100 Thieves Hot, C9 Not – 2021 LCS Lock-In Reactions

by in League of Legends | Jan, 20th 2021

The first week of the inaugural 2021 LCS Lock-In is officially behind us and, as is always the case, numerous overreactions have emerged online. That, in short, is what makes competitive esports so darn fun — the constant swerve from one side of the spectrum to the other. It’s moments like these (the incredibly polarizing ones) that make things all the more entertaining. And, frankly, some of these overreactions make sense. Others, however, are nothing but overblown (and quite preposterous) hot takes.

Either way, we’ve curated the most interesting ones, so without any further ado, let’s get down to business!

100 Thieves Will Win the Spring Split

100 Thieves have looked pretty darn incredible last week. On that we can all agree. And, naturally, their dominant wins (and that one inexcusable loss) got people both talking and thinking. The biggest question that’s currently in the air is whether or not they have what it takes to go all the way. Could they actually become LCS champions? It’s a lofty goal — and a loaded question — but it’s well within the realm of possibility. And, really, you could argue both ways.

Of course not — there’s Team Liquid and Cloud9 standing in the way. 100 Thieves as LCS champions? Perish the thought! Talented though they are, it feels impossible for them to actually rub shoulders with some of the best and most stacked teams ever assembled on North American soil.

Of course they could — it’s not about sheer star power but quality of play, and 100 Thieves have that in spades. They’re also playing in a surprisingly confident and creative way, which puts them in a category of their own. Today’s meta is all about bravado and the willingness to fight no matter the odds. It’s also about mechanical talent, but at the highest levels of play, that singular virtue is somewhat omnipresent.

100 Thieves might not have someone of Luka “Perkz” Perković’s stature by their side, but they couldn’t care less. Again, it’s all about performance — not sheer name value. Today’s League of Legends pro scene isn’t about pedigrees. If that were the case, T1 would still dominate in Korea, and so would Invictus Gaming. Instead, it’s about fresh new takes on a game that’s been out for over a decade. It’s about vigor and adaptability — two virtues most veterans begin to lack as time goes on.

And boy is this 100 Thieves bunch hungry to win. They want it all, it seems like. They’re fighting for every inch of the Summoner’s Rift, and it’s quite a thing to behold. Victor “FBI” Huang and Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun are in contention for the best bottom lane in North America. Just writing that makes one feel ludicrous. What timeline is this, after all? How did we get here, and at which point did we make a wrong turn? No one in their right mind would predict such a thing, and yet here we are. It mostly boils down to personal preference, but one could argue that 100 Thieves’ meteoric rise is the biggest and most exciting storyline in recent LCS history.

And yes: they have a solid chance of going all the way and becoming LCS champions. Would we bet on it to happen? Probably not, but stranger things took place in North America over the years, that’s for sure. If they continue playing at such a high level, success is all but guaranteed.

Evil Geniuses | A Bona Fide Contender

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2021 LCS Lock-In (at least thus far) pertains to Evil Geniuses and their unexpected dominance. Now, no one thought they’d look bad or anything, but this good? Not in a million years. And there’s a very good reason why — we already knew what these five players (individually speaking) were capable of. Three changes were made to the starting line-up which meant there was very little synergy to speak of. Furthermore, we already saw Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro in action back in 2020 and, needless to say, they didn’t impress much. Heck, we’re being overly polite here: they were often dreadful, regardless of whom they were up against.

But something changed, and it seemingly came out of nowhere.

By all means, Evil Geniuses had no business looking as good and dominant as they did. It defied all logic and reason. Most of it came from Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, but the rest of the team delivered big time as well — including Matthew “Deftly” Chen. Next to Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, he looked like the second coming of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and that’s quite high praise for a player who never really delivered on the LCS stage.

It felt like Evil Geniuses could do no wrong, and even though two of their three opponents never had much hype to speak of, EG still got the job done in as quick and dominant a fashion as possible. That’s what you want to see from a contender: efficiency and decisiveness. Right now it’s all about hype and momentum, and Evil Geniuses currently have both in spades.

Of course, it’s not all black and white. Impact played three games of Renekton which, of course, has heavily swayed the overall narrative in their favor. We’re talking about a champion that’s currently running rampant in the 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament (and certain other leagues as well), and we’ve yet to see Impact on a more subdued (i.e. less OP) pick. EG has also yet to face a well-performing team. Their dominant run feels a lot less impressive when you factor in whom they’ve beaten — Immortals, Dignitas, and an underperforming Cloud9.

