Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell has spent the past year quietly building up his reputation as Team SoloMid’s next poster boy. Following a disappointing 2016 World Championship, the TSM man was subject to a onslaught of criticism, called out for his below-par displays amidst a top-carry meta. But with the state of the game shifting back to Hauntzer’s taste, the opportunity has presented itself for the Top laner to assert his position as the best in NA.
North American League of Legends fans have developed an intriguing form of selective amnesia, otherwise known as ‘Hauntzer Syndrome’. Following a successful series, the native Top laner is quickly hailed as the best in his position, unrivalled in his ability to drive Team SoloMid to victory – any recollection of previous failings completely overwritten.
Indeed, as Hauntzer face-tanked 31 consecutive nexus turret shots to secure TSM’s win over FlyQuest eSports, nominations for ‘Best Top laner in NA’ flooded onto social media once more.
I didnt even realize I tanked 31 turret shots LOL
— Kevin (@lolHauntzer) 20 February 2017
The 2017 NA LCS is stacked with Top lane talent, to consider yourself to be the alpha within an aggressive pack would typically require unparalleled mechanical prowess and unmatched aggression – in the current tank meta however, this is no longer the case:
“In last season, Huni and impact were considered the best, and everyone else was a step below.
“…I want to make it clear that I’m the best Top laner NA. People highly rate Impact, but I want to prove that I’m better.”
Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
At the spring split break, Hauntzer is displaying the best overall Top lane play in the region, though it isn’t a result of any astounding individual development, rather his known consistency playing tank champions. Provided with a Nautilus, Maokai or a Shen, Hauntzer grows into an un-killable late game monster; his decisive team fighting is near immaculate.
Team SoloMid’s Top laner is basking in perhaps his fair share of praise, given the unfair criticism he faced during the 2016 Summer playoffs and World Championship. Faced with his mechanical superior amidst a damage intensive top lane meta, Cloud9’s Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong first highlighted some major flaws in the American’s play. The top die meme was in full force as Impact tore TSM apart on Gnar.
The trend continued as Team SoloMid crashed out of Worlds, with Hauntzer looking uncomfortable on the high damage champions of Jayce and Rumble. After an embarrassing exit, critics rallied against Hauntzer for his inability to impact important matches, given the amount of resources the team had focused to the top lane… all forgotten of course, once the tank meta returned to the rift.
As exemplified once more by TSM’s one defeat during their 2-1 series victory over Cloud9, carry champions do not suit Hauntzer – the one saving grace on this occasion is that Impact proceeded to play Rumble even worse in the concluding match.
If the meta begins to shift towards Top lane carries, Hauntzer is certainly able to hold his own, but he will be some distance from achieving his ambitions as the not as the “best Top laner NA”. Rivals within the NA LCS such as Impact, Digntas’ Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho or Echo Fox’s Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok will have the American beat once the competitive meta adjusts.
It is the poisoned chalice of playing as Team SoloMid’s Top laner. Within a roster that boasts such cohesion as TSM, being able to provide a solid point of engage will often result in a victory. It doesn’t matter that you inadvertently absorb 31 tower shots, it doesn’t even matter if AD Carry Jason “Wildturtle” Tran suicides to land an Ashe arrow on the back line… the talent within the roster will secure the fight.
But once tanks are nerfed to the ground, this will no longer be possible. And yet fans will still expect Hauntzer to maintain the same level of dominance.
Team SoloMid wanted a solid Top laner who could play anything, regardless of the meta and Hauntzer provides them with an adaptable talent with an expertise for playing tanks. The best Top laner in NA however? Amnesia suffering Team SoloMid fans might think so, but aspects of his game still display fatal flaws.