What’s new?

The offseason wasn’t a vacation for me. I’ve been working diligently on a number of systems and models to bring you all better, data driven content for the year 2021. You’ll be seeing the first bits and pieces of one of those projects in today’s piece with my individual player performance model.

 

For each team you will see their roster listed by coaching staff, position, and designated substitutes (if any). Next to each player you will see some numbers in brackets or parenthesis like this:

 

Mid: Zeka (+0.158 / 55.96) [10]

 

Each player was compared to other players at their position for the Summer season through a wide variety of statistics and measurables weighted depending on their relevance to that role. For instance, supports do not have damage per minute at all factored into their statistical comparison because it’s not a great measure of support play but they had an increased weight placed on the various vision scoring metrics. By doing this we get a snapshot of a players statistical profile against other players at his position. The numbers go in the following order:

(raw positional rating / “Madden-style” rating centered on 50) [positional ranking]

The raw positional rating and the “Madden-style” sports video game rating mean the same thing but some prefer to see it through that medium. A reminder that the “Madden-style” rating is centered on 50 not the higher numbers you see in those games. In this model (+0 / 50.0) are your “league average” in regards to specifics.

While statistics aren’t the only consideration in player evaluation the idea is to get an unbiased snapshot of a player that you can then balance with film study and your own evaluation to arrive at a composite score of your own. Some very good players don’t exactly have great statistical profiles and some players that many consider poor might have a better looking profile than you’d think. Just remember that the purpose of this type of analysis is to cut through bias and preconceived notions about certain players and this helps to do that.

For the purpose of this article, any player that did not have a statistical profile from the league was assigned a “league average” rating. I listed any numbers from the previous season in a different league if they played in one of the other majors but they still received the “league average” rating. There are a few reasons for this but primarily it keeps the perspective universal which helps in relative comparison. Sure, some new players are going to overperform and underperform but if you consider prospects or new additions higher or lower you can adjust up or down based on your own opinion or preference. If you think Insulator is going to be an absolute monster as a rookie then you can adjust his team upward slightly. Conversely for players you’re lower on would receive a downgrade from this average.

I’ve also listed the averages and average positional rankings based on this model below the roster. Below that is my 2020 team-based model rating and overall rank in parenthesis. 

At the end of this post you’ll find my overall power rankings and tiers as well as a recap of each of my futures positions. I’ll also include the models projections.

 

(Positional Rating by player based model in Parenthesis)

[Rank by positional rating in player based model in square brackets]

 

Afreeca Freecs

Coaches: Rigby (head), LirA (asst)

Top: Kiin (-0.13 / 44.43) [9], Trap

Jungle: Dread (+0.06 / 51.99) [9]

Mid: Fly (-0.435 / 33.0) [11], Keine

ADC: Bang (+0.746 / 77.04) [1] (from LCS Summer)

Support: Lehends (+0,37 / 64.43) [7]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  +0.0 / 49.81 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank:  9.0 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.47 (8th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used, for the purposes of Bang I still used the “league average” fill in for both his rating and rank considering he’s moving to tougher competition.

ILoveoov, ActScene, and ViNylCat leave the coaching staff but Rigby stays on board and former multi-league pro Lira will be the assistant. This is actually a pretty big change for Afreeca. Coach Choi (Iloveoov) has been with that team since 2016 and has coached an ever-changing roster up well enough for them to be competitive every season. Afreeca have made the playoffs in all but two splits under his guidance so it’s going to be interesting to see if Rigby and Lira can step in and fill his shoes. 

The top trio of Kiin, Dread, and Fly remains intact and Keine is added for depth. Kiin has been an absolute monster for his entire career and while Fly spent the majority of his career as a middling but not bad mid laner, he did have one of his most impressive individual seasons to date last season. Dread has always had another jungler to split time with. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops with a full time role.

The big changes come in the bottom lane. Afreeca seemingly always have a stud bottom lane. They went from Kramer and Tusin, to Aiming and Tusin/Jelly, to Mystic and Ben. Taking the reigns now will be Bang and Lehends. I think this could be a sneaky good pickup and from a branding standpoint is going to make people want to watch Afreeca. Bang was quietly the highest graded ADC and one of the highest graded players in the LCS last season. Sure, you could point to the level of competition but during his multi-year stay in the LCS his efficiency numbers have remained incredibly strong. Make no mistake, Bang can still play and now he’s going to get a better support than he had at any point during his time in North America. Lehends was unfortunately the support for an extremely poor Hanwha Life team last season and still graded out above a few of his colleagues. In fact, I’d argue that he’s significantly better than these numbers and I’ll be making adjustments accordingly. Lehends is still one of the best supports in the world and I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to do on what’s shaping up to be a competitive roster.

