The League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Spring 2021 Split starts up on Friday, January 22nd and with it comes another Team-by-Team Outlook post. I’ll break down the roster moves, my long term thoughts for each of these teams, and lay out a tier list and rankings at the end as well as my futures portfolio for the season.


 

(Those that read my other Team-by-Team Outlook and Futures Portfolio articles can skip this first section which is just a refresher on numbers listed next to each player)

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 my player based model in Parenthesis)

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

 


 

Astralis

Coaches: AoD (head), iHansen (asst), Arailla (analyst)

Top: WhiteKnight

Jungle: Zanzarah

Mid: Nukeduck (-0.2 / 42.07) [7]

ADC: Jeskla

Support: Promisq

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.04 / 48.175  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 7.2  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

For such a storied esports organization Astralis really feel like they missed out on a free agent or are “settling” here. We’ve seen WhiteKnight before and while I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that he’ll have a better go of it this time around, it wasn’t exactly impressive the first time and he wasn’t lighting it up in the developmental leagues either. 

Zanzarah on the other hand is a dynamic playmaker, someone to be excited about as a prospect. He’s been around the professional scene for a number of years playing in Commonwealth of Independent States’ LCL for ROX, Vega Squadron, and others as well as in EU Masters most recently with AGO Rogue. I tend to like these players that are finally getting their shot as a starter more than most, especially if they’ve been in the “minor leagues” for awhile but Zanzarah is an exciting player to watch.

Jeskla and Promisq we’ve seen before with Mousesports in EU Masters. The thing with Mousesports is that the entire team revolves around Lider’s hyper-linear champion pool and play style. They live and die by him because of his propensity to play assassins which are, by nature, very feast or famine. It’s difficult to evaluate the other players on teams like that because they’re either being hard carried and don’t have to do much in the games where the assassin works, or they’re essentially playing a 4v5 when the assassin doesn’t. We’ve seen both of these players have success in the LEC before. Promisq faired a bit better to me but they both seem serviceable at worst.

Nukeduck got a lot of crap from people last year and obviously Origen were struggling as a full team but I have a really hard time not seeing a bounceback season from the veteran. This was arguably the first “bad” season of his storied career. He’s been at this since 2011 and debuted with H2k on the EU LCS stage in 2012. He’s seen all of these elite mid lakers that have come through Europe and has been able to hang with them more or less the entire time. PowerOfEvil, Bjergsen, Caps, Perkz, Froggen, the list goes on. He’s been right there at the top of the table with all of them during their reigns of terror, gone to multiple World Championships, and has had success on every single roster he’s ever been on, including the one that struggled last season who were impressive the season prior. Sure, he could be cooked, washed up, reaching the end of his career, whatever you want to call it, but I’ll remind everyone that he’s only 24 years old, and has more or less had a single bad individual season in his nearly decade long career. I have a hard time not seeing some positive regression from last season.

With that in mind, it’s still challenging to be too optimistic about Astralis. I don’t think this team is going to be bad at all but with the middle of the table in Europe in various states of rebuilding there’s going to be a lot of volatility and I just so happen to like a few teams more. Astralis will be competitive even if they don’t end up finishing well.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • While we’re getting some new faces, these are all experienced players from the regional leagues or previously in the LEC. They’ve had plenty of time as professionals and should gel pretty quickly.
  • Nukeduck positive regression to even a portion of his career level suddenly boosts this team up to the A Tier.
  • “Hungry dogs run faster” – few second chance guys here in WhiteKnight and Promisq/Jeskla and another that’s been grinding for years across Europe for this opportunity (Zanzarah)

Cons

  • If Nukeduck struggles to return to something akin to his career form, this team could struggle mightily. 
  • With competitive middle of the table, need two or three of these new faces to exceed expectations.
  • Retreads are often retreads for a reason. Reason to be skeptical.

 

Futures

Price: +10,000

Positions: none

While I think this team might be better than most, I just don’t see any situation where they win the split. 

