Coming into their match against the GPL’s Gigabyte Marines, the NA LCS champions Team SoloMid found themselves heavy favorites to advance in the best of five series, with many believing Gigabyte could win one game at most. Of course, TSM would continue the age-old NA tradition of struggling against Wild Card teams and would find themselves down 2-0 after the first two games and in danger of being disastrously swept by the Vietnamese. With the series and their reputation on the line, TSM top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell stepped up to carry TSM to a reverse sweep.
Few players have taken as big a step forward this split as Hauntzer, a player who has asserted himself as likely the best top lane player in NA, a region that has witnessed a huge influx of talent in the off-season. His play did not go unnoticed, as he barely finished second in the Spring Split MVP voting and became a key leader on Team SoloMid.
When TSM needed a win the most against Gigabyte, two games down and with their backs to the wall, typically it was Hauntzer who answered the call in Game 3. Solo killing Gigabyte top laner Phan “Stark” Công Minh early in the match, the top laner snowballed Team SoloMid into a dominant position.
After establishing an early lead, Hauntzer would continue to press his advantage, establishing dominance once again:
As shoutcaster Clayton “CaptainFlowers” Raines had stated, it is very clear from the clip that Hauntzer ‘has had enough’ and was not going to allow TSM to lose this game, even if that means dragging them to victory. Despite a sizeable CS difference and two solo kills to Hauntzer, Stark would still try to pull himself back into the game by making plays in the lane. Unfortunately for the Vietnamese rookie, he would just dig himself a deeper hole.
In the deciding game 5, Hauntzer would once again come up big for the team, showing off his excellent teleport usage to put himself in an immaculate position to help TSM win a crucial teamfight around dragon 24 minutes into the game. After an impressive dragon steal from TSM jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, you can see Hauntzer has channeled his teleport to a ward behind Gigabyte and is able to blast cone over the wall into the backline. After laying down massive AOE damage, he finishes off Graves before winning a 1v1 duel with Varus.
Once again, Hauntzer would use his early lead to dominate Stark, eventually ‘flame horizoning’ his overwhelmed opponent and forcing Gigabyte to send multiple members to deal with the split push pressure his Renekton was applying. Late in the game, Gigabyte would attempt to create a pick on Hauntzer with Stark’s Rumble and mid laner Cường “Optimus” Trn Văn’s Fizz, but Hauntzer is able to survive long enough to turn the tables and secure a kill on Stark.
TSM would seize their advantage and use it to secure Baron, creating a chain sequence of events that would eventually win them the game and the series.
While Hauntzer was not the only reason TSM emerged victorious in their series against the Gigabyte Marines squad, the top laner proved he will be a force to be reckoned throughout the Mid-Season Invitational. Unfortunately for Team SoloMid, if their bottom lane continues to struggle, or if Svenskeren cannot matchup to his opposing jungler, Hauntzer may be pressured to carry like he did in the final few games if TSM wants any chance to make the top four of the tournament.
With the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational set to kick off, CLICKON eSports predicts where each team will finish.
DNQ: SuperMassive eSports
After overcoming the hometown RED Canids to finish on top of Group A, SuperMassive will not make it to the final stage of MSI. While their expected match-up against the Gigabyte Marines could go either way, early mistakes that showed throughout the group stage could create advantages for Gigabyte that SuperMassive will not be able to overcome.
6th: Gigabyte Marines
The GPL Champion Gigabyte Marines advanced from group B with two solid days of work that proved they were the clear best team. With aggresive shotcalling and creative cross map playmaking, Gigabyte should be able to take down SuperMassive in a very close series to earn a trip to the final stage at MSI. Once there unfortunately, it will be hard for the Vietnamese squad to make a splash, and they could very likely fail to win a single match.
5th: G2 eSports
Its hard to trust the EU LCS Champions after their history of horrid performances against international competition (G2-8). While they are undoubtedly the best team in Europe, G2 will need mid laner PerkZ to step up in a big way against a stacked international talent pool. Look for Expect in the top lane to be a possible weakness for a team that must perform well to salvage Europe's and their own reputation. Their will be no matches more important than those against TSM, as the winner will likely advance to the playoff and earn the preferential seeding at Worlds.
3rd/4th: Team SoloMid
The NA LCS Champions arrive to Brazil after an extremely close series that came down to the final teamfight. After falling flat at Worlds, TSM are searching for redemption at MSI and to establish themselves - and NA - as a region to pay attention to. The big question for this team will be the performance of their bot lane, but if they are able to hold, the stars for TSM in the top and Mid lane should be able to create advantages the team can ride to multiple victories at this tournament. Look forward to their matches against G2, as the NA vs EU rivalry will likely decide the final playoff spot.
3rd/4th: Team WE
Team World Elite asserted their dominance in the LPL with a 3-0 victory over Royal Never Give Up in the LPL Finals. On a roster that features an underrated ADC in Mystic and one of the best junglers in Condi, do not be surprised if WE finished in the top two of this tournament. If there is a weakness, it may be mid laner Xiye, who has struggled in lane at times and may be exploited by the other top mids such as Faker and Maple.
2nd: Flash Wolves
If there is a team that could challenge SKT, it is likely to be the LMS' Flash Wolves. Led by star mid laner Maple and jungler Karsa, Flash Wolves looked dominant in their run at IEM Katowice and within their region, as they lost only one regular season game. Their macro understanding and individual talent level will be able to carry them to the top of the standings, and possible concerns about their bot and top lane have continued to be eased as the season has progressed. With a likely meeting between Flash Wolves and SKT in the Finals, can the "Korean Killers" strike again?
1st: SK Telecom T1
The clear tournament favorites, Korea's SKT enter the tournament after a dominant 3-0 sweep of KT Rolster in the LCK finals. With a roster that has continued to improve as the season has progressed, there is little reason to believe anyone will be able to stop SKT. Led by the most famous player in League of Legends, Faker will add to his growing list of championships with another MSI crown.