Going into the 2018 NA LCS season, franchising was surely the biggest change coming to the league, as four entirely new teams made their debuts in competitive League of Legends. However, this time last year, none of them were turning as many heads as 100 Thieves. With a roster comprised of five veterans, a head coach making a triumphant return to the region he once called home, and a charismatic and personable owner taking the plunge into a game that was brand new to him, it was impossible to not look at the Thieves and raise an eyebrow. Now, one year later, fresh off an impressive inaugural season and a productive offseason, the stage is set for another great year from the organization.
Last year, the story for 100 Thieves was all about making a statement and proving they were worthy of being a member of the NA LCS in a pool filled with veteran organizations and proven winners.
Needless to say, the organization definitely made a statement in its first year, reaching the Spring Finals in its first ever split while later qualifying for the World Championship just a few months later. However, in 2019, 100 Thieves has to focus on capitalizing, and more importantly, bringing that same momentum that propelled the team throughout all of 2018 into this new season.
Last year, especially early on, every recently franchised team in the LCS was doing everything in their power to prove to the world why they were worthy of a spot in the league. And although the Thieves clearly proved that they definitely deserved a spot in the LCS, finishing at the top of the standings at the end of last year’s first split and later representing the region at the World Championship, many fans still doubted the team as it seemingly crawled its way into Worlds.
With two of the original roster members, Cody Sun and William “Meteos” Hartman out of the picture by the end of the Summer, the roster had been broken and significantly weakened going into Worlds. Even still, despite all of the team’s struggles down the stretch, they were still one of the best teams in North America. And while it’s obvious that the team didn’t finish 2018 as nearly as strong as it started the year, it’s still important to note that the Thieves were still a major contenders- and going into 2019, they’ve only gotten stronger.
With a more refined roster that includes a diversified mix of young, developing talent and proven winners, 2019’s iteration of 100 Thieves is surely one of the most intriguing rosters heading into the Spring Split. However, for 100 Thieves, no position on the roster is as interesting as AD Carry.
Last season, the AD Carry position served as a serious point of tension within the organization, as the bottom lane, traditionally held down by Cody Sun, prominently featured Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh during the latter parts of the regular season and the NA LCS Summer Playoffs. To top everything off, Cody Sun wasn’t featured at all during the World Championship. The team’s decision to sit their go-to option in the bottom lane in favor of an unproven rookie definitely raised a few eyebrows down the stretch last year, especially since the Thieves’ chances in a stacked group at Worlds probably would have been boosted if their top choice at the position had been utilized. What’s even more confusing is that the Thieves chose to release Rikara, abandoning any development they had achieved with the player.
Usually, when a team features a promising young player extensively throughout the course of a season, it becomes obvious that the organization is either trying to prepare that player for a full-time starting role with the club. In the case of Rikara, all of his playing time really just amounted to nothing at all, as 100T really just chose to separate themselves entirely from the young bottom laner.
And while we may never know the true reasoning behind the decision making surrounding 100 Thieves and the AD Carry position towards the end of last year, what we do know is that the bottom lane is significantly stronger going into 2019, especially after the acquisition of former World Champion and SK Telecom legend, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik.
With Bang, who won back-to-back World Championships with SKT, holding down the bottom lane for 100 Thieves alongside Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, it’s safe to say that the Thieves have what could possibly be the best bottom lane duo in all of North America. And now, as two seriously seasoned veterans lead the way down bottom for the team, it’s important to realize that regardless of what may have happened last year, the slate is clean and the team is poised now more than ever to take advantage of the incredible situation that its in.
What seemed to be a volatile bottom lane situation just three months ago has turned into what could possibly be the most stunning and solid bottom lane situation in the entire league. Very few teams have a stronger duo lane than 100 Thieves heading into 2019, and seeing as how the bottom lane dominated the meta for the better part of last year, the combination of Bang and Aphromoo could be one that dominates the league over the course of the season.
Additionally, after the transition of Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from the starting mid lane position to a coaching role, the team bought on former CLG veteran Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, bolstering the roster even further. And while the swap from Ryu to Huhi may not be as eye-popping as the moves made in the bottom lane, the switch allows 100 Thieves to capitalize on Huhi’s mechanical capabilities while still having Ryu serve prominently as a coach. If anything, the move permits the team to have it both ways, as Ryu, someone who contributed massively in 2018, will still have major influence on the team going forward.
It’s undeniable that the starting roster and coaching staff have both been bolstered severely with this move. Of course, the direct influence Huhi provides to the starting lineup is a huge boost, but the intellect and insight that Ryu gives as a coach will surely be major factors moving into 2019.
Teams are rarely able to transition their players into coaches as David “Cop” Roberson for Gravity and Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik for TSM are the only two figures in recent memory that come to mind when it comes to the transition. But, if Ryu is able to find success with 100 Thieves in a new role and become almost a personal mentor for the team’s new mid laner, the potential is limitless for the position in 2019.
And now, with young jungling prospect Andy “AnDa” Hoang ready to grow as he enters his second full year of play after definitively earning the starting jungling spot down the stretch last year, the Thieves are looking brighter than ever when it comes to young talent. AnDa, who posted a KDA of 3.4 after being acquired from FlyQuest last season, also averaged a KP of 72. He’ll be supported by the aforementioned cast of characters, along with Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, who is expected to continue with the level of play that propelled him to the top of the food chain for his position throughout all of 2018. With all of this in mind, the 100 Thieves roster is shaping up to be one of the most versatile and deadly rosters in all of the LCS.
Moving forward into 2019, 100 Thieves, while obviously being one of the most intriguing teams in the LCS, could surely be a threat to contend once again. And while the league around them has only gotten stronger, the Thieves have responded by bolstering themselves into one of the strongest teams in North America. The roster that the organization has created is only stronger than last year’s, and that roster was able to make the World Championship. Last season, for the Thieves, it was all about proving that they belonged. This year, the focus changes- it’s about proving they can capitalize on the momentum they’ve already created for themselves.
Now, as the North American scene looks fiercely competitive heading into 2019, the organization matches that tone. The Thieves are hungry and they only look better than they did the last time around. And with everyone in the league looking to prove themselves yet again, no one is more poised, capable, and filled with potential than 100 Thieves.
Photo Credit: League of Legends, Riot Games, 100 Thieves