 


 

Excel Esports

Coaches: YoungBuck (head), Unlimited (asst), Owl (scout/analyst), Simi (performance manager) 

Top: Kryze (-0.46 / 31.92) [9]

Jungle: Dan 

Mid: Czekolad

ADC: Patrik (+0.389 / 64.8) [3]

Support: Tore (+0.23 / 59.095) [6]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  -0.01 / 49.41 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 6.2  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

Another year with YoungBuck at the helm. I was excited about Excel heading into last season. At the time I looked at it as a solid four with a liability in the mid lane. It turns out, the mid and to some extent the jungle were both issues. Patrik and Tore are one of the most underrated bottom lanes in the world and Kryze had serviceable rookie campaign. Mickey and Caedrel were the issues. With Caedrel now moving to casting the LEC full time (he’s excellent on the broadcast) and Mickey departing, Excel picked up EU Masters standout Czekolad, most recently with AGO Rogue, and Dan from Fnatic Rising.

Czekolad has been dominating the domestic circuits in Europe for a handful of years now and he’s finally going to get his opportunity to play on the big stage. Dan has been one of the better junglers in the same scene with Fnatic Rising over the same period even spending some time as a sub with the main Fnatic roster, coincidentally with YoungBuck when he was coaching there. I have very high hopes for both of these guys, Czekolad in particular. 

This team looks excellent to me. They kept what was working and got rid of what wasn’t in exchange for premium, blue chip prospects. It wouldn’t take a lot going right for this team to be a slam dunk playoff team and there’s upside from there. 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Retained the pieces that were working and got rid of the “dead wood.” 
  • Retained historically good coaching staff.
  • One of the best bottom lanes in the league.
  • Premium prospects to fill in the departures.

Cons

  • A lot of pressure on the rookie mid/jungle duo in the positions that arguably matter the most in professional LOL. Competitive field. 
  • Kryze, while serviceable, will have to progress in his sophomore season or top could be a potential liability. (lots of top lane departures could hide this)

 

Futures

Price: +5000

Positions: to win Spring @ +5000 (0.5 units)

While I don’t quite think they’re to the level of the elite teams in the league, there’s a chance this team is just very good and catches fire in the playoffs. I see Excel as arguably the biggest upside of the competitive field of A tier teams. I showed a sizeable edge on the book price for the percentage chance I gave this team to win the split making this worth a position.

 


 

FC Schalke 04

Coaches: Dylan Falco (head), rLT (analyst), Mert (manager)

Top: BrokenBlade (-0.03 / 48.8) [8] (from LCS Summer)

Jungle: Gilius (+1.09 / 86.21) [1]

Mid: Abbedagge (+0.563 / 71.23) [2]

ADC: Neon (+0.134 / 55.17) [7]

Support: Limit (+0.683 / 75.17) [4]

Designated Subs: Kamito (ADC)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.497 / 67.64  

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 3.8  

 

Thoughts:

I was one of Schalke’s biggest critics during the Cinderella run they had at the end of Summer. They were on the receiving end of a lot of unforced errors from multiple opponents which made me skeptical of how good they actually were. That wasn’t to say they weren’t playing good League of Legends but, at the time, the markets were overreacting and they were severely overpriced. There’s a chance this team is actually just good and that end of Summer run, when the roster was finally together and had time to build chemistry, was a sign of things to come and not just a flukey miracle. 

The big departure here is the immovable wall of Odoamne who has been an absolute rock over the course of his career no matter the lineup. Replacing him is no easy task. In steps former TCL standout BrokenBlade who spent last season with TSM in the LCS. I don’t think BrokenBlade was particularly good last season but he did show flashes and if he can become a bit more consistent I like his long term outlook. 

Schalke have the potential for sure. This is an explosive lineup with a lot of individual talent. If it comes together the sky is the limit but I could also see this crashing and burning with any sort of regression from Abbedagge and Gilius. They remind me a lot of Suning in the LPL; the ceiling is there but consistency could be an issue.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Explosive roster. High ceiling players with “best-at-position” upside.
  • Continuity. Four returning members looked excellent to end the season. Also returning coaching staff.
  • Showed upside in Summer. 

