"OpTic have decided on their style," League of Legends Championship Series caster Sam "Kobe" Hartman-Kenzler said. "And it is map-wide."
A Baron-buffed OpTic Gaming was sieging FlyQuest's base en route to their fourth straight win of the summer split.
"You can only say, 'Oh, they had easy opponents,' for so long," Julian "Pastrytime" Carr replied. "If they keep winning, it doesn't really matter."
OpTic, which narrowly missed the LCS playoffs in the spring split, are the lone unbeaten team in the league after two weeks of play and just three wins off of their spring total.
OpTic jungler William "Meteos" Hartman, however, respectfully disagreed with the casters' assessment. He said his team's toughest challenges still lie ahead.
"Obviously it feels really good to be 4-0 and in first place," Meteos said Sunday. "But if you look at the standings from the end of last split, I think we've played all of the teams from the bottom-up, so you can definitely make the argument."
On paper, OpTic was one of the least-likely teams to be undefeated after the first two weeks of the summer split. Likely candidates would have included Team Liquid, who unexpectedly made it to the Mid-Season Invitational finals, or Cloud9, who had just dropped their first game of the split to Golden Guardians a half-hour earlier. OpTic had finished tied for seventh with a 7-11 record in spring, and with the same lineup they were expected to do similarly in summer: win a few games, lose a few games and fall in the middle of the pack.
"Next week we play TL and C9, so I think that will be a big challenge for us," Meteos said. "I'm happy to be first for sure. It's a 'feels-good' thing. I try to not focus that much on results; it's more about, 'Are we doing the right steps as we go through the game?' And I still think that there's a lot that could be better in our setups, our confidence to pull the trigger and our ability to win fights.
"We're a little hesitant, a little on the safe side, but obviously winning feels great."
Meteos is a veteran presence for OpTic alongside mid laner Lee "Crown" Min-ho and bot laner Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon. All three are part of an odd hybrid lineup that somehow works, in part thanks to familiarity. This split, regardless of the current metagame, OpTic have ensured that their players draft comfort picks that allow them to affect the map better, like Crown's Twisted Fate. They know who they have on their lineup and how they want to use them.
That approach didn't work out in early spring, when OpTic was affected by visa issues for their foreign players and roster swaps that affected the consistency of the LCS roster.
"Say you have a 30-minute review discussion about how you want to set up the map for a specific situation, and then the next scrim set you're playing with different players who weren't part of that discussion," Meteos said of that stretch. "You end up in situations where people are on different pages a lot. I'm glad to see that we've been running the same people. That feels good to me. By the end of last split, we were gelling pretty well, so it's nice that we can build on that."
For Meteos, continued success for OpTic will rely on how well his teammates can continue to develop their in-game communication. He said he enjoys the setup that OpTic have now, which matches his longtime approach fairly well.
"We've had some discussions on the team about different communication styles," Meteos said. "My philosophy on it personally is that I like a team environment where every player feels like they have as much autonomy and individual freedom to do what they want.
"I want to use the experience that I've gathered over the years, and I also want to learn from others. I have a lot of experience, but I also recognize that I'm nowhere close to knowing everything, and I don't think anyone knows everything about the game. The best teams are always going to be a collaboration of effort from all the individual players, and once you have a system that works and your team runs smoothly, you can do some really cool stuff."
Meteos's strategy and love of the game were shaped by his first LCS team, Cloud9, where he debuted in 2013. The jungler wants playing the game to be like loading in with a group of friends who are all there to play together and win as a byproduct of their talent and connection to one another. Although he has gone through periods of waffling with the idea of retirement, analyst desk segments and streaming, Meteos inevitably returns to being a pro and said he will do so for as long as possible.
Streaming feels too self-centered, and there's nothing to replace that drive to be the best with a group of peers.
"I just don't feel the same satisfaction from other things that I get from playing," Meteos said. "I just really love the game. It's super fun playing and getting to play at that high level where the teams are coordinated and you work with each other. That grind to be the best is really fulfilling to me. With streaming I noticed that when I'm streaming a lot, I just start feeling weird. When so much of your day is spent on yourself it almost feels like narcissistic in a way. If I'm giving my opinion on the state of the game, it's just me, it's my stream, whatever I say is the truth. That's kind of weird.
"FlyQuest was the first time that I didn't stream in months, and I feel like I had a more open view of the world. It allowed me to take a step back. I'm not saying I don't like streaming -- I like it, but I don't think it's something I can do full-time. It's really draining for me. I don't always like how I start acting when I stream too much. I start getting more tilted, more irritated by things, more self-centered. I definitely like just being a player and competing."