Earlier this week Team SoloMid made a surprise roster move, picking up Korean support player Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik and benching Nicolas “Gleeb” Haddad. Through one week, the move has worked. Team SoloMid put up two wins with Ham in the lineup.
A lot of unnecessary hand-wringing followed the announcement. SoloMid coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub listed Haddad’s lack of “social skills” and inability to read “social cues” as a major contributor to his dismissal in a video blog, ranking out-of-game issues ahead of Haddad’s lacking in-game performance. Haddad took the fall more gracefully, stating that he simply “wasn’t putting up results."
Team SoloMid is just one game out of first place after winning both matches with their new Korean support. Their 15-9 record puts them in striking distance of first place team LMQ, who they face first during next week’s season ending Super Week.
Ham’s performance so far has not been flashy, but his steady play seems to be just what SoloMid needs to allow their other stars to shine. Against Evil Geniuses Ham put up a 0/2/10 KDA on Morgana, but helped his lane partner, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, put together a superb 5/1/8 KDA with Kog’Maw.
Today, SoloMid faced bitter rival Counter Logic Gaming. It was an important match for both the team and Ham. It was the Korean's first exposure to League’s longest standing rivalry and his first time facing the “rush hour” bottom lane, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Peter “DoubleLift” Peng, in an official match.
Peng and Black have single handedly won matches for Counter Logic Gaming this season, but they avoided the duo lane matchup against Ham, sending Peng to a solo lane in top to farm up his Tristana. That allowed Ham and his partner Tran to thrive, securing the dragon objective multiple times. Ham would finish the match with a 0/0/5 KDA. His 15 assists on the week were second most among all support players.
When you have a mid laner making plays like that, all you have to do is not mess it up.
The win was very promising for SoloMid. They took the victory mostyl off of two big plays. The above double kill by mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg gave map control to SoloMid, and a one against three bottom lane kill by Marcus "Dyrus" Hill gave his team enough time to secure Baron. SoloMid leveraged those small advantage into a win, something the team would have struggled to do earlier in the season.
It was also an all-important victory against a playoff contender. SoloMid has kept pace with the other top squads in the standings, but only due to their 11-0 record against bottom tier teams Complexity, Evil Geniuses, and Curse Gaming. Against Counter Logic, Dignitas, and LMQ, the team had a 1-8 record before today’s win.
Ham was brought in to change that, and it’s working so far. He’s a mechanically superior player to Haddad who has experience handling the pressure of a tough competitive environment as a member of Korean powerhouse CJ Entus Blaze. While his communication needs work due to the language barrier, SoloMid has a Korean coach that can keep him up to speed and Haddad was being phased out as the team’s shot caller anyway.
SoloMid is a lineup filled with star talent. They don’t need Ham to carry games for them, just get out of the way of the rest of his team doing it. And when Ham does get up to speed with the American scene, his potential is nearly limitless.
The formula is working so far. SoloMid is in a prime position to secure a bye at the regional playoffs. Their Super Week schedule includes LMQ, Cloud9, and Dignitas, the perfect chance to seize first place and show that Ham was just the pickup they needed to win the hotly contested North American LCS.
Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube