Last season, Team SoloMid provided fans with one of the biggest disappointments in League of Legends eSports history. Entering the 2017 tournament, the same lineup is on a quest for redemption.
Hyped as North America’s best team to ever grace the international stage, Team SoloMid fell flat on their face in the group stage. Flogged by tactically superior international teams, TSM failed to advance beyond their difficult group.
The crushing loss syphoned the hope out of North American fans and deflated an overly-optimistic region. This year, however, TSM has flipped the script on its head.
In the first week of the group stage, North America’s top seed came out strong, winning against both Team WE and Flash Wolves.
One of the major deciding factors between the two tournaments is the performance of top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell.
Currently, the League of Legends meta makes for a number of intriguing duels across summoners rift. With the strength of ardent censer, AD carries are the major source of damage on the World Championship stage.
As a result, many top laners have prioritized tanky champions, such as Cho’Gath and Maokai, in response to which Hauntzer has shown incredible versatility in his champion selection.
When needed, he can frontline for his team, building a brick wall between his carries and opponents. However, he is also one of the few who has succeeded on more damage-oriented top laners.
On Gnar, Hauntzer dominated his opponent, Flash Wolves’ Yau “MMD” Li-Hung, winning lane and finding one of the most incredible 5-man ultimates in Worlds history. He also played well on Renekton, keeping his team alive even in the face of a significant gold deficit. No matter the champion, Hauntzer consistently comes up huge in team fights.
Fortunately for NA, Hauntzer is more than just a one-trick pony. He provides an incredible amount of pressure in lane, which has given TSM the ability to stay in contention early game allowing their carries can kick in.
Hauntzer thrives on lane dominance and rarely fails to find a lead, though he will undoubtedly face stronger opposition as the tournament begins to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The top laner currently averages a 7.7 CS differential at 15 minutes, second best in the group stage as a whole. Early on, this lane success has driven TSM’s gameplan; Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Hauntzer are consistently using their push advantage to establish top side vision control.
With top side pressure, the North American favourites are then able to take the Rift Herald, and push the outer mid turret to secure a gold lead. Hauntzer is integral to TSM’s play, in every stage of the game.
In a meta of tanks and beefy wet noodles, Hauntzer is one of the few “carry” top laners on display at the 2017 World Championship.
So far, Hauntzer has burned up the charts and graphs, topping nearly all top laners in damage statistics. He provides TSM with a truly terrifying triple threat, a luxury few other teams can claim.
Even if Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg are faltering, Hauntzer provides a safety net of carry potential.
Team SoloMid has taken full advantage of this, giving him more gold share than any other top laner in the tournament. The team has embraced Hauntzer as a dangerous game-changing threat, allowing him to be the driving force behind their Worlds run thus far.