100 Thieves took a massive step closer to the region’s most prestigious League of Legends prize, and their second title, with a five-game win over Evil Geniuses in the lower bracket finals of the 2022 LCS Championship in front of a packed United Center in Chicago on Saturday. It was the eighth series out of eleven that went the distance in the North American playoffs.
The biggest story of the weekend had quickly become how reigning champions EG would fare without star AD carry Danny, who stepped away from Finals weekend in Chicago to focus on his mental health. Academy ADC Muhammed Hasan “Kaori” Şentürk was tapped to replace last year’s Rookie of the Year. The 21-year-old Turkish player was a standout in the Academy scene in 2022, and took advantage of a huge opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stage.
The narratives and expectations around this series, much like those surrounding the LCS Summer Playoffs as a whole, shifted wildly before and during the match between the league’s two previous champions. EG went from indomitable first seed to massive underdogs after an inconsistent playoffs and the news of the last-minute roster swap, back to champions-apparent during the series after flashes of their old form early on. 100T stumbled through the regular split before ascending to the god-like form that carried them to a championship last year, and rode that momentum through their playoff run, which included a reverse sweep of “superteam” Team Liquid.
And regardless of all of that, Cloud9’s resurgence overshadowed everything as they loomed at the end of the bracket, playing the best League of Legends in the region at the moment.
If the pressure of the circumstances wasn’t enough, EG’s game one draft put even more pressure on Kaori to perfom, picking Lucian and Nami for the first time in all of 2022. However, Kaori and Vulcan did not disappoint. They broke through by taking advantage of a sloppy fight in the top lane by 100T, and top-laner Impact’s Ornn and mid-laner jojopyun’s Viktor played teamfights beautifully to support Kaori’s knife’s edge Lucian play. 100T’s composition with Azir and Senna had no chance of getting online in a show of front-to-back dominance for EG.
100T threw the gauntlet down for the Geniuses’ substitute AD carry, daring him to play a different style in game two as they banned Lucian in first rotation. The two sides “handshook” Sivir and Yuumi into EG’s Zeri and Lulu lane. The star of the show in game two quickly became rookie superstar jojopyun on Akali. He tallied multiple solo kills onto Abbedagge for his first big moments in the the series. 100T managed to turn the tide of the game, however, when Ssumday’s Fiora, which he counterpicked into Impact’s Aatrox, made micemeat of EG to bring his team within striking distance. A final pick on jojopyun (in an otherwise stellar game for the rookie) sealed the victory for 100T.
Despite a side swap in game three, Abbedagge got himself a third game in a row in Azir, and EG’s bottom lane went right back to Lucian and Nami, with jojopyun and Impact grabbing themselves some of their signature champions in Sylas and Gangplank. As a result, the bottom side of EG’s map took a monstrous 6,000-gold lead as the first Herald crashed into the Thieves’ bottom lane tier one tower at the 14-minute mark. It was by far the most dominant early game by either side in the series to that point. The gameplan was perfectly executed by the Geniuses: bottom lane gets ahead, hands the baton off to Sylas and Gangplank, and let the game win itself. The 21,700-gold difference was the largest win margin of the entirety of the 2022 competitive season.
Despite two wins on Lucian and Nami, and with the combo open in draft for EG, they opted instead to buck a winning trend and locked in Sivir and Yuumi instead. Sion for Impact and Taliyah for Abbedagge also both made their series debuts. An incisive, confident fight around the first Drake of the game swung over 3,000 net gold in the favor of 100T to give them a sizeable lead as the mid-game got under way. As the seconds fell off the clock with no action around the map, the Thieves bled gold and objectives from the reigning champions, methodically trudging towards a decisive fifth game.
The last game of the day saw fresh adaptations from both sides in draft, with Soraka and Gwen taking the stage for the first time for 100T, and Ahri doing the same for EG. Despite the fact that no kills were traded at all until almost the 19-minute mark in a tense, winner-take-all game, the early game did feature action that resulted in a stolen Herald for EG, nabbing them two towers in the top lane in exchange for two dragons for 100T. The fight around the third dragon finally broke the game open for the Thieves thanks to a guillotine of an Azir ultimate. Ten minutes later, Ocean Soul was theirs, and so was the series.
For EG, the next competitive League of Legends they will play is at the Worlds Play-In stage in Mexico City on Sept. 29. 100T have punched their ticket to the Group Stage in New York City, but more pertinently, they’ve locked in a spot in their third straight domestic finals. This edition will pit them against C9, which kicks off at 3pm CT on Sunday in front of another sell-out crowd in Chicago.