The LA Thieves have signed Carlos “Venom” Hernandez, according to the team. He is expected to start immediately in place of Donovan “Temp” Laroda.
Compared to London’s recent acquisition of PaulEhx, this move may come as a shock to fans and observers. Despite placing top 6 at the stage 1 Major, the LA Thieves have consistently performed at a high level. This season, Slasher‘s squad ranks 3rd in kills per 10 minutes in HP, and 2nd in kills per round in SnD. Slaying ability has not been an issue for the Thieves.
Team snapshot: LA Thieves currently rank 3rd in kills per 10 minutes in HP, and 2nd in kills per round in SnD.
Go Big or Go Home
Why sign Venom now? The LA Thieves are going all in this season: go big or go home. For a Slasher-led team, 6th place is simply unacceptable. Venom has shown incredible talent in Challengers, and having him in Slasher’s arsenal gives the Thieves an attractive option if they wish to make a roster change.
Last year, Slasher’s OpTic Gaming Los Angeles team benched veteran JKap and the mercurial Dashy midway through the season. Chino, the team’s substitute, joined the starting lineup in May, but was unable to change the team’s direction.
It wasn’t until the end of the year that OGLA signed talented amateur players Hollow and Drazah. This year, Slasher may be placing an early bet on amateurs, rather than waiting to the end of the season to put viable options on the table.
If this is the case, the Thieves are being proactive and picking up a solution to a potential roster problem in the future. Signing Venom also prevents other teams from picking up one of the top Challengers prospects.
In the past, Slasher’s teams have often required a mid-season roster change before they reached their full potential. During the Black Ops 4 season, the acquisition of Crowder and Priestahh from FaZe Clan turned Slasher’s 100 Thieves squad into a championship contender.
Venom’s greatest strength is his consistency across game modes and his slaying power. In Season 1 of NA Challengers Elite, he notched above a 1.0 K/D across all three game modes and held the #1 overall slayer rating (102.97).
Venom’s ability to apply pressure on the map with the AK-74u, pick up multi-kills, play his life, and position himself to take favorable gunfights are all skills that have not gone unnoticed. According to public and private comments made by CDL team staff and scouts, Venom has been widely regarded as the best SMG player in the North American Challengers scene.
Venom picks up a multi-kill 4 spree in quick succession against Triumph Gaming on Checkmate Control.
He is also able to make smart decisions on the map, and is known for his movement and his ability to secure crucial spawns for his team. By applying pressure into the enemy back lines, Venom is frequently able to disrupt entrenched setups and flip spawns for his team. Playing for spawn flips can call for patient plays, which Venom is also capable of making (as seen below).
Crossroads P4: Venom plays patiently on rotation and picks up a 2-piece to help flip spawns for his team in Hardpoint.
Lastly, in the clip below, we see Venom’s aggressive playstyle paying off in SnD. Whether it’s getting first bloods or pushing up with bomb down, Venom plays confidently and aggressively in search.
Decisive 3-piece by Venom to lock up a round on Miami SnD.
The LA Thieves and the Future
For now, the LA Thieves may stick with the roster they have and try to improve mistakes. They’ve shown the ability to slay at a high level and were caught off guard by the Los Angeles Guerillas at the last Major.
If mistakes continue to plague the team and they have another sub-par performance, the LA Thieves will undoubtedly look to Venom in Stage 2 and Stage 3. Unlike last season, they won’t need to look far for an answer and a hungry player who is ready to showcase his talents.