After another trying split, Team SoloMid has once again claimed the crown as the top dog in North America, providing top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell to once again lay claim to the title of ‘best top NA’.
Team SoloMid is no stranger to NA LCS titles, having enjoyed five previous Playoff Final victories. What stands out about this variant of TSM, however, is the emergence of their powerhouse top-laner, Hauntzer.
Ahead of the start of the 2017 North American League of Legends Championship, the region was flooded with an array of top lane talent from the game’s most dominant region, South Korea.
Spearheaded by star Korean imports such as Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong and Chan-ho “Ssumday” Kim, the league has seen an emergence in strength from the position over the past year.
Team SoloMid’s road to playoffs glory would require them to go through, not one, but two of South Korea’s finest top laner talents; an opportunity for Hauntzer to prove his mettle.
Throughout the split, many fans and analysts were convinced that Ssumday had proven himself to be the true king of top lane in North America.
Maintaining a top three position in every statistical category and sporting nearly a 70% kill participation the Dignitas star would earn himself a place on the NA LCS All-Pro lineup and a healthy number of votes in the MVP ballots.
Congratulations to the 2017 #NALCS Summer All-Pro Team!
— lolesports (@lolesports) August 16, 2017
Yet, when playoffs started to take shape, it was clear Hauntzer would have something say about his omission from the lineup.
Team SoloMid’s first series would see Hauntzer face-off gainst Ssumday in the semifinal match-up against Team Dignitas. The series would see Hauntzer continuously outperform Ssumday whilst being an invaluable asset to his team, playing a multitude of styles.
The TSM poster boy played a unique champion in each of the four games that took place, winning games on Cho’Gath, Shen and Jarvan IV respectively. This diversity paired with his on-point teleports throughout the series spelt a swift end for Dignitas.
— lolesports (@lolesports) August 27, 2017
Heading into the finals TSM would have to prepare for a team that has play-making in its veins and possesses a game-changer in nearly every position on the rift.
It can be argued that an integral part of Immortals’ threat is their dominant solo lanes, notably their top laner, Flame.
The former icon of CJ Entus Blaze, dominating lane and living up to his moniker of “Lord Flame” has become the benchmark for the top laner in 2017.
World-renowned for his incredible skill and tactful control over lanes, Flame has more than earned his stake over the years as being one of the most dominating top-laners the league scene has ever experienced.
To battle his formidable foe, Hauntzer would once again turn to his diverse champion pool, playing two new champions than seen in the previous round; The most significant of which was his Gnar, which quite literally led TSM to victories in games one and four with perfectly timed engages and patient kiting.
The team’s discipline and well-synergized attacks would see them claw back a 10k gold deficit in Game 4 and capitalize on multiple Immortals missteps.
With this performance, it would allow for TSM to crush the dreams of IMT and for a sixth time be crowned victors of the NA LCS.
Speaking just moments after raising the NA LCS trophy aloft, Hauntzer reinstated his claim as the best laner in NA, criticising his rivals for their records:
“Yeah of course [I’m the undisputed, best top laner in NA].
“I mean, you can’t be the best top without having results to back it up, right?
“I mean Ssumday, Flame – they’re good – but they’ve never won, so that’s why I’d say I’m the best”
Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
With another split in the rear-view mirror, Hauntzer has once again fulfilled a vital role in the Team SoloMid machine.
Managing to play a wide array of champions and styles – many of which aren’t as flashy as his other top counterparts – Hauntzer has shown himself to not just be a highly skilled player, but one who truly understands the true cost and sacrifice of winning.
This mindset has led him to reach the mountain top for the third time and, in the eyes of many fans and analysts, be the best top laner in North America.