Adrian steps down in between matches, but Impulse keeps winning

Usually, when you're on a six-game winning streak, your lineup sticks together

Usually, when you’re on a six-game winning streak, your lineup sticks together. But Saturday night, one League Championship Series (LCS) team lost a player—and still kept winning.

For the past three weeks, Team Impulse has considered making a roster move, questioning whether support player Adrian Ma was a fit for the team. But over that period, the team put together an impressive run that’s pushed them to an 11-5 record and a tie for second in the LCS.

While it recruited a sixth man with the goal of putting more pressure on Ma as a player, team management said he was still their man.

But on Saturday night, after Team Impulse blitzed Team SoloMid in an important game to push them into second in the league, Adrian Ma stepped down from the lineup. The reason he gave was that he had lost confidence in his ability, but that’s a bit hard to believe considering he just posted a 0/0/12 KDA on Janna, in many ways carrying a game against one of North America’s strongest teams.

“I’m really grateful to Alex for giving me this opportunity and believing in me but I feel like I have not lived up to our expectations and anything I do is not enough,” Ma said in a statement on Twitter. “I have not been performing to expectations and don’t feel like I’m part of a team so hopefully a break will help me find my drive again.”

In some ways, that’s hard to believe considering Ma has posted a league-leading 82.1 percent kill participation while placing more wards than any other player. Team Impulse largely relies on him to shore up some of their weaknesses, like their lack of vision. But the team seemingly lost confidence in him, considering public statements that they were considering replacing him during the course of their win streak.

But even as the team added Austin “Gate” Yu as a sixth man to “encourage competition” at the support position, Team Impulse had made public statements of support. So his resolution to step down the night after their biggest victory of the season was certainly a surprise—especially with a match still left to play on Sunday.

Granted, a bout with last place Team Dragon Knights, who have only won one match all season, isn’t the highest profile one on the schedule. But considering how close the standings are every match is important, and Gate not only had little experience with his new team, but no experience in his new lane—in the Challenger Series, Gate played mid lane, not support. Even so, Team Impulse managed to pull out the win, securing their seventh-straight victory to bring them to 11-5 in the standings.

What comes next, though, is anyone’s guess. Ma said he was stepping down “temporarily,” and Team Impulse could certainly use him next week. They play Gravity Gaming and Team Liquid to close out the season, and two wins would put Team Impulse at the top of the LCS. Throwing a support rookie like Gate into that situation seems like a recipe for disaster, but Impulse has been angling towards a roster move for weeks. Ma did call his withdrawal temporary, but what that really means is anyone’s guess.

Team Impulse is riding a seven-game win streak into the playoffs, and while they face two of the league’s top teams, Impulse’s toughest opponent this week may be themselves.

Photo via Riot Games/Flickr