Meteos’ method: Analyzing the veteran’s return to the NA LCS

The Cloud9 veteran returned to the NA LCS stage, facing off against his old friends.

Image via Riot Games

When Cloud9 fans heard that William “Meteos” Hartman would be suiting up to play against their beloved team, the reaction was mixed. Some Cloud9 fans still love Meteos, others dislike him for his performance at last season’s World Championship, but none were sure how to react when he was sitting on the other side of the stage.

Meteos was on the original Cloud9 roster, for the miraculous, nearly perfect first season in the summer of 2013. While he entered and exited the starting roster, Meteos never left the organization and never played for another team. His reputation had high highs, once being considered as one of the top junglers in the world, but the lows came, and fans sometimes turned against their star.

In the summer of 2016, Meteos was back in favor with the fans. Cloud9 finished third in the regular season, lost in the playoff finals 3-1 to Team SoloMid, and qualified for the World Championship by taking down Immortals 3-1 in the regional qualifier. Hopes were high for Cloud9 going into Worlds, as the team looked to be hitting their stride at just the right moment.

But, things went sideways at the event. Cloud9 managed to advance out of its group, beating out I May and Flash Wolves, but the team looked weak. The entire squad visibly struggled in every game, only making it out of the weak group with a 3-3 record. As is typical, fans shifted all of the blame onto the jungler. After Cloud9’s ugly exit in the quarterfinals to eventual finalists Samsung Galaxy, there were calls for a change.

Heading into the 2017 Spring Split, Cloud9 brought up Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia from its recently promoted Challenger Series squad and put Meteos on the bench. Contractz had a reputation as a jungle prodigy, unable to compete in the LCS until this split due to age restrictions. He was supposed to return Cloud9 to its Summer 2013 glory. In the casual eye, he did help make that happen, as the team went undefeated in the first four weeks of play. In week five, however, Cloud9 had to take on Meteos as he subbed in for Phoenix1 for the week.

Kelsey Moser of Yahoo Esports recently did a fantastic article about Meteos’ career, and touched on Cloud9’s current performance without him. Comparing Cloud9 with Meteos to Cloud9 with Contractz, many of the same problems still persist and are actually worse with Contractz on the squad. Cloud9’s early game is somewhat laughable, and Contractz is noticeably less aware of where the enemy jungler is on the map. He also lacks chemistry with his solo laners. All of this implies that Meteos was not the problem. Cloud9’s issues persist, they are just less evident because the NA LCS is weaker right now than it was last split. These issues were taken advantage of in week five by Team SoloMid, and even more so by Phoenix1 and Meteos.

Meteos has historically been a jungler focused on farming, building himself up, and then destroying the enemy team in the late game. Last split, he still farmed quite a bit and kept up one of the best KDAs in the league, but there was a shift in his approach. Meteos still didn’t really gank all that often or set his lanes up for success, but he stayed on top of the enemy jungler’s positioning, tracking his opponent. Being aware of where the other jungler was, Meteos was able to protect his lanes form ganks and effectively counter jungle, keeping the enemy behind. Because of his prowess in the late game and ability to avoid fights earlier on, Meteos dominated opponents by assisting his team and just not dying.

Fast forward to last weekend, as Meteos entered his first game for Phoenix1 against Team EnVyUs. The meta has shifted since Meteos last played, so his style of play wasn’t going to be as effective. He picked Kha’Zix, a strong jungler in the current meta, but not one that is effective with Meteos’ style of play; which was evident. Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo’s Elise dominated Meteos in the early game, setting him behind by almost 1,000 gold by the 10-minute mark. LirA out-farmed Meteos, impacted his lanes, and just looked like the stronger jungler. There were a few instances when LirA ganked a lane, got his team one or two kills, and Meteos smartly responded by invading and counter-jungling, but the impact was low. Compared to other Kha’Zix players around the world this split, Meteos was far below average in pretty much every statistical category. Yet, he still helped the team. In terms of dragon control, Meteos was the man in charge, securing three dragons for his team while LirA was on the other side of the map. He also secured both Barons taken in the game, one a 50/50 and one a steal. He took three dragons, secured one Baron and stole another, so despite hardly impacting his lanes, Meteos still had a decent game. It was far from perfect, and he died a few more times than he should have, but it was an okay performance and Phoenix1 came out with the victory.

