiled a bit in response.
"I'm serious," Zven said.
Until TSM, they didn't feel like they would be able to join a team in NA without sacrificing some measure of their play. "Anything else than winning is disappointing to me," Zven said. "It doesn't matter when you play, whether it's a normal match against someone in the LCS split, the final of LCS, MSI or Worlds -- losing is always disappointing."