100 Thieves' Lack Of Identity
100 Thieves were part of a handful of teams that joined the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) back when franchising was first announced in late 2017. Outside of being just shy of winning an LCS championship, the Thieves had a picture-perfect debut season; they made the finals in their first split, and they culminated the season with a League of Legends World Championship appearance — there is nothing else a newly acquired fan can ask for.
This breakout performance quickly helped the organisation rise to the top in popularity. It had all the makings of declaring themselves as a team who wasn’t there for the clout that League of Legends esports brings. An organisation whose spearheaded by CEO Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, who in his own right garnered fame due to his past endeavours in Call of Duty as a competitor. As well as the big names they had signed to their roster, such as veteran jungler William “Meteos” Hartman and multiple time LCS champion support, Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black. And add the fact that they were winning.
The strong and respectable first season performance set the bar immensely high for the team, a bar that has not been touched since then. Past the 2018 season, the team has failed to make it to Worlds each subsequent year and in all of the seasons except the 2019 season, has had both a mid-split and a mid-season meltdown. One can see a common trend or theme between the majority of the seasons for the Thieves. A strong start followed by a slip up a couple of weeks in, finished with a stumble across the finish line, only to falter early on in the playoffs.
It’s a team that rarely sticks to their guns. They’ve made great changes and impactful moves for the North American region as a whole and its cultivation of young talent, but they can’t quite help themselves fully.
To put things into context, one has to look at each season the organisation has participated in, the roster moves they’ve made, and the way seasons culminated.
2018 - Thieves take what’s not given
100 Thieves began their debut season by bringing in a coach with both playoff experience and World Championship experience in the form of Neil “Prolly” Hammad. Not only was he the head coach of the team, but he was also set as the head of their League of Legends department until further notice.
Once the head of the team was established, the Thieves began to look for players. On paper, they ended up fielding a roster that was quite strong. They had 2017 NALCS Summer All-Pro top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and brought in veterans in the form of Meteos, aphromoo and mid-laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from Pheonix1 — someone who Prolly had coached before. To round out the roster, they nabbed AD Carry, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, an aspiring young talent that was to be moulded by aphromoo. Although a strong roster on paper and big names to boot, questions were raised prior to having set foot on the LCS stage. Meteos hadn’t been on a starting roster since the NALCS’ 2016 season; Ryu was coming off a break the previous split, and aphromoo had his playing ability questioned — something that has become a trend for the support since the 2019 season.
They started their season red-hot, finishing with a 3-1 record over the first two weeks. They were long and strenuous games, but the Thieves managed to come up on top more often than not. But this team began to slump during the remainder of the first half of the split and put themselves in a precarious situation adding only one more win to their record for the split’s first half. Once in the second half of the split, they managed to shake off their poor performances and finished with an 8-1 record. This secured them the first seed going into playoffs after defeating Echo Fox in a tiebreaker. Both Cody Sun and aphromoo were selected to the All-Pro team, and aphromoo became the first support in LCS history to be named MVP.
This impressive debut split continued all the way through to the playoffs, where they managed to reach the finals, in which they fell 0-3 to the dynasty that were Team Liquid at the time. This second-place finish secured them a spot in the 2018 Rift Rivals — the team’s first non-domestic tournament. For this tournament, the team elected to use substitute player Do “Levi” Duy Khanh in place of Meteos. The Thieves had a subpar performance at Rift Rivals, only getting one win against Splyce, a team that every North American team beat but fell to the likes of Fnatic and G2 Esports.
Prior to the Summer Split, 100 Thieves traded Meteos for Andy “AnDa” Hoang from FlyQuest. Although a dip in performance compared to the previous split, the team managed to finish in third place during the regular season and finished in fourth in the summer playoffs. The performances across both of the splits netted them a spot in the League of Legends Worlds Championship, making it a first for the organisation. Prior to Worlds, the team made the decision to bench Cody Sun and put in substitute AD Carry, Richard Samuel “Rikara” Oh. At the World Championship, the team finished third in their group and failed to qualify past the group stage.
Although perhaps one of the better LCS debuts for any organisation, they also had their downfalls and mistakes. Their second-place finish in their first split and their eventual Worlds qualification was what any new organisation could hope for. But the organisation’s decision-making surrounding Meteos and Cody Sun left many fans with a bad taste in their mouths. Something that the CEO of 100 Thieves, Nadeshot, took the blame and vowed to work on.
2019 - Even thieves get complacent
Once in their second year in the LCS, Ssumday’s contract was extended, Ryu transitioned to an assistant coach position, and Cody Sun, as well as Rikara, parted ways with the organisation. In response, the team brought in former Counter Logic Gaming mid-laner Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun and former World Champion AD Carry from the infamous SK Telecom T1 (now T1) team, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. This was the organisation’s roughest year to date, starting off with a last-place finish in the year’s Spring Split. In hopes to remedy this, the organisation brought on Maurice “Amazing” Stuckenschneider to replace AnDa and Max “Soligo” Soong to replace huhi.