Video via Riot Games

For game two, Meteos returned to a jungler that he knows well: Elise. With a trademark Meteos move, great pathing and trickery allowed him to steal an early blue buff and gromp from LirA’s Rengar. Meteos stuck around a bit too long, however, and caused a bit of a commotion in the river and bot side jungle. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but the fight ended with two Phoenix1 members dying, including Meteos. Throughout the game, Meteos attempted a few ganks, failing the majority of them. Around 10 minutes in, LirA and the rest of EnVy ganked the top side of the map, and Meteos quickly responded by taking the Ocean Dragon. There were a few more skirmishes and fights, but Phoenix1 took control of this game and Meteos wasn’t really needed all that much. In the final teamfight, however, Meteos made a great play, sacrificing himself to initiate the fight and kill one of EnVy’s major damage dealers, giving Phoenix1 the room they needed to push into EnVy’s base and close out the game.

Video via Riot Games

In his post-series interview, Meteos clearly knew that his performance was far from perfect, even stating that he “was doing a moderate bit of feeding” in the two games. This is all pretty understandable though, as Meteos has not been playing League of Legends very much since last split ended and has mainly been playing champions that are not currently in meta. He himself said that his mechanics are pretty rusty, but that macro-wise, his skill is still high and the macro in the current meta is not different than when he last played. The series was mediocre from Meteos. He had great control over Baron and the dragons, which helped his team greatly, but he did not impact lanes very much. His style of play is so different from that of Rami “Inori” Charagh’s, Phoenix1’s starting jungler, that someone had to take over the carry role. In game one, Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and Adrian “Adrian” Ma dominated the duo lane and brought that dominance into the latter stages of the game, effectively carrying Phoenix1 to victory with pure damage. In game two, Derek “zig” Shao was given Gangplank and destroyed EnVy, despite not getting a kill, by consistently putting out a massive amount of damage with the help of Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook’s Syndra and Arrow’s Jhin. Meteos was almost a non-factor in game one, outside of his objective control, though game two was more serviceable overall. Meteos’ return was just okay, but for a substitute who had barely touched the game in the last few months, it was pretty admirable.

The expectation going into Phoenix1’s match against Cloud9, even before Meteos was announced as the team’s sub, was that Cloud9 would easily win the series. Even after Cloud9 lost to Team SoloMid, they were expected to beat Phoenix1. But, Meteos and company had other plans.

Despite his poor performance on Kha’Zix against EnVy, Meteos walked into game one against Cloud9 with Rengar, an assassin, completely out of Meteos’ style of play. It was clear, however, that he was not aiming to be the carry; zig was given Rumble, Ryu was on Orianna, and Arrow was on Jhin. In a turn of events that surprised everyone, Meteos destroyed Cloud9. Likely using his knowledge of the team’s tendencies and Contractz’s pathing, Meteos controlled the map. Within five minutes, Meteos ganked the duo lane and burned Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi’s heal to put him at a disadvantage in lane. Two minutes later, he almost assassinated Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in the mid lane, forced Jensen’s flash, and Jensen died soon after due to his disadvantage. Shortly after the 10-minute mark, Meteos ganked the top lane and killed Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. This type of play persisted throughout the entire game, as Meteos moved through the jungle like an expert, getting solid farm and ganking a lane every couple of minutes.

Meteos dominated the game, out-jungling Contractz by a mile and striking fear into the hearts of his old teammates. All of this ganking did not take away from his farm or dragon control, either. It was total domination. With pick after pick, fight after fight, and dragon after dragon, Meteos was a driving force behind Phoenix1’s lead in game one. To cap it off, just after the 42-minute mark, Meteos engaged the game-winning teamfight. At the exact moment that Impact used Jensen’s Ryze ultimate to flank Phoenix1, Meteos flanked Cloud9, splitting the team up into three parts. Impact was alone, behind all of Phoenix1; Andy “Smoothie” Ta, Sneaky, and Contractz were all dealing with Meteos and taking heavy damage for it (with the help of an Equalizer from zig); and Jensen was forced out, unable to impact the fight. With the separation, Phoenix1 was able to easily take down Sneaky and Smoothie before turning their attention and killing Impact. As this happened, Meteos did so much damage to Contractz that he had to exit the fight and become a non-factor. Meteos went down and had to pop his Guardian Angel, but his job was done. Phoenix1 had five men standing, while Cloud9 only had two. An absurd call from Cloud9 led to a base race two-on-five, and Phoenix1 took the game.

