Hauntzer is North America's premier top laner

Hauntzer Is North America's Top Laner to Beat

Hauntzer spoke up for TSM and continues to fortify his status as one of North America's premium talents.

North American talent is at a premium when teams wish to construct viable teams to compete for the North American crown. This is especially true when a North American player is at an elite level and can match some of the best in the world at their position. Team SoloMid’s top laner, Hauntzer, has grown to be one of those premium North American talents and a world class player in his own right.

Hauntzer is more than just a potent player now; he’s developed into a core voice on Team SoloMid and has continued to push the team forward. His teammates have made several statements on his behalf as he’s become one of the most valuable players in North America.

TSM needed a voice and Hauntzer stepped up
TSM needed a voice and Hauntzer stepped up© Riot Games

Speaking up

Team SoloMid ended the season in first place, but it’s hardly been an easy road for the kings of NA. A team doesn’t downgrade from an elite player and just match its performances of the past right away. TSM still had 4 out of 5 players from 2016 to anchor the team, but Hauntzer was greeted by an unsettling silence in this iteration of TSM. “When Peter left, no one was really talking in game. We were just asking for ganks or talking about lanes and that was pretty much it. We weren’t talking about playing the map or rotations.”

In the absence of a player like Doublelift, TSM mid laner, Bjergsen, will often be pointed to as the shot-calling solution. However, Hauntzer proved to be the real X-factor. “I took it upon myself, Soren too, to call more macro strategy and be more of an in-game leader. It was a struggle because I used to be the quiet player and didn’t really talk much. I just sat back because I wasn’t really confident in my calls and was very introverted. Now I’m more outgoing and have settled into that shot-calling role.”

Hauntzer continually strived for improvement and personal development on teams like Curse Academy and Gravity, so becoming a voice and coming out of his shell was a long time coming. He came from a modest background, but ever since he’s been on TSM, he just takes it to another level each split. “At the very beginning, I pretty much knew nothing. I was a solo queue player and randomly got into LCS. After I joined TSM, I learned more and more every split. Right now, I think I’m a well-rounded player and can fit into any team. Every split, I’ll keep learning to be a better teammate.”

Hauntzer is ready to take North America
Hauntzer is ready to take North America© Riot Games

The final push

Hauntzer has proven his worth as a teammate and more on TSM, but there’s still one last test for the team: the NA LCS finals. TSM has made it to nine-straight LCS finals and will be facing the other golden boy of NA, Cloud9, for the sixth time. Cloud9 is a threat, but the team has notably had problems developing strategy around its two top laners, Impact and Ray. Hauntzer hardly sees them as threats anyway.

“C9 are pretty interesting because they change their playstyle depending on what top laner they play. If they’re playing with Impact, they'll play tanks and teamfighting comps. While with Ray, they play more split-push oriented comps. Players like Contractz and Jensen have had pretty strong showings recently, but their top laners — not so much. I’ll be super confident going in because I’m a lot better than both top laners. I know my teammates are just as good as C9’s players, so if I can snowball a lead top lane, I can carry the game.”

TSM has called for Hauntzer to do that all year, and he’s had no problem delivering. Even against legendary players like Impact and Ssumday, he can take over the lane for his team. He’ll just need to do it one more time in Vancouver this weekend. Taking matters into his own hands, both in-game and out of game, Hauntzer can prove that even without Doublelift, they can take North America. “Our core players are just really strong. Either NA as a region isn’t good enough to beat us or we’re just all very talented players and make a really good team, even after losing a valuable member like Doublelift.”

Hauntzer is the favorite candidate for MVP
Hauntzer is the favorite candidate for MVP© Riot Games

The very best

Even though everything that Hauntzer has done this year has been for his teammates and for the success of TSM, he’s not above having a few personal goals. If TSM can raise yet another NA title, the team will have the opportunity to compete internationally in San Paulo, Brazil, at the Mid-Season Invitational, where Hauntzer hopes to face off against a former NA LCS top laner.

“I want to play against Huni again because I played against him here in NA. Now that he’s on a different team where he can speak Korean, and on a team that’s way better than Immortals was last year, I think it would be really fun to face him again and see how his playstyle has changed. When he was here, he played for hard counterpicks in top lane and tried the cheesiest stuff out. I’m pretty sure that now on SKT, he’s a more well-rounded player and I want to see how much he’s improved.”

It’s not only the NA LCS champions and MSI representatives that are crowned in Vancouver, but the MVP of the entire split. Hauntzer has been talked up endlessly by his peers and the community as the favorite recipient for the award. After all he’s done for TSM this split, it’s fair to say that he is definitely deserving and it would be a culmination of his growth this Spring.

“Me as the MVP? I don’t know … I guess I should get the MVP because who else would get it? Bjergsen? Arrow? A lot of people think Arrow should get it, but it’s really hard to tell. I feel like I improved more this split than any other split in LCS and if I do get MVP, all my work paid off.”

Regardless of the outcome of TSM’s final against C9 or Hauntzer’s place in the MVP race, he’s thankful that the fans will continue to support him and his team after all their hard work. “Thank you for supporting us. A lot of the true TSM fans that cheer for us even when we don’t look that good — those are the fans that really matter, because they’re in it for the long haul.”

By Xander Torres