Papasmithy on Restructuring 100T, Public Perception
The biggest game of the fourth weekend of the League of Legends Championship Series was between C9 and 100 Thieves, the latter being in striking range of the former’s first-place position. A win would’ve tied up the standings, but unfortunately for 100 Thieves, the game wasn’t even close. We sat down to talk with 100 Thieves’ General Manager Christopher “Papasmithy” Smith to talk about the game, logistical changes in the recent offseason, and long-term goals.
Hotspawn: That was a tough loss, and I’m sure you’re feeling pretty disappointed right now. What are some of the first steps that you as general manager take after a game like that? Both in terms of strategic takeaways, as well as tending to the inevitable negative emotions that come with it.
Papasmithy: Obviously a super open-ended question, and there’s a lot of different answers to it. What I will say is that the one thing that doesn’t ring true about the way you put it forward is this idea of if it’s a win or a loss, an immediate reaction. I think for us, and for most teams, you’ll always hear it’s about the process. It isn’t so much about the result but the intentions— what we came into the weekend focusing on, how our recent practice has been, and how that reflects on the weekend and what our takeaways are from that. It’s all a lot more long-form rather than immediate in the moment, “ok, rough loss, what do we do now,” you know what I mean?
So to that end, we’ve actually had some pretty rough practice the last couple of weeks. We’ve been trying to evolve as a team, we’ve been trying to make sure that we aren’t just a one-note turret dive team as you saw in the Lock In tournament, that was our strong suit then. And with meta shifts and other changes there’s always gonna be bumps in the road, and for sure today there was a very visible one for the fans.
For me, it’s targeting being the best team in North America, and to do that you need to be able to beat a Cloud 9. And to do that you need to evolve and you need to be always shooting for the top, and if you take that lens, if you are focused on what you are in the end rather than what you are in a regular season game in the middle of the season, then, unfortunately, it’s very possible that days like today will happen.
Obviously, we’re humbled, and we feel bad for the fans that would’ve watched that game and not been proud of the performance we put out. Overall, it’s just a blip. It’s a reminder that we all have a lot of work to do, so from there we just pick up the pieces. We go back and evaluate where we are against our intentions, and we try to be better because we can’t afford to have multiple days like today.
Hotspawn: You mentioned before that one of the things you’re working on right now is dealing with the perception that 100 Thieves is a one-note team. What kind of steps have you been taking towards developing a more rounded team style?
Papasmithy: I think it’s always keeping our eyes and ears open to how the game is moving and evolving. There’s always a global meta shift, and while there are regional trends in that, you can look at the data and be like “ok this winrate is up on this champion globally, probably going to be an interesting one to consider” and you can also look at patch notes, and see that Riot has an unseen hand on the direction of the meta.
It’s very much understanding that we don’t want a team that can be banned out. There’s this perception that you ban out Galio and Twisted Fate and then Damonte is gonna struggle. There’s been times in the past perceptions that you can ban out FBI or Closer, or players like that. I think on the one hand that shows respect to their performance on particular signature picks, but it also suggests that there isn’t that full arsenal behind it and you never want to be in a situation where that’s true of anyone.
At the end of the day, it’s always about continuing to make sure that we have fuller and fuller strategies, that in a best of five if our initial punch is answered by a ban that we have more behind that. When you make a pivot like that, when you have goals like that, rather than just— I guess the easiest way to put it is: if you just try to win every staged game in front of you with your ultra comfort, you will get outscaled.
That’s always the way it goes in a long season. We’re not in a tournament spurt, we’re very much in a long season. So given that we’re always shooting further, I think Cloud9 is a team that would wear on their sleeves their struggle with this idea in summer of last year, when it came to shifting goalposts trying to do more. We obviously have to be accountable for the short-term and the long-term ramifications of trying to evolve, and unfortunately, today is the short-term rough moment.
