In late 2017, when Riot announced that franchises would be coming to the North American LCS, the young upstart organization, 100 Thieves, seemed like a longshot to win the region, let alone make the playoffs. However, through an inspiring combination of veteran experience and raw talent, 100 Thieves can potentially be a frightening force that can do much more than just “shake things up”. In fact, they can win the 2018 NALCS.

        In League of Legends, the greatest factor is the unknown. Whether it be in Solo Queue or the professional stage, unexpected strategies and surprise maneuvers will often determine which team comes out on top. In the case of 100 Thieves, the team can be summarized with plenty of question marks on unknown outcomes. Most notably, the newly formed bottom lane of Cody Sun and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black brings together two veterans with separate histories of prominent success. And although these two longtime LCS staples have never played with each other on the professional stage, it’s safe to say that both players know their way around their respective positions, making for a frightening combination in the bottom lane.

         While the newly formed combination of Cody Sun and Aphromoo still have much to prove, the 100 Thieves bottom lane is stacked with a frightening combination of experience, talent, and presence of mind. When compared to the other bottom lanes in the NALCS, 100 Thieves unquestionably owns a spot in the top tier, now all they have to do is execute.

          In addition to the bottom lane, the jungle position might bring up the most  for 100T. In the jungle, William “Meteos” Hartman will look to reignite the caliber of play that earned him an MVP recognition in the summer of 2013. Last season, Meteos earned a spot as the starting Jungler on the now defunct roster of Phoenix1, only to lose the job to rookie sensation Mike Yeung. Although Meteos has struggled as of late, past performances, as well as a surplus of playoff and World Championship experience, make him a viable option in the jungle.

         Meteos has proved time and time again that he can lead a team to the international stage, as he has been to 3 World Championships with Cloud9, as well as a tournament victory at IEM San Jose 2015. With Meteos’ recent disappointing performances in mind, it’s easy to forget that the former MVP has led the C9 organization to 6 North American Finals, with 3 titles in his back pocket. In 2018, 100 Thieves will look to rekindle what Meteos has lost, and with incredibly strong lanes surrounding the 5th year veteran, it’s essentially a given that he will return to form.

         On the topic of strong lanes, the 100 Thieves roster is rounded out with two longtime Korean titans in Mid Laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-Wook and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-Ho. On a team filled with unknown variables and unpredictable scenarios, Ryu and Ssumday will serve as the foundation of the roster throughout the 2018 season. During his tenures with KT Rolster and Team Dignitas, Ssumday was regarded as one of the best top laners in Korea and North America, respectively. Throughout the course of the 2017 Summer Split, Ssumday had the highest KP with 69.6% and the lowest DTH% with only 17.6%, one of the lowest DTH% among top laners in the history of the NALCS. With two regional championships under his belt from his time in Korea, a familiarity with the NALCS, and an unmatched level of skill, Ssumday is by far one of, if not, the strongest top laner in North America, rivaled only by TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell. At the center of the lineup, former Phoenix1 and KT Rolster mid laner Ryu brings another layer of veteran experience to the table.

         With 2 World Championship appearances, 2 back-to-back Semi-final finishes at IEM Cologne, and a first place finish at the 2014 IEM Championship under his belt, Ryu is certainly no stranger to international play. On the regional stage, Ryu has led his team to the playoffs in 8 of the 10 professional splits he has played in across Korea, Europe and most recently, North America. When you combine his international prowess with his successes on the regional level, he has an incredibly strong track record and will play an obvious part as the focal point of 100 Thieves’ 2018 roster.

         When all of these factors are taken into account, it’s easy to chalk up 100 Thieves as a legitimate contender in 2018. So why is it that they’re flying under seemingly everyone’s radar? The biggest reason might be due to the fact that so many of the “Old Guard” teams like TSM, and Team Liquid have created “superteams” by assembling rosters consisting of the greatest talent from across the region and around the world.

         With TSM signing Mike Yeung, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez, and TL bringing in first class players in Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, the offseason has been littered with roster swaps and major shifts to the most prominent organizations in North America. Since the offseason was dominated by some of the most influential teams in North America, it allowed for 100 Thieves to make a plethora of moves that would set them up as a dark horse that really should be a favorite.

         With all of this in mind, how can 100 Thieves bring it all together and win a North American championship? The simple answer is to clear up any gray areas and have all of their question marks play out to their best potential. Most notably, Meteos needs to rediscover what made him the best Jungler in the West at one point, and play like the Meteos of 2013. With former P1 teammate Ryu in the midlane, it’s certainly possible that Meteos can lead a brand new team to a Regional Championship, just as he did in 2013.

         For the bottom lane, the synergy needs to be there for Cody Sun and Aphromoo, and for Ssumday and Ryu, communication will be the biggest issue. However, with a promising roster filled with veterans and champions alike, as well as a stellar coaching staff led by Neil “Prolly” Hammad, 100 Thieves can stack up against any of the top tier teams in North America.

         Although Team Liquid and TSM are still the obvious favorites to compete for a championship later this season, it would be foolish to underestimate 100 Thieves and discount their chances of taking home the regional title in April. Between supreme talent and incredible veteran presence, North America’s newest team might just be able to pull off a historic run right from the beginning.