For 100 Thieves, a playoff berth is all but locked up, and with only two weeks to go until the end of the regular season, the team needs to prove themselves now more than ever. Just four games stand between the Thieves and a date with destiny, and if the young organization can define themselves as winners during the final portion of the regular season, then finding success in the playoffs should come naturally.
If a 2-0 week 6 was the turning point for 100 Thieves, then a 2-0 week 8 would be a definitive stamp on a successful regular season. Only 7 other teams in the history of the NALCS have ever clinched a playoff berth in their first ever split, and if 100 Thieves secures a spot this weekend, they would become the first to do so since Team EnVyUs in the Summer of 2016. With games against Golden Guardians and OpTic Gaming this weekend, the Thieves will face off against the bottom of the LCS barrel, as both teams have already managed to hike their loss columns into the double digits. With two relatively favorable matchups on paper this weekend, the Thieves should have no problem, in theory, snatching up two wins and securing a trip to the playoffs.
However, the 2018 Spring Split has proved that anything is possible, and everyone is vulnerable. On Saturday, the Thieves face off against the Golden Guardians, who notoriously started the year with a dreadful record of 0-7, but found their first win of the season against 100 Thieves back in week 4. Despite sitting in last place, Golden Guardians are nowhere near the same team that started the split winless, as they have found impressive wins over Team Liquid and Echo Fox since their first meeting with the Thieves. After replacing Head Coach Yoonsup “Locodoco” Choi with veteran analyst Tyler Perron, GGS has posted a salvageable record of 4-6, and now sits just 3 games back of a spot in the playoffs.
During their last meeting with Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves’ Nexus fell in 37 minutes after constant aggression stemming from Matthew “Matt” Elento’s Shen, as well as an outlandish Illaoi selection coming from Sam “Lourlo” Jackson. Although there have been 2 patches since their last meeting, and the meta has certainly evolved, it’s safe to say that Illaoi was never part of the meta to begin with, and that Golden Guardians are one of the most unpredictable teams in the entire region. With each rule that they bend, and every expectation that they shatter, Golden Guardians prove more and more exactly why they are North America’s ultimate wild card. Although their record screams vibrant mediocrity, all four of their wins have come over teams that could potentially find themselves in the playoffs. Therefore, it’s important for the Thieves to view Golden Guardians as legitimate contenders this Saturday, as they’ve already proven themselves as proficient giant slayers throughout the course of the past few weeks.
The road to victory for Saturday’s contest will once again run through bottom lane, as Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black has been a consistent catalyst for 100 Thieves over the course of the past two weeks. With monster performances on Rakan, Thresh, and Blitzcrank, Aphromoo has proved that he is the most stable support player in the entire region, and that championships are built on his shoulders. While team coordination will certainly be a key part of this dangerous “trap game”, 100T should have no issue finding a win if Aphromoo is able to keep up his hot streak.
On Sunday, 100 Thieves and OpTic Gaming will reignite one of League of Legends’ newest rivalries, as owner Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag will face off against his former organization for the second time this year. During their first meeting all the way back on the first day of the season, the Thieves out-dueled OpTic in a 64 minute slugfest that saw 18 total towers fall, in addition to 5 Barons and 6 Dragons, 3 of which were Elders. Since then, the game has advanced 3 patches, and the meta has evolved immensely, but the tension is still present. This time around, the implications are enormous, as OpTic could play spoiler for the Thieves as they make their run towards a potential playoff bye.
This weekend, the Thieves have a massive opportunity to pick up a few games over other teams at the top of the standings. Clutch Gaming, while sitting just one game out of 2nd place, face two frightening opponents this weekend in Echo Fox and Team Liquid. Throughout 7 weeks, Clutch has a record of 2-5 against fellow playoff teams, as they’ve been able to secure a berth by beating up on non-contenders. Matchups with Echo Fox and Liquid this weekend will make or break Clutch Gaming, and if 100 Thieves can capitalize on golden opportunities against NA’s basement dwellers, then the team should have no problem gaining ground and inching closer towards a bye.
100 Thieves have a massive opportunity this weekend to solidify themselves as contenders, and with the playoffs only 2 weeks away, now more than ever is the time to establish a winning culture within the organization. With the team bringing home three huge wins in their past four games, the Thieves are clearly in late season form. Now, with just 1 team standing between them and a first round bye, week 8 might just be the most important 2 game stretch in the young history of the organization.