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100 Thieves General Manager Says They Are 'A Big 4' Team

Photo via Riot Games

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

30th Jul 2021 16:47

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Even though 100 Thieves had a good start to the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) 2021 season, they still couldn’t quite close it out, finishing at fourth place at the Mid-Season Showdown (MSS). The team struggled past the LCS Lock In tournament, always seemingly being one to two steps shy from getting to where they wanted to be.

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In this case, the one to two steps were a mid-lane and a head coaching change. From spring to summer, 100 Thieves made the key adjustments needed, bringing in Felix “Abbedagge” Braun in the mid-lane and Bok “Repeared” Han-gyu as head coach. 

We had the chance to talk to 100 Thieves general manager, Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith after their match versus Immortals last week. 

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From the outside, things seem to be going well for 100 Thieves, seeing the team’s record. Now that we’re approaching playoffs, how has the process of integrating both Repeared and Abbedagge been going?

I think it’s fair to say that we had an explosive start with both of those. Repeared comes in with a really different approach to how he thinks the game should be played and how our League of Legends department is framed.

Abeddagge is just a player who really understands his limits in the mid-lane. I think the combination of those filled our biggest needs from spring. It was really nice to have a fast start, kind of counter logic to what people would think with making probably the two biggest changes you can make between spring and summer. And as things have evolved, we’re still understanding the limits of every piece we have. Obviously, this past week our stage performances haven’t been what we want them to be but the experience both of these pieces have coming into playoffs is going to serve us really well as we start to head towards best-of-fives and Abbedagge’s champion pool flexibility will be big there. As a GM when these two changes were made, [I’m] ecstatic for both of them and excited to see how they pan out in the postseason.

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Staying in line with Abbedagge, 100 Thieves has gone through a sort of a ‘revolving door’ of mid-laners dating back to before you joined as a GM. When you guys got the chance to sign a mid-laner the calibre of Abbedagge, what was the feeling like? Was it a ‘finally, we got the missing piece that we needed?’ Or was it something different?

I think that’s a fair summation in that we looked at our predicament of being “hard fourth” if you think about it. TL, TSM and C9, we were 1-5 against those teams in the regular season in spring, and we felt like from the strategic end, and more specifically for this question the mid-lane. Those were the places we were slacking a bit.

So to bring in a player who has a very robust champion pool of different themes who can play the control mages that obviously North America has so long fallen back on. It was definitely the thought of: 'if Worlds is our goal, this is the one area we can strengthen' - with a proven quality player in Abbedagge that will have the biggest impact on our fortunes coming into Worlds. So far that’s already born out and yeah, I think it’s fair to say that we knew we were needed to strengthen, we got our man, and now it’s just the case of refining, refining, refining from there.

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What made you and the rest of the team want to grab Repeared as the Head Coach? Was it his resume in the NA scene, his resume in League of Legends in general, what he did with Cloud9? Did anything stick out? 

The biggest kind of reflection for me was the players we had, who have kind of like a [...] they like to argue their points, they like to hold firm. You need strong strength of character in order to work with our group. It’s a good problem to have, it means the players are leaving nothing behind. They’re trying to look for every different angle to win. Repeared’s someone who is naturally very charismatic, he’s a very inspirational leader in his own view of the game and how things should be done. To have someone with that level of moral compass, I think it was something that we felt in spring, perhaps there were times when we weren’t able to reach resolutions between the playing group and the coaching group.

Now I think Repeared’s ability to take a conversation that might be lingering and move it towards a positive resolution where both sides feel like they’ve learned something from it and know what they’ll do next time. I think it is a pretty underrated characteristic, and it’s usually a very special person with also the resume you’re talking about that can get that respect from the high calibre of players we have.

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Speaking of Repeared and his coaching, in many ways, 100 Thieves players have talked about how Repeared’s coaching has been very good for them and the team. From the general manager’s perspective, how do you think Repeared taking over the team has gone?

I definitely think he’s done really well. Usually, you won’t have players openly complimenting you if they’re not impressed with what you’ve done. There’s no talking points here, they’re just reacting and reflecting on what they see. He’s definitely pushing them hard; we’re in very late most nights trying to improve solo queue or individual practice, individual coaching or a team review or something like that.

Everybody in this group is so one-minded towards the goal of Worlds, of championships, things like that, and they have a coach that pushes them. I think that’s the kind of symbiotic relationship you need in order to become the org we’re trying to be.

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100 Thieves hasn’t really seen success playoffs wise since they first joined the league. This is also a team that was spearheaded by Nadeshot meaning that both of these combined garnered the team fans fairly quickly. When you first got brought on to the team as the General Manager, how much of that was in the back of your mind if at all?  

When I joined, the most attractive about joining 100 Thieves was just the strong organisation that backs 100 Thieves. You, obviously, have great people like Nadeshot, like John Robinson and the leadership team here. An appetite to always push the boundaries, not a team that’s happy to be anything other than a championship contender. We had a long way to go when I joined 100 Thieves at the end of 2019, but I knew I was joining an org that would celebrate us if we were able to reach our goals and would support financially and in terms of people my lofty goals of getting this org where I feel they deserve to be.

I feel we deserve to always be talking about the big four in North America, us being firmly part of that. Given that I think they’ve delivered in every way that I’ve asked for and more that feels good because I need the other parts of the organisation, I need everybody around me to also have the same vision I do and support it. Otherwise, we’ll end up compromising in ways that no one will be happy about afterwards. 

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You mentioned joining in late 2019, which means we’re approaching two years of you being a General Manager for a League of Legends team. What’s it been like? What have you learned? Has there been anything that has stuck in your mind that otherwise wouldn’t have if you continued being a commentator?

I think I was looking for a big change of pace two years ago and these two years have been realizing a lot of the questions I had, a lot of the narratives you have as a broadcaster, the ways you talk about the games, about teams, about improvement, about champ pools. Seeing it from the other side has been really interesting. You start to understand the limitations of practice, the realities of individuals and how they jive with strategies, the slumps and plateaus that teams go into but also the winning mindset when things are going good. It’s one thing to commentate a victory or a loss, it’s another thing to live it— to have it really be stuck in your throat. That’s for the players, the coaching staff, the GM and everybody after every loss. It definitely hits you in a way that is more abstract as a caster; that’s what I was looking for. 

If you want a change of pace, you have to fully commit to it, and it’s been an unbelievable two years as a GM at 100 Thieves. I’ve loved building out the Amateur pipeline, offering players their first professional contracts and seeing them grow — it’s an all-encompassing role. If you want to put yourself out there and be involved in every part, you can, and that’s the tact I’ve taken. I wear every loss heavily, I’m very proud after every win at three levels with three teams. Definitely a moral and emotional roller coaster, but a fun one, definitely a fun one. Highly recommend it.

-

100 Thieves look to continue to stay on top of the standings and break the first-place tie with Team SoloMid when they face them to start the final week of the summer on Friday, July 30.

 

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NA's Teams At Worlds Will Be The Strongest In Region History Yet

Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

16th Sep 2021 17:30

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