Every professional player knows that the Spring Split is just a warm up; an opportunity to acclimatise to the competition around you, develop new strategies and build synergy with your teammates, all ahead of the competition for a place at the World Championships in the summer. The NA LCS’ imported Korean top laners have taken this mantra to heart better than anybody.
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.
The arrival of Digntas’ Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, Echo Fox’s Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok, Immortals’ Lee “Flame” Ho-jong alongside the likes of Cloud9’s Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, served to excite the imaginations of native fans, thrilled at the prospect of seeing former World Champions square off in the NA LCS’s own top lane duels.
The league’s highly anticipated imports fell short of their high expectations however. For all their pedigree and previous accolades, in the end it was North America’s homegrown talent, Team SoloMid’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, who shone above the rest of the top lane pack.
“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
Hauntzer appeared to have done just that, and floods of Team SoloMid fans rightfully crowned their new poster boy as “The Best Top NA”, but it is a title that has been quickly stripped from the TSM man after three weeks of the Summer Split.
Adapting to a entirely different competitive region takes time, especially for a young South Korean with limited English language proficiencies. That has certainly proven to be the case in the NA LCS, as the highly-tipped Korean top laners begin to deliver on their expectations.
Requiring a split to establish themselves in North America and build synergy with their English-speaking teammates, Ssumday and Flame are now flying high in joint first place of the NA LCS with Team Dignitas and Immortals respectively.
Though inconsistency continues to plague Echo Fox, Looper’s personal performance has been greatly improved from his relatively quiet Spring Split. The former World Champion is now displaying the mechanical prowess that fans were so excited to witness:
As for Hauntzer, the former “Best Top NA” has already been exposed and heavily exploited by Flame and Ssumday in lane after just three weeks of the Summer campaign.
Whilst a proportion of the blame perhaps lies with the lack of support from the Team SoloMid jungle, Hauntzer’s crowning glory of the spring was his ability to acquire victories in lane, strictly limiting his number of deaths.
By contrast to the Spring Split, Hauntzer has already died 44 times, having secured just 30 kills in return (-14); Ssumday boasts 52 kills, 32 deaths (+20), Flame has tallied 46 kills, 27 deaths (+19).
— lolesports (@lolesports) 10 June 2017
It may have taken an entire split for North America’s imported top laners to find their feet, but the Korean talents are now leading the pack.
Though their rise to dominance has coincided with the decline – all be it temporary – of the region’s most impressive native top laner of the Spring Split, NA fans can certainly take solace in the high level of top lane play on display in the league.
Now proving their ability to hard carry games from the top lane, North America’s Korean imports will be aiming for glory in the regional playoffs and beyond.