Again, as General Manager I have to be zoomed out a little bit and work out why we’re doing what we’re doing and where we’re trying to go and whether that continues to be the path that we’re on, and how to best get to the destination that we want, which is definitely lifting the cup for our fans.
Hotspawn: Did the change in LCS format shift your thought process going into the season, gameplan-wise?
Papasmithy: Gameplan wise no. I think a lot of the decisions I made as a GM in September/October of last year were around the changes in format that were, at that time, not all locked in. As the months have gone [by] things came up like removal of duo queue, of one long season, all those things. That affects your roster makeup— it needs to. At the end of the day, your academy team for example, what function does it serve— I think evolves depending on the format of the season. There are some times where you need to have— for example, the moment that duo queue was removed I think having a really strong laning botlane in your academy team actually becomes really important [for] internal 2v2 practice, because it’s harder to get the same level of practice.[There are] lots of different decisions around the roster and where you can put experience and where you can put development players. A lot of that was made with eyes open to at the time mooted format changes. For sure, a lot of decisions are made based on how things go, but in terms of strategy, I don’t think so. I think that’s very much a day-to-day process, and I’m only overhearing it rather than influencing it. That’s not in the GM bucket, although people will still criticize me for drafts. But at the end of the day, we’re definitely mindful.
That’s the thing I can say about being a General Manager, you always have to have your ears open to every different interested party, whether it’s the players or coaching staff or Riot or the fans or the patch notes, you kinda have to ingest it all and then make large-scale decisions and make mistakes along the way, but try to chart a path towards the outcome you’re expected to receive.
Hotspawn: You were talking before about making sure you don’t get outpaced. What are some of the strengths of 100 Thieves compared to other top teams, in terms of support staff?
Papasmithy: I think the outpacing in your question was largely around gameplay, this “ok, if push and roam and dive is nerfed, does 100 Thieves have multiple other strengths?” is the perception that the outside world was asking around Lock In time.
To your question about org outpacing, that’s definitely another thing that we keep our eyes on. For example, at the end of last year, we did a very deep dive into our analytics, our tracking, [and] our data collection and data analysis. We approached it from all angles of how we’re collecting and looking through all the data we need for our team, what are other teams doing around the world, and what are the latest trends. In the past it was all google sheets— is that still the meta or are people making their own platforms, and stuff like that.
When it comes to data treatment that was a big area we focused on. We have a strategy and analytics department now, we have people who are looking over our gameplay and world gameplay removed from actually coaching the players day-to-day, and thus you don’t have the same inbuilt biases and tendencies around relationships you’ve formed with players. When it came to coaching staff, we brought in multiple ex-professional players and have some different angles that we look at the game from.
I think always, whether you feel like you’re a contender or down at the bottom, you have to look at what you have and what goal they’re focusing on and whether your staff matches your playing group or your intentions for the season. We definitely made a lot of big upgrades on the staffing side that I feel really really good about, and obviously, moments like this are where a lot of the money is made there because there’s a lot of numbers to crunch so that we don’t get humbled like today.
Hotspawn: Makes sense, thank you! I think that’s about all I have time for. Do you have any parting words for the 100 Thieves fans out there?
Papasmithy: For sure. To the fans who have been very much voicing their support for the new direction of the team this year and enjoying the content that’s been put out, but also at the same time been frustrated with the gameplay and the issues they perceive, do know that I’m out there reading and ingesting all the information. Nothing you say is happening is a vacuum. We’re working super super hard and tirelessly behind the scenes to be the team that matches the standards you hold us to.
You want to see championships, you want to see us lifting the cup, and when you see the stage game where we don’t look like we have all of those things we need to be in the end, know that that’s correct, there are gonna be stage matches where we haven’t been able to put it all together. But in our practice and in our approach we’re being exhaustive to be the team you want us to be. We’ll leave no stone unturned to be that team, but there will be hiccups along the way. I just hope you’re also there at the end to appreciate the journey that we’ve been on. I appreciate your confidence where possible.