Video via Riot Games

Meteos ended 2/2/10, paving the way for zig and Arrow to output an immense amount of damage, and for Arrow to have a perfect 5/0/6 performance.

In game two, Meteos took things a little slower with an Olaf pick. Contractz’s Rengar got the solo kill on Meteos in Phoenix1’s jungle just after the six-minute mark, and Contractz was off to a massive lead. He dominated the early game, but the rookie was unable to do much with his advantage. At the eight-minute mark, just minutes after getting solo killed, Meteos hunted Contractz down for a solo kill of his own. Contractz was 3/0 at the time while Meteos was 0/1, but Meteos waited in the brush until Contractz’s abilities were on cooldown while fighting the scuttle crab. Once Contractz used his abilities, Meteos went in, using everything in his arsenal to get the solo kill while taking minimal damage. Jensen attempted to save his young jungler, but Ryu also rotated over, so Jensen was caught in a two-on-one. Meteos eventually fell, but not before he ensured that Ryu was able to kill Jensen and get a lead in lane. Phoenix1 was trailing up to this point, but this play brought them right back into the game.

Video via Riot Games

The rest of the game, for Meteos, played out much like game one. He roamed, farmed, ganked, killed, and was involved in just about every major fight around the map. He went a little too far at times and died for it, but Meteos was once again the catalyst to Phoenix1’s victory. Just before the 24-minute mark, Cloud9 attempted a Baron bait. The bait failed, however, and the team pulled off. In a major mistake, Jensen separated himself from the rest of his squad was picked off, while Meteos chased down the other four members. He was able to catch and kill Sneaky, leading Phoenix1 to take the Baron while two of Cloud9’s major damage dealers were down. Using that advantage, Phoenix1 dominated the map, also taking the Mountain Dragon at 25:30. The game was over before the 28-minute mark, as Phoenix1 shoved into Cloud9’s base with the Baron buff. Meteos forced his way through the base and the rest of Cloud9 to take down Sneaky, and without his damage, Cloud9 crumbled. The team’s damage this game was not led by zig, Arrow, and Ryu. This time, Meteos and Ryu decimated Cloud9, and the rest of the team supported.

Meteos starred in this series. In the post-series interview, Meteos said that this series was “just a fun match against my friends” and a “low pressure situation,” so it’s safe to say he does not have a vendetta against Contractz or anyone on Cloud9. This performance was not emotionally driven; it was just good League of Legends. Meteos joked that he “came bot both games early just for [Sneaky].” Whether this was a joke or not, the impact was obvious. Phoenix1’s duo lane is already very strong, but the early ganks from Meteos set Arrow up to succeed in both games, and he did not disappoint. For a sub, Meteos had impressive synergy with his team and was able to play to the strengths of his teammates around the map, while providing his own skill and style of play.

Looking back at Meteos’ overall performance, the difference between the series against Team EnVyUs and the series against Cloud9 is sizable. Meteos was decent against EnVy, the worst team in the league. His increase in performance from game one to game two was noticeable, but not large. Against Cloud9, thought of as the No. 1 team going into the weekend, Meteos dominated. This may have been hype and adrenaline because he was playing his former team, or Meteos may have just knocked off all the rust in his series against EnVy and we got to see how good he really is. It’s a small sample size, but this was a promising weekend for Meteos. Whether he continues to play for Phoenix1 or not, that information is currently unknown. It is assumed that Inori will be returning and Meteos will no longer play, but nothing is certain. If this is the last time we see Meteos in competitive play, or at least the last time we see him this split, it was an admirable final performance.

How do you think Meteos performed in his return to the LCS? Do you want him to return full-time?

Let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @GAMURScom.

Spencer Hester is an editor for GAMURS and can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter – @SpenceGAMURS.