I like what Afreeca did overall. There were a lot of rumors that they were the leader in the Chovy sweepstakes and if they would have landed him I would have been extremely excited about this lineup but as they’re currently constructed I think this team is going to be rock solid with slight upside and slight downsides depending on the metagame vs Fly/Dread’s champion pools. I think the coaching change volatility might be offset by the fact that these are all experienced, strong, veteran players who will rely less on that stability than a crew of rookies might.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Steady lineup full of strong veteran players. 
  • Have some metagame dependent upside. If Dread and Fly’s champion pools are good this team will be very strong.
  • Two of the stronger players at their position in the world in Kiin and Lehends. Both, especially Kiin, can be absolute gamewreckers. 

Cons

  • Have some metagame dependent downside. If Dread and Fly’s champion pools are not good, this team might be stuck in the middle like they have been in recent years.
  • Coaching staff changes will likely take some getting used to. While they could end up being a good thing, moving on from such an entrenched presence as Iloveoov was could prove challenging at first. (might be offset by veterancy).

Futures

Price: +2500

Positions: None

While I think the general public might be slightly underrating Afreeca because they’re unexciting, Afreeca look to me like they’ll be in a similar role to the one they’ve been in for the greater part of the past four years; a “gatekeeper” team. You’re not a playoff caliber team if you can’t consistently beat Afreeca. In fact they had an absurd record against teams lower than them in the standings dropping only one match all Summer. They “take care of business” so to speak but they also struggle against the elite teams at times. I do think this lineup has punch up potential and we saw that at times last year but it’s really difficult to imagine them actually taking the LCK down. Afreeca will be a team I’ll be backing early and often but unless we get a great price I’ll abstain from any futures positions. 

 

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DAMWON KIA Gaming

Coaches: Kkoma (head), PoohManDu (asst), Ares (asst)

Top: Khan (+0.44 / 67.0) [6] (from LPL Summer), Chasy

Jungle: Canyon (+0.744 / 77.04) [1]

Mid: ShowMaker (+0.475 / 67.08) [4]

ADC: Ghost (+0.14 / 72.91) [9]

Support: BeryL (+0.613 / 72.91) [5]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  +0.398 / 64.72  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.0  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +1.705 (1st)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

Kkoma and PoohManDu return from their stint with Vici in the LPL to take over the World Champions DAMWON Gaming. While there were a lot of questions about if the roster would remain together or be picked apart in the post-Worlds “brain drain” of free agency, DAMWON managed to keep four out of their five together losing only Nuguri who is now with FunPlus in the LPL. 

Khan will be making his return to the LCK after splitting time on FunPlus with GimGoon. Unless there are severe chemistry issues I don’t see this as a downgrade at all. Khan was the strongest free agent last year and his lack of success, in terms of win percentage, in the LPL was strongly tied to the high expectations for both he and FunPlus a like heading into last season. By the individual metrics both he and GimGoon graded out extremely high in my player-based model. FunPlus’s issues were not the players it was the team play and they definitely weren’t in the top lane despite the presence of two players there. I think people have forgotten that this is a multi-time domestic champion that took down five LCK titles IN A ROW on two different teams. Khan is an absolute savage and while Nuguri has proven to be as well it would not at all surprise me to see him outperform what Nuguri will do with FunPlus. 

There’s really not much else to say with DAMWON. You can’t blame them for running back as much of the champion roster as possible. For my money, Summer 2020 DAMWON Gaming delivered the single most dominant season in League of Legends history and capped it off with a World Championship title. The biggest question to me is the coaching staff. There are strong cases to be made on both sides regarding their time with Vici Gaming. Did they mismanage an incredibly talented team? Did they make a mediocre team look much better than they are? We’re going to find out fairly quickly. Zefa and Daeny did a tremendous job turning a turbulent Spring into the best single season of League of Legends we’ve ever seen but Kkoma is arguably the greatest coach, or at least the most decorated, in professional history. 

It’s difficult to quantify how much of an impact the dynamic between players and coaches is so there’s a chance we don’t see quite as insane a performance as a result of these changes but at the very least DAMWON’s floor is extremely high just based on the level of talent they have across the board on this roster. Unless they have problems building chemistry, and that hasn’t appeared to be the case from their run at KeSPA Cup, it’s tough not to see DAMWON competing for a title again.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • This team is just good…. Extremely high floor AND ceiling.
  • Retained talent. Four out of five returning members.
  • Nuguri to Khan is a horizontal move at worst to me unless chemistry is an issue.

Cons

  • Coaching change/turbulence could prove problematic early.
  • Khan’s integration could disrupt a very streamlined, synergy driven team from last season until they’ve settled in
  • Fatigue. Championship hangovers, burnout, shortened offseason all could lend to a potential slow start. (possibly offset by Khan bringing a fresh energy to prevent contentment)
  • Bottom lane will have to deliver like they did last year with the field remaining incredibly deep at the position. 

