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A Heist To Remember - 100 Thieves Finally Take The Big One

Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

3rd Sep 2021 15:27

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Heists take a lot of planning and a lot of work, one single misstep and any thief can get caught. For an organisation like 100 Thieves—which has been in the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) for four years now—they got caught numerous times. But as any good thief, the organisation never let up finally, reaching their biggest heist in the form of LCS glory with a 2021 LCS summer championship title.

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Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT
Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

The Thieves, along with a handful of other teams, first joined the LCS in late 2017 after the league announced its change to the franchising model. With 2018 as their debut season, they missed no chances and quickly made their name in the North American league. A nearly picture-perfect debut season - finishing just shy of an LCS title after their loss to dynasty building Team Liquid in the 2018 spring finals - and their first World Championship appearance in their first year of being in the league; there’s nothing more a newly acquired fan could ask for.

Since that 2018 season, 100 Thieves could never really find their groove again. Their lack of identity that had them in a vicious cycle of strong starts ending in disappointing season finishes constantly overshadowed them. And it’s hard to blame them, it’s difficult to outrun the shadow of a near-perfect debut season; it’s the highest bar that any team could set for themselves. Constant roster changes from year to year—including midseason roster changes—could never break them out of the cycle and help them outrun their past. A past that the founder, co-owner and CEO of 100 Thieves, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, knows all too well.

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“It’s been a tough road to get back here in a place where we’re competing in the postseason—that’s obviously the goal for esports in general, everybody wants to hoist a trophy at the end of the year and at the end of the season. I think for me with limited exposure to League of Legends we got a false taste of what competing in North America would actually be,” Nadeshot said. “Obviously, there’s an incredible amount of talent from every region and from every team, and people put together some pretty damn good rosters. And I’ve talked about this before on social media, but I think one of the challenges we had was trying to build relationships with a lot of management, a lot of players, a lot of coaches—the whole nine to put together the right roster.”

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Thieves were littered in disappointment spanning from the start of the 2019 season to the end of the 2020 season, leaving fans yearning for changes. This prompted one of the biggest changes ever that the organisation has undergone, one that would help complete the heist. With Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith at the helm as the general manager, things began to change. Although he joined at the end of the 2019 season, the organisation’s move to bring him on proved to be worth it. 

Going into 2021, this move brought not just one, but multiple changes. The Thieves pulled off one of multiple small heists to start off the 2021 season, taking in the core of the 2020 Golden Guardians roster. Jungler Can “Closer” Celik, mid-laner Tanner “Damonte” Damonte, AD Carry, Ian Victor “FBI” Huang and support, Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun all joined longtime 100 Thieves’ top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chao-ho.

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This led to a strong start for them in the LCS’ first-ever Lock In tournament. Here, they took the league by storm with their aggressive dives—particularly in the bottom lane—, conclusive and decisive early games, overall strong laning presence and supportive mid-lane picks.

This led to a semifinals visit, in which they would be reverse swept by eventual Lock In runner ups, Cloud9. This type of performance would subsequently continue in the first few weeks of the regular season, but quickly took a turn. During the middle weeks of spring, the Thieves began to fall out of sorts, add a mid-lane swap bringing in Tommy “Ryoma” Le in place of Damonte and all the organisation could show for themselves would be a fourth place in the playoffs.

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100 Thieves didn’t get complacent, though, they made the required midseason changes to put them over the hump. There are many factors that go into building a team, let alone a winning one. Something that Nadeshot explains himself, “The macro [and] micro-decisions in-game and out of game, making sure that everyone gets along and language barriers; it’s just holy s---. It really is difficult to get the winning program and get it in the right place and the right time, so hats off to the legacy teams and the teams that continue to have success like TSM, TL and Cloud9. It’s not easy, it is just not an easy thing to do.”

They first parted ways with head coach Anthony “Zikz” Gray, and brought on former Cloud9 head coach Bok “Reapered” Hang-gyu. Second, they acquired mid-laner Felix “Abbedagge” Braun from the League of Legends European Championship’s (LEC) FC Shalke 04. At the time, these two changes were perhaps the biggest and most crucial the organisation has ever made. 

In 2021 summer, they were looking like one of the teams to beat, finishing off in second place during the regular season, giving themselves a bye. For all intents and purposes, they had arguably some of the best players in the league at every position. All of them were at least in contention for top two or top three in their respective roles.

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These changes led to a top-three finish in the summer playoffs and netted them their second trip to Worlds and eventually their first-ever LCS championship, “I’m more than happy and grateful that we have all of our coaches that we have. PapaSmithy, Reapered, Freeze, all the guys helping below them and some incredible players that trusted our vision and trusted what we had planned for this year. I’m really proud of the fact that we weren’t complacent with spring. We went out and made midseason roster changes, we brought out Abbadagge over from EU, we brought on Reapered, and we’ve had success,” Nadeshot said. 

Now that the 100 Thieves heist is finished, at least when it comes to their performance in North America, all that is left is Worlds. Only time will tell if they will be able to pull an even bigger heist at the international stage. One thing for certain though, out of all of the rosters the Thieves have fielded across four years, this is the one to pull it off. 

 

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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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