When 100 Thieves purchased the entirety of the Golden Guardians’ near-winning formula of yesteryear, expectations were at an all-time high. After all, the core four players have had a great deal of time to build synergy - especially versus the bank-breaking superstar teams that had been assembled the very same off-season that this purchase came through. Adding MVP-caliber Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho to the mix should have been a recipe for success.
After a strong start to the split, 100 Thieves began to freefall down the standings. Teams were catching up to their degree of synergy, and the players were being individually outclassed when it came to playing versus other title contenders. As such, a change had to be made - thus breaking up the GG core that shook the 2020 LCS standings.
Tanner “Damonte” Damonte would be that change. The former GG player departed the starting line-up mere weeks away from the end of the regular season, making way for his predecessor — Tommy “ry0ma” Le — to return to the LCS stage. Changing a player can often result in a honeymoon period, but it can also upset any foundations in terms of confidence and communication.
Removing Damonte in favor of the player he came in to replace is enough of a head-scratcher, but shoehorning traditional carry player ry0ma into the line-up with a vastly different champion pool to his predecessor is just asking for teething issues.
In fact, taking a look at the draft trends for 100T’s opponents, the implementation of ry0ma actually lost 100T a guaranteed ban. Was Damonte’s Twisted Fate game-deciding? More often than not, not so much. Did it allow the veteran mid laner a chance to influence his hard-carry sidelanes on a whim? Absolutely, meaning that 100T’s dedication to teamplay through mid lane was seen as a threat by the rest of the league.
Playing Teemo’s Advocate
It’s easy to argue that Damonte’s playstyle was a necessary sacrifice in order to facilitate the rest of the map. After all, with superstars like Ssumday, Can “Closer” Çelik, and what many considered to be a top-3 bottom lane in the entire LCS fleshing out the rest of the roster, the resources just weren’t there for a carry mid laner to shine.
The issue with Damonte’s utility-focused playstyle is that sometimes you need a mid laner who can step up, and after weeks of playing a supportive role it gets harder and harder to do exactly that.
Other teams in the league often ignored the 100T mid laner for the duration of the laning phase, assuming their own counterpart could generate a sizable CS lead or even force out a solo kill. In fact, despite winning two-thirds of the games that he played in, Damonte’s stats average out to a deficit in minion kills, experience differential, and gold.
This is partially due to the constantly-referenced champion choices that 100T opted into with Damonte in their line-up. Utility picks like Sett, Galio, and Twisted Fate play more for their team and skirmishing potential, but Damonte’s performances on control mages like Orianna, Syndra, and Azir have also left much to be desired in both the statistics and playmaking departments.
However, while Damonte’s laning prowess can easily be interpreted as a liability for the line-up, it is his selfless playstyle that catalyzed a lot of the Golden Guardians’ success in 2020 and led 100T to a top-of-the-table berth for a majority of this split. Replacing him with ry0ma was ambitious at best, but with heavy hitters like a resurgent Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and a playoffs-buffed Luka “Perkz” Perković in the league, the team needed a player that could at least hold his own… especially when they have their eyes on the title.
The Other Side of the Equation
It’s never easy to enter an established line-up as a new face, but ry0ma took the chance that was given to him. Despite leading the team to a win rate that is the exact inverse of what it was with Damonte — currently, the team has 3 wins and 6 losses with their new mid laner in the lineup — ry0ma actually looks fairly solid, nothing like his rather lackluster 2020.
Completely abandoning the utility picks that the 100T midlane position had become renowned for, ry0ma entered the 2021 LCS off of a fairly formidable showing in Academy with a handful of control mage picks. He brought an oft-overlooked Sylas to the table, posting insane KDAs and damage distribution in both games on the champion — though these were versus bottom-of-the-standings teams.
In fact, even though 100T were — for the most part, excuse that one 50+ minute loss to Golden Guardians due to indecision and whatever else — smashing teams lower than them with Damonte in the line-up, the introduction of ry0ma was to add an X-factor to their playstyle that could see them go blow-for-blow with other title contenders.
Given that this team stood above the rest at the start of the season due to their innate synergy, it’s understandable that there are some teething issues now that a change has been made. This is, however, no excuse for the individual mistakes that have continued to show through the team’s past few games — and we aren’t talking about ry0ma’s.
Without a roaming mid laner to bail them out, the sidelanes of this 100T line-up seem to be slipping up. While this normally wouldn’t be an issue, playing against some of the best talent in the league will expose unforced errors so much more. There are fewer visible mistakes from the new 100T mid laner because he attempts less risky plays. As such, 100T again runs into the issue of having one less win condition relative to other teams.
Spring may be a good time to experiment, but with Summer right around the corner, it feels like 100T are signing themselves up for another disappointing year, despite a strong roster. There is still another best-of-five remaining for 100T to turn their luck around in, but even if their new mid laner can hold his own versus the superstars of the league, 100T need to find their footing — and teamplay — again fast. Despite their wildly different playstyles, Damonte and ry0ma fill the same void in this line-up, so it’s up to the rest of the team to step up and carry if they’re going to find success.