Thursday, April 24, 2014

League of L’s - By Seth Oakley

     The North American League of Legends Championship Spring Split took place over the last 4 months, from January 16th through April 6th. This was a series of 112 games where 8 teams played against each other 4 times each. The two highest placed teams get an automatic promotion to the next Summer Split. The 4 middle teams, placing 3rd through 6th place, go to the playoffs for a chance to get into the summer series. The bottom two teams get bumped, leaving the series. They can play in other tournaments and competitions during the year to qualify for the World Champion series, but they aren’t going to be around in this summer. Many teams use this Split to practice their team compositions, work on their strategies, and scope out the other competitors.

     Games are played in a studio with cameras, announcers, audience members, and a live feed to streams all over the world. These games are watched by thousands of fans, shared on social media, and saved on the League of Legends page where you can go back and watch many of them. These have analysis, interviews, commentary, announcements, and of course, full game recordings. If you are looking for the newest combos, high level strategies, powerful builds, or just wanna see what pro players are doing with the game, this is the place to look.

     Now that the Split has come to an end, it’s time for a look at what the pros were playing for the past 4 months. Without further ado….

     2014 North American League of Legends Championship Spring Split standings:

     Cloud9 (C9): Cloud9 had a great split, finishing first place after gliding through second for almost the entire series. They kicked off week 1 with a bang, defeating the team that would go to dominate the split and the national favorite. It was only in week 10, near the end of the split, that they pulled ahead again to take first place. With a final record of 24 and 4, and a head to head record of 3 and 1 with the runners up, C9 took a commanding hold on the top of the ladder, and they don’t look like they are going to budge.

     Team Solo Mid (TSM): Team Solo Mid is definitely the crowd favorite in North America right now. They led the split for 8 weeks straight, dropping behind Cloud9 only at the end and a really painful loss in the last week (that was a great game, by the way, week 11, day 2, C9 and TSM, if you get a chance). No other team has the crowd chanting their name with the same volume. They will be strong team to watch moving forward.

     Counter Logic Gaming (CLG): A strong split for CLG, but not that much to say about them. Their bottom laner is DoubleLift, well known and extremely skilled Marksman who also shows up as a commentator and analyst for Riot. CLG went 18 and 10, and stayed in third place for most of the split after a poor second week. They will face the sixth place team in the playoffs for entry into summer split.

     Team Dignitas (DIG): Dignitas is recovering from a difficult Season 3 where they were almost sent into relegation this season. They didn’t make worlds after taking losses to Cloud9 and Team Vulcan, and had an overall losing record of 12 and 16. They dance back and forth from 3rd to 5th place for a while until they finished in 4th place.

     Team Curse (CRS): The thing I remember the most about Team Curse is that their current Jungle, IWDominate, formerly known as IWillDominate, was banned for a year for toxic behavior. He was prohibited from playing in any LCS games and all of his accounts were blocked. Having reformed his ways, he left Dignitas and joined Curse to help them go 11 and 17. They danced back and forth with Dignitas for 4th, but landed the split in 5th.

     Team Coast (CST): Just out of relegation in the back end of 2013, Coast pulled themselves up into LCS and have managed to hang on to the place so far. They ended up in 6th place, the last one available to make it to the playoffs for summer. Their final record was 10 and 18. Note how close 4th, 5th and 6th places were, with only 1 game making the difference.

     Evil Geniuses (EG): Also known as Krepo’s Team, the Evil Geniuses are going to have to bring it back to the drawing board. They went 8 and 20 and only had a winning record against two other teams: Team Curse and the 8th place team.

     XDG Gaming (XDG): Formerly known as Vulcan, the new name is Ex Duris Gloria, which they say means, “From suffering rises Glory.” I don’t know if they need more suffering, but they could do with a little more glory. They finished the split 7 and 21, they have the very interesting honor of being able to say that beat every other team once. They just lost to every other team 3 more times.


     I really need to work on my transitions. There are several things I looked for in the records of the game. I’ll try to explain what the numbers I found actually mean.

