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Welcome to my 2018 NA LCS Spring Split Preview Series! I’ll be releasing my thoughts on each team during the 10 days before the season opener on Saturday, January 20th.

Today, how to take what is not given: 100 Thieves

Christina Haag had a problem. Her teenage son Matt was spending too many hours at home playing video games. Sometimes it got so bad, she needed to take away the Xbox’s power cord in order for him to stop. Christina wanted Matt to get outside more and learn the value of a dollar, so with help from her husband Jeff, they persuaded their 15-year-old son to get a job.

Reluctantly, Matt applied for and got the most clichéd high school job possible: Flipping burgers at a nearby McDonalds. It didn’t seem like it back then, but the hours spent behind a fast food counter helped change the trajectory of his life, in ways he didn’t expect.

“I actually only got a job because my Mom made me,” Matt admitted in a vlog years later. “She wanted me to get out of the house because I was playing way too much Halo 2. It was actually a blessing in disguise though. I was really upset with her at the time, but that job turned into the person that I am today. I didn’t really have any social skills, I had a hard time making friends when I was in high school. Getting that job and working with people every day, and the people I met, they really touched my life forever.”

In real life, Matt was a normal high schooler trying to balance classwork with a part-time job. But online, Matt was NaDeSHoT, an exceptional Call of Duty player grinding daily to make it big. In 2010, three years after Matt started working at McDonalds, his FPS talent was noticed by OpTic Gaming CEO Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez. H3CZ signed NaDeSHoT to his newly-formed Call of Duty roster, and a year later, NaDeSHoT quit McDonalds to pursue his gaming passion full-time.

Together, NaDeSHoT and H3CZ helped build OpTic from a scrappy young sniping clan into an FPS juggernaut surrounded by a towering #GreenWall. While the OpTic trophies piled up, NaDeSHoT continued to build a personal following on YouTube and Twitter. Talkative and personable in the lo-fi vlogs that were his calling card, NaDeSHoT quickly became one of the most popular professional gamers alive, winning the first Esports Player of the Year award ever given by The Game Awards in 2014, and amassing millions of YouTube subscribers.

But in 2015, during the middle of OpTic’s most successful Call of Duty season ever, NaDeSHoT abruptly left the team after they placed a disappointing seventh at Call of Duty Championship 2015. Citing declining skill, as well as a primary interest in streaming/content creation, NaDeSHoT retired from Call of Duty entirely. A year later, after leaving the Chicago OpTic house and moving to Los Angeles, NaDeSHoT formed his own brand: 100 Thieves.

“100 Thieves was never originally supposed to be involved in esports,” Matt told Travis Gafford in an interview last year. “I was really just taking my time away and having more fun with video games rather than making them competitive. I was never a big fan in my career just to slap my name on a t-shirt and sell it; I don’t think that’s cool. There’s a lot of other things I’m interested in, like hip-hop, street wear, and the sneaker culture. And a NaDeSHoT t-shirt was not something I wanted to go into my closet and wear every single day. People don’t do apparel well in gaming, and for me, I just wanted to build a brand that my audience, even if they don’t follow Call of Duty, could be passionate about.”

While the apparel side slowly grew, NaDeSHoT soon found himself back in the esports scene, entering a game far different than the shooters he excelled at. With backing from Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 100 Thieves applied and was accepted into the NA LCS by Riot Games last fall. For man who made his living documenting his own life online to millions of fans, finally letting the secret out was a massive relief.

Courtesy of @100Thieves

Lacking any League of Legends knowledge himself, NaDeSHoT hired Neil “pr0lly” Hammad to help build and coach the team. For the past three years, pr0lly worked abroad as Head Coach of H2K Gaming, leading the EU LCS side to two straight Worlds appearances. A well-liked, player-first coach, his former charges remember him fondly, especially star jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski.

“pr0lly was one of the reasons I played so well in 2016, and it seems like he picked up some really good players,” said Jankos when I interviewed him at Worlds 2017. “I think with his coaching, [100 Thieves] can be an insane team in America. I’m not sure if they can beat TSM, and that’s because TSM is just winning everything no matter what happens… I know that it’s not easy to live in other regions, you get homesickness, and sometimes you want to see your family but you can’t. Being in NA will maybe help him out a bit, and I really hope for him to eat some good American burgers, which he’s probably doing right now. I love the guy.”

