How Ryoma’s Pick-Up vindicated 100 Thieves

The 100 Thieves LoL team has had its ups and downs in terms of public opinion. The organization joined the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) in 2018 as part of the North American franchising. In its debut year, 100 Thieves finished second in the Spring season and fourth in Summer, earning a trip to the World Championship (Worlds). Quite an impressive start for a newcomer to League of Legends.

Despite this, optimism for 100 Thieves took a downturn in Summer when the organization decided to trade their jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman to FlyQuest. Meteos expected to be traded as a starter to another LCS team but instead found himself playing for FlyQuest’s academy team. Although 100 Thieves’ statement cleared up fan confusion, it also concerned fans that the roster may have serious issues in spite of their successful Spring.

Everything slowly went downhill from there all the way to 2020.

How Ryoma's Pick-Up vindicated 100 Thieves

© 100Thieves Ryoma

The Downfall of 100 Thieves

Fan’s concerns proved justified when these issues reappeared at the worst time possible. 100 Thieves attended Worlds 2018 without veteran bot laner Li-Yu Cody “Cody Sun” Sun. Instead, the team fielded the lesser-known Richard Samuel “Rikara” Oh for the entirety of its Worlds run. For fans, 100 Thieves exiting Worlds in the group stage would have been only disappointing. With the unpopular decisions, the fans’ concerns turned to anger.

100 Thieves quickly spiraled downwards from there with a disastrous 2019 season. The organization had quality players in Chan-ho “Ssumday” Kim, Jun-sik “Bang” Bae and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, but clearly didn’t know how to use them. This was most evident in the constant roster rotations around the mid lane and top lane.

The roster chaos is best summarised with the panicked return of Sang-wook “Ryu” Ryu as the 100 Thieves’ starting mid laner. It was a last-ditch effort to field any mid-laner after promoting Max “Soligo” Soong saw 100 Thieves finish last place in Spring and likely to do the same in Summer. It worked, insofar as 100 Thieves finished Summer in eighth place. Two spots higher than the dead-last tenth, but still embarrassing given the caliber of the other players on the team.

Rebuilding for 2020

The extreme downfall of 100 Thieves after its initial rise earned the organization a lot of fan mockery. Post-game match threads on r/leagueoflegends were full with many mean-spirited jokes at the Thieves’ expense. To the organization’s credit, it responded with the swiftness that such a dire situation required.

The team overhauled the coaching and management staff. Tony “Zikz” Gray replaced Neil “pr0lly” Hammad as head coach and Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith joined as the team’s new general manager. They collectively revamped the roster, bringing Ssumday back to the main team and promoting the academy team’s Support William “Stunt” Chen. Most impressively, 100 Thieves managed to re-sign Meteos and Cody Sun after their less-than-friendly departures.

The signing of Tommy “Ryoma” Le, though, proved to be a controversial one. Fans were already short on patience due to the 2019 mid lane madness. The signing of a relatively unknown player from Oceania only exacerbated their vitriol. This was primarily due to popular American mid laners Eugene “Pobelter” Park and Tanner “Damonte” Damonte entering the 2020 season without teams, and fans saw both as more deserving than unknown imports like Ryoma or Immortals’ Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire.

Ryoma Vindicates 2020 Spring Signing

In light of the LCS 2020 Spring split, it seems that Zikz and PapaSmithy were correct in their decision. Ryoma is by no means an outstanding mid-laner, even by domestic North American mid laner standards, but he is competent and clearly improving. His regular-season stats are unimpressive: he is mediocre at best in most categories and is in fact last among the LCS mid laners in average gold differential at 15 minutes.

His best stats are in his Average Kill Assists and Average Percentage of Team Damage Per Minute. He is second in Assists only to Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer of first-place team. Additionally, he is firmly in the top half of LCS mid laners in terms of damage share. This backs up Ryoma’s role as a role-filling facilitator rather than a carry. This is unlikely to sustain 100 Thieveas long-term for international success. Almost no teams have ever accomplished great things internationally without a mid laner who is exceptional in one way or another.

For domestic success, Ryoma is a perfectly fine fit for the 100 Thieves roster. With carry players in top laner Ssumday, jungler Meteos, and bot laner Cody Sun, a player willing to humble themselves and play set-up for others to make good on their reputation as star talent is one who fits much better into the balance of the Thieves’ line-up.

While the 100 Thieves finished Spring in the respectable but unremarkable 5th-6th place, the placing should not be used to discredit the roster’s positives. The team met their playoffs benchmark, and that is with the team still having obvious issues. If the 100 Thieves can improve to a top-four in Summer, then it would be more then satisfactory to call the Ryoma pick-up a success overall.

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