Cons

  • Potential big downgrade in top lane. I do think BrokenBlade is probably better than people think, he’s also a much higher variance player than Odoamne who almost never had bad games.
  • Regression monster is looming. Too much plus introduction of more variance to top lane could cause consistency issues.

 

Futures

Price: +2600 

Positions: to win Spring @ +2600 (0.5 units)

It’s a bit of a leap of faith but to me there’s a chance that the “flukey” run at the end of the season was a sign of things to come and not just a miracle. Did Schalke get tremendously lucky in this time frame? Absolutely, but that’s not to say they weren’t also playing very good League of Legends. That was also a team that went through a lot of changes throughout the season. Perhaps with a full offseason with the main core still intact they’ll be even better. My model absolutely loves this team and while I’m confident they’re not quite that good, it was such an overwhelming difference in price vs evaluation even after my adjustments that I’m going to take a small position on Schalke. 

 


Fnatic

Coaches: YamatoCannon (head), Tolki (asst/analytics), Shaves (strategic)

Top: Bwipo (+0.015 / 50.4) [5]

Jungle: Selfmade (+0.46 / 67.72) [3]

Mid: Nisqy (+0.395 / 65.17) [6] (from LCS Summer)

ADC: Upset (+0.479 / 68.08) [2]

Support: Hylissang (-0.28 / 38.59) [11]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.187 / 56.93 

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.2 

 

Thoughts:

Rekkles had been with Fnatic in some form or another since late 2012. He was the face of the franchise and had been through it all with every iteration of this roster. One of the more polarizing figures in the professional scene for better or worse. While I think his quality as a player is maybe a bit overrated (he’s still excellent make no mistake), his impact as the “brand” and foundation of a franchise can’t be understated. This is a big, BIG change for Fnatic.

Also departing is mid laner Nemesis and the coaching staff from last season. 

Inbound are Nisqy from Cloud 9, Upset from Origen (now Astralis), and YamatoCannon returning to Europe from a brief stint in Korea. Fnatic also added applied analytics expert from T1, Tolki who will also be serving as assistant coach. Some of Tolki’s work with T1 regarding +EV drafting and applying data science is really fascinating stuff that I personally relate to with a lot of what I do. The stuff he’s doing could be akin to Bill James with baseball decades ago so just something to keep an eye on. 

I’ll just be forthright and say that I actually think this roster is better than last season. Upset was one of the best ADC’s in the league through the entire 2020 campaign, Nisqy played against softer competition but Nemesis struggled mightily in a lot of situations here. I see this as a horizontal move or potentially even an upgrade. I also think he fits in stylistically with what Selfmade wants to do. Bwipo was up and down but delivered a solid season as well. 

I’m not always a huge fan of Yamato but his teams have had a lot of success in the first season or two he spends with them. He’s very good at getting teams to buy-in to an identity. While that didn’t end up being the case in Korea with Sandbox, it’s reasonable that the delayed arrival, language barriers, and short time frame didn’t allow him to put everything into place. It’s also possible that he just botched the situation given how talented Sandbox look individually.

If you think Yamato and this staff can do a reasonable job then Fnatic look like a championship caliber roster. They’re formidable at every single position and there’s enough continuity here that they should get off to a strong start.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Experienced veterans but not “old and washed”
  • Coaching staff has a history of success in first seasons with new teams
  • Elite players at every single position.
  • Some continuity should help smooth transition.

Cons

  • Nisqy might struggle making the transition back to Europe. 
  • Upset and Hylissang don’t gel.

 

Futures

Price: +500

Positions: none

I really wanted to back Fnatic and I was hoping to get a better number on them than this but unfortunately this is a no play. Fnatic absolutely have the ability to win this split and I don’t think they’re really that much different than G2 in the grand scheme of things. The markets are treating this season like a forgone conclusion that G2 win. While they deserve to be the favorite I don’t think the gap is as large as the prices indicate. 