The roster pr0lly and NaDeSHoT put together is filled with veterans, starting with one of pr0lly’s former players on H2K: Mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Best known for being on the wrong end of that Zed play, Ryu has proven a capable import out west, finishing fourth at Worlds 2016 with H2K. More recently, Ryu led Phoenix 1 to a third-place finish NA LCS Spring 2017, but precipitously fell off in Summer 2017. After a successful Rift Rivals in Europe, Ryu pulled himself off the team, claiming fatigue and burnout. His sabbatical would last exactly one week, after which he rejoined P1 to relieve a flailing Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik. Ryu’s mentality—and champion pool beyond Corki—is still a question mark heading into Season 8; perhaps a reunion with pr0lly (a former mid laner himself) and a more stable organization will help.

Another player with mentality concerns is jungler William “Meteos” Hartman, a former P1 teammate of Ryu’s in Season 7. After redefining what it meant to be a carry jungler as a member of Cloud9, Meteos left his friends for more consistent playing time on Phoenix 1 in Spring 2017. He’d eventually win the starter’s job from Rami “Inori” Charagh, but fail to keep it in Summer 2017, giving way to the meteoric rise of Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung. Like Ryu, Meteos lost interest in League of Legends for a time, devoting hours to streaming World of Warcraft while P1 was relegated. Since then, Meteos has rededicated himself to League, and is publicly thrilled to play with Ryu again. The return calculus seems simple: Come for Ryu, stay for the carry jungler meta.

In top lane, 100 Thieves will start Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho, the former Dignitas man who consistently ranks as once of the best players in NA LCS, regardless of role. His ability to slice opponents to shreds on carries like Fiora is only equaled by his excellence on tanks like Shen, a terrifying prospect for opponents to plan against. But ssumday cannot solo-carry games, preferring instead to split push while his team creates space. If the other carries falter, like they did for Dignitas during long stretches of Summer 2017, teams feel free to commit massive resources into stopping ssumday, and are often successful. Given space to work and some jungle attention in laning phase, ssumday is an absolute beast. But without help, you’re stuck buying Duskblade on a tank Jarvan IV.

Critical to assisting ssumday is the new bot lane combo of AD carry Cody “Cody Sun” Sun and support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, two players on opposite sides of their careers that enter Season 8 hungrier than ever. For Cody Sun, it’s a chance to prove that he’s more than the betrayal at Worlds 2017; for aphromoo, it’s an opportunity to define himself apart from the Counter Logic Gaming brand. Cody will find laning with a roaming playmaker like aphromoo similar to his Immortals duo with Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, which should bode well for 100 Thieves’ early game. With Ardent Censer nerfed out of the meta, expect to see aphromoo back on his comfort supports like Thresh, Bard, and Alistar.

In a way, aphromoo’s journey from CLG to 100 Thieves mirrors that of his boss’ departure from OpTic Gaming years ago: Two established veterans leaving the organizations that made them in search of something their own. For NaDeSHoT, it hasn’t been an easy road from McDonalds to millions. It took years of uncertainty and hustle for his gaming career to take off. Christina Haag, who had long suffered from epilepsy, died suddenly in 2012, well before her son’s unusual life choices ever made sense. But the community Matt created online helped him through that loss. Now 25 and living across the country from where he grew up, Matt’s about to enter the next stage of his career, adorned with the brand he crafted from nothing. The desire to persist through adversity, to take what is never given, to realize your dreams by always giving 100%, that’s Matt. That’s NaDeSHoT. That’s 100 Thieves.

 

100 Thieves Academy Roster:

Top: Max “kaizen” Waldo

Jungle: Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh

Mid: Allen “Linsanity” Lin

Ad Carry: Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh

Support: Ryan “Whyin” Karaszkiewicz

 

Next, what analytics can and cannot do for your team…

 

About The Author

Miles Yim is the NA LCS Correspondent for Chhopsky.tv. When he's not writing about League of Legends, you can find him missing last hits, tunneling, and feeding kills bot.

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