If you blinked, you would have missed that 100 Thieves were eliminated for Worlds contention. In the wake of TSM’s departure, their 3-1 series loss in convincing fashion to Team Liquid ended what was arguably a miserable year for an organization that had convinced most a back-to-back international appearance was a lock at the start of the season.
Moving on from the core roster that saved their floundering League of Legends reputation proved to be a challenge despite a large off-season bankroll. Household names complimented by young talent were meant to be a formula for future success. Instead, it is a quiet disaster, one with larger ramifications than people may realize.
Behind the scenes, 100 Thieves have battled financial turbulence. Two significant rounds of layoffs within a year and a half went unquestioned. An immediate release of their academy lineup – despite being one of the bigger participants in the space – was a small blimp on radars compared to frustration with other organizations. And now, rumors of a potential sale in 2024 begin to circulate.
Which is what makes this season so fascinating to revisit.
The two headline acquisitions – Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yiliang “Peter” “Doublelift” Peng—both failed to inspire in their performances. Their prized prospects Milan “Tenacity” Oleksij and Alan “Busio” Cwalina both showcased greenness in their first appearances at the professional level. A conflict in the fixes for the lineup led to an in-season coaching change. Despite a two-week climb in the leaderboards, the team failed to connect the dot in the playoffs, losing back-to-back series against FlyQuest and Golden Guardians.
Bjergsen’s sudden retirement after the split fastened the inevitable reality that something was wrong. And despite more roster changes – re-acquiring Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and acquiring Lim “Quid” Hyeon-seung, the stink carried into the summer.
Can “Closer” Çelik would be the main point of blame – succumbing to the narrative of a niche champion pool. But the reality stands that 100 Thieves as a whole did not look up to form – with Ssumday notably having one of the worst splits of his career.
And despite the claims that Doublelift was “hardstuck,” the man only received two all-pro votes for a reason. His 546 damage per minute in the summer ranked second to last among marksmen despite holding the second-largest percentage of his team’s overall gold (29.1% of 100 Thieves’ overall economy) among the said population. And his 256.16 damage per teamfight was the eighth-best among marksmen for the entirety of 2023.
The rose-tinted glasses want to remember a time when Doublelift was in consideration for best marksman in the world. The reality is that he finds himself on a retirement tour in a Kobe Bryant-esque fashion – enough to rekindle the flame of the old days, not enough to overlook a 7th-8th place finish.
Which is why this season is so strange for this era of 100 Thieves. This was a team that was meant to be competitive. While not as dramatic as a downfall as FlyQuest, the sting is arguably more damaging.
There is no end-of-season statement from COO John Robinson or founder Matthew Haag or SVP of Esports Jacob Toft-Andersen. Instead, there is a stunned silence, capped off by the departure of former Director of Esports Analytics Tim Sevenhuysen — likely due to budget cuts.
Despite being incredibly popular, 100 Thieves truly has failed to find an identity in competitive League of Legends, a byproduct of inconsistency. Yet the most concerning thing about the team and the future is the lack of any real foundation to build off. All but Quid’s contract are set to expire in November — potentially signaling the inevitable exit.
If this is the final invested season for 100 Thieves, it is the reminder that money and status can only get you so far in competitive League of Legends. Or that red and black paint does make a piece of poop look pretty neat.