LoL Week in Review: 100 Thieves Pause Tanner Time
The regular seasons in the LEC and LCS are quickly coming to a close. 100 Thieves have decided it’s time for a roster change, while Team Vitality’s earlier move has paid dividends. Elsewhere, Rare Atom has made a rare run in the LPL, and Chovy’s champion pool added another new pick in week seven. We take a look at the top news and storylines across the LEC, LCS, LPL, and LCK.
100 THIEVES PAUSE TANNER TIME
Entering week five of the Spring Split, 100 Thieves were 8-4. While not bad, they also weren’t looking as strong as they had earlier in the year. Part of that may have been the other teams in the league starting to build up their synergy. With four of their players starting together in 2020, 100T had a head start on the rest of the field. Could the rest of the LCS be catching up?
100T decided not to sit around idly and let that happen. Instead, 100T promoted their 2020 starting mid laner Tommy “ry0ma” Le to the main roster for week five. He replaced Tanner “Damonte” Damonte.
The 100 Thieves statement offered scarce few details, but General Manager Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith commented in a Reddit thread with more insight. The most interesting part is PapaSmithy referencing 100T’s team performance in regards to the roster move. Papasmithy wrote: “Our stage performance the past few weeks hasn’t been at a level we’re proud of to show our fans, regardless of our standing in the LCS.”
While this could mean that 100T wants to shake things up, it could also indicate they’re dissatisfied with Damonte’s play so far this season. That would seem obvious when a player gets benched, but it’s not always that simple. Benchings can be for things like attitude or wanting to bring in a more seasoned shotcaller. This doesn’t look like one of those situations for 100T.
Unfortunately, 100 Thieves didn’t put forward a better performance with ry0ma. The team lost to Evil Geniuses and TSM before closing the weekend with a win over the 10th place Golden Guardians.
Though he didn’t necessarily play poorly, ry0ma didn’t really make a statement that 100 Thieves should keep him in the lineup. He had little impact in his Orianna and Azir games before playing very well on Sylas in the win over GGS. That good performance doesn’t mean as much considering the strength of the opponent.
With only one week left in the Spring Split regular season, 100 Thieves need to make their week six starting decision with the Mid-Season Showdown in mind. Even if the tournament is only playing for MSI 2021, 100T are a good enough team to get there. It wouldn’t be surprising if 100T go back to Damonte in week six after giving him a weekend off to reset.
100 Thieves have not mathematically secured a spot at the Mid-Season Showdown yet, but are close. They play Immortals, FlyQuest, and Team Liquid in their final three games of the Spring Split.
RARE ATOM ON RARE WIN STREAK
After a slow start to the season, Rare Atom is quickly becoming one of the biggest threats in the LPL. The organization previously known as Vici Gaming has now won seven consecutive matches. Rare Atom’s 8-3 match record is good for fourth in the LPL, even with their 1-3 start to the season. With the longest current winning streak in the LPL, Rare Atom has moved to within two matches of first-place.
The foundation to the current run was laid in 2020. Coming off of four consecutive two-win seasons, Vici Gaming turned to legendary SK Telecom T1 coach Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun to turn the team around. kkOma turned a two-win team into a seven-win team in 2020 Spring, narrowly missing the playoffs. Vici Gaming improved their record to 8-8 in the Summer, again falling just short of postseason qualification.
While kkOma left to join DAMWON KIA in the offseason, the majority of the roster stayed intact for 2021. Top laner Dai “Cube” Yi and ADC Hu “iBoy” Xian-Zhao were already carries that Rare Atom could build around. Jungler Lu “Leyan” Jue and support Fu “Hang” Ming-Hang took control of their roles and turned into solid LPL starters. The final piece for Rare Atom was to find a top-tier mid laner.
They did that by acquiring Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan. FoFo made the jump from the LMS to the LPL in 2020 with Bilibili Gaming to mixed reviews. Mechanically, FoFo absolutely belonged in the league. Unfortunately, the synergy with the rest of his team was non-existent. BLG benched star jungler Zeng “Meteor” Guo-Hao for a portion of the year just to try to use a jungler who could better coexist with FoFo. Regardless of who was to blame, it was clear FoFo didn’t fit well at BLG.
After 11 matches, it’s fair to say FoFo fits in better on Rare Atom. Even while only getting counterpick in 48% of his games (compared to 54% with BLG in the Summer), FoFo has improved his KDA (3.5 to 6.1), gold difference at 10 minutes (75 to 79), XP difference at 10 minutes (-42 to 134), CS difference at 10 minutes (2.2 to 5.0), and damage per minute (560 to 607). These numbers also outpace Kim “Zeka” Geon-woo’s numbers with Vici Gaming in 2020 Summer surrounded by the same lineup. FoFo is making a big impact in his first split with Rare Atom.
That includes Rare Atom’s two most recent wins in week seven. FoFo went a combined 6/2/15 in their 2-0 win over eStar and 9/6/30 in their 2-1 win over FunPlus Phoenix. These performances also come on the heels of FoFo being named mid laner of the week in the LPL in week six. FoFo and Rare Atom are just on fire.
Rare Atom will look to extend their streak when they take on Victory Five (5-6) and Invictus Gaming (6-5) in week eight.
