Gone are the trademark curly blond locks, but Cloud9 starting jungler William "Meteos" Hartman is happy to be back in the North American League Championship Series. After taking a short break that began in the middle of last season's summer split, the multiple-time all-star is back to hopefully lead his team to a third domestic championship. ESPN.com was able to catch up with Meteos after his team's victory over the winless Phoenix1 on Saturday to move C9's record up above .500 at 2-1 for the split.
How was today's match? Phoenix is a low-ranked team, but you guys had a little trouble closing it out. Can you take me through the series?
So going into game one, I don't think we really prepared as much as we would against other teams. Part of it was, maybe, we didn't see them as the biggest threat, and part of it was we just didn't know to go what off of. We watched last week's games, but it's a new team and a substitute jungler, so that's when the curveballs are going to hit you the hardest. So we sorta were prepared for anything and tried to play our game.
Game one and three, obviously, were very one-sided and we did well. Game two, we just messed up our macro play. We were running a Kindred/Karma composition, and when you don't have a front line as jungler or support, it can be really hard to secure vision control. Which is something we were being careful with, but it was just really hard for us to get pressure. We had a couple of botched teleport engages, partly because they had Sivir and had pretty good disengage. We just really struggled to get the fights we wanted, and we made a lot of mistakes losing that one.
So you came back from semi-retirement -- would you call it retirement?
I never called it retirement.
Alright, so do you think taking a break helped you rest your mindset coming back into the pro-gaming scene? Do you think it helped you not get burned out from the game?
Definitely. The analogy I've always used is: being on a team is very similar to being in a relationship, except [instead of] it being two people it's with five people. Basically, what can happen on a team, especially teams that have been around for a while, is if issues aren't handled correctly -- there will always be disagreements and arguments within teams, that's completely expected and normal -- it can become destructive. I think it just got to that point with the team where -- I'm not absent of guilt. I wasn't as mature as I probably should have been in some situations.
So we just got to this point where we weren't really working together at all. And anytime you have a team working against each other, you're not going to go anywhere. We were just losing games all the time. It was a ton of pressure on me. It was never bad players -- I was never like these guys suck. It was just sort of: 'this really sucks. I can't do what I want to do, and people don't really have my back.' So, I figured they'd do better with another jungler, and I just needed to step back because I was losing all confidence in my play towards the end. It wasn't a good time.
Did the most recent All Stars even affect your willingness to come back into the pro scene? No one knew how you would do, but you played really well after taking a leave of absence from the C9 roster. Did it reignite your passion to become a pro-gamer again?
I don't think I ever really lost the drive to play. I was playing a lot of solo queue, and there were some of my own issues that I needed to work on inside the game. What will happen a lot is, I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever been through a breakup in a relationship knows that there will be some issues you'll never see eye to eye on with someone. Eventually, you don't even know why you're arguing, you're just arguing everything. It was just one of those situations. I don't hate anyone on the team. I don't hold anything against them. It was just everyone needed a change of scenery.
I wouldn't say All Stars was the reason why I wanted to come back. I was surprised I was asked to go because I was third most voted jungler and hadn't even been playing. It was a fun tournament, though. It was nice being on stage again. I always had the mentality that if Cloud9 needed me, I'm there to come back in. I was never done with League, considering I still played it all day, every day.
You're one of the more popular pro-gamer streamers in League of Legends. How do you balance between the two, and why did you return to pro-gaming when you could have arguably made more money by just being a full-time streamer on Twitch?
I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I can choose, and I really just want to follow my passion, as corny as it sounds. Streaming is fun and I enjoy it. It's something really hard for me to do while I'm playing professionally because I use up all my energy during the day by practicing, and when it comes to streaming I'm really tired and don't have a high energy stream. Then I get ghosted because I'm a jungler, and I tilt. So it can be hard to manage the two, which is why I really enjoyed the break. It gave me time to stream whereas I didn't have to worry about pro play.
"I was never done with League, considering I still played it all day, every day." William "Meteos" Hartman
But back to the question, I just think it comes down to whatever your passion is. While streaming is fun, it's not as fulfilling or satisfying. It still is to some degree, but working really hard towards a goal with teammates isn't comparable to any other experience. Anytime you win matches or win tournaments, it's just the best feeling knowing all your hard work paid off. I think it's just wanting a deeper satisfaction.
As jungler, you work closely with Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong in the top lane and Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen in the mid lane. How has it been working with the two this split, and what has changed from last year when you and Jensen, as a rookie, didn't really click as teammates?
I'd say I get along pretty well with them. On this iteration of C9, we sorta did away with that whole one man shotcalling. It was always hyped up way too much on Reddit. The correct way to play is not to have one guy try to do everything. It works better when everyone is on the same page. In any given time, when four out of five people know what to do, then the guy that doesn't know what to do can get help. We're working a lot more as a team now, which helps.
There were issues with me and Jensen when he first joined the team. He's an extremely aggressive player, and I was always trying to get him to be less aggressive and be more calculated. It created a rift between us, and atop of all the other issues going on with the team, it just made it really hard. I don't think we ever hated each other, though, so coming back with a reset mindset, I respect him a lot as a player. I think he's probably the best mechanical player in the region, so I try to support him as much as I can.
I think all of us as a team have gotten a lot better at explaining our thought process behind things. Something we've recently started doing is, when someone makes a mistake, instead of saying something like, 'You f----ed up here. Don't ever get caught here warding again,' we go through, see what he saw, and ask why he thought this was a good idea. We'll talk through it and say, 'I understand why you thought this was a good idea, but you weren't watching the minimap. This happened, and this happened, etc.' Then they have a better understanding. We've been doing that a lot as a team, and it's really helped us all come together because then everyone can work through any issue. And instead of it being me versus you, it's more about the team figuring out an issue together to solve it. It's helped us a lot.
The Cloud9 of old was always considered a team led by Hai "Hai" Lam as the shotcalling captain. With the team not having him anymore, what would you say the identity of the new C9 team is?
I don't know if we have one fully developed, but I think it's just that we really all want to win. We all want to work together as a team and become as good as we can. We had a lot of success with Hai back in the day, but the game is always evolving. What a lot of people [attributed] to the one man shotcalling -- the one fearless leader and everything following him -- it worked not because it's the best way to play, but because we were on the same page. It is one way to get all on the same page, but it's not the only way to be on the same page. So I think people saw the wrong thing and credited the wrong thing for the success of the team. We're all on the same page, but we don't need a one-man leader team.
Finally, what do you want to say to all the fans who've stuck with you throughout your career? A lot of people didn't know if you'd be good when you came back, but a lot of C9 fans and fans of your own stuck with you. What do you have to say to them?
I have a lot of gratitude towards the fans who stuck with me. I had a really high peak back in 2013 where I think was given a lot more credit than I deserved. That was just us as a team. I didn't do anything special. But a lot of people stuck with me even through slumps and me not playing competitively for almost a year, so I really just want to say thank you to them. They're the people who make it worthwhile, and the people I'm playing for.