 


 

G2 Esports

Coaches: GrabbZ (head), Duffman (head analyst), AngelArcher (scout), Noodlez (data analyst)

Top: Wunder (+0.358 / 63.68) [3]

Jungle: Jankos (+0.228 / 58.71) [4]

Mid: Caps (+0.315 / 62.17) [4]

ADC: Rekkles (-0.07 / 46.81) [9]

Support: Mikyx (+0.71 / 76.11) [3]

Designated Subs: P1noy (ADC/Support)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.308 / 61.5 

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 4.6  

 

Thoughts:

G2 did about the best they could losing Perkz and picking up arguably the third best European player of all time in Rekkles. I’ve talked a lot about this pickup on The Gold Card Podcast this offseason. Rekkles might be a better marksman player but Perkz was an in-game leader AND that’s not something Rekkles has excelled at historically. G2’s strongest asset, besides their incredibly talented players, has been their “five-as-one” mind meld. They’re ALWAYS on the same page and this chemistry has been what has separated them from other “super teams” in the past. It’s been the main reason for their success. Disrupting that in any way MUST be considered when evaluating them. There’s also a reasonable chance that Rekkles’ personality just doesn’t quite fit in with this team. Anybody that’s followed the careers of these players knows that while winning is ultimately paramount, Rekkles and the G2 “attitude” are in stark contrast to one another. 

The long and short of it is that I don’t think this is an “automatic” upgrade even though it seems to be. Ultimately, G2 are still, likely the best team in the league with an utterly stacked roster with some of the best players to ever play in this league. They’ll be a certain amount good on that fact alone (high floor), but to just assume that this team is going to win the split is ignorant to the potential problems that could crop up, especially early in the year.

 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Experienced
  • Arguably best in the league at four or even five positions (depending on what you think of Rekkles).
  • Likely upgraded at ADC (caveat below)
  • Continuity.
  • Excellent coaching staff.

Cons

  • Chemistry issues. Previous roster, despite role swaps, had been together for years and their strongest asset was their synergy and communication. Disrupting that can’t be understated. 
  • While Rekkles might be an upgrade, I have concerns for whether or not he’ll fit in with the style and culture of this team and if things start off rocky I could see this going south quickly.
  • Concerns about in-game leadership with Perkz gone. Others will have to pick up the weight of this role.
  • Age/longevity/burnout potential. Mostly veterans with almost a decade of competitive experience. It’s possible we see age finally catch up and the regression monster strike.

 

Futures

Price: -250

Positions: none

G2 deserve to be the favorites but this is a ridiculous price. Implied odds are 71.4% to win the split. I put them closer to 40. Even last season with the original lineup without all these questions, G2 had to run through losers bracket to win the split. They struggled mightily. They’re another year older, introducing a new piece for the first time in years, and I’m not 100% sold that it’ll just automatically work. I put them as the clear favorites but at roughly 40%. I wouldn’t be caught dead at this number. Sure, there’s a chance this all works out well and G2 just stomp all over the league but it just takes one bad series in the playoffs and you’re done. Look at the other top teams in the league. Would you make G2 more than a -250 favorite against Fnatic, or Rogue, or whatever upstart team they might see in playoffs? Maybe you do, but they also have to get there first. Pass for me.

 


 

MAD Lions

Coaches: Mac (head), Kaas (strategic), Pad (asst), Aagie (data analyst)

Top: Armut

Jungle: Elyoya

Mid: Humanoid (+0.33 / 62.55) [3]

ADC: Carzzy (+0.162 / 56.356) [6]

Support: Kaiser (+0.549 / 70.54) [5]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.203 / 57.57  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.2  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

The 2020 darling rookies apparently had a lot going on behind the scenes as Orome left and Shadow departed for China. Humanoid, Carzzy, and Kaiser remain along with most of the coaching staff (although Peter left). In comes long time TCL (Turkey) stud Armut who brings with him multiple World Championship appearances. They also bring in Elyoya, one of the more dominant junglers in the EU Masters scene with Movistar Riders. 

MAD Lions struggled at the World Championships and we had discussed that the inexperience could perhaps bite them and sure enough that came to fruition. They didn’t have the strongest finish to Summer split either. After a blazing fast start to Spring and an upset playoff win against G2, the sky appeared to be the limit but MAD Lions just sorta ran out of gas by the end of the season. The metagame certainly became more predictable and they slowly became less and less aggressive in the draft which is what I believe ultimately did them in at Worlds. Their aggressive, +EV approach in that aspect was one of the things I liked about this team and they got away from it. 

