For most of the 2018 NA LCS season, 100 Thieves were among the better teams.
A surprise finalist in the Spring Split, they recovered from a rough first week of the Summer Split to go 8-2 in weeks two through six. But with chances to clinch a playoff bye in the last two weeks of the regular season the Thieves failed, losing their last three matches.
One of the key factors in all three losses was ADC Cody Sun. A rookie last year with Immortals, Cody Sun became known for flashy carry performances but also maddening inconsistency—sometimes his game-changing plays led to victory for the wrong team.
Rather than improve this year, in a lot of ways Cody Sun has regressed. Getting him back on track will be crucial if 100 Thieves want to make it back to the NA LCS finals.
A missing lane phase
The key to figuring out what happens starts in the lane phase. Last summer, when Immortals went on a playoff run that took them to Worlds, Cody Sun was fourth in the league in all major laning categories, including CS, gold, and experience at 10 minutes. This is after he ranked second in the league in the spring split, with only part-time Liquid starter Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng his superior. You could confidently say that last year, Cody Sun was one of the best laning ADCs in the region.
Those number didn’t budge too much in the 2018 Spring Split. He ranked only sixth in CS, but first in experience and fourth in gold at 10 minutes. The solid laning paid off—Cody Sun did over 35 percent of his team’s damage last split, a huge number that was highest in the region by a mile. In fact, Cody Sun’s lead over second place Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes was greater than the difference between second and seventh in the damage column.
But everything has changed this split, he’s outside the top 10 in all of those laning statistics. And it’s bled through to his ability to teamfight: he ranks sixth in damage percentage, seventh in overall damage among full-time bot lane starters.
That last qualifier is important—the crazy meta shifts of 2018 have meant that all sorts of players and champions are being thrown into bot lane. That must be the reason Cody Sun is struggling, right?
Don’t blame the meta
The data doesn’t support that assertion. If you look at data from just weeks five through eight (week nine data is not yet available), after most bot lanes returned to playing ADCs and gold funneling stopped being meta, the picture is the same. Among bot lane starters, Cody Sun is still one of the worst.
Again, those are numbers from the last half of the split. So it’s clearly not a meta issue. And while the trends have gotten better for him, they still point to him as just a mediocre ADC in the region, not a dominant carry force.
Watching 100 Thieves lose those last three games only increases the mystery. In all three, Cody Sun played a traditional marksman from the balanced Ashe to a lane bully Jhin and finishing with a late-game carry in Kai’Sa. And he was a non-factor each time. Is there something else that is going on?
The first thing that pops off the page is Cody Sun’s champion pool. This split, it’s been Xayah or bust.
Cody Sun is 6-0 on Xayah, by far his best champion. Through Kai’Sa, who has a similar late-game play style, and he’s 8-1 on traditional crit champions. Look back to last year and he was most successful on champions like Kog’Maw, Caitlyn, and Miss Fortune. All of those champions can deal a ton of damage. They also don’t really have skillshots.
His most-played champions in 2017 were the likes of Varus, Jhin, and Ashe, all champions that require tremendous skillshot accuracy. That’s something he’s simply does not excel at—his win rate was under 50% for all three. And it wasn’t just rookie-year inexperience either: his Varus is still not very scary and like many NA LCS bot laners, his Ezreal straight up stinks.
Cody Sun can carry teamfights under the right circumstances. He’s great in clean, front-to-back fights where he can use basic attacks to dump in damage. The problem is the team hasn’t been good at either setting him up in the lane phase or giving him those opportunities at easy fights.
The first thing that comes to mind is that is a duo lane and the support matters. But that’s not the issue, because Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black is a strong as they come at support, right? And blaming Aphromoo for Cody Sun’s problems doesn’t explain why they were so good together in the Spring Split.
A look at the numbers only muddies the issue further. When the two were laning partners in 2016 and 2017, Stixxay and Aphromoo had a pretty average lane phase. Stixxay could be counted on to hit a high quantity of creeps, but they didn’t consistently snowball. This year though, Stixxay has been on top of the league tables for both splits with new support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang.
And there’s one other thing about Aphromoo: he dies a lot. Aphromoo has always loved engage supports who sacrifice their lives for the team. It’s not surprising that he’s fourth in total deaths this split and leads all supports in that ignominious category.
That’s not a huge problem because Aphromoo is the league’s best playmaker. Sometimes someone needs to die for the team to win fights, and Aphromoo is usually successful in that role. The problem is, Cody Sun doesn’t seem comfortable with Aphromoo’s playstyle. When Aphromoo goes in, that leaves little peel for Cody Sun. And Cody Sun’s own teamfight positioning often isn’t good enough for him to safely deal damage. In their losses down the stretch, 100 Thieves have a lot of fights like this:
There’s so much wrong with that fight. Mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook walked right into double Zilean bombs to die before anything started. Aphromoo tried to flash into the entire TSM team. And Cody Sun stuck around for the doomed engage even though they clearly did not have enough damage.
And it’s not just Aphromoo. The whole team looks like they’ve forgotten how to teamfight together. A lot of the time, they’ll get caught with Cody Sun not in position. That doesn’t absolve Cody Sun of his responsibility to be the carry, but it does explain why he’s not as effective as he has been before. This fight never should have started with both Cody Sun and MVP candidate Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s Vladimir out of position:
100 Thieves had full vision of the top side jungle and knew Cloud9 were coming. And Ryu still walked into near melee range of the enemy Fizz. The result was yet another Aphromoo death as he tried to save his mid laner.
Cody Sun isn’t the only bot laner that’s struggling this year. Cloud9’s Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi has been in and out of the lineup amidst the worst split of his life. FlyQuest’s Jason “WildTurtle” Tran can regularly be counted on to throw away games. The Summer Split has been tough on a lot of bot laners.
But Sneaky’s always had a poor lane phase and Turtle can always be counted on to be too aggressive in teamfights. For a while we thought we were going to get a more balanced package from Cody Sun. 100 Thieves have to get him back on track to real deal themselves.
All stats via Oracle’s Elixir