The very last match of Worlds 2021 group stage - day 5 left two teams in very happy moods. Despite being confirmed elimination from the tournament pretty early into the day, 100 Thieves managed to steal the victory from EDward Gaming in the last match of the day, which meant that T1 made it out of group B as the 1st seed, and EDG as the 2nd seed.
After the match, the head coach for 100 Thieves, Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu, sat down with Inven Global for an exclusive 1 on 1 interview to talk about his 2021 Worlds experience, how far he’s come in achieving his goals with 100 Thieves, and his future with the team.
Although 100 Thieves finished strong in the tournament with a victory against EDG, the team’s Worlds run unfortunately came to an end this year. How do you feel about the victory against EDG, and please tell us what your Worlds experience was like overall.
I had high hopes for this year’s Worlds because the players are incredibly motivated and talented. We started our scrims almost a month later than the other teams due to visa issues with our junglers, so although we had a great finish in the end, we still didn’t make it out of groups.
While it’s a shame to have seen the possibility within our team through our victory against EDG, our players definitely learned that they can beat some of the best in the world, and I feel that there’s room for players to use that lesson as motivation next year. In that regard, I’m pretty satisfied.
This year isn’t the first time you’re playing against EDG and T1. How did first you react to being in the same group as those two teams
Why is it that I’m always playing against these teams [laughter]? That was my initial thought. We came into the tournament with confidence because yes, we might be from NA, but we were coming off a fresh championship victory in the Summer. If those unfortunate visa situations didn’t affect our practice, maybe our tournament run could’ve looked differently, but nevertheless, we were still heading into the tournament with confidence.
How did the players react upon learning that they’ve been eliminated from groups?
Although it was confirmed after our match against T1 tonight, the last two matches of the day were our last official matches of 2021. DetonatioN FocusMe probably didn’t want to go 0-6 in groups, so we assumed that they were going to give it their all; our mindset was pretty similar to theirs.
Yes, our elimination was confirmed, but we still had to play with a greater objective for ourselves. When we asked that question to ourselves, the answers were unified in saying, “T1 went 2-0 against us; out of that respect, let’s beat EDG to send T1 in first place, and hope that both teams meet again in the finals.” With that mindset, we’ve prepared for our last match of the day.
Now that 100 Thieves successfully stole the victory from EDG, is there anything you’d like to say to T1?
Both T1 and EDG are organizations that I was once a part of; both teams now are incredibly talented at the game, so I have much respect for them. Please make it to the finals so that I can boast to people that my group was the toughest of them all [laughter].
Going back to 100 Thieves, how do you rate the team’s groups run overall?
In week 1, it was blatantly obvious that our drafts were very weak. At the time, due to starting scrims late, we were still struggling to figure out the meta. The only form of practice that the players basically had was solo queue, so they played a lot of it. This turned out to be quite bad, as a lot of the bad solo queue habits stuck with them when we actually started team practice. We were in groups without having proper practice, so we didn’t have the knowledge infrastructure of champions that are thriving in the meta, as well as the different champion synergy possibilities.
We learned a lot in the first round robin of group stages, and in the second round robin, we figured out the personalities of the team, and focused on improving our drafts. We felt that with the preparation we’ve given, getting out of groups is definitely a possibility for us.
However, T1 really didn’t make any mistakes tonight. Truth be told, if we faced the same team composition in the LCS, we could probably win. As a poke comp facing a hard engage comp, one mistake can undoubtedly cost them the game. It’s 3-4 times harder for a team to not make a mistake than for a team to be on the attack, but T1’s execution was immaculate, to say the least. I gracefully admit my defeat [laughter].
I don’t know if this is an odd coincidence, but the LCS teams did very well against the LPL teams in groups this year. From your perspective, is this just a funny coincidence? Or is there a certain characteristic that NA teams share that gives them an edge over the LPL this year?