     The most popular champs are the ones that people picked the most often. These were Thresh, Lucian, Shyvana, Leona, and Caitlyn. This team is missing a mid laner and a jungler (or a top laner, depending on where you put Shyvana), but shows how these champs held up throughout the split. Thresh has always been a strong support. Lucian stayed popular when Jinx got a nerf to her snare ability. He also has a strong early game, and a lot of teams used him in snowball strategies. Shyvana performed better than the late game Mundo and kept up with the early game powerhouse, Renekton. Leona, a good support, was the runner up choice to a lot of teams that couldn’t get Annie or Thresh. Caitlyn is a strong Marksman, but in the lack luster ADC meta right now, she was picked more by default than for her advantages (range is nice though).

     The top 3 bans overall were the champs that were banned more than any others. They were, in order, Kassadin, LeBlanc, and Elise. This mirrors the picks in that they banned mid laners so people have to pick other stuff and thus diversify the champ pools. Elise is a strong early game champ, has strong execute damage for taking contested dragons and Barons, and a ranged stun that everyone liked. Or hated, since she was banned. Kassadin was probably the most defining champion of the Spring Split. He was banned in 66% of the games, and 74 times out of the first 88 games. Think about that number for a second. 74 out of 88 games, if you were purple side, your first ban was almost guaranteed to be Kassadin. He was finally patched, but the damage was done. 42 teams banned him and lost. 32 teams banned him and won.

     I have the numbers for the most popular picks and bans from each team as well. The name of the champ is followed by the number of times it was selected. Keep in mind that each team played 28 games.

     Cloud9: Renekton (12) Thresh (10) Lucian (9) Shyvana (8) Elise (8). They have two consistent top laners, and a good bottom lane pair. C9 played a varied mid lane and were not committed to their Jungler either. They banned Kassadin (8) Pantheon (7) and Lulu (7).

     TSM: Lucian (11) Shyvana (10) Annie and Thresh (9), and then a 4 way tie with Sivir, Leona, Gragas, Doctor Mundo (8). The Annie focus is the only thing new here. Together, Annie and Thresh make up half of their support picks. TSM did not have a consistent Jungler, though they banned Elise (12) Kassadin (10) and Lee Sin (9), not wanting to face those Junglers.

     CLG: Shyvana (16) Thresh (9) Leona (9) Ziggs (8) Elise (7) The 19 Shyvana picks are amazing. Looks like you know what you need to counter against CLG. The problems is that Shyvana doesn’t have any good counter picks, only counter strategies. The top bans were Kassadin (14) Gragas (6) and then Annie and Pantheon tied with (5). 14 Kassadin bans soaked up a lot of their options, they were more afraid of him than anyone else. If you think about the fact that he never got banned after the 88th game, this means that CLG banned him on blue side some of the time, preferring not to play him, even when they could first pick him.

     Dignitas: Annie (15) Lucian (9) Jinx (8) Dr. Mundo (8) and Lee Sin, Thresh and VI (6). The Annie with 15 picks shows where they crutch lies. Along with the 6 more Thresh picks, this is 75% of their support picks in two champs. Their bans were amazing, with LeBlanc (19) Kassadin (8) and Lulu (7). So that’s the highest in either picks or bans for any one team. DIG was so afraid of LeBlanc in the mid lane they banned her more than any other team picked her.

     Curse: Caitlyn (15) Elise (10) Thresh (7) Renekton (7) and then Trundle and Vi tied with (6). The high number of Trundle picks is interesting in that initially some casters thought it was a troll pick (pun unavoidable), but it held up earlier in the split. Watching IWDominate on Elise was fun, but she got banned a lot too, so it looks like his back-up was Vi. They banned Evelyn (9) Kassadin (7) and LeBlanc (6). Eve scared them, so they didn’t want to see her very much.

     Coast: Lucian (11) Thresh (9) Leona (9) Shyvana (8) Caitlyn (8). This is a fairly diverse champion pool. Nothing really stand out here, the diverse mid lane was pretty typical as were the diverse jungle. Interestingly they have the same picks as the overall split favorites, just in a different order. Their favorite bans were Lulu (12) LeBlanc (9) Kassadin (8). All normal mid lane bans, and yes, Lulu showed up as a mage in the mid for a while. She was a strong member of the Stampede comp, which I’ll talk about later.

     Evil Geniuses: Morgana (9) Thresh (8) Lucian (8) Gragas (7) Caitlyn (7). Morgana was only picked 23 times overall, so Krepo was more than one third of them. She only won 9 of these 23 games, but I don’t think that these were the same 9 games. The bans were Renekton (10) Elise (10) and Kassadin (9). The Renekton ban shows the fear of the early game strength that EG saw in the alligator man.