Although the team minutely improved, particularly due to their change in the mid lane, their bad momentum still continued through to the Summer Split, where they managed to only go up two spots in the standings finishing at eighth place in the regular season.
To end the year, the organisation decided a shakeup from top to bottom was necessary. They first began by bringing in former League of Legends Championship Korea (LCK) colour commentator, Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith, as their General Manager in hopes to create structure and a better foundation for the team. Following this move, they let go of their head coach, Prolly and brought in LCS tenured coach, Anthony “Zikz” Gray to fill in the role.
With a General Manager and a Head Coach established, the team began to make changes to its roster. To start off, Amazing, Ryu, Bang, and aphromoo all parted ways with the team, leaving only Ssumday to build around.
With Ssumday as the focal point of the roster, the organisation began to fill around him. Former 100 Thieves players from the 2018 lineup Meteos and Cody Sun rejoined while also bringing in new fresh players in the form of Tommy “Ryoma” Le in the mid lane — one of the LCS’ first Australian players — and William “Stunt” Chen to pair with Cody Sun in the bottom lane.
2020 - Heists never end
Right from the get-go, the organisation was serious about rectifying the past season’s mistakes holding a boot camp in Copenhagen, Denmark, before the Spring Split’s start. The team’s new additions and changes were a success as they finished in third place in the regular season after losing a close tiebreaker versus Evil Geniuses and finished in fifth-sixth place in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that momentum would not continue through to the Summer Split, starting with a 1-5 record in the first two weeks.
In Week 3, the team announced that both Meteos and Stunt would be benched, promoting Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere from their Academy team. This new roster was the first roster to hand Cloud9 — a team that made history in the Spring Spit — their first loss of the split, but that would be the only thing they would accomplish. After a seventh-eighth finish in the Summer playoffs, the team failed to qualify for Worlds a second year in a row.
2021 - There’s always the big one
Ahead of the LCS Lock In, the Thieves were one of the teams to make big moves in what was a historic offseason for the North American region. They didn’t sign a Luka “Perkz” Perkovic or a Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, but they did take the core of what were Golden Guardians in the previous season. Once again, with Ssumday still in mind, 100 Thieves brought on a strong jungler in Can “Closer” Celik. They reunited with now support, huhi and paired him up with Victor “FBI” Huang, which kept the consensus best bottom lane at the end of 2020 intact. All to finish it off with Tanner “Damonte” Damonte in the mid lane, making sure to keep the synergised core of Golden Guardians.
It was a strong start for the season; 100 Thieves were one of the teams to beat in the Lock In tournament as they took the whole league by surprise. Aggressive dives — particularly in the bottom lane — conclusive and decisive early games as well as an overall strong laning presence that was coupled with supportive mid lane picks such as Galio and Twisted made the team shine. But it all came to a halt after they got reverse swept by eventual Lock In finalists, Cloud9, in the semifinals.
It was a strong showing to start the season, something they could be proud of and momentum that they could and did build off of. The idea of taking an already established top laner in Ssumday and adding a group of four players that were on the rise last year had a strong chance to work. Even with the devastating loss to Cloud9 in the semifinals, the Thieves still managed to keep their heads held high by finishing tied for first with them atop the tables in Week 1 of the regular season with that very same team. But once the season continued, things began to change. The team went from quick and dominant early-game oriented wins to long and drawn-out ones. They still managed to stay in the upper half of the tables, but they could’ve faltered to a lower place in the standings if the season were longer.
To end the Spring Split, the team made an unexpected change of bringing Ryoma from the Academy roster in place of Damonte; it did not work. Although he didn’t shine bright for the team, he also didn’t bring the team down. They finished at fourth place with an 11-7 record in the Spring Split. The Thieves got swept by Cloud9 in the first round of the Mid-Season Showdown (MSS) and are set to face a surprisingly strong Dignitas in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket in the playoffs.
At the time of this article, 100 Thieves face off against Dignitas this upcoming Sunday, March 28. The chances of them going on a cinderella run in the MSS and qualifying through to the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) are severely low, looking at their performances thus far this season.
No matter how many heists they do, 100 Thieves can't seem to steal an identity
In every single season, the Thieves have gone for greater heists each time, but they all pale in comparison to the one that was their inaugural season. It’s a trend at this point: a strong start followed by a slip up a couple of weeks in, finished with a stumble across the finish line, only to falter early on in the playoffs, and lastly, miss Worlds. This team lacks identity more often than not.
They seemed poised to break out of this cycle with their strong start this year, but too many people bought into the hype that the mystical “synergy” that the core of Golden Guardians portrayed. Once again, the mid-split stumble came through, and in the midst of that stumble, they went for an unexpected change, one that left many scratching their heads. They substituted Ryoma in place of Damonte in hopes of bringing in a new style in the mid lane. Not only has this not worked, but it also posed a significant problem for the team. With Damonte, they had an identity, at least in the earlier portions of the season. Now with Ryoma in the mid lane, what is their playstyle? They haven’t shown those impressive early-game dives or strong laning presence that they once did; it’s all passive.
Images via Riot Games | lolesports