Futures

Price: +100

Positions: None

DAMWON are the favorites not just to win the LCK but to win Worlds in 2021 as of right now. It’s tough to argue against it but I tend not to take futures positions at odds this pricey unless it’s overwhelming. 

 

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DRX

Coaches: SSONG (interim head coach), Museong (asst)

Top: Kingen (+0.39 / 65.17) [9],  Destroy (top)

Jungle: Pyosik (+0.483 / 68.44) [3]

Mid: SOLKA (formerly Quad)

ADC: BAO

Support: Becca

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  +0.09 / 53.13  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 7.2  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.306 (4th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

DRX are in full rebuild mode and have chosen to bring in a combination of veterans and rookies. Pyosik, who had a stellar rookie campaign, is the only returning starter from last season. He’ll be flanked by some combination of experienced veteran Kingen and rookie Destroy who has spent sporadic time throughout the Korean developmental scene on various teams. Former Cassiopeia one-trick turned hybrid solo laner Quad has renamed to Solka and will finally get a chance to get a full time starting position in the LCK after spending time as a backup behind Chovy and before that Pawn and Naehyun on Kingzone DragonX.  The bottom lane will be DRX Academy’s bottom lane of Bao and Becca.

I like the direction that DRX have gone with this rebuild. By promoting prospects from within the organization you retain some level of continuity, especially bringing up the entire bottom lane, and you’re showing faith in your system which could attract strong prospects in the future. You bring in a veteran leader in Kingen with a ton of experience in multiple leagues and multiple styles of teams over a lot of years. Quad/Solka reminds me a lot of some of these SKT/T1 mid lane prospects in that the only thing he’s done wrong is sit behind some absolutely incredible mid lane players in the first few years of his career. He’s finally getting his chance. We saw how Clozer handled that last season, Scout did years ago, now we’ll get to see Chovy’s protege. He’s also a gifted top lane player and that flexibility is going to prove valuable with the direction the game has gone in recent seasons. 

The elephant in the room, I suppose, is that cvMax is missing from this roster. He’s been suspended pending investigation regarding the allegations from the 2019 Griffin season that we heard so much about during that World Championship. I won’t speculate about the results or drown you with my thoughts on this overall situation here but I will say that regardless of your opinion of him, cvMax has proven to be an incredibly good coach in his first years in the professional scene. He’s a brilliant strategist and his teams are extremely disciplined. SSONG has big shoes to fill.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Good blend of rookies and veterans. Some upside if any of them “pop.”
  • Overhauled roster but some continuity in the bottom lane which has played together, as well as with Quad/Solka and Pyosik getting some reps together during last season. 
  • Even with cvMax out, he had a part in selecting this roster and he’s always had an eye for rookie talent (Griffin, Pyosik and Keria last year). These players could all be very good and despite being less anticipated than some others.

Cons

  • This is an overhauled roster is still exactly that and whether or not this team can gel right away is going to be crucial if they’re to make any kind of run in Spring. 
  • Lots of unknowns in regards to talent. This bottom lane as well as Destroy haven’t exactly been highly anticipated prospects and while that doesn’t mean they won’t perform, their lack of experience on the LCK stage might speak to their quality.
  • cvMax not being around is a huge loss.

 

Futures

Price: +2500

Positions: None

While I like this rebuild and this management and coaching team has a history of picking out absolute stud prospects, it’s tough to imagine they storm the gates of the LCK immediately especially with so many stacked rosters at the top of the table. DRX aren’t looking to win right now, this is a team built to develop and maybe make a run in Summer. If we see that they’re pretty good right away then it could be a time to jump on the bandwagon but we’ll evaluate what we see and pick our spots when we get there.

 

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Fredit BRION

Coaches: Edgar (head), Wraith (strategic), Drinker (asst), Jin Jong-oh (mentality coach)

Top: Hoya

Jungle: Chieftain, UmTi

Mid: Lava (-0.101 / 45.62) [8]

ADC: Hena

Support: Delight (formerly Crescent/Wize)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  -0.0 / 49.6   * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 8.6  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): none

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

Fredit BRION (formerly hyFresh Blade, Brion Blade) will be taking over SeolHaeOne Prince’s spot in the LCK. This team consists of a most of the Challengers Korea lineup of this organization and they’ll be lead by one of the strongest coaches in the scene’s history in Choi “Edgar” Woo-beom who lead Samsung White to a World Championship in 2014. He also lead Samsung Galaxy to the World Championship finals where they lost 3-2 to SK Telecom in 2016, a matchup they would get revenge for the following year capturing their title in the rematch in 2017 finals. He’s the second most decorated coach of all time next to Kkoma’s three World Championship titles.

