Heading into Season 6 of the North American LCS, the new support player for Immortals, Adrian, was one of the highest rated native prospects in a while. During his end of the year roundup with Thorin, MonteCristo mentioned that the former Team Impulse support player was someone fans should have an eye on as a star Western player heading into the next season. One season later, the hype around Adrian has died down significantly after his play on Immortals. Nonetheless, Adrian was a highly recruited player heading into his third professional season and eventually found himself on an appealing Phoenix1 roster alongside Zig, Inori, Ryu, and Arrow. Fans are surely wondering how Adrian will perform on this new team, but the biggest factor to consider is team context. Context plays a big role in how players are perceived and Adrian is no exception.
On Impulse, Adrian was an engage bot for a very damage heavy team.
Season 6 LCS fans would be surprised to know that Adrian was a very engage heavy support for his original team, Team Impulse. On Impulse, Adrian played alongside a very carry-centric topside trio in Impact, Rush, and XiaoWeiXiao. Generally, Impact preferred to play damage-oriented champions such as Rumble and Yasuo. Although Rush was usually on engage champions, his glass-cannon oriented builds on picks like Lee Sin and Vi meant that Team Impulse performed best when he was on secondary engage picks. With the other two engage-focused positions needed for damage purposes, Adrian was heavily relied upon as the team's engage specialist. As a result, he used engage focused champions such as Alistar or even relatively off-meta picks such as Leona and Nautilus to make sure that Team Impulse could get into fights when needed. The combination of Impulse's scrappy style and Adrian's engage skills paid off - he finished the season ranked first in assists and kill participation - Adrian participated in a whopping 82.1% of his team's kills.
Adrian's other big contribution to Team Impulse was his warding. He led the entire league in wards - an especially import contribution because of how ward-averse his jungler Rush was. Rush's preference for purchasing carry items instead of wards made his daring invades all the more successful, but Adrian's keen vision control played a big part in enabling those invades in the first place. Adrian's package of skills made him an enticing fit for teams heading into Season 6 and he got tryouts with most top North American organizations. Most teams would have been really happy with an engage and ward-heavy support player who knew how to fit in alongside resource-heavy star players. This made Adrian's final decision to join Immortals all the more interesting - he was playing alongside two of the most demanding players in the west in Huni and WildTurtle! However, Adrian would dramatically transform his playstyle when put into a new context.
On Immortals, Adrian was a peel-oriented mage player.
During Team Impulse's final games of the season, they were reverse-swept by Cloud9 in the team's gauntlet series. In the first two games of the series, which Team Impulse won, Adrian brought out the reworked Soraka to great success. Soraka would eventually become one of Adrian's signature picks in his second season of LCS play. Whereas Adrian once relied on a tanky engage champion pool, he instead focused on playing Soraka, Karma, and Janna. Janna had historically been one of Adrian's pocket picks in his first season, but he infrequently got the opportunity to play her because Team Impulse usually wanted engage from the support role. On Immortals, ReignOver usually filled the engage role for the team. Instead, WildTurtle was left to peel and enable Huni and WildTurtle's aggression. During the regular season, this was a highly profitable strategy for Immortals since they dropped only 3 games total. In fact, other regions began experimenting with mage picks in the support role after tanky champions had dominated the position for around a season. Karma in particular caught on around the world as a high-powered utility pick.
But although Adrian and Immortals had made an impact on the support meta, they were unable to find personal success in the playoffs. Players got around the team's use of mage picks by either banning the picks away or picking engage champions and camping bot to take advantage of the frail and immobile mages. This strategy became particularly risky when AD Carries themselves started carrying heavy engage when Ashe and Jhin became the two dominant metagame picks. As a result, Adrian was harshly criticized for having a small champion pool because Immortals was unable to find success when Adrian was off of his trio of mage supports. This reputation was backed-up by some poor individual performances by Adrian on the relatively new Bard in the play-offs - but some of his successes on tank picks like Taric and Braum were discarded in this narrative.
Was Adrian's decline based on individual play or team context?
Based on Adrian's career so far, it's possible to project two very different storylines. Some have argued that a steep mechanical decline in Season 6 that led to a diminished champion pool. This impression is backed up by the comments of Adrian's former mid laner Pobelter, who criticized Adrian's work ethic and claimed that Adrian did have a small champion pool in spite of his PR efforts to argue otherwise.
However, it's also possible to argue that what led to Adrian's diminished role on Immortals wasn't his individual play but rather his team context. Immortals AD Carry WildTurtle has been known for his weak laning phase ever since Season 5, when his diminished early game influence opened up TSM to several early game shortcomings. Adrian defenders would argue that the Immortals support needed to pick mage picks to bully lane and keep the infamously aggressive AD Carry alive during the teamfighting phase.
If the first narrative is true, then Adrian is a risky pick-up for Phoenix1 - they'll essentially be hoping that a once-promising player will rediscover his old form and momentum on a new roster. On the other hand, if Adrian was simply bending his game to accommodate for his teammates, then Adrian is one of the most valuable pick-ups that a new roster could have.