Hauntzer was feeling a lot of pressure being a player of TSM, but not winning enough to match the fans' expectations.
Even under all the pressure, the experienced top laner always had his mind set on how he and the team can improve. Although he could have been hurt by some of the fans' comments, Hauntzer was bold, trying not the harsh comments get to him.
After TSM defeated Clutch Gaming on day 2 of 2018 NA LCS Week 5, we had a chance to speak with Hauntzer. He asked the fans to be patient and assured that TSM would improve.
TSM has had a rough start. In a previous interview with Lustboy, he had said that the players had trust/faith issues.
I’d say that’s partly true. We have a lot of vocal players like Bjergsen and me. We have different ideas on how to play the game. There are times where our calls are conflicting with each other. After the game, we’re always debating whether we should have done this or that.
Overall, there’s only ‘one voice’ that makes the decision; the decision we make as a team. We always want to make the best plays at most times. If someone calls for the first play, we’ll probably go for that play. There are many times that have us hesitate because we have so many people talking.
Is it because there’s no clear leader in the team?
I wouldn’t say there’s a clear leader in the team. Mithy and Bjergsen are very verbal; Zven, Grig and I also talk about what we can do. There’s definitely not ‘one person’ that makes the calls.
You’re out of a three-game losing streak now. What do you think was the biggest problem during the losing streak aside from the trust/faith issues?
Last week, we played Echo Fox and 100 Thieves. In those games, we kind of just didn’t pick any winning lanes and didn’t have any early game win conditions. We got outscaled as well. We had trouble identifying what plays we can make. Overall, I think we’re just not being very open-minded regarding how to play the game. We missed opportunities to make plays. Now I think we need to improve on looking out for more plays.
Do you think those problems were solved in today’s game?
After yesterday’s loss, I told the team that everyone should just communicate and say what they can do. We started making calls as a team saying, “Let’s do this.” on making dives, or taking a dragon; things like that. I felt that’s a pretty competitive way to play. We’ll make sure that we can improve in that direction.
Olleh had said that Zven practices a lot. As a team, how much do you practice and how does the practice go?
As a team, we do two blocks (three games per block) a day, four days a week -- from Tuesday to Friday, just like any other team. One or two days of the week, we play a third block, and practice like eight scrims a day, if we can fit that many in. On another day, we do reviews on our LCS games. Other than that, it’s just solo queues.
And Olleh’s right. Zven plays the most solo queues; more than anyone. Grig also plays a lot of solo queues. Mithy and I try to relax more. We’re not like ‘grind’ players; I can’t always be playing solo queue. Everyone practices a decent amount, but Zven, he’s a grinder. (Laughs)
All the players in the team have always been in first place in their careers, but TSM isn’t doing that well this year. How does that affect the players’ mentalities?
I think it’s very stressful for a lot of the players on the team. Not only we’re not winning, but it feels like we’re playing for the TSM brand. Mithy had said after a game being really stressed out, “We’re just playing for the brand, we’re not playing for ourselves, and we’re not playing as a team.” That can definitely stress players out; we’re not winning, but TSM is the best esports brand in North America.
It’s a big toll on the players. I feel the only way to relieve that is not being afraid to fail, and just trying to get better. Persistence pays off; if you crack now, you’re never going to be a Worlds contender.
As you said, the players could think that they’re playing for the brand instead of for themselves. Do you think it’ll be better if the players start to get rid of that thought and play more for themselves?
I think that’s the right direction for any team. Trying to live up to the expectations is very hard. Recently we have been trying to do what we think is best and trying not to be too stressed out.
But with the fans’ criticism and stuff, it's hard. Every loss we have, there’s always those people complaining about roster changes and other things, saying “Why do they do this!! I want Doublelift!!” There are a lot of harsh words, and we just need to learn to ignore it, move on, and play our game.
How’s your current form? Do you think that you’re playing to the best you can in the current split?
I think everyone has a lot to improve on. For myself, I think I’m playing okay, but I found that I need to step up and become more of a leader. I’m not focusing as much on my individual play; it’s a team game, so to win, you have to play as a team and have better strategy. That’s what I’m trying to work on right now. I’m trying to be more aware of my teammates and opportunities we have in-game.
Do you think you have improved as a leader during this split?
I think I’m still developing, but it’s really hard because we have so many vocal players. Everyone’s always talking. It’s hard to find a time in the game to have everyone calm down and follow my call. Still, I’ve learned to identify what we need to do in the game. Trying to look for it is the hard part.
As a top laner playing in this meta, I play a lot of split pushers, and I’d be side laning a lot, not thinking of the rest of the map. But in order to become an in-game leader, I have to look at the rest of the map, and say things like, “Okay guys, we can do this, we can get through here, let’s dive in this wave, or let’s dive in this tower.” I need to become more aware of myself and my teammates.
Lustboy and SSONG changed positions. According to Lustboy, the change was because of the difference in the two coaches’ draft styles. How are they different?
I think Lustboy is less prone to having us make weird picks on stage. He knows which champions we’re comfortable on, so he just picks us those champions. How the two coaches work with us is pretty much the same. We discuss drafts as a team, everyone’s there, and we all give our opinions. When Lustboy’s on stage -- I guess he’s just more consistent.
SSONG likes to listen to the players a lot and cares a lot about the players' opinions. But when we start giving useless information like “Oh, I can play this here and that there.”, it doesn’t really help the team, and SSONG gets kind of confused and stressed out which could lead him to make a bad decision. On the other hand, Lustboy’s like, “No, you’re playing this.” (Laughs)
Teleport is getting nerfed.
It is getting nerfed like a minute, right? I still think it’ll be good; I mean, a minute’s not that long. It’s only two waves. So I think top laners will be still taking TP, but maybe for bot lane, they’ll have to take Cleanse or Heal, because bot lane’s less forgiving.
I think it could change the meta a little bit, but overall, it’ll be pretty similar. Maybe fewer mages in bot lane, because a lot of bot mages need to use TP for lane. It’s hard to tell.
Do you think TP getting nerfed is a positive change to the teams that have stronger macro?
I would say yes. TP makes the game really easy to play because it allows five players to be in one place at once. So when the duo lanes don’t play with TP, they would have to lay more pressure on wards and timings that they can shift around. It’ll definitely favor the smarter teams.
The NA LCS ladder is in chaos. There are four teams in first place. It’s like there’s no such thing as a strong team or weak team anymore. How do you think it will go?
It’s really just patch by patch. With next patch coming out, whoever identifies what’s good; maybe marksmen could be broken in the next patch. If that happens, our team and maybe TL will have a big buff. Whoever identifies what’s best the fastest will do well; right now, it’s like no one knows what’s best.
Even in the LCK, it’s just really confusing. It’s hard to find the best team, and people are looking to play a certain style, that they feel like is the best; something they can execute well. So I don’t know how the standings will change. I’m confident of making playoffs for sure; from there on, it’s Bo3s and Bo5s, and I think we can do pretty well on that.
Any last comments? Maybe something to the fans?
Something... Fans… Whoa… (Laughs) Persistence pays off. You can’t just change something if it didn’t work out once; you have to keep trying. I know a lot of people are complaining about the roster changes, and I think they’re overreacting. I think they just need to realize that over time, we’ll get better.