Chieftain, Hoya, and Hena played together in CK. The veterans are in the jungle and mid lane. Chieftain, of BiliBili and Vici fame, and grizzled veteran UmTi will battle for the jungle spot. In the mid lane is Lava who had a very promising start to his career in his first few splits before having a very poor performance on Hanwha last season. Make no mistake, it wasn’t just that it was a bad team either, he was quite bad. Delight comes from the T1 Academy (AKA The International Talent Development Factory). We always pay attention to T1 Academy players as that system has churned out dozens of high caliber players over the years. Hoya was from the Griffin system before joining this team and that development system has also proven to have a strong track record. 

This roster looks rather unassuming at first but I have a hard time imagining coach Edgar decided to come here if he didn’t think this could be something special. hyFresh/Brion Blade didn’t have much success in Challengers Korea but this specific combination of prospects has a very high ceiling. It’s the veterans that I’m more concerned with. Lava needs to get back into his pre-2020 form. It was a weird year for a lot of people and I’d expect some regression to occur naturally but with such a stacked field of mid lane talent you simply can’t go far in the LCK without a stud and he’ll have to get back to that level if this team is going to have any real shot. UmTi and Chieftain should be fine but they haven’t exactly been gamebreakers over the course of their careers. If a stable, veteran voice is what this team was looking for then I could see them filling that role but don’t expect either to be superstar level.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Excellent coaching staff with a long track record of success
  • Prospects from high quality developmental systems
  • Good blend of veterans and rookies
  • Upside is fairly high if Lava can return to pre-2020 form

Cons

  • Lot’s of uncertainty. If the veterans can’t perform well this team might struggle for awhile.
  • Bar is very high in the LCK. Multiple prospects would have to deliver at a good to great level for this team to have a shot at playoffs.
  • Underwhelming recent performances from the veterans 

 

Futures

Price: +6600

Positions: to win Spring +6600 (0.1 units)

I could see this roster developing into a competitive one but they’d need a lot of things to go right to truly compete against the top of the table or make playoffs. It could happen though. This coaching staff is outstanding and the prospects they’ve assembled are all very promising and from quality systems. Brion have a very wide range of outcomes. I could see this team landing anywhere from playoffs to dead last but it’s tough to imagine them being a truly “bad” team even if they do end up placing tenth. They’re an underdog I’ll probably be backing fairly frequently if I don’t see many red flags early on. This is admittedly more of a “gut” handicap but unless he just missed out on gigs with the top teams I don’t see any reason why Edgar would take this gig unless he saw something special in the players.

 

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Gen.G

Coaches: oDin (head), Lyn (asst), Ggoong (asst), MC (head teaching coach), Bingo (teaching), Saint (teaching), Alle (scout)

Top: Rascal (-0.167 / 43.25) [10]

Jungle: Clid (+0.496 / 68.79) [2], Flawless

Mid: Bdd (+0.169 / 56.356) [6], Karis

ADC: Ruler (+0.902 / 81.59) [1]

Support: Life (-0.09 / 46.02) [10]

 

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.261 / 59.20

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.8  

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.988 (2nd)

Thoughts:

The departure of Edgar back in May and others to follow at the end of the year from the coaching staff could be a big loss. He’s the second most decorated coach in professional LOL history with three World Championship Finals appearances, two victories, and multiple domestic titles. It could also be a breath of fresh air. Sometimes change for the sake of change benefits all parties but we’ll have to see how this turns out.

In terms of players it’s tough to fault Gen.G for running it back and I admire the confidence in them doing so. I had Gen.G graded as the second best team in the world at the end of last season. Unfortunately they had a poor showing at Worlds and that in combination with their “disappointing” (to most people) loss to DragonX in Summer playoffs has left a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of Gen.G backers. 

This team is full of stud players and the two that don’t grade out well in my individual player model, Life and Rascal, are players I’d adjust up heavily from their statistical profiles for a number of reasons not limited to their utility, versatility, and occasional carry performances against other elite players at their positions. The jungle/mid/ADC trio is arguably the best in the world. Continuity, confidence, and extremely high quality players with a lot of experience. I have no doubts other than the coaching change up, that Gen.G have the ability to win this split and compete with the other juggernauts at the top of the table.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Continuity. Gen.G are just running back the same lineup minus sub Kellin and the coaching staff which, admittedly was excellent but they’ve also retained some people in that department as well.
  • Premium quality players at every position. 
  • Confidence. Similar to TOP in my LPL writeup, a team like this has to be confident in themselves to run it back and not make any changes. They just had a bad worlds tournament and that has left a sour taste for many.
  • Added some depth pieces to stave off burnout.