As good as Shadow was, he was a fairly linear player. I think Elyoya might not be quite the pure talent but the added versatility in his game could end up proving more useful. Armut has been dominating the TCL for years with various teams but this is going to be his first shot in a “major” league. Turkey is a highly competitive region, more so than most people think, so I don’t think he’ll be outclassed here whatsoever especially with the departures of Finn and Alphari. 

MAD Lions look like a solid roster with a ton of upside but they’re going to have to show the ability to adapt and endure a long season. The potential is there they just need to deliver.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Strong, versatile bottom lane, one of the best in the league.
  • Young, explosive talents with a lot of potential.
  • Continuity with most of the coaching staff and the bottom three retained.
  • Extra motivation after a poor showing at Worlds.
  • More versatility in both the top and jungle positions.

Cons

  • A lot of pressure on Armut and Elyoya to deliver in first season.

 

Futures

Price: +900

Positions: none

This price is pretty close for me. I could see MAD Lions returning to form as I think Elyoya and Armut will provide a different, more versatile look for this team than Orome and Shadow did. If they end up delivering even league average performances in their first season then MAD Lions look like a top four team and potentially more. If not then they’ll be battling with a highly competitive collection of A Tier teams in the middle of the league for the final playoff spots. Upside is there but very little margin for error.A little better price and I would have taken some MAD Lions. 

 


 

Misfits Gaming

Coaches: Hatchy (org head), Enatron (head coach), Candyfloss (strategic), F1RE (analyst)

Top: Agresivoo HiRit

Jungle: Razork (+0.227 / 58.71) [5]

Mid: Vetheo

ADC: Kobbe (-0.34 / 36.32) [11]

Support: Denyk (-0.26 / 39.36) [10], Vander (-0.47 / 31.56) [12]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.147 / 44.05  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 7.8  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

Misfits joined the handful of LEC organizations that said “good isn’t good enough” by moving on from the replacement level pieces that they had in favor of the high risk-high reward prospect options. They retained Razork who performed well as a rookie, Kobbe who had an off season but has historically been a top level ADC, and two veteran supports that have had strong careers even if that wasn’t the case last season. Vetheo, Agresivoo, and Hirit are the new additions. Vetheo had a lot of success with EU Masters standouts LDLC, an organization that Hirit had actually spent time with when he moved to Europe from Korea but before playing in Turkey. Agresivoo spent 2020 with Misfits affiliate, Misfits Premier. Both are promising prospects. 

Where you place Misfits on the tier spectrum depends a lot on your opinions of the returning veterans. As is the case with a lot of these EU Masters prospects, I’m very optimistic for many of them but tend to assume they’ll be roughly league average or slightly below that. For that reason, most of these teams that are opting to go with new talents I have somewhere in a vague middle of the pack. 

I’m not quite as high on Kobbe as many are. Admittedly he had arguably the worst season of his career so we should expect at least some degree of positive regression to be coming but I’m just not sure how high the ceiling is. Kobbe has benefited greatly from being on some excellent teams throughout his career and I think it’s safe to say that he’s not quite to that elite tier of “ADCs that can stand out on bad teams” with the likes of Teddy and others. Vander was excellent over the past few years on Rogue despite what his statistical profile might tell you. 

Given that I’m not exactly bullish on the veterans and I think Razork was, to some extent, “figured out” by seasons’ end I’m a little more bearish on Misfits’ outlook for the season. With that in mind, this team has more than enough talent to prove me wrong. I may have them toward the bottom of the table but as with all of the LEC teams this season, I don’t think we’ll have a truly bad team in this league. Unfortunately someone’s got to be at the bottom and to me I think we’re more likely than not to see Misfits there even if they end up being a solid team.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Good blend of veterans and rookies
  • Rookies are premium prospects with a lot of potential
  • Some degree of continuity with some returning members and coaching staff.

