Starting off the League Championship Series Playoffs were TSM and Golden Guardians, the 4th and 5th place teams, respectively. TSM sat three games above GG, the largest gap between any two teams across the league. But despite the gap, and despite most analysts and community members heavily favoring TSM, Golden Guardians beat them in a clean 3-0 sweep, sending TSM stumbling down to the lower bracket where they will have to face off against Dignitas this Saturday.
Each member of the team was crucial to GG's success, finding leads and advantages across the board throughout the series, and controlling objectives well and rotating much more cleanly than their black and white laden counterparts. Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell was the target of much of TSM's aggression, but he still pulled off crucial plays when his team needed him, constantly overperforming in later game teamfights and skirmishes around key objectives.
We spoke with Hauntzer after the series, breaking down their win and performance as a team.
Obviously every team expects to win, but were you expecting to win in this fashion before the series?
Honestly, I thought they'd put up more of a fight. In Game 1 we made some errors that made the game pretty hard, but we eventually won. And in Game 2, I thought it would be another tough game, you know? Going into the series I thought they were looking pretty strong, and we kind of knew what they wanted to play around, but after Game 1, it seemed like they didn't really understand how they wanted to play. Like I really ran it down in Game 2 but I never really felt like the game was over for us. I always knew, given time, we'd win.
The TP play at the end was great too, how did you orchestrate that?
So we had Nash [Baron Buff] and we sieged bot to try and end the game, but we kind of inted and Bjergsen got a triple kill or something. And we knew the next dragon was up, but Tanner "Damonte" Damonte said, "Yo, they only have one Nexus tower left at half HP. We can just take it down and end the game." That's what started it, so we just baited them around the dragon, faking that we were going to contest for it. Choi "huhi" Jae-hyun got a really nice TP ward in their base and we just TPed and ended the game.
I think we were stuck in a replay when he got that ward, how did he get himself over there!?
He went straight from the base. He ran straight for their base and recalled. He was on a solo mission, hahaha. If anyone saw him, the game would be so much harder. But he managed to be really sneaky and made it.
I think Ziggs was a huge pick for the team today. Damonte has proven that he is quick to add champs to his pool, like he did with Qiyana last year. But how was it working with him and the team to make adjustments to Patch 10.16 given how little time you had?
Yeah, I mean usually for Playoffs you have a week to prep and learn a patch, but you know, we only had three days, or four if you count Sunday, since we played Friday/Saturday last week. So scrims were just full of tests and trying to find what the meta was. We never really played Ziggs before, but Damonte said, "Yo, I think Ziggs would be good here if they pick Azir." So we just said, "Okay, let's try it." And it went pretty well in practice, so going on stage, we only have so much to go off of and we can't feel 100% on every pick since there's so little time and prep, but he is confident in himself and what he can do and we just trusted him with that.
Who would you give MVP of the series to?
Umm, I don't know honestly, I think I ran it down too much to get MVP. I think our bot lane performed really well and Tanner played really solidly and didn't really make any mistakes, so it could go up to anyone.
Okay, Mr. PR! What about TSM's performance? They showed some problems working as a team whereas you and GG were more on the same page, but they also seemed to lack individual performance at times as well, what were your thoughts on their gameplay today?
It seemed like their game plan was just to kill me over and over again. They got that off in Game 2, I wasn't playing as cautiously as I should've. Those kinds of mistakes are really important, and it's something I should improve on. And besides killing me, I don't think they really had a plan.
We did our research and saw they liked to fight at objectives a lot but whenever we started objectives, they just never went. And later on, they'd give us fights, but for the early ones, we'd get them for free. So I think as a team they slacked in their performance. Even though we lost to them in Week 9, it was much of the same thing. In Week 9, we had such a big gold lead, but we just kind of threw the game. Our draft could've been a bit better as well. But yeah, they could've prepped better.
That game was just one week ago, did it help you prepare for this? Or would you have figured out your plan otherwise anyway, and it is merely coincidence that you played them one week ago?
That game definitely helped, and we realized if Bjergsen can't carry the game, they're not strong. And you could tell within our drafts, we banned four to five mids every game to make sure he could not do anything. And it paid off.
Was it any more special to get this win against TSM for you?
No, I'm just glad we made it past the first round. The whole time I've been on GG, we haven't made it past the first round in playoffs. I'm just glad we did it in such a convincing fashion this time.
You've been hard on yourself, but in my opinion, you had a lot of crucial moments in each game. Why do you have that sentiment?
I mean I can still play a lot better. This is just one series. It's not like we've made it to Worlds yet, it's not like we won NA yet. There's really no reason to be super happy. I'm glad we got the win, but we still made mistakes and there's a lot of things we have to improve on if we want to be the best in NA.
What are your thoughts about going into the next round against TL/Cloud9?
Against either team I know it'd be a tough matchup, and we just have to put a lot more work in. Thankfully we have a lot more time, but we are not going to have the same read that they have on us because they're not playing any best of fives, so we don't get to scout anything though, so we'll see how that works. That's an advantage for them for sure.
Who do you have going to Worlds with you?
With us? Hmmm, probably TL and C9.
Lastly, do you have anything to say to fans, but also to the critics who have doubted you guys since the very beginning of the year when the roster was first put together?
To the doubters, I'll tell them to watch us. There's not much to say, we're just going to use our play and our performance to prove them wrong. And to the fans, you can expect some good series out of us in the future. I think the team has really come together in this past split. I'm very confident in our ability to play well and compete with the top NA teams. We didn't have the best split, but we learned a lot and it was our first split playing with Tanner, so there's bound to be some bumps. But I think we performed pretty well, and in the future, we'll work to keep winning.
Images provided by Golden Guardians
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