Cons

  • Edgar departing as head coach could be a big loss. He’s the second most accomplished coach in LOL history but this could also be a situation where change for the sake of change could benefit all parties. Probably a downgrade though.
  • Subs are questionable replacement level players. If the starters suffer any burnout from multiple long seasons the subs might not be great.

Futures

Price: +500

Positions: Gen.G +500 (3 units)

I’ll be taking a position on Gen.G primarily because the price is right. I give them roughly a 24% chance of taking the split down and have them more or less even with T1 and DWG. You could make the argument that with the T1 upgrades and DWG being DWG that that’s optimistic but this team has the most continuity retaining their entire roster and most of the coaching staff. Gen.G graded as the second best team in the world last season. I definitely expect them to compete for a title and when you do the math, translating the odds to probabilities and adding the book hold vig evenly to each team then this is a reasonable price to back them with about a 4.7% edge on the market. Obviously if you don’t want to tie up the capital that’s understandable but that meets the threshold for me and I think my estimation was rather conservative.

 

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Hanwha Life Esports

Coaches: Kezman (head), SuDal (asst), Heart (asst), Bibra (analyst)

Top: Morgan (-0.05 / 48.0) [17] (from LPL Summer), DuDu (-0.117 / 45.22) [7]

Jungle: CaD (-0.405 / 34.09) [13], Arthur, yoHan

Mid: Chovy (+0.8965 / 81.33) [1]

ADC: Deft (+0.526 / 69.85) [3]

Support: Vsta

Designated Subs: Riss (top), Mask (mid), Cheoni (ADC), Baut (support)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.162 / 55.3  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 6.8  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.792 (9th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

Morgan is a solid addition although DuDu did show some flashes at times last season even on a bad HLE team. CAD similarly was up and down and they’ve added competition at the jungler position. Chovy is… well, he’s Chovy but it’s going to be interesting seeing him outside of the cvMax coaching system he’s spent his entire career in. It could be a good or bad thing. Deft might be past his prime but he’s still one of the better players at his position in the world. Considering he had an “off” season, maybe the worst of his career last season, I think it’s reasonable to expect that he could regress in either direction, toward his Hall of Fame career norm or possibly regress further downward. Vsta is swapping from carry but has played both roles in his career and on the ladder. 

There is something strange to me about Hanwha Life. They landed Chovy and Deft but I can’t help but feel that they missed out on some other opportunities in their free agency spending spree to end up with the rest of these players. I don’t mind the “buckshot” approach of just casting a wide net and hoping something sticks but I could see them having some growing pains as they figure out how all these players are going to fit together into the most optimal setup. The good news for them is that the core carries are absolute studs and there’s a chance Morgan brings a bit of a different flavor over from his time in the LPL to make them a bit unique. Wide range of outcomes for Hanwha Life.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Core carries, especially Chovy, are extremely good and have experience together. Need to continue performing at a high level.
  • Lots of options for players to see what sticks or works (this can also be a bad thing if mismanaged, see below)
  • Prospects retained from last season showed flashes of brilliance but struggled to tie it all together or show well consistently.

Cons

  • Lots of options for players. I mentioned above that this can be a good thing but it’s going to be on management and the coaching staff to quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t and this could lead to a lot of opportunities to mismanage this roster. A slow start because of this could cause frustration to build. This management struggled to figure out what works with this team last season which isn’t a great sign.
  • Lacking consistency in jungle and support based on history. This could change but it needs to if they’re going to have success.
  • Chovy has never played outside of a cvMax coaching system and this is likely the worst roster of talent around him in his career. Could “unlock” him but could also show his true colors. I have no doubt that he’ll remain individually good but how he will fit in with this team is reasonable to question.

Futures: 

Price: +900

Positions: None

The upside is there for this team and that’s typically what you want in futures but I’m lower on this team than most people. The depth of talent is lacking. Hanwha would need Chovy to continue dominating, Deft to probably be at least slightly better than he was last season, AND the role players, probably more than one, would have to exceed their previous levels for this team to compete with the top of the table. And that’s assuming management actually figures out the optimal solution with the potential revolving door situations on this roster. Hanwha are likely going to be a team I fade early, watch to see if they’re slowly figuring out this lineup, and then back later in the season when they’re underpriced.

