LCS 2021: Three Reasons 100 Thieves Swapped Ry0ma for Damonte

Photo by OSHIN VILLA TUDAYAN/Riot Games.
Photo by OSHIN VILLA TUDAYAN/Riot Games. /

The first big substitution of the LCS season has arrived, just one night ahead of Week 5. Even though technically Pobelter and Broxah were “subbed” into the starting lineup for CLG, those were not as big of shifts as this news. First reported by Travis Gafford, and later confirmed by the team itself, 100 Thieves have elected to sub out starting mid laner Tanner “Damonte” Damonte in favor of last year’s starter (and their current starter for 100 Thieves Academy) Tommy “ry0ma” Le.

Instant reactions have ranged everywhere from puzzlement to complete incredulousness. From the outside, it seems to make no sense. 100 Thieves are currently tied for second place and are just coming off a 2-1 record in Week 4. Why make this change now?

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As it turns out, there are actually a few reasons why 100 Thieves might have made the decision to switch from Damonte to Ry0ma. In fact, it might be a smart move for three big reasons.

1. Damonte’s Play Has Dropped Off

After Week 1, Damonte had posted a 3.28 adjusted KDA, including 4.7 kills and 2.7 deaths per game, 387 gold per minute, 538 damage per minute, a -18 estimated damage differential, and a -135 matchup-adjusted gold+XP differential (MAGXD) at 15 minutes. That was good enough to earn him an 80 overall grade in our Week 1 player ratings, fifth among mids.

Now, just three weeks later, Damonte’s adjusted KDA has cratered to 1.95, averaging only 1.9 kills per game and 3 deaths per. His gold count dropped by 13, to 374 GPM, and his DPM dropped to 413, which is ahead of only Ablazeolive. Those drops also failed to cover for his previous weaknesses, damage efficiency, and laning.

There are some good arguments for 100 Thieves swapping in Ry0ma.

His -18 EDD, which was poor but not terrible, has cratered to -52.3, meaning he does over 50 damage per minute less than the average pro player on his champion. And, his MAGXD @ 15 has also dropped to -356.9, the worst among all LCS mid laners.

Just last weekend, Damonte posted scorelines of 1/3/9, 0/4/13, and 0/5/2 against CLG, DIG, and Cloud9, respectively. His damage per minute in those games was equally pedestrian, at 435, 462, and 325, respectively. Against Cloud9, he got absolutely abused by Perkz in the mid lane, giving up a solo kill and was down 500g at 10 minutes (700g at 15).

The fact is, despite the team’s success Damonte had a rough Week 4. His individual play has been trending down for quite a few weeks now, so it’s perfectly reasonable that 100 Thieves might want to try something new.

2. Champion Pool Issues

Right now, Damonte has a problem with his champion pool. It’s not that his champion pool is overly limited, but that teams have “solved” how to ban him out.

In 2021, his most successful champion, by far, has been Twisted Fate. Including Lock-In, Damonte is 5-0 on TF, with an 8.83 KDA, a -15.8 EDD, and a +716.3 MAGXD @ 15. Damonte is great on Twisted Fate so, teams have simply started banning it against him. In four of the last six games, and all the games in Week 4, TF was banned by 100 Thieves opponents.

As a result, Damonte has begun to default to one of the strongest mid laners (or at least, most-picked) on Patch 11.4 and his second-strongest pick, Orianna. On the year, Damonte is 3-2 when playing Orianna, with a 4.25 KDA, +50 EDD, and a -273.1 MAGXD @ 15. As you can see, Damonte trades off better lane control and roam abilities – which is his preferred playstyle – for better teamfighting when on Orianna as opposed to TF.

To counter Damonte’s Orianna, teams are typically picking Azir, unless 100 Thieves bans it away. This is a matchup that favors TF in lane and in terms of scaling, but it’s also an issue that Damonte slightly underperforms that matchup relative to the average pro player. As a result, 100 Thieves have typically banned Azir when TF has been banned, to free Damonte to grab Orianna without fear that the Azir will come back to counter.

This all makes sense, but the natural response should be for Damonte to do what most other mids in this position would do: pick the Azir once a team expends a ban on TF instead. Unfortunately, over the course of his career, Damonte has only played Azir nine times, during which he has a 2-7 record and a 1.92 KDA. He played the Emperor of Shurima for the first time last week, the game he got solo’ed by Perkz and went 0/5/2.

Now, this is not to say that Damonte cannot play any champions other than TF and Orianna. He’s shown in the past that he can play champions like Syndra and Galio with a fair amount of competence. However, right now, for whatever reason, 100 Thieves are drafting in such a way that he’s almost exclusively forced onto Orianna if TF is banned, which also forces his team to ban away a powerful Azir pick.

3. Ry0ma is Actually Playing Well

The third factor behind this decision is the fact that Ry0ma is actually playing quite well this year in Academy. In his 9 games of Academy play this year, Ry0ma has posted a 3.82 aKDA, 413 GPM, a +133.4 EDD, and a +354.3 MAGXD @ 15. Those are all exceptional stats and, even accounting for the fact that he’s playing far weaker competition than he would face in the LCS, that is good enough to grade him middle of the pack for LCS mids.

Another crucial factor is the fact that Ry0ma’s champion pool actually covers what Damonte’s lacks. His most-played this year are Azir (7.5 KDA), Syndra (4.17 KDA), and Lucian (5.6 KDA). In fact, in his entire career, Syndra and Azir are Ry0ma’s two most-played champions.

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Again, it’s worth repeating that Damonte can play the Syndra (and is perhaps a better Syndra than Ry0ma), but the evidence here really seems to suggest that the Azir pick is key. The Azir shuts down a lot of the current meta junglers like Udyr, Skarner, Mundo, and even Hecarim. With his exceptional range, a decent amount of mobility, and the ability to wall off a section of the map, Azir lets his team section and split teamfights. It also pairs exceptionally well with Gnar, one of the best meta top laners.

It seems that 100 Thieves are recognizing that their current playstyle isn’t suited for the more teamfight-heavy, run-at-you meta that the LCS has seemed to move to in recent patches. It seems most likely that 100 Thieves want to bring up the player who is performing better of late and whose champion pool fits the meta better.