100 Thieves' Nadeshot: 'We just didn’t want to be a team that was 10th place. That’s not good for League of Legends, that’s not good for 100 Thieves'

by Colin McNeil, Josh Bury, Daniel Rosen Dec 8 2017

Podcast video topics and time stamps:

2:16: What has Nadeshot been up to the last few years?
4:58: Clarifying the relationship between the Cleveland Cavaliers and 100 Thieves
10:59: You're new to League of Legends, how are you approaching the scene?
15:41: 100 Thieves’s goals in the LCS
19:35: How will 100 Thieves win fans in the NA LCS
37:33: Nadeshot on learning League of Legends, his favourite champions
42:26: On OpTic and FaZe’s historic rivalry
49:59: Challenging OpTic, Team Liquid and TSM
1:00:03: Final thoughts, shoutouts to LoL community

New blood is headed to League of Legends.

Four newly-minted North American teams will make their competitive debuts on Jan. 19, with one in particular looking to steal the show, 100 times over.

Backed by Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise, 100 Thieves is helmed by Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag — former Call of Duty pro and and OpTic Gaming content creator.

Haag appeared on theScore esports Podcast this week, where he issued friendly challenges to OpTic, Team SoloMid and Team Liquid’s owners, reflected on the failure of the 100 Thieves branded CoD team in 2016 and revealed some of his strategies for winning fans in League of Legends.

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As one of the new LCS teams supplanting four old ones, winning hearts and minds over to 100 Thieves’ side won’t be without its difficulties.

“This is the start of our entire League of Legends program and we want everyone to know who’s behind the team 100 Thieves,” he said.

“When you have these teams that are denied their applications that have been a part of the LCS for so long and you have newcomers that you’re not familiar with in any type of way, and you feel like, ‘Oh they stole their spot, this that and the other,’ there’s going to be a lot of people that are upset with these teams,” he said.

“We’re doing this in the most thoughtful way we possibly can. We’re not just here trying to jump into LCS when it’s at its peak,” he said. “We’re here because we’re passionate about the game, we’re passionate about the players, we’re passionate about the community.”

Haag said 100 Thieves aims to build a fanbase that reaches beyond displaced supporters of LCS teams that didn’t make it into 2018 though. He doesn’t just want a piece of the pie, he wants to expand it.

“The plan is to introduce the game to my audience and bring new eyes to League of Legends, not just market and go after the people who are already involved in gaming in League of Legends,” he said. “I want to bring the entire world over.”

Telling stories and building on rivalries, said Haag, are key.

“I definitely think storylines are more important that people think,” he said. They “make people more invested in the matches that are actually taking place.”

“I don’t necessarily think drama is always bad either. I think there’s a lot of different things 100 Thieves is going to bring to the table, but I definitely want to be a part of some marquee rivalries moving into the LCS.”

Luckily for Haag and potential 100 Thieves fans, his team may already have one in the bag.

“I think there is always going to be a natural 100 Thieves vs. OpTic Gaming rivalry,” said the former OpTic CoD pro. “I think a lot of people that are part of the Green Wall — they may want to see me be successful in one way or another — but you better believe they’re going to want OpTic to beat the crap out of 100 Thieves."

“I’m definitely going to play into that for sure. I want to beat OpTic, plain and simple. I’m out for blood with OpTic, straight up. We’re going to kick OpTic’s ass this year in the LCS," he said.

“I know their players have a rich history in this game but I think we have the better lineup, plain and simple. So … H3CZ is going to meet his maker when he matches up against us.”

Everyone has a target on their back, apparently.

“I want to kick Reggie and Steve’s ass in LCS too, we’ll see.”

Beyond building a passionate fanbase of both new and existing LoL viewers, Haag identified another, more obvious goal: winning.

“We just didn’t want to be a team that was 10th place,” he said. “That’s not good for League of Legends, that’s not good for 100 Thieves.”

“I just want to compete. I think that’s our biggest thing. I want our guys to be motivated, I want them to play hard, I want them to practice hard and I want them to compete. If we do everything we can to put these pieces together and enable these guys to be successful and we treat them right … as long as they compete, then we’ll have something to be proud of.”

And being competitive, said Haag, starts with creating an environment his players and staff can thrive in.

“My biggest goal that I want to see with 100 Thieves is I really want to build a culture internally with the team,” he said. “I really want our players that are going to be performing and competing underneath the 100 Thieves to really feel as if they can call this place home. I think that’s important to me because when everybody enjoys what they’re doing and they enjoy playing for the organization that they’re a part of, I think a lot of good things come of that. I just want to build a relationship with the players, with the staff members, and really make 100 Thieves a place where it’s a desirable place to be.”

Anyone familiar with the name 100 Thieves might associate it with two things: a streetwear-inspired clothing line and a short-lived Call of Duty team that ultimately ended in failure in 2016.

Haag made no bones about the fate of the team that originally bore the moniker.

“My re-entrance to Call of Duty was misstep on my part,” he said. “That was a mistake that I have been learning from, just because I did not realize the time and energy it took to be involved with esports in present day. Back when I was involved with OpTic, you could have one person handle all the responsibilities that came with owning and operating an esports team and it was naive of me to think that I could handle that myself.”

Haag said despite the hiccup, the original iteration of 100 Thieves was a valuable learning experience.

“But I think it was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “We’ve definitely learned our lesson in making sure that we’re prepared and making sure that we have resources and time and energy to spend on these players and the vision we’re trying to accomplish with 100 Thieves.”

Colin McNeil is a supervising editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.