Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnel of the Golden Guardians has been in the LCS for four seasons and is no stranger to having a rough split. Having recently left Team SoloMid, Hauntzer now holds down the Top lane for the Guardians. And while Hauntzer once sat at the top of his lane’s throne, young blood like Cloud9’s Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and former world champion Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong of Team Liquid – Hauntzer’s kingship has been challenged.
As the Golden Guardians battle it out to maintain their playoff spot, Amanda Stevens spoke with Hauntzer about the Guardians’ rocky start, his place in the lane kingdom, and his exit from TSM.
The Golden Guardians did not most robust start, but it’s been looking good lately, what do you think has clicked for you guys as a team that’s allowing you to pick up your wins?
So what’s clicked is that we’re just on the same mentality as a team. We prioritise teamwork and team play over everything else. Going into the LCS before everything during the preseason, we kinda just played scrims like solo queue with comms and we didn’t have much strategy going in, much team play, much focus on each other. After going 0-4 in the first two weeks, we had a big meeting and we decided enough is enough , we’re not going to win this way so let’s change it up and focus on teamwork and making plays together.
This is your first year not on TSM…
Second year, I was on Gravity. In the very very beginning. It’s been a while haha…
I guess you’re right about that, what’s it like adjusting to a brand new system, cause you haven’t had to worry about that in a while?
To me it was a breath of fresh air. At GGS we have our own apartments and we have an office we play at, so that’s just completely different than staying in a gaming house 24/7. On TSM, there’d be weeks where we don’t even leave the house, just order food. I lived in a room upstairs, come down to scrim, go up to sleep, come down, back and forth, I don’t leave the house for weeks, but on GGS I’m really forced to leave the house, walk outside for a little bit, get coffee with my teammates and I think it’s a more healthy environment.
Do you think that’s sort of the setup teams should be implementing, a separation between the work life and the home life like we see 100 thieves, even though the two houses are next to each other they still have to get out of one house to get to the play area. I was just doing stuff with the OWL and Paris Eternal does the same thing, their gaming office and their apartments are a block apart. Do you think that’s where esports should be heading as a whole giving players a better separation between work and home life?
I think that’s definitely where it’s heading, a lot of teams are looking for offices and they’re planning on getting them in the near future. I think it’s really important, you look at other athletes, other pros, say the NBA for example. They don’t live in their gym, everyone has their own home they go back to after practice and they get to relax and do whatever they want. Some people stay after practice and keep practicing, like Kobe, he goes in early and stays late. It just depends on the person, but I think the separation is definitely needed.
You’re in the top lane and Urgot is still the top lane king. There are some other usurpers to the crown like Jayce or Yorick, are you getting a little tired of playing the Urgot/X match up, it feels like you’ve been playing the Urgot/X match up for almost a year.
Yeah, Urgot is really strong so I have to pick him but he’s definitely not that fun to play, but any champion kind of gets boring to me. I don’t understand one tricks and how they can play just one champion over and over and over, I just get so bored of that. I like playing a lot of different champions, I try not to practice the same champion over and over in scrims cause I think that just limits my capability and how much I get to learn from the games. He’s getting nerfed soon so I’m thankful for that and it’ll be a new meta.
But do you think the nerfs will be enough? He got some nerfs heading into season 9 and everyone was like “Aw man maybe Urgot’s dead now,” and then it still stayed Urgot vs Aatrox or Urgot vs Sion. Do you think, like the Aatrox nerfs he got in 9.3, these upcoming Urgot nerfs will finally push him out of the meta?
It will definitely push him out of the meta, because the Q nerf was like plus 20 mana. First it was 50, then it got nerfed to 60, now it’s 80 mana. It’s such a strong tool in lane and that’s most of the reason why he’s strong because he can poke people out. With that nerf in mind I don’t think he can lane against a lot of champions early game, say Jayce for example. They’re already playing a lot of Jayce in LCK, against Urgot and you win the early game really hard, so with that mana nerf it’s going to be harder for Urgot to be played.
As someone, like you said, who likes to play a variety of champions, what are some champions you do enjoy playing that you wish your team would let you pick?
I’ve been playing Sylas a lot in solo queue. I think that’s really really fun.
Are you playing the tank or damage version?
It depends on the game, like some matchups you have to go tank or else you can’t lane, but the AP version is also really strong. Our coach Nick is always talking about, “Guys if they have Ashe just get Sylas ultimate and you can one shot em.” Like Ashe’s ulti AP ratio is like 1.9 or something, so if you’re a full AP Sylas you’re just going to one shot someone with that ulti and there’s a lot of crazy combinations you can do. I’m definitely trying to pick that soon.
Looking at what the standings are, how do you think you match up against the other top laners in the league?
Personally, I don’t feel there’s another top laner better than me. Licorice and I are kind of on the same level right now, but everyone else is kind of below that, I don’t think I’ve had any problems laning against anyone. Our games were just based off of team play and I don’t think, laning wise, anyone can really challenge me.
This is a thing Pobelter brought up recently in an interview, he was talking about being on FlyQuest, that when a player leaves a team fans sort of rewrite the history of the team. When you leave they are like “Look at how we are with Jensen, so obviously it was Pobelter and Olleh that were causing the problems.” You’ve left TSM, they’re also not doing too great, and you got replaced by BrokenBlade and everyone was getting so hype over that BrokenBlade highlight reel, they were like “Oh man this guy’s obviously better.” As a player, personally, how does it feel to dedicate yourself to a brand and then when you leave see everyone be like “Man, Hauntzer’s washed up. He was the weak link on the team.”?
At first it felt kind of rough, I was thinking about how I wanted my career to go after that and after a few days I realised, really, nothing’s changed for me. I’m still a competitor at heart, no matter what team I’m on I’m going to try my best and my goal is to be the best top laner. It actually just feels the same, branding wise that stuff doesn’t really matter to me and if you look at the NBA, players trade teams all the time and there’s really no hard feelings, it’s just how it is and I don’t think this situation is any different.
Since we’re on the topic of fans, is there anything you want to say to Golden Guardian fans or Hauntzer fans?
To my fans I’d say keep watching, you’re in for some more lane kingdom, hopefully not on Urgot. We’re improving at a pretty good rate and I feel like our games are just going to get more and more exciting.