I’ve attended Worlds multiple times in the past, mostly with Cloud9 of course; even back then, the record’s always been better against the LPL teams than the LCK teams. It’s probably because… From the regional perspective, both the LPL and the LCS have a macro playstyle that’s based on aggression; the champions that are picked up in both regions all love to fight. When the game state becomes a bit of a fiesta, things are winnable for us [laughter].
LCK teams have a tendency to reduce the mistakes they make in game and win games without any major hitches. That type of playstyle, I believe, is the highest form of gameplay in League of Legends. LCK teams execute that type of playstyle incredibly well, and that’s why the LCS looked historically weak against the LCK.
The world has witnessed a rare occurrence in LoL Esports last night; an NA team has made it out of groups at Worlds, and it’s none other than your former team, Cloud9. I want to get your reaction when NA finally made it out of Worlds, and what that moment meant to you.
I was incredibly proud. They had a lot against them because they were starting that day with a 0-3 record. Even still, the players looked like they knew they were going to win. Seeing them focused until the very end made me very proud.
NA teams not making it out of groups in recent years have really brought down the region’s mood as a whole. In that regard, I’m very grateful that Cloud9 made it out.
The debate of the gap between the East and the West is an age-old question in LoL Esports, and the discussion flares up during this time of the year. Based on your experience and observation, how wide is the gap between the East and the West this year?
I think that the gap is the widest this year [laughter]. This actually ties in closely with what I said earlier about the regional playstyles; Western teams and LPL teams all like to get down and dirty for fights, so that’s why the West will fare much better against the LPL.
However, it’s rare for us to get the opportunity to face a team with a playstyle that doesn’t like to make mistakes. Before the pandemic, we would come to Korea for bootcamp; from scrimming top teams, we figure out their playstyle, and experiment with the ways we can deal with their strategy.
This year, however, all group stage teams came two weeks before the start of Worlds, so the lack of preparation time is a factor as well. All teams practiced in their respective regions before flying over to Iceland, so the meta was very different, and that’s why I personally think the gap is at its widest between the East and the West.
The title of our last interview was, “I want to make a team where players could shine individually.” Now that your 2021 season is over, how much of that goal do you think you’ve achieved?
About 50%, I’d say. I’ve first witnessed the potential from the team through winning the Summer split. Then during Worlds, the theories that I’ve tried to implement into the team are impractical in NA in many ways. After witnessing top level gameplay from top teams, things like how they position for teamfights and how quickly they can change their game plan on the get-go, we internally debated about those things for a long time.
The difference between knowing it in your head and experiencing it first-hand is day and night; now that the players have experienced it first hand, we’ll be able to climb to new heights next year.
Which player(s) have shown the most growth since you joined?
It’d have to be Closer and FBI. I’ve heard from other insiders that these two players had a very aggressive and outspoken personality, but their personalities have become more team-focused throughout the split. I could also tell that they were incredibly driven to become better players, so both players, I feel, deserve praise where it’s deserved.
Looking back at your experience in Iceland as a whole, which moment do you think will stick out from your time there? Maybe when you went to the hot springs with the team?
I think that the hot springs with the team will definitely be the most memorable. We had our scrims get cancelled on us that day, and because there’s an even number of teams here at Worlds, there isn’t another team to scrim if cancelled.
We decided to take a day off and go to the hot springs, and guess who was waiting for us at the hot spring? The team that cancelled [laughter]! The 10 of us being in the same pool of water, I think, will be that most memorable moment.
Now that Worlds is over, what’s next on your agenda?
We can’t get plane tickets right away, so we’ll wrap things up here, drink a lot tonight, and since Iceland is very nature-oriented and scenic, I’m planning to look around the island, go back to the States, take some time off, then bootcamp in Korea.
Lastly, since your time at Worlds has come to an end, I’ll leave you to whatever you want to get off your chest.
A lot of time had high hopes for us this year, so I’m very sorry that we couldn’t meet those expectations. However, as a team that was formed in the beginning of the Summer split, I feel that we’ve shown really good progress. For next year, we’ll make sure to work harder to be able to represent the LCS again, both at MSI and at Worlds. Thank you!
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports