No one is surprised that TSM won the NA Mini-Major, no one who is of sound mind at least.
They're an excellent team. Marked by their aggression and flashy plays, they have the raw mechanical skill to back up and correct any potential mistakes or misreads. That's what endears them most to their vocal fanbase: the YouTube commenting hordes of Jason "Beaulo" Doty fanboys and other rabid internet commenters.
However, despite all the flair and fanfare, TSM hasn't been a lock to take home the No. 1 spot in anything. They have some of the biggest talent, a likely significantly large budget, but a mostly bare trophy case. They've been the runner-up in North America for most of 2020, the gatekeepers of titles for other. Based on just raw chance, TSM have been due a win for some time now, at some point the stars align and you squeak one out over what seems to be your eternal fate.
Commentary aside, no one is surprised TSM won, but I'd wager some at least are surprised at how TSM won.
In map count, they obliterated Spacestation Gaming, 3-1 (7-5, 7-2, 7-5). In function, two of the maps were close. Spacestation's lone victory came through the winner's bracket map advantage. It came from a blistering performance from Bryan "Merc" Wrzek, who gunned his way to a +13 and a 76% KOST, a server-high percentage, shared with Brady "Chala" Davenport. TSM specifically won on Club House and Villa, two maps that Spacestation excel at.
It was a stark contrast from the previous winner's finals matchup between the pair, in which Spacestation mopped the floor with TSM's hair en route to a (7-4, 7-2) 2-0 victory the day before the grand finals.
"We've always known we have the potential to be at the top," said Beaulo in a post-match interview with Loviel "Velly" Cardwell. "It's nice to finally get back up to that point. It's been a minute since we've won an event, so I know we're all feeling pretty happy."
Up to this point, TSM's claim to fame was the 2019 Dreamhack Montreal title and an absolute slew of second place finishes, something they need no reminder of. They finished second in Stages 1 and 2 of the United States Division, second in the August Mini-Major, second in Pro League Season 11, and third at the Six Invitational 2020 (true to form, though, TSM were the second-highest North American finishers at SI, behind...Spacestation, who won the event).
Beyond this, they were matched up against Spacestation. Spacestation, the kings of LAN and reigning Invitational champions. Spacestation had a map advantage in this bout too, starting off 1-0 is a massive advantage. It looked grim coming in for TSM to say the least. History was against them.
They had a reputation of always coming so close but falling short. TSM, regularly, would make it to the title matchup and then fall short, by a mile or a millisecond, but short all the same. Not this time, though. This time they didn't just win, they won convincingly, on LAN, on maps that historically and recently favored Spacestation, with a map disadvantage, erasing all shadows of doubt. They are the November NA Mini-Major champions, the best team in North America. There's no online asterisk, no quibble over the map advantage, nothing.
For Braden "Chala" Davenport, the victory over his former squad felt sweet. "It's my first LAN in a long time, probably in a year and a half since Raleigh," he said to Velly. "It's great to be back at such an event. This final was against my former team. No disrespect to them, I wasn't the right piece to their puzzle, but everything feels great with TSM and I'm glad we could take it home."
Next up for TSM will be a shot at Invitational redemption. They're qualified for the Six Invitational, and will officially be the strongest team from the hammer-holding region (North America) heading into Rainbow Six's most prestigious tournament.
The future is bright for TSM, but there's still a road to go. For a star-studded team like this, the goal is an Invitational hammer. Being the best in NA is well and good, and signs of definite improvement, but it isn't the pinnacle of competition. That comes against the Russian cyborgs at Team Empire and the flashy French of BDS Esport.
TSM showed they have what it takes to win over the best teams in North America, one of Rainbow Six's strongest regions. This isn't a book closing, rather a new chapter beginning. The next steps for TSM are international, in the post-COVID-19 world, or in an SI bubble similar to the NA Mini-Major bubble. With their win on LAN, and down a map, against the reigning champions, it's hard not to see them as the favorite to win it all.