It’s League of Legends Worlds season and with that comes hope for every region to outperform expectations and create lasting storylines. North America and the League Championship Series usually are the subject of the hottest takes and are the butt of many jokes, but this year there are legitimate reasons to be excited. Much of the talk revolves around Cloud9’s reintroduction to the world stage and the continuing growth and potential of Evil Geniuses, yet it is 100 Thieves’ potential that may trump all the above.
100 Thieves was the cream of the North American crop not too long ago, and many of the same strengths still ring true today: strong macro play that limits opponents’ presence on the map whether by objective control or vision denial and selective teamfighting that lowers the percentage of a game-losing death. Behind the steady hands of Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and the bold plays from Felix “Abbedagge” Braun and Can “Closer” Çelik, the playmakers are all there. All of this is still true except they added teamfighting to their strengths.
“It’s not a big secret after spring split. We realized it was one of our weaknesses and we started to work on how to make our teamfights better,” Abbedagge told Nerd Street. “It came down to every other person stepping up individually and watching other regions teamfight. It was a work in progress and finally we’re showing it off in the playoffs.”
When they come together and the draft works harmoniously, it is beautiful. Against Evil Geniuses in the LCS Championship in the final game of the series, the first big fight started with better control wards and vision. With better peel and coordination, each member of the team fought on the same note and each player followed through on Abbedagge’s counter initiation. There was no panic. Damage was layered after the Azir ultimate, and despite being on the back foot fighting with fewer numbers on an objective without the best positioning, 100T showed proficiency and confidence in their execution.
As Abbedagge noted after the regular season was over, the team was playing better around objectives, and while the farming numbers were not as high as other squads, that ultimately won’t matter when it comes down to neutrals. It was more about controlling the map and ultimately never being in flux.
“It comes down to studying more VODs and other teams’ styles and what other players do with their champions, the reviewing with the team and extensive talks. We watch all the regions, but mostly LPL,” Abbedagge said. “We don’t try to copy but just watch and mold it into our identity. It really changed a lot to fix our fights because even when you’re behind, you can still win off an enemy’s mistake.”
Photo credit: Abbedagge via Twitter
When it doesn’t work, it’s brutal. There’s a reason 100 Thieves ended up as the runner-up to the momentum of Cloud9; sometimes the drafts and the teamfighting do not go together. Whether it was poor cooldown management, positioning or overall lack of counterplay and damage to the opposing lineups, nothing seemed to work as well as designed and 100T ended up being swept by C9 in the LCS Championship final.
International play or regional might not matter to a team that is solely concerned with its ability to force the game plan. It’s easy to say that controlling the map and neutral objectives will lead to victories, but it’s another thing to outright do it. 100 Thieves identified their weakness in teamfighting and map control went about correcting that over the summer split. it might pay off in a tournament as volatile as Worlds. Right now, their group is manageable. Outside of Gen.G (a tournament favorite), the only other unknown obstacle is a qualifying team from the play-ins.
“Once we play internationally, this strength will help us a lot and we’ll see how we match up against the other teams,” Abbedagge said. “There’s an individual in every fight we identify as the person with the go button. We’re all confident in finding the fights and the angles.”
It’s not enough to be an underdog anymore from North America. It’s time a team with as strong of a profile and reputation as 100 Thieves start to contribute to a winning reputation. Abbedagge knows it, and the rest of the team believes in it.
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
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