After one week into the 2019 LCS Summer Split, Golden Guardians already possesses the same amount of wins as it had after three weeks of play last split. Golden Guardians 2-0'd Echo Fox and FlyQuest, with Top Laner Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell rendering the red hot Colin "Solo" Earnest and Omran "V1per" Shoura useless as GGS steamrolled over the competition.
Hauntzer joined Inven Global's Nick Geracie after week 1 of the Summer Split to talk about the Golden Guardians team atmosphere, GGS Academy veteran Top Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya and Support Choi "Huhi" Jae-Hyun's value to the team, and where he and GGS Mid Laner Henrik "Froggen" Hansen sit amongst the solo lane competition.
I'm joined by Golden Guardians Top Laner Hauntzer after a 2-0 week to start off the 2019 LCS Summer Split. That's a much better start than last spring, is it a relief to start so strong?
Yeah, it's a big relief. I think we've stepped it up this split. Honestly, I feel at the beginning of last split, we had a lot of personal issues within the team. Now that we've solved everything, we're coming in strong.
Your win today over FlyQuest was a big statement in that they were the only team ahead of you last split outside of the top 3 of Team Liquid, TSM, and Cloud9. Did you expect to win so convincingly today?
Going into this week, I knew both opponents would give us a pretty good challenge. I didn't want to underestimate either of them. We know FlyQuest is a pretty strong team since we lost to them in Quarterfinals last split. We didn't expect them to draft the way they did today; I think they were very uncomfortable with how they played it out.
The Pyke pick didn't really do much because V1per didn't roam at all, so they couldn't create any advantage that way. Our composition was pretty easy to play out, so we just grouped up, poked them, and sieged. FlyQuest had no answer.
The Pyke wasn't executed well by FlyQuest, despite V1per being one of the emerging NA Top Laners along with Licorice. Is there anything you can learn from the new generation of domestic Top Laners?
Clearly you were the better player today. You referenced the draft phase earlier, and something I was impressed with in week 1 is how diverse GGS' drafts were day-to-day. Golden Guardians was often criticized in spring for being somewhat one-dimensional, so did your team work in the off-season to become more versatile?
I think we were always able to play multiple styles, but we had such a rough start in spring, we wanted to guarantee that we would make playoffs. We didn't want to risk picking more skirmish-heavy comps, we just wanted to play it safe and play for scaling. The meta also lent itself more to that style in spring than it does now.
We play to whatever the meta calls for, pretty much. The current meta really suits us because we have really strong solo laners. We can flex more picks than other teams can, and we have so many pocket picks. People are going to have a really hard time banning against us, so we create advantages that way. Froggen and I are definitely top two in our respective roles.
Last split you guys kept it safe understandably, especially because best-of-1 format can make things mercurial. With this hot start, do you feel that will lend itself to more flexibility and experimentation this summer?
I think our whole team approach has changed pretty drastically with the addition of Darshan and HuHi. I think they help our team atmosphere with their input and perspective. Our team is really focused on having a positive culture and atmosphere where everyone can get along and take constructive criticism without getting too emotional about it. That way, we can give and receive feedback so everyone knows what they need to improve on.
It's not stressful, you know? On some teams, people are blaming each other 24/7. Everyone hates each other, they're not going to get along well, and the team's mood really sucks. That description is pretty similar to TSM in 2018, so I think creating this better atmosphere will really help our team. That's what we've been working on so far this summer.
Golden Guardians left its starting roster intact between splits, but made sweeping changes across all other facets of the organization. Jimmy Harrison is now Head Coach after serving as a Two-Way Player Coach in spring. How does his coaching style compare to Nick "Inero" Smith from last split?
Jimmy really cares about what the players say, so he tries to cater to what we want and what we think is good. He tries to understand the players as much as he can, and takes a lot of feedback from the players and tries to make everyone happy.
Jimmy puts a lot of work in and I think that really motivated some of the players back in spring after our really rough start. We felt like, 'Damn, this team's going to fail.' but he stepped up and gave us a lot of energy and brought up our motivation. Bringing a better atmosphere to the team is one of his key abilities.
Golden Guardians Academy has some pretty accomplished players in Darshan and HuHi, as well as Victor "FBI" Huang who was signed from the Oceanic Pro League. How much has that helped the main roster to have players in academy of that caliber and experience?
It's pretty nice to have those types of players, because our Academy and LCS teams interact frequently. It allows us to talk with each other more about certain matchups and do 1v1s. We've been doing in-house scrims as well, and GGSA is shaping up to be a really strong team. Everyone's trying to improve, so everyone is getting better because the quality of our practice is much better than it was before.
Last split, our in-houses were kind of pointless because our academy team wasn't super strong, but now that we've brought in veterans, we have a nice environment. Everyone is giving and receiving feedback to help each other so everyone can improve.
Do you think this will be a model for academy teams going forward? Is higher quality practice for the main roster more important than long-term talent development?
It depends on what you want to do with your team. Some teams will want to try and find the next new talent and develop it, but in NA, it's pretty hard to do that. Most players that are available to sign are already known quantities since they've played for previous teams.
I think it's better to find practice players to know how to play the game and create a stable team. That way, those players can improve on themselves in the NA Academy League, and practice quality for the main roster is much higher because the academy team is better, and due to their experience, they will be able to learn a lot more from the scrims.
You can also learn from different teams and how their respective dynamics work. For example, you can take how much a player communicates in academy and see if that she be applied to the LCS starter in the same position. You need experienced players to do that.
Thanks so much for all of your insight, Hauntzer, and congratulations on the great start to the Summer Split. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
18-0? *laughs* Just kidding. That's a stretch, but we'll try and keep it alive as long as possible.