Cons

  • (opinion) I’m skeptical of some of the returning members, specifically Kobbe, but if the rookies end up being pretty good then he’s more than capable of excelling at his job with good surroundings. 
  • Ceiling feels somewhat capped. 
  • Razork will need to show that he can evolve out of being eliminated via target bans like we were seeing during Summer. When he was taken off of comfort he felt invisible at times. When he was on them he was excellent.

 

Futures

Price: +8000

Positions: none

This team has upside to be a playoff team for sure but I have a tough time seeing them winning the league. 

 


 

Rogue

Coaches: Fredy122 (head), Blumigan (asst), Ismind (performance), Bernie (sports psychologist), Blueknight (head of analytics), Vanish (analyst)

Top: Odoamne (+0.27 / 60.64) [4]

Jungle: Inspired (+0.1 / 53.59) [6]

Mid: Larssen (+0.258 / 59.87) [5]

ADC: Hans sama (+0.313 / 62.17) [4]

Support: Trymbi

Designated Subs: Blueknight (mid)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.152 / 55.747  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.6  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

I mentioned it in my writeup for the LCS but upon further investigation, I’ve completely changed course on my opinion of Finn. The kid was surprisingly good last season and while I do think Odoamne does provide an upgrade, it’s maybe not as big an upgrade as I’d initially thought. Still, the veteran presence will be a great thing for this team and his experience and versatility should at the very least not hinder expectations.

Trymbi is the other newcomer, replacing Vander in the bottom lane. The AGO Rogue standout was part of the champion EU Masters lineup along with Szygenda, Zanzarah, Czekolad, and veteran Woolite. I haven’t watched every bit of film on his career but from what I saw in EU Masters over the past two years I expect Trymbi will slot into the LEC with no problems. He’s arguably the best support prospect to come out of that development system this season. He might not completely take the league by storm but I fully expect him to be a quality starter.

The core of Rogue remains intact.

I think Rogue were a misunderstood and undervalued team for the majority of 2020. Most considered them a “Larssen carry or bust” type of team and I think that couldn’t be further from the truth. Another incorrect stereotype? That they’re a late game, controlled team just because Larssen preferred control mages like Azir. I don’t want to bash the broadcast but they did this team no favors. Watch their film, form your own opinions. It was the combination of everything that made this team good AND strong individual players. Inspired was criminally underrated last season too.

Rogue were one of the best tempo teams on the planet, in any league. They had BY FAR the best early game in the LEC. It wasn’t remotely close. Where they’d lose games was with some suspect late game decision making. Rogue were a team that played with a fervent pace and they were exceedingly good at it. For months they ran similar set plays and even after teams made adjustments they still struggled to stop them. The reminded me a lot of Victory Five in the LPL except, relative to their league, Rogue had superior individual talent. When teams can see what you’re doing coming and still not stop you that stands out to me. Rogue were an excellent team that was still being underrated even as they took games at the World Championships this year. I expect that will be the case again this season.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Tremendous tempo team, one of the best in the world.
  • Horizontal move at worst in the top lane. Chance it was a huge upgrade.
  • Exceptional carry talent.
  • Extremely well-coached.
  • Experienced, for the most part.
  • Continuity

Cons

  • The only way I see this team failing is if Trymbi struggles as a rookie or if Odoamne has a major regression. Odo has a history of adapting to the various rosters and coaching staffs he’s been with over his long career so I don’t see that part being an issue.

 

Futures

Price: +700

Positions: none (yet)

I was really hoping to get just a slightly better price on Rogue given how overpriced G2 are in the markets. Rogue, like Fnatic, absolutely have league winning potential without question. I just needed a slightly better price. I’ll shop around this week and see if I find better. I’d fire on +900 or better. 

 


 

SK Gaming

Coaches: Jesiz (head), Tom (asst)

Top: Jenax (-0.228 / 40.90) [6]

Jungle: TynX

Mid: Blue

ADC: Jezu

Support: Treatz (+0.116 / 54.38) [6] (from LCS Summer)

Designated Subs: Canee (jungle)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.11 / 45.40  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 7.2  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

Of all of the optimistic offseason roster changes throughout the LEC, I’m the least optimistic about SK Gaming. That’s not to say this team didn’t do a lot of things right or that these players couldn’t pan out but unlike some other rosters, SK Gaming lost their strongest asset, Crownshot. Now, I’m not quite as high on Crownie as a few of my Esports Department colleagues (hey Josh!) but there’s absolutely no denying that he was a tremendous talent right on the cusp of taking over the position. L1mit was also an incredible support and the two of them were working wonders together in the bottom lane. To let them walk felt like a huge mistake to me.