 

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KT Rolster

Coaches: Hirai (head), Supreme (asst), Acorn (asst), Gisepa (analyst)

Top: Doran (-0.13 / 44.83) [8], Castle

Jungle: Gideon, Blank, Bonnie

Mid: Ucal (-0.489 / 31.21) [13], Vicla

ADC: Hybrid (-0.643 / 25.78) [14], Noah

Support: Rebel, Zzus

Designated Subs: 5kid (bot), Harp (support)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.267 / 39.73  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 11.0  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.3605 (6th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

KT Rolster are starting fresh and building around UCal. Whether or not you think that’s a good idea or not shapes a lot of your evaluation on this team. Many people think that he’s had multiple chances on multiple teams and it hasn’t quite panned out. He’s only 19 entering the fourth season of his professional career and I happen to believe in the talent still so I’m going to likely be much higher on KT than most but UCal isn’t the only reason why. 

I love these additions and the depth of talent. KT were an underrated squad of savvy veterans last season but this season they’re going in a younger direction. 

I’m anticipating that this roster will be Doran, Blank, UCal, Hybrid, and Zzus as the baseline and we’ll probably see some of super prospect Gideon in the jungle and the starter quality Dove in the mid from time to time. 

Hybrid was impressive despite his lacking statistical profile. APK/SeolHaeOne were so unbelievably bad that it’s really difficult for an ADC to do much in that kind of situation. Think of a great wide receiver with a quarterback who couldn’t hit the side of a barn. He had some impressive efficiency numbers but is dragged down by the rest of his profile from being on an awful team. If Hybrid/Zzus or Rebel doesn’t work out, 5kid was arguably the best carry in the challenger scene this season so he could slot right in, possibly with his support Harp.

So the thing with KT Rolster is that they don’t have anything that flashes off the page like a superstar free agent or a “best at position” player but I think the potential here is very high. Gideon and 5kid were two of the best prospects overall in the challenger scene this year. They have competition to get starting work though. Blank has been rock solid during his time with SKT/T1 and developed in that system and Hybrid is looking for a better opportunity on a non-terrible team this time around but we’ve seen him perform too. 

To me the big question is the support rotation. We’ve seen Rebel back on BBQ Olivers. Unexciting but that was also a long time ago. Zzus has been kicking around the challenger scene for the better part of the past five years. You could say that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The starting supports in the LCK are almost all very good so we don’t frequently see support prospects get a lot of opportunities in the past few years with the exception being Keria. On the other hand you could argue that there’s a reason we haven’t seen these guys and that they’ve been kicking around in the challenger scene for a long time.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Stud prospects in Gideon and 5kid could develop into monsters if given the opportunity
  • Starting lineup looks at worst middle of the table, at best quite good. Didn’t talk about Doran much but his versatility is extremely underrated at a competitive position in the LCK. He’s capable of doing anything which should really help this team in drafts.
  • Experienced coaching staff.
  • Depth of talent besides support pool.

Cons

  • Support pool needs to perform better than we’ve seen from them in the past.
  • Potential for this roster to be mismanaged with substitutions or suboptimal lineups.
  • No real continuity
  • UCal needs to regress upward toward his career average or this team might be in trouble. Lot on his shoulders. Dove is serviceable if this goes badly but lowers the potential quite a bit.

Futures: 

Price: +3300

Positions: KT +3300 (0.25 units)

It might seem a little weird that I was willing to give KT a shot but not Hanwha but it’s simply a matter of the price. To me they’re very similar teams in similar situations. Solid players in some roles and questions in the others with lots of figuring out to do. If it all works out I could see this team being very good. The difference here is that KT are 33:1 and Hanwha are more than 3.5x the cost.  

 

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Liiv SANDBOX

Coaches: Micro (head), Joker (asst), Travel (asst), Hipo (analyst), PanDa (scout)

Top: Summit (+0.326 / 62.55) [3]

Jungle: Croco

Mid: FATE (+0.603 / 72.57) [3]

ADC: Route (-0.233 / 56.75) [8], Leo

Support: Effort (+0.763 / 77.64) [2]

Designated Subs: OnFleek (jungle/inactive) (+0.188 / 57.14) [6]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.377 / 64.06  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.2  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.5346 (7th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

It’s hard not to believe in Sandbox with the talent they have. We discussed this team quite a bit on The Gold Card Podcast (episode 88) where fellow Esports Department contributorJosh Roberts made an interesting point. Did YamatoCannon just do a poor job coaching this team? The talent is clearly here and obviously the LCK was extremely competitive at the top of the table but Sandbox were only able to beat middling teams and never really punched up last season. Perhaps he didn’t get enough time but I’m willing to believe in the talent to get back to where we saw them a couple years ago.