No one’s trying to discredit them overall, but we need to reserve judgement (and contain the hype) until they face someone who’s actually at the top of their game, like 100 Thieves or Team Liquid. Everyone else is still trying to build synergy and come up with a solid enough game plan (and is mostly failing). Be that as it may, Evil Geniuses have made one thing abundantly clear: they are not to be trifled with.

Team SoloMid Will Crash and Burn

A list of overreactions simply wouldn’t be complete without Team SoloMid (for better or worse). Despite having a fairly respectable 2W-1L record in the 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament, the boys in black and white failed to impress. On the one hand, that’s perfectly fine seeing how we’re at the very start of the season. On the other, when you spend as much money as TSM did and bring as many A-list players, then looking so darn bad is bound to attract criticism — most of which is well-deserved.

Now, no one expected them to come out the gates looking like a bona fide contender. What we did expect, however, was some semblance of talent and a meager modicum of success. Instead, we got abysmal drafts, shoddy pathing, reactionary play, bad positioning, out-of-sync teamfighting, and fairly unimpressive laning.

Hardly worth the hype.

There were some promising signs here and there, but they were too few in number to actually warrant our benefit of the doubt. Growing pains are inevitable, and they’ll probably leave a mark. On paper, TSM has all the right tools and players to not only contest for a playoff spot but also do a bit of damage. In reality, however, they might need a split (or two) to get on the same page and actually realize their inherent potential. The fact that they struggled against the Golden Guardians — a team with multiple collegiate players — is a worrying sign, to say the least.

If you’re a fan of TSM, make sure to readjust your expectations. Otherwise, 2021 will be quite a bumpy ride.

Golden Guardians Have Struck Gold… Again

The GGS coaching staff deserves a metric ton of praise. There’s just no other way to put it. It feels like you can give head coach Nicholas “Inero” Smith a bunch of solo queue randoms and he’d still be able to turn them into a competitive, well-rounded team. What kind of witchcraft he’s employing to do these things is anyone’s guess at this point, but it’s alchemy at its finest. Simply put, this team had no business looking as good as it did last week. The Golden Guardians were just a couple of good decisions away from beating Team SoloMid. Let that one sink in. And they nearly accomplished this great feat with two collegiate players. If you’re scratching your head, know that you’re not in the minority.

Their immense success is not only a testament to how things are done over at the GGS camp but also to the fact that there’s ample native talent over in North America — it just isn’t harnessed correctly. The Golden Guardians have supplied more than enough proof. And sure, they’re still inexperienced as a five-man unit (as evidenced by their late game decision-making), but they’ve already done more than enough to warrant our benefit of the doubt. Watching this young line-up evolve and grow over the coming weeks and months will be an absolute must, with both Aiden “Niles” Tidwell and Ethan “Iconic” Wilkinson already making their cases for the highly coveted “Rookie of the Split” award. LLA import (and former MVP) Leandro “Newbie” Marcos also deserves a shoutout, although it feels like his best days are still ahead of him.

In any case, the Golden Guardians made everyone take notice, and you just love to see it. A good organization with a hard-working coaching staff finding success despite the odds. If you love a good underdog story, the Golden Guardians should be right up your alley.

Cloud9 | Overhyped and Overpriced

We’ve saved the best for last — Cloud9. Where does one even begin? It’s almost too easy to throw shade at the whole Perkz signing (and its $11 million price tag), or to even criticize Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami for being a complete and utter non-factor. We know they’re better than this, but it’s still a bit surprising to see the boys in black and blue struggle so darn much despite having ample talent (not to mention experience). 

Needless to say, they didn’t look so hot. Not in the slightest. And don’t let their 2W-1L record in the 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament fool you — both of their wins came against teams that didn’t have their intended starting line-ups, and only one of them was easily attained. And, speaking of that one win, it was more a case of Robert “Blaber” Huang and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen hardcarrying like their lives depended on it. Fudge and Perkz barely showed up. In fact, the Croatian mid lane legend only had four assists to his name — a shockingly low number given how Cloud9 had nineteen kills as a team. This, of course, will undoubtedly change over the coming months as he builds synergy with the rest of the team, and the same goes for Fudge. Still, they’re not performing all that well and will need to step up if C9 intends to rub shoulders with the best teams the LCS has to offer.

In hindsight, it seems as though we were relatively foolish — we shouldn’t have expected so much from a team that had changed in such a big way. Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer, while far from perfect, enabled Cloud9 in important and nuanced ways; Perkz, on the other hand, brings an entirely different skillset to the table. We’re talking about two vastly disparate playstyles, and while a C9 with Perkz has a higher skill ceiling, they will undoubtedly struggle early on to reach it.

The 2021 LCS Lock-In is still underway, so they’ll have a shot at finding redemption!


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