Questions for this interview by Aaron Mickunas; article written by Isaac McIntyre
After the 2019 Golden Guardians roster opened their Spring Split with four straight losses, many were writing the new-look squad off. Two back-to-back tenth place finishes for the organization loomed over the team’s back, and doubts began to grow about whether the assembled players were beyond their prime.
Now, seven weeks later, the team is entering playoffs in fifth place off the back of a 6-3 run in the second half of the season. For the first time in the organization’s short history, Golden Guardians will contest a multi-game series in the LCS playoffs.
For Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, moving from Team SoloMid to Golden Guardians brought with it a host of new questions, challenges, and opportunities. The three-time LCS champion spoke to Upcomer ahead of the team’s postseason campaign about how much he’s enjoyed the GGS culture, and where he believes his team stands among the North American titans.
Hauntzer: The beginning of the split was definitely a disappointment for the team and the organization, we went 0-4 in the first two weeks and it could have been prevented if we talked about our issues earlier. We were able to iron them out before we went 0-6 or something worse, and before it was just too late. Now we’ve come into our own and we’re playing much better as a team. We’ll see how we go in playoffs.
I’ve been in the playoffs just once before without TSM. It doesn’t feel that weird, you’d think it would feel a little bit weird, but it doesn’t. I think part of it is that I’ve acclimated to this team pretty well over the split, feels like we’re all friends, and I still speak to all my old teammates so it’s all pretty good. We speak to each other a lot.
Yeah there’s no hard feelings, it’s way better than coming at it with a feeling like “Why was I kicked out?” or anything like that.
There’s probably a big difference in mindset between us and the younger guys. Joo-sung [Joo-sung “Olleh” Kim], Henrik [Henrik “Froggen” Hansen], and I have been very successful before, and Juan [Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia] has as well, to an extent.
For Matt [Matthew “Deftly” Chen], he spent his first two splits in the LCS getting back to back tenth place finishes, so he’s really excited now that he’s finally in playoffs. Matt really wants to prove himself a lot because he feels he’s a lot better than tenth place AD Carry. He’s definitely a really strong contender in his role, and he’s really excited.
Everyone else feels like we’ve all done this before, we’re just coming in knowing the ropes and doing our thing. We’re going to have to lead the other players and make sure they don’t tilt, have a bad mentality, or get too complacent in the matches and all that stuff.
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Not really, we just want to focus on ourselves. That’s the biggest thing, I feel if you keep trying to chase after someone you’ll never get past them. We have a lot of stuff to focus on for ourselves. The top teams are definitely TSM, TL, and C9, and then us right behind them at the moment, so we’re just going to keep trying our best and go from there.
Yeah definitely, our management and staff, and all the players too, keep a really good mindset and obviously there’s some times where fights break out and people get mad at each other, but that’s normal. There’s never any hard feelings at the end of the day, and we all take care of each other.
Your goal as a team is to win, and to win, you need to have discipline. You have to be focusing on what you need to improve at all times, so I think the big thing for us was learning how to keep each other accountable.
We wanted to make sure no one else slacked off too hard, or partied every weekend. We didn’t want anyone not participating in solo queue, and playing too many other games. After the first two weeks we took a look at what was happening that was inexcusable with the losses, and now we’re trying to find a balance between pure discipline to the team and the game, and also just having fun.
Yeah, we’re close to each other but we can always be on our own whenever we want. That makes it easier.
Oh yeah, Juan, Matt and I go down to the gym downstairs in the office after scrims, and then workout there for an hour, then we order food together. We also do some other team-bonding things like playing games, stuff like playing Warcraft 3, which has made us closer as teammates and helped us a lot in game because it just makes us better friends.
Me, Juan and Matt hadn’t played Warcraft before, but Jung-soo and Henrik had, so every time I play I think “Holy shit how have I not played this before.” We’re all looking forward to the remaster coming out soon.
I mean, I feel like the losses we had this Spring Split were mainly because we just ran it down, and that will help us in the next split because we know that we have to keep discipline. If we don’t make dumb solo queue mistakes like chasing down kills, or going for an all-in when the jungle is on your side, all the simple stuff, then we’ll do much better. If we cut out those dumb mistakes, and get back to the fundamentals, we’ll be more than fine.