Summit, even in a bad season for him, graded as my #3 top laner last season. FATE the #3 mid both in spite of a losing record. They pick up Effort from T1 who has seemingly continued to improve every week of his career and is one of the best supports in the world. Route and Leo have both shown flashes and are at their worst, serviceable starting ADC players. Enter Croco, the other of two absolute stud jungle prospects from the challenger scene and we’ve got a recipe for something special here. (Note: OnFleek taking inactive leave)

All of these players are hitting the prime of their careers and they added fresh young blood in the very promising Croco. I could see this coming together for Sandbox and I’m much more bullish on them than I was on that podcast episode now that I’ve had some more time to break down some film on Croco. This kid is good.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Raw individual talent is obviously present. Upside is extremely high if coaching staff can tie it all together.
  • Young to mid career range. Stud rookie and the rest of this team entering the prime of their careers. Could all peak at the right time.

Cons

  • Croco needs to deliver on expectation to a reasonable level.
  • Summit needs to check the attitude at the door if things start rough. He had a few games last year where you could tell he was just checked out. Can’t have that again this season.
  • Summit and FATE need to continue delivering the good performances we saw from them last year. Totally within reason.

Futures: 

Price: +3000

Positions: Sandbox +3000 (0.5 units)

The upside is there for this team and they’ve got more continuity than many rosters in the league. To me they’ve upgraded massively at support and picked up a potential superstar in Croco. It might take a little bit of adjusting but I’m going to be backing Sandbox quite a bit this season. If it comes together this team is going to be really good. I only show slowed value on this future through my model but I’m also more bullish on them than that is so they’re worth a small position to me.

 

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Nongshim RedForce

Coaches: sBs (head), Noblesse (asst)

Top: Rich (+0.415 / 65.91) [2]

Jungle: Peanut (+0.236 / 59.095) [8] (from LPL Summer), Juhan

Mid: Bay

ADC: Deokdam (-0.277 / 38.97) [11], Wayne

Support: Kellin (+0.661 / 74.54) [4]

 

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.144 / 55.168  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 7.0 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.3097 (5th)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

Nongshim have seemingly become a common dark horse this offseason. Rich was an absolute maniac in his rookie season, which is utterly ridiculous considering he was the best Heroes of the Storm player ever and made the transition to LOL as seamlessly and quickly as he did. They upgrade in the jungle to Peanut, add Kellin from Gen.G to upgrade the support position as well. Deokdam will battle prospect Wayne for the starting ADC position. 

The big question is former Griffin developmental system prospect Bay (known previously as Jjun or Zzun) who spent 2020 studying under Naehyun who had success on the LCK stage as a starter a couple of years back. Bay showed well during KeSPA Cup but that’s the only real action we’ve seen from him at this level. 

Nongshim have a lot of potential but also a lot of questions. First is whether or not Peanut can make the transition back to the LCK. I, for one, think he shouldn’t have any issues but that LGD struggled with overall team discipline and that’s not something you can get away with in the LCK. He’s done it before and I trust he can do it again but it’s still worth  considering. Second, can Rich keep up his rise up the top lane ranks? If he just repeats last season that would be more than enough but can he be even better? Third, and most importantly is how strong Bay’s performance will be. For these reasons RedForce have a wide range of outcomes. If Rich regresses even a little or Bay ends up not performing as well as this team hopes then I could see their ceiling being capped by the quality of their carries but if everything goes right for Nongshim I could see them as a competitive playoff team albeit not quite to the level of the elite S Tier teams.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Good blend of experienced veterans and young players
  • Upgrades to support and jungle should add to consistency. 
  • Dynamics were doing a lot of things well last season from a fundamental standpoint, they just lacked the horses to compete with the elite teams. If they can remain a disciplined and versatile team they’ll improve with the upgraded players.

Cons

  • Rookie mid laner with very little stage experience. Mid lane is very deep in the LCK and historically teams without a premium quality mid laner struggle to even make playoffs. 
  • If Bay and Deokdam aren’t particularly strong carry players this team will have a limited ceiling and likely struggle against the elite teams in the league. 

Futures 

Price: +1700

Positions: None

I wanted to take a piece of Nongshim but after doing some math and being honest with my evaluation of this team I just couldn’t justify it at this price point. This team, like many in the middle tiers of the LCK, have the ability to outperform my expectation and will likely all be pretty damn good teams but the top three are just on such an insanely high level that it’s difficult to take shots at them unless you’re getting a great price like we did with the similarly rated Sandbox and KT Rolster. If it all comes together for this team I could see them competing with the top teams but there’s just too many limiting factors. 

 

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T1

Coaches: Daeny (co-head), Zefa (co-head), Moment (asst), Stardust (asst), Hajin (player development)

Top: Canna (+0.11 / 54.38) [4], Zeus

Jungle: Cuzz (+0.351 / 63.68) [4], Ellim, Oner

Mid: Faker (+0.718 / 76.115) [2], Clozer (-0.479 / 31.56) [12]

ADC: Teddy (+0.724 / 76.424) [2]

Support: Keria (+0.427 / 66.276) [6]

Designated Subs: Gumayusi (ADC) 

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  +0.466 / 67.375  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 3.6  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.692 (3rd)

Thoughts:

* for players with no ratings “league average” for the position is used

T1 seemingly never run out of ways to accrue assets and develop players. Even when they lose premium prospects there’s always another to replace them. It’s honestly incredible and every esports franchise should be modeling themselves after what this team does. Dedicate resources to scouting and talent development and it will pay dividends over time. Anyway, I digress.

