Analyzing the Fall of 100 Thieves
If there is one thing that came as a resounding surprise from this year’s LCS Spring Split, it was the incredible fall of 100 Thieves. Every team has its downs, but none of them were as monumental and immediate as the one that hit the 2018 Spring Split finalists.
Just months after assembling back in 2018, the brand-new organization managed to make big waves in the North American LCS. Their star-studded roster left no one indifferent, and they were able to end the split at first place with a stellar 12-6 record.
Not too shabby for their inaugural split as an organization.
The Summer Split proved to be a tougher challenge, but the Thieves still accrued a highly respectable 10W-8L record, which was enough to give them sole possession of third place.
Their road towards it, however, was far from easy.
We’ve seen shocking inconsistency across the board, but when all five players managed to get on the same page, they were a force to be reckoned with. The problem was, other teams caught up, and the gap (if there ever was such a thing) between them and the rest of the pack quickly narrowed.
They were still one of the stronger teams in the region but were nowhere near as dangerous and capable as in the Spring Split. Thanks to their Championship Point tally, they were able to lock down a ticket to the World Championship in Korea as North America’s second seed.
Ushering in Success
Needless to say, no one was elated because of this fact. The Thieves hadn’t done enough in the eyes of many in order to warrant such a prestigious opportunity, and sure enough, the fans were right.
To add insult to injury, the organization made multiple questionable roster changes and marketing decisions throughout the Summer Split and lost a fair chunk of their fragile fan base.
But then came 2019. They had a chance for redemption — a chance to turn things around and show their true colors. The organization opted to sign Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun (of Counter Logic Gaming fame) to replace Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook — a legendary mid laner that’s perhaps most known for getting outplayed by Faker in a Zed mirror matchup. They released William “Meteos” Hartman into free agency and decided to promote Andy “AnDa” Hoang to the starting jungle position.
Finally, as if these two (at the very least) promising changes weren’t enough, they signed former SKT T1 behemoth and two-time World Championship-winning AD carry Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. Bang is as legendary of an AD carry as they come, and his accomplishments speak for him.
Needless to say, this promising roster looked like a team that could not only go blow-for-blow with the defending champions Team Liquid but perhaps even take them down. There were no glaring holes — a spectacular top laner, an up-and-coming jungler, a proven mid laner, and a world-class bottom lane that’s also immune to any meta shift.
What could go wrong with such a stellar line-up?
Everything, it seems.
The Beginning of the End
We’re nine weeks into the 2019 Spring Split and it seems like we’ve seen all that 100 Thieves have to offer. Everything that could have gone wrong did. It seems as though most of their players are perfectly content with being mediocre — if not even downright awful. It’s like everyone’s just showing up to work to collect a paycheck.
It’s hard giving them any benefit of the doubt because they have so much more to work with when compared to most of their peers. From an outsider’s perspective, they have everything they need in order to start winning, but something’s missing.
If they can’t do their jobs right after getting set up for success, then sooner or later, changes will have to be made.
On paper, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Sure, you can move individual pieces around, perhaps swap one player in favor of another, but in the end, you’ll end up with a championship-worthy roster.
The majority of this line-up has experience in spades, and they’ve played on the biggest of stages across the globe. You’d think that a roster of this caliber would have built some mental fortitude and resilience over the years — but even if they did, they haven’t shown it in the Summoner’s Rift over the last two months.
The problem, however, is that it was never about synergy or team cohesion. It wasn’t just a matter of waiting for these five individuals to combine into a tour de force, although it first looked like it. The LCS and its 2019 Spring Split delivered when it comes to overall entertainment value, but it’s hard not to be a bit bitter and confused about the whole 100 Thieves conundrum.
Where are these players, and what has happened to them in such a short time span? These aren’t your everyday blokes from the street, nor are they the random solo queue samaritans you encounter online.
These are some of the best players on the face of the earth. They’re the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème, the experienced, grizzled veterans who went through thick and thin in order to get to where they are.
And right now, either through a string of dreadful circumstances or sheer misfortune, they’re at the very bottom of the standings.
What a strange twist. It’s one that simply boggles the mind.
How Did We Wind Up Here?
Had they been mediocre, we would have understood. Had they achieved anything resembling success throughout their 2019 tenure, we would’ve been more inclined to believe their struggle. They would have our empathy and patience. But none of that transpired over the course of the last two months. In eight weeks of competitive LCS play, they’ve had only a handful of stand-out moments — perhaps not even that much.