CHOVY PICKS UP WIN ON MID LILLIA
Some players are so good it doesn’t matter what they play. They’re so much better than their opponent that they can blind pick, counterpick themselves, and first-time champions and still win. We’ve seen it with players like Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok at various points in their careers.
Right now, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon is that dominant player in the LCK. That isn’t to say he has no competition in mid lane. Heo “ShowMaker” Su, Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, and whichever mid laner T1 decide to use are all top tier players. But none have been as strong as Chovy over the past year.
After going 7/2/12 on Azir in game one of Hanwha Life Esports’ 22 kills to 10 win over Nongshim RedForce, Chovy decided to have a little fun in game two. After Park “Bay” Jun-byeong blind picked Azir, Chovy took HLE’s early pick Lillia from Kim “yoHan” Yo-han for himself. HLE rounded out their draft with Olaf, much to the confusion of the casters and NS.
As exciting as the pick was, Chovy didn’t really have anything special planned for the laning phase. He and Azir traded farm uneventfully during the early game. Chovy then got caught out in the mid-game a couple of times and relied on his team to steal NS’ Baron attempt. His one big play of the game was landing a two-man sleep on NS at 23 minutes to start a four-for-zero fight in HLE’s favor. Overall, the game wasn’t exciting.
What was exciting, though, was Chovy’s willingness to pick outside the box. That Lillia pick was Chovy’s 15th unique champion played in 33 games, tied with teammate Oh “Vsta” Hyo-seong for most in the LCK. More impressively, the third most unique champions played among mid laners is ShowMaker with 10. Bdd has only played five different champions in 31 games. Chovy’s champion pool is on a different level compared to the other LCK mid laners.
With a weaker supporting cast than his 2020 DRX teammates, Chovy has HLE in fourth place in the LCK. Their 8-5 record is only one back of DRX for third place and one and a half behind Gen.G for second. HLE can improve on their record with matches against Afreeca Freecs (4-9) and Livv SANDBOX (3-10) in week eight.
TEAM VITALITY TAKE FIRST STEP TO MIRACLE RUN
Team Vitality got off to a rough start to the Spring Split. They started the season 1-6, then lost two more games after turning to Juš “Crownshot” Marušič to improve their shotcalling. Team Vitality upset Fnatic in Crownshot’s second weekend, but another four straight losses left them at 2-11 on the season. With two weeks left, they were all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Technically, though, they remained alive.
Now, Team Vitality remain alive for one more weekend. The team pulled off upsets over SK Gaming and Excel Esports in Week Seven to move to two games behind FC Schalke 04 and Misfits Gaming for the final playoff spot. With three games still to come, Vitality will even get a chance to hand defeats to the two teams they are chasing. Vitality plays S04 and MSF before closing the season against Astralis, the only team currently eliminated from playoff contention.
While Vitality is still very unlikely to make it to the playoffs, even if they did, it wouldn’t be the greatest comeback story in LEC history. Just last Summer, S04 started the Summer Split 0-8 and 1-10 before winning seven straight games to earn a playoff berth. By contrast, Vitality’s 1-8 and 2-11 marks seemed promising. However, Vitality can only reach seven wins at best this Spring. Even S04 won eight games.
If Team Vitality is somehow able to pull this off, it would mean two things. First, Crownshot is a team saver. Vitality needed someone to step up and be a leader in game, and he would have turned around a 1-6 team to a playoff contender. Second, it would mean that you can never, ever, count an LEC team out of a playoff race. Well, at least until they are mathematically eliminated. But maybe not even then!
As always, the LPL saves their best matches for the end of the week. First, we get to see EDward Gaming (9-2) try to rebound from a rare loss against Top Esports (7-3) on Saturday, March 13. That is followed by a pair of great matchups to close the week on Sunday, March 14. Suning (6-5) takes on Team WE (8-3) in the opener, followed by league leaders Royal Never Give Up (10-1) versus JD Gaming (8-4).
With the LCK leaning so top-heavy again, there is only one standout match on the Week Eight schedule. Gen.G (10-4) will take on T1 (7-7) in the first match of the day on Saturday. We could call it a rematch of the 2020 Spring Finals and LCK Regional Finals, but it’s hard to assign any rivalry to a T1 lineup that changes weekly.
In the West, it’s the final week of the regular season for both the LEC and LCS. In Europe, Team Vitality (4-11) take on FC Schalke 04 (6-9) on Friday, March 12. Vitality need a win to pull off a Schalke miracle run of their own. In a game more important for the top of the standings, Rogue (12-3) take on Fnatic (9-6) on Saturday. Rogue will need to win out and get some help to overtake G2 Esports (13-2) for the top seed.
In the LCS, there’s less drama in the playoff race. While only Cloud9 (11-4) have qualified, FlyQuest (5-10), Counter Logic Gaming (4-11), and Golden Guardians (2-13) have all been eliminated. Evil Geniuses (8-7) currently hold the last spot over Immortals (7-8), so their games against TSM (10-5) on Friday and Team Liquid (9-6) on Saturday are must watch. IMT close the week with a very difficult schedule in 100 Thieves (9-6), TSM, and Cloud9.