The brand-new roster for the North American League of Legends team 100 Thieves offers a lot to the league in terms of power. They bring an anchor to the game in top lane where few other teams in the league can replicate. Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho has consistently proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with and sets the bar for other players in his role. He brings a very diverse champion pool ranging from being a frontline tank which allows his team to succeed or he can take matters into his own hands and pick up a carry bruiser to stomp out his opponent and subsequently the match. In fact, in many cases, “Ssumday” has actually outperformed his teammates while being the carry and ensured a swift victory as he himself becomes the win condition.
Alongside “Ssumday”, the team also has an extremely solid bottom lane on paper. A new signing to the team brings the former two-time world champion, SKT T1’s attack damage carry Bae “Bang” Jun-sik to the roster. “Bang” has shown his fair share of dominance over his career, last year playing both ends of the bottom lane spectrum, finishing with a 100%-win rate on Xayah (marksman) and a 75%-win rate on Swain (mage) in the LCK. Partnered with support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black to helm the team, the bottom lane seems unstoppable. “Aphromoo” is a legend in the North American region, winning two titles in NA. In the traditional matchup of having a standard ADC, “Aphromoo” has put up some very impressive scores, winning an overwhelming majority of his games with champions such as Braum, going 21-8 over the course of last year.
Another strength the team has shown is how fast their synergy can develop. With the team picking up two new players in Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, a new dynamic will be formed and it will form rather quickly as evidenced by the team’s first year. Previously “Huhi” and “Aphromoo” were a part of CLG’s team and even after parting ways, the two could be found repeatedly duo-queueing in ranked together. The only outlier is “Bang” and he has already been grinding games with “Aphromoo”, developing their playstyles. As the team becomes increasingly more comfortable with each other, they will certainly hone in to potentially become one of the most powerful teams in NA LCS history.
Even a roster filled with as much talent as 100 Thieves’ LCS team has some glaring issues that hopefully will not come to light over the course of 2019. One of the most glaring issues is last year’s trade of William “Meteos” Hartman for an unquestionable downgrade of Andy "AnDa" Hoang for the jungle role. “AnDa” himself is extremely inexperienced in the big leagues, especially in the jungle role. He formerly played in the LCS’ junior league (NACS) as a top laner, only flexing into the jungle position when he was picked up by FlyQuest. Unfortunately for “AnDa” despite how quickly he adapted to the new role, he has had extremely mixed results, sometimes popping off and winning the game single handedly or becoming a handicap that his team is forced to drag along. Although having a very diverse champion pool, “AnDa” has shown he can play just about anything in the jungle, just not in a spectacular fashion.
Another issue that is present is the shifting meta of the game and how the team will be forced to overcome it. The bottom lane changes last year birthed a time when marksmen didn’t reign supreme in their role as their scaling was greatly hindered in the early game. Teams around the world flexed their top lane substitute players into the role to play traditionally top and mid lane champions in the bottom lane since their scaling ramped up a lot quicker and more efficiently than traditional AD carries could. 100T has struggled with adapting to this and most likely will continue to should this meta of bruisers and mages taking over the bottom lane persist. In the past, 100T didn’t have a player they could flex into the role when needed and quickly saw hit or miss results with their former ADC players while forcing them onto champions they were inexperienced with. Since the changes, “Bang” too has had some mixed results as they severely handicapped his methodical playstyle of farming and pushing aggression while on a traditional AD carry. Should other teams choose to exploit this, the dynamic duo of “Bang” and “Aphromoo” could be stunted if their pocket picks were to be banned, forcing them to dig deep into their champion pool.
Lastly, another flaw that has been incredibly obvious in the past was the communication between the organization with its players and its fanbase. The sudden trade of “Meteos” for “AnDa” came out of nowhere and warranted a response from the organization to which they simply chose to ignore it. Outcry came from both sides, even having “Meteos” post a video and tweeting about the situation from his perspective being told to basically pack up and move out the next day after just finding out he was traded to FlyQuest. The biggest kicker to the situation was that FlyQuest wasn’t even in the market for a jungler on their main roster, forcing the top tier caliber “Meteos” to either play in the junior league or to quit professional play once again to pursue content creation. The org’s owner Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag has vowed to avoid the mistakes of last year come the 2019 seasons but only time will tell if 100 Thieves has learned their lesson.
Where the team has the biggest room to flourish is to invest in picking up some free agents or potentially signing some new players altogether for substitute positions. 100 Thieves has launched a junior team in the past but have had some lackluster finishes, their best season being a fifth-sixth place tie. The organization has plenty of time over the course of the year to improve both teams and more specifically round out their main roster with a more experienced jungler. One of the best decisions the team could make is the signing of Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin who has four domestic championships to his name and even a perfect split record of 18 straight victories while on Fnatic in Europe. While on a team where he could be given an opportunity to shine, “Reignover” has completely classed matchups against more veteran players in dominating fashion. During his first season in North America, he nearly replicated his perfect split alongside a completely new team. As a free agent, “Reignover” seems like the most readily available option for 100T and could even use his value to set up trades in the future, should it be necessary.
In terms of a story arc, the team can also use their new bottom lane bond to potentially grow their brand. A calm and cool yet loud and vibrant personality such as “Aphromoo” working alongside a tactical mastermind such as “Bang” could theoretically look to become the new face of bottom lane in North America and potentially even the world depending on their performance. Having arguably two of the best in their respective positions, it could be an easy way to market the team as well as the organization as a whole to cultivate their fanbase and thus increase merchandise sales and interest.
A team as stacked as this one may very well be in a great position to win the NA LCS, but it won’t be easy for them in any case. The two titans that stand against them are none other than last year’s North American champion Team Liquid as well as the best performing North American team at a world championship ever, Cloud9. Team Liquid has found great success with their team and patched their previous weakness in their middle lane by signing Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. This new Team Liquid roster boasts extreme talent from top to bottom, a team made up entirely of domestic champions including two different world champions - Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong (2013 World Champion on SKT T1 2) and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in (2017 World Champion on Samsung Galaxy).
Forced to adapt in turn, Cloud9 picked up Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer. Should Cloud9 be able to adapt “Nisqy” to the team’s dynamic, they could look to continue their dominance over domestic competition. Cloud9 has always benefitted heavily on “Jensen” winning his matchups, even while the team was behind to flagship them to victory. Losing him may be a bit of a cripple (all the more benefit to Team Liquid) and leaves some large shoes to be filled by “Nisqy”.
Competition aside, the glory of this roster faces another threat within themselves, that threat being the conclusion of the players’ contracts. “AnDa”, “Aphromoo” and substitute/assistant coach Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook all end their contracts later this year in mid-November. Depending on performances and other player availability, 100T should look to secure their players by offering contract extensions. Without these elite players, 100 Thieves may fall from grace with lesser quality and inexperienced players in the future.