It’s been absolute mediocrity on all fronts and from everyone involved. Their pedigrees meant nothing in the grand scheme of things — these players looked abysmal across the board. And we may never find out what really happened behind the scenes.
Regardless, we have enough empirical evidence to come up with a valid analysis. We might not have all the details, but we’ve seen them play. We’ve seen their lack of motivation which was so often visible on their faces before and after a game. We have seen their body language and their lack of visible comradery. No handshakes, no hugs, no enjoyment of being a professional gamer.
Of course, it’s hard being joyous when you’re down in the gutter, but this is taking it too far.
They have the mechanical skill, so what’s missing? What started the fall of 100 Thieves?
A lack of communication.
When you see them engage, they’re scattered across the board. They don’t look like a five-man unit that’s trying to get something done — they’re all going in on their own accord with their own agendas and game plans in mind.
This lack of communication affects their play as well. Aphromoo, for instance, ranks at the very bottom statistics-wise in every important category. He’s dead last in Kill Participation (54%), second-highest in Death Share (a whopping 26.6%), and lowest in First Blood Rate (a measly 7%). To make matters worse, he’s also lowest in Wards Per Minute, so it’s not like he’s carrying out his support duties, either.
He has acceptable laning stats, which means he’s basically doing the bare minimum in order to not feed in lane and just wait out for a later stage of the game. He and Bang are never creating leads, even though they’re both world-class players that should be able to batter most of the current LCS bottom lane duos.
Conversely, Bang has the second-lowest Death Share among AD carries (12.3%) and some equally shoddy laning stats. Once teamfights break out, he’s dishing out respectable amounts of damage, but seeing how he never has a lead to begin with, his impact is fairly negligible.
These are two top-tier players that seemingly have no synergy and are unwilling to get on the same page. That’s 100 Thieves in a nutshell. Everyone has their own idea on how to play the game, and it looks like no one’s willing to adapt.
Perhaps having multiple seasoned veterans, all very accomplished in competitive League, isn’t the best course of action, even though it might seem like the best route at first glance. Too many cooks in the kitchen and all that.
Communication in itself, while only one part of the equation, can heavily influence other elements of play as well.
The Domino Effect
One can argue that Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Andy “AnDa” Hoang showcased some of the worst synergy we’ve seen in LCS history. They lose 2 vs. 2 trades but also end up on the receiving end in favorable matchups. Their engages are completely out of sync, so much so that you can’t even laugh at their expense — it’s getting traumatic at this point. You want them to do something, and they don’t even have to win — they just have to try.
That’s how low the bar has been set, and yet they still find a way to disappoint.
Developing synergy is of the utmost importance in competitive League of Legends. On paper, it’s easy. In reality, though, it’s much harder. But then again, it’s not as difficult as 100 Thieves would like to paint it. It looks like these players refuse to mesh with one another.
Obviously, the blame can’t (and shouldn’t) be dispersed across all five players — some are bigger offenders than others, and it’s probably just a matter of time before we find out what really happened that set them on such a dreadful course.
Finally, it should be noted that the coaching staff deserves a fair bit of blame as well. 100 Thieves as an organization made multiple moves in their inaugural year that rustled many feathers — most notably the whole drama regarding the Meteos trade along with their treatment of Cody Sun near the end of the season.
Getting to the LCS finals in their very first split is an accomplishment worthy of the highest praise, and in a way, they fooled us. Everyone thought that we’d be getting a new contender, a team that would be able to go blow-for-blow with the perennial titans of the LCS. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Seeing them go from second to tenth in just a single year is a crushing sight, regardless of your allegiance.
Could 100 Thieves rebound once the Summer Split comes along? In theory — yes. How could they not, with such immense talent within their starting five-man roster?
But then again, it seems as though the problems that are plaguing this team aren’t skin-deep. Not even close. The organization will have to make enormous changes during the off-season if they want to stand a chance at going toe-to-toe with even the average LCS gatekeepers.
That means changing their roster but also their coaching staff. Perhaps pr0lly isn’t the right man for the job any longer — why not give someone else a try? Perhaps the culture surrounding 100 Thieves needs to change as well. They exude a certain swagger, but it’s a superficial trait, useful only to lure fans in. Keeping them entertained and loyal, however, is a much harder task.
Sure, they have the coolest jerseys in the business, but if they can’t compete on the Summoner’s Rift, then it’s all in vain. As it stands right now, the fall of 100 Thieves will go down as one of the biggest disappointments in LCS history.
They have the potential to turn things around, but don’t bet your money on it.