The off-season saw Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black go from Counter Logic Gaming to 100 Thieves, and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng move from Team SoloMid to Team Liquid. Since then there has been much speculation: How would the former members of the once famous “Rush Hour” duo fare? After an exciting Week 1, and several wins since, fans of both players can breathe a little easier.
Rejoining the organization he spent two months with last spring, Doublelift took on his former team and recent replacement, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen in the first game of the season. Zven and his lane partner Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez have played together for several teams, starting with Origen in 2014. Since then they have been inseparable, moving first to G2 Esports and now to the NA LCS. The pair have produced consistently dominant performances, leading many to call them the “Best in the West.” This is a title that Doublelift referenced with a smirk in his post-game interview, after going 5/0/5 in Team Liquid’s 28 minute, 11-1 rout of the defending NA Champions.
After the typical early game spent farming and feeling each other out, Doublelift engaged aggressively onto the enemy bot lane. Timing Tristana’s Rocket Jump perfectly with Taric’s Dazzle, he stunned Zven’s Kalista long enough to get the kill and chunk mithy’s Alistar down to half of his health. Without hesitation, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung used Taric’s Cosmic Radiance. This protected the members of Team Liquid as they rushed past the enemy tower in pursuit. A flash/stun combo from Olleh secured the double kill for Doublelift, and sparked “Let’s go Liquid” chants from the traditionally pro-TSM crowd. Team liquid took this early lead and ran with it to secure a resounding victory to start off 2018.
While Doublelift came into Week 1 ready to prove himself to TSM, Aphromoo went into Sunday’s game against CLG with as much to prove to himself as anyone else. He made it clear in preseason interviews that while leaving CLG was one of the toughest decisions of his life, it was ultimately his choice. He had spent nearly 5 years with CLG, becoming the main shotcaller and a fan favorite. “…I thought that would be my home forever.” he said in a preseason interview with LoL Esports, “…but here we are.” Not only was Aphromoo leaving his longtime friends and teammates, he was also transitioning from an established team to one that was brand new to the NA LCS. He seemed apprehensive about the change, and maybe a little homesick.
If Aphromoo had any lingering loyalty for CLG and former lane partner Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, it didn’t last long. By 4:30 into the game, he had already set up the perfect gank, flashing forward as Braum to get stacks of Concussive Blows onto both Stixxay and CLG’s new support, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. The resulting stun secured a a kill on the latter for his ADC, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun. 100 Thieves steadily increased their lead as the game continued, and Aphromoo racked up eight more assists while only dying once by the time the CLG nexus fell. As he walked down the line, hugging old teammates, he looked perfectly content in his new home.
Now, three weeks in, both Aphromoo and Doublelift are still going strong, and their new teams sit above their old in the NA LCS standings. Doublelift is playing as cleanly as ever with a league-best KDA of 19.3. This is more than double that of Altec, the ADC who is his closest competition with a 7.5 KDA. He is in good company, with a team of veterans and some former teammates that looks like they have been working together for years. They have dominated all but one of their opponents, racking up kills and objectives in a style that is simultaneously exciting and methodical. Now tied for first with five wins and one loss, Doublelift looks poised to lead Team Liquid to the postseason.
Sitting just behind them in the standings with a record of 4-2, 100 Thieves quickly made their mark. While they have faced criticism for barely securing victories in some close games, it may very well be this ability to close out tough contests that will carry them to success later in the season. Additionally, they are the only team to have defeated Team Liquid so far this split.
Arguably the biggest question mark on the team coming into the season was young ADC Cody Sun. He entered the NA LCS only last year, and seemed to struggle before finding his groove in the Summer Split. However, he has never looked better than he does with Aphromoo by his side. Currently boasting 742 Damage Per Minute and 39% of his team’s total damage, he is #1 in both among ADCs. Aphromoo’s team-high 38 assists is only a small part of his contribution to the success of both Cody Sun and 100 Thieves, as his shotcalling and positive energy are what have made him one of the top supports in the league.
As they head into Week 4, there is still a long way to go this split. Though it looks promising, it remains to be seen if these two veterans can lead their respective teams to the level of success they are each striving for. If they both continue to perform, it is possible that we will see them both at Worlds again in 2018.
Other photos courtesy of comicbook.com