     XDG: Thresh (11) Leona (8) Sivir, Shyvana, Elise and Caitlyn with (7). Their only big focus was on their support champions, XDG didn’t have any strong go to champions that defined their team. Their bans were similarly normal with LeBlanc (10) Kassadin (8) and Thresh, Renekton and Pantheon (5). They were the only team to have Thresh show up on their most banned list and their most picked list.

     Here are 5 champs that I thought should be on more teams lists. These are the winningest champions in the split. I chose the arbitrary number of 6 or more games to be in before they counted as winning champs. Here they are with their success records: Draven (75%) Vayne (71%) Lulu (71%) Sivir (66%) Alistar (66%). And of course, who could have the winningest champs without the losingest champs right next to them. In the same format: Kayle (9%) Syndra (16%) Ezreal (25%) Riven (28%) Ziggs (34%). Some of these really surprised me. Kayle drew 17 bans over the course of the split. With a 9% success rate, I don’t really see the point in that ban. Ziggs was another that came up a lot, he was a great wave clearing tool kit, but people only saw the profit in it 34% of the time. Riven is only notable because she was such a beast in Season 3.

     Teemo, Nocturne and Aatrox all hold the “One hit Wonder” title. Aatrox was fielded once by Curse. Teemo was brought out by Cloud9 against TSM for what turned into a very embarrassing first game of the split for TSM. Nocturne was also fielded by C9 late in the season when their grip on their title looked pretty solid

     My favorite statistic from this whole thing is this: The greatest predictor of whether a champion will be picked in any given game is whether or not it’s name starts with the letter L. There are 118 champs in the League (Vel’Koz was not in this split, so we are using 117). There are only 7 champs in the league that fit this description: LeBlanc, Lee Sin, Leona, Lissandra, Lucian, Lulu and Lux. These champs were pick a total of 208 collectively, out of the 1120 total picks. That means that less than 6% of the champs held more than 18% of the picks. In case you missed it, this explains the title of the article, from now til the next split, I’m calling it the League of L’s. The strongest predictor of a ban was whether or not your name started with a “K” and ended with “assadin.” Ok, enough for silly stats.

     Who didn’t get the love? Who is underpowered? Who needs to rebalanced?

     There were several champs that were never picked in the entire split. The names of the forgotten appear here. Many of these champs got love from other seasons, but some are doomed to the sands of time, never to be spoken of again (not actually true, the lowest pick rate of a champ in general play is only Urgot with 0.48%, and he did show up twice).

     Anivia, Ashe, Blitzcrank, Brand, Cho'Gath, Darius, Diana, Fiora, Galio, Gangplank, Garen, Graves, Hecarim, Heimerdinger, Irelia, Kennen, Lissandra, Malphite, Malzahar, Maokai, Master Yi, Miss Fortune, Mordekaiser, Nami, Poppy, Rammus, Rengar, Sejuani, Shaco, Singed, Sion, Skarner, Swain, Talon, Taric, Tristana, Tryndamere, Twisted Fate, Udyr, Viktor, Xin Zhao, Yorick, Zilean.

     After that moment of silence for our unmentionable brothers and sisters, there are a few names I would like to speak aloud to break the quiet: Hecarim, Heimerdinger, Poppy, Rammus. These are the champions who due bans from teams but never actually got picked. The Heimerdinger patch was actually a little terrifying for some time, but people got over it, and he never saw play.

     One last memory, before we say good-bye to it forever: The Stampede Comp. This was team comp that had no engage except running up and hitting you in the face. Shyvana in the top lane, Volibear in the jungle, Kayle or Lulu in the middle, Sivir as Marksman, and Lulu or someone with the Talisman of Ascension as support. The idea is to get everyone together and run as fast as you can at the enemy, jumping over them, flipping them, whatever it takes to get to the back line and kill the carries. It was amazing to watch in action. Evil Geniuses played it twice, once successfully, once not so much. Farwell move speed comp. You will be missed.

Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Pacifica, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 98 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back.

A big thank you to Thomas Tan, who created the graphics for this article, except for the opening graphic. 

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