Team SoloMid have seemingly re-established their dominance over the North American League of Legends Championship Series, brushing aside their opponents with back-to-back 2-0 series sweeps. Alongside TSM icon Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell has spent the past year quietly building up his reputation as Team SoloMid’s next poster boy. Hauntzer’s recent performance on Rumble has set the benchmark for his positional rivals.
Whilst Team Dignitas perhaps failed to provide the highest quality of opposition, Hauntzer’s Rumble performance against the newly formed squad certainly answered a number of his critics. Amidst the Hauntzer Hysteria, in which Team SoloMid fans rushed to brand the American as the best Top laner in the region, outsiders would frequently reference Yarnell’s poor performances on carry champions as a counter-argument.
Heading into the series between Teams SoloMid and Dignitas, Rumble’s win rate in the NA region sat around the 45% mark, a depressing figure considering the devastating power of the champion within the superior Korean LCK. Rumble’s plummeting win rate within North America was thanks, in part, to the recent poor performances of both Hauntzer and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong during the TSM vs Cloud9 series.
Both Hauntzer and Impact picked the high-damage top laner in the two finals games of the series, posting scorelines of 2/8/4 and 0/6/3 respectively. It was far from an impressive display from either Top laner, yet much of the emphasis was focussed onto Hauntzer, as TSM squandered an imposing lead to allow Cloud9 back into the game. Hauntzer’s performance on Rumble was heavily criticised by William “scarra” Li on the analyst desk:
“I will say he did get pressured, Contractz did go up top side level six and ended up killing the Jungler and him.
“However, his ultimates just weren’t that good – I’ve just seen a series where Flame on Immortals landed some of the best Rumble ultimates I’ve seen this year…
“It was followed up by Hauntzer’s Rumble and… well, there’s a huge difference.”
William “scarra” Li
Many felt that Hauntzer’s performance had been unfairly scrutinised; an inaccurate reflection of his abilities on the champion. Indeed as Team SoloMid locked in their champion picks once more to face Team Dignitas in the second game of the series, all eyes turned to Hauntzer in the top lane – could he redeem himself on Rumble?
The conclusive game in the series was essentially a Hauntzer Rumble montage. Despite carelessly conceding first blood to Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, when the Dignitas Jungler looked to repeat the feat moments later, Hauntzer converted the 2v1 tower dive into a game-changing double kill.
As he began to snowball through the mid-game, Hauntzer’s equalizers showed remarkable improvement from the series against Cloud9. Whilst not every ultimate was a five-man carpet bomb, the effect was enough to carve through the Dignitas team on multiple occasions.
With Hauntzer and Team SoloMid’s victory, Rumble’s win rate in the NA LCS has clawed its way back up to 50%; Hauntzer’s damage statistics from the match certainly represented his improved mastery of the champion:
Whilst the North American region may not yet display the Rumble potency witnessed in Korea, TSM Hauntzer has shown that the regions Top laners are not entirely incapable of playing the high-damage champion, as initially suspected. Whether TSM are able to repeat their success on the champion in a series against stronger opposition will be an important factor, as the international competition of the Mid-Season Invitational approaches.
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