100 Thieves came into their Mid-Season Showdown match against Cloud9 as clear underdogs, but even then, their performance left a lot to be desired. 100 Thieves were, after all, a team that only a few short months ago pushed Cloud9 to five games in the Lock-In semifinals.
On Sunday’s Mid-Season Showdown series, however, 100 Thieves were convincingly swept 3-0 and the team’s stoic decision not to sub in mid laner Tanner “Damonte” Damonte mid-series, choosing instead to stick with Tommy “ry0ma” Le, stoked the bonfires of criticism.
100 Thieves fans, professional players and members of the community alike were displeased to see ry0ma start in all three games of the series while Cloud9 dealt one merciless blow after another, but the one-sided nature of C9’s win begs the question: Would 100 Thieves starting Damonte have made any difference against Cloud9?
Damonte and 100 Thieves in Spring
For those wishing for a stronger 100 Thieves, the desire for Damonte to return to the starting roster makes sense. Not only was the team much stronger with him than it is now, but it also had a defined identity. 100 Thieves understood how to play with Damonte; they’re still to find their rhythm with ry0ma.
But 100 Thieves’ most recent matches against Cloud9 knock off the rose-tinted glasses of that argument. 100T lost both encounters in the 2021 Spring Split, in which Damonte’s mid laner presence was a non-fact at best and hindrance at worst.
In week 2, Damonte struggled to find relevance with his signature Galio falling out of the meta. Despite his penchant for playing side lanes and 100 Thieves' early game lead, Damonte was invisible as Galio. He wasn’t the reason 100 Thieves would eventually throw and lose the late game, but he wasn’t helping them win in any way either.
The second match was far worse. Luka "Perkz" Perković’s LeBlanc outclassed Damonte’s Azir in the control mage match-up, and Cloud9 heavily exploited this mid lane gap.
Yes, Damonte looked excellent against C9 in the LCS Lock-In and was integral in giving 100 Thieves a 2-0 series lead. But the identity that everyone clamors for 100 Thieves to reclaim was centered around a playstyle that has fallen completely out of meta. This is why 100 Thieves started ry0ma in week 5 and never looked back.
Damonte vs. ry0ma, head-to-head
It’s undeniable that ry0ma is a stronger performer on control mages than Damonte, at least when considering the LCS Spring Split. In addition, while ry0ma played only half the amount of games Damonte did, the statistical comparison between the two players points toward ry0ma as the stronger individual player in the Spring Split.
|2021 LCS Spring Split||KDA||KP||DPM||DMG%|
That being said, there’s more to success than statistics, and there’s more to winning than simply not losing, especially against an opponent like Cloud9. In the Mid-Season Showdown series against Cloud9, ry0ma played the meta control mage trident of Orianna, Azir and Syndra against Perkz’s Yone, Orianna, and Tristana.
It’d be disingenuous to say ry0ma got his head caved in by Perkz in these games, but crucially, ry0ma’s safer and more conventional style of play wasn’t enough to translate to even a single win for 100 Thieves. Perkz had more presence on the map, and even when that wasn’t the case, such as in game 2, his control mage play on Orianna was superior to that of ry0ma’s Azir.
Like in every League of Legends game, there’s more to a loss than just one bad lane. If anything, the series showed a glaring lack of coordination between top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and jungler Can "Closer" Çelik, which was a far bigger problem against Cloud9. In the end, a different mid laner would likely not have mattered against the individual might of Perkz and the superior team play of C9 in the series from start to finish.
Whether looking at statistics or simply with one's eyes, it's easy to see that Perkz is superior to both of 100 Thieves' options in the mid lane. While there is an argument for Damonte being more proactive around the map than ry0ma, it's tough to imagine it would have made a difference, even in successful execution, when looking at the gap between the two teams in several areas that have nothing to do with the mid lane.
Like in every League of Legends game, there’s more to a loss than just one bad lane. If anything, the series showed a glaring lack of coordination between top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and jungler Can "Closer" Çelik, which was a far bigger problem against Cloud9.
Ssumday has been rock solid in his fourth season with 100 Thieves thus far, but the top laner has found himself exploited more than previous seasons in isolated situations, and Closer has the lowest top lane proximity of any jungler in the post-season. Ssumday was still close to being voted in as the 3rd All-Pro LCS Spring Split top laner, but his statistics have taken a dip with a lack of coordination with his jungler when compared to other top laners in the LCS.
|2021 LCS top laner stat ranking [Spring Split]||KDA||KP||DTH%||GD10
In the end, a different mid laner would likely not have mattered against the individual might of Perkz and the superior team play of C9 in the series from start to finish.
When considering all of these factors, especially when contextualized by 100 Thieves’ first series in the 2021 LCS Mid-Season Showdown and the team’s struggles in the second half of the Spring Split, deciding to start ry0ma in all three games makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that Damonte is completely out of the picture for the team.
100 Thieves’ identity crisis and synergistic shortcomings on the top side of the map are issues that, for better or for worse, Damonte was able to mitigate better than ry0ma, because he unified the team around these side lane dives.
Throughout his LCS career, Damonte has established himself as a vocal, passionate competitor who can often be the soul of a team like he was during Clutch Gaming’s miracle run in the summer of 2019. There is an argument to be made that regardless of what the statistics say, Damonte could be a spark plug for a 100 Thieves in desperate need of yet another shakeup before its elimination match against Dignitas this Sunday.
It’s undeniable that the team looks less coordinated as a unit with ry0ma in place of Damonte, but that issue extends far beyond simply which mid laner is starting. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok might have managed to secure a game or two for 100 Thieves, but the difference between Damonte and ry0ma against the likes of Cloud9 is negligible at best.
In a world where Damonte starts a game against Cloud9 last weekend, or even all three games in the series, C9’s 3-0 sweep would have been undeterred due to the nature of the wins and C9’s clear superiority in far more areas than the mid lane alone.
*Disclaimer - This article previously stated incorrectly that Damonte's Azir was bested by Perkz' Orianna in the 2021 LCS Spring Split. Perkz was playing LeBlanc, and this article has been updated to rectify the mistake.
All statistics provided by Oracle's Elixir