T1 lose an excellent player in Effort but replace him with one of the few supports you could justify as better than him in 18 year old Keria. They also lose substitute mid laner Gori to EDG. Coach Kim and Comet departure from the coaching staff left huge shoes to fill but in step the World Championship staff of Daeny and Zefa from DAMWON Gaming to replace them. Notably head of strategy and analytics Gary “Tolki” Mialaret, who was doing some tremendous work in data analysis and modeling, also left to return to Europe with Fnatic. T1 also added Oner to the main roster as a third jungle option and retained stud ADC prospect Gumayusi who we got to see a bit last season. 

This team is just completely stacked with talent. On The Gold Card Podcast this week I said that if the jungle situation as a whole, which I called “T1 Jungler,” can give us one standout performer then T1 look like the best roster top-to-bottom in the league. If any of those junglers “pops” or has a great season I prefer T1 to even DAMWON or Gen.G. Really the only thing that could be an issue for this team is that they have too much of a good thing and it’s mismanaged by the new staff with too many extraneous substitutions. Maybe we get some growing pains as Teddy and Keria build chemistry? Maybe Canna doesn’t improve in his sophomore season? Maybe Faker falls off? Maybe we don’t get a solid jungler out of this whole trio? These are all things that could happen but unless more than one of them does then it’s tough for me not to put T1 as one of the favorites to win the league. This team was great last year and could have made and gone far at the World Championships had Korea possessed four slots instead of three. Don’t forget about T1 because they were the odd man out of the four world class teams in Korea. 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Successful organization with an incredible foundation. Strategy, scouting, development are all elite. Seemingly endless supply to players to test and challenge the starting roster from within. 
  • Extremely deep talent pool.
  • Excellent blend of promising youngsters and experienced veterans.
  • Elite coaching staff to replace departing elite coaching staff (this is really hard to do by the way)
  • Have the GOAT.
  • Have arguably two of the top three at their position in the world in the bottom lane.

Cons

  • Possibility for “over”-management with so much talent on the extended roster. 
  • Jungle situation looks very good but not elite. With such strong competition will have to elevate.

Futures 

Price: +250

Positions: None

I was hoping to get a better price on this one. If you can get +350 or better then I think it’s worth a shot. I do think T1, Gen.G, and DAMWON as a trio are around 75% or so to win the league. 

 

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Power Rankings and Tiers

I like to organize my pre-season evaluations into tiers over specific individual rankings although I will include them here. It’s more important to have an idea of where the cutoff points and separations are in overall quality than the specific finishing position which is significantly more results oriented. Below is how I define my tiers.

 

    • S Tier – These are your championship contenders and the teams. They have the fewest questions to answer and typically have very high floor or “worst case scenarios.”
  • A Tier – These teams are typically one or two pieces away or one big question answered from joining the S Tier. A Tier teams are very likely playoff teams.
  • B Tier – On the outside looking in for playoff position. Frequently not bad but not good enough to consistently perform against the top two tiers. Usually have multiple scenarios that need to go well to result in an upgrade to a higher tier. Capable of “running hot” and beating better teams but tend to settle out of playoffs by seasons’ end.
  • C Tier – Teams that are almost definitely not making the playoffs. Usually lack overall talent or have too many “if’s” regarding prospects or new players/coaches. Usually toward the bottom of the table.
  • D Tier and worse – Teams that are either definitely worse than even the C Tier or that simply don’t look like a team that should be competing in the league they’re in. Lack talent, experience, usually need a lot of things to go right to even be mediocre.

 

S Tier

 

  • DAMWON Kia
  • T1
  • Gen.G

 

A Tier

 

  • Afreeca Freecs
  • KT Rolster
  • Hanwha Life

 

B+ Tier

 

  • Liiv Sandbox
  • NS RedForce

 

B- Tier

 

  • Fredit Brion
  • DRX

 

Futures Portfolio:

 

To Win Spring 2021:

 

  • Gen.G +500 (3 units)
  • Liiv Sandbox +3000 (0.5 units)
  • KT Rolster +3300 (0.25 units)
  • Fredit Brion+6600 (0.1 units)

 

If you would like to see a video or another article on this process feel free to let me know on Twitter (@GelatiLOL) or hit me up on the Discord. If there’s interest I’d be happy to do a piece on my process for this in more detail.

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