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One of the 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series semifinals is a historic matchup: Cloud9 versus Team SoloMid, both with new iterations. The other is a rematch of the 2018 NA LCS Spring Finals in Miami, where Team Liquid swept 100Thieves 3-0.

After 100Thieves’ recent quarterfinals sweep of FlyQuest, we caught up with 100T support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black on how 100Thieves have improved as a team and how their upcoming match with Team Liquid will go differently this time.

Generally, how do you feel 100Thieves performed today?

It was okay. Not great. The only reason is that I think we had a couple of lulls, even in the first two wins, we had a couple of lulls in tempo where we just got stuck and couldn’t think of where to go, or just didn’t have the proper people in the right place to push the game forward. So a couple of our games were about 35 minutes where we had a lead in the first two and the last game was— worse. But we still came out on top.

There have been a lot of games where another team will get a jump on 100Thieves or maybe you have an early deficit, but your team seems to almost always pull through for a win. What is it about your team that allows you to come back consistently?

I think most teams don’t really know how to end the game. That’s basically it. A lot of teams right now — C9, TSM, FlyQuest now — play 1-3-1, but I mean the best team at 1-3-1 was CLG when I was on the team. When they play 1-3-1 it’s not great. Like FlyQuest, they got to push us in the base but they just didn’t know how to close it or use the pressure properly. Based on 1-3-1, it’s kind of hard for them, and then usually for 4-1, we always have long range versus their long range and it’s hard for them to seige most of the time. So I think we’re just good at defending our base and being able to kill people in the sideline who overextend. We killed Flame a couple of times for walking up too far.

I noticed that your side lanes were usually pushing and FlyQuest’s were rarely pushing. Side lane pressure is something that a lot of North American teams seem to struggle with. What is it about North America or the playstyle specifically that there seem to be so many teams that struggle with side lane pressure?

Hnnnn… I think the side wave issue is a player confidence thing. The back and forth is that your side laner and the three that are middle or whoever is getting the side lane both have to work together to do both. Most players are just so scared so they won’t push the wave or walk up middle when they have the advantage just because someone is in their face. That is the main issue for almost every team. It’s like, “No you gotta go first and then I can do this. Okay. I went here but now I have no wards. Give me some wards so I can push.” And through all that time it’s too late.

If you watch CLG, a good example is Huhi. He doesn’t give a f**k. (laughs) Literally without wards, pushes the wave, understands the tempo, where people are, when he can die, really really good side lane player. Then the other three — Stixxay, Biofrost, and Reignover — they were working on that the whole split, but Huhi just did everything and they were able to get mid lane control off of that.

Would you say that this is something that Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho also has? His communication with the team seems to have improved significantly this summer when you split him off.

We’re actually working on the side wave stuff. It’s a good thing we did better today, around our mid lane control, because it was very much lacking the last two weeks of LCS where we lost. Other teams somehow got mid lane control versus us even when we’re stronger and just walked in and pushed so Ssumday couldn’t push. The recent couple of weeks we’re doing better on that, today performed onstage, and now it’s a lot smoother.

When I spoke with your bot laner, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun a few weeks ago, he said that one thing you have really wanted to work on as a team is early pressure. How would you evaluate your early game progression as of late?

Our early game is a lot smoother and we’re always in a position to get a lead every single time. Right now, we usually make the wrong decision and die when we get to that spot. But before then we have full control, they can’t do anything, then, “Oh, we dived, later guys.” I think we’re doing pretty well. We just need to be more decisive and figure out what the best call is and how to play it out.

A large part of the early game is reliant on the jungler. How do you think Andy “AnDa” Hoang has adapted and adjusted since his arrival to the team?

AnDa’s early game definitely has helped us since he joined the team in terms of where we need to pressure, get out our wards, being in the right spot, whatever lane matchups we have. He’s good at tracking the enemy jungler and letting us know where he is, making sure someone calls out whatever lane you need to ward here. Once we start getting to the team plays, he’s working on tempo, grouping with me, figuring out our setup. It’s a work in progress.

How do you think the upcoming rematch with Team Liquid is going to go?

Usually in playoffs TL, Doublelift, their regular season can suck ass and they’ll still step up in playoffs. It depends on what TL shows up and I think we have a good chance. It’s not going to go like the finals last time where they stole Baron and then the series was over, you know. But the last time we played them in the regular season it was very close, we just didn’t have enough damage — we got and early lead and didn’t have the damage. I think it’s going to be a 3-2.

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