With that said, Jenax had a great debut season in the top lane and SK Gaming are bringing in a crew of young prospects and a re-import in Treatz to try to make a run at building up again. Tynx was arguably the most “hyped” jungle prospect coming from the European domestic leagues this season. There are some criticisms about the depth of his champion pool but there’s no denying the potential here. 

Blue joins after an impressive campaign with 1907 Fenerbahce in the Turkish Champions League where he graded as the best laner, by a mile, in the entire league by my individual player model on a wide range of champions and styles and Jezu spent time with Misfits Premier, and Treatz we saw have success with TSM in the LCS. 

I do like the pieces here for sure, I just feel that SK Gaming need more things to go right than some of these other teams. Jenax had a great debut in the top lane. There’s a chance he gets even better in his sophomore season in the position but he could also struggle with being “figured out” a bit. The bottom lane was by far the biggest strength for SK last season and Jezu and Treatz have huge shoes to fill even if I think there is a potential upgrade in the mid and jungle positions. 

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Talented prospects with strong pedigrees.
  • Experienced coaching staff.

 

Cons

  • Fairly inexperienced on the “big stage” with only a handful of combined seasons as starters across this roster. 
  • Said veterans not exactly elite at their positions.

 

Futures

Price: +6600

Positions: none

As I mentioned for a bunch of these teams, I don’t think SK Gaming will be a bad team but they have more questions to answer than anyone else in terms of just how good they can be. Given how competitive the field is I have a hard time seeing any kind of league winning potential here even if I do think they’ll be a good team. 

 


 

Team Vitality

Coaches: Duke (head), Mephisto (asst)

Top: Szygenda

Jungle: Skeanz (-0.805 / 20.9) [11]

Mid: Milica (+0.654 / 74.215) [1]

ADC: Comp (+0.605 / 72.57) [1]

Support: Labrov (+0.91 / 81.59) [1]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG:  +0.276 / 59.94  * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 3.8  * see note

 

Thoughts:

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

Some people might be surprised to see Milica, Comp, and Labrov rated so highly by the individual model. A big part of the reason they grade so well is that various vision scores are taken into account, even for carries. Much less weight for ADC’s, slightly less weight for mid lane players who still play a vital part in the vision game. Losing teams tend to have higher vision scores out of necessity but you’d be surprised at how many winning teams don’t invest in it while others do. Anyway, that’s a separate conversation. They still all rank in the top half of their positions even if you exclude vision categories. Damage per gold per minute, kill participation, experience and economy differentials are all factored amongst other things.

By the end of the season, once Milica was finally through dealing with COVID-related visa issues and had some time to play with the team, Vitality looked very competitive even in losses against the top teams in Europe. They confidently ran back four out of five of the same lineup and added arguably the best top lane prospect in EU Masters champion Szygenda. Cabochard will not be easy to replace, in fact it’s surprising that nobody has picked him up yet, but Szygenda is an extremely promising prospect that I expect will perform well in a somewhat more diluted top lane pool (no Cabochard yet, no Finn, no Alphari). He has a chance to compete to be the best in his position this split.

Vitality are going to have multiple players entering their sophomore season, a new super prospect in the top lane, and a full offseason together to make even more improvements on what was already a very promising look by the end of Summer. This team is being extremely undervalued by the market and they’re going to make us a bunch of profits along the way.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Four sophomores that were looking excellent once they had even a little extended time together last season.
  • Premium top lane prospect could actually manage to effectively replace the departure of one of the leagues’ best.
  • Experienced coaching staff with a history of success.
  • Confidence to run back the same lineup knowing how good they finished the year.

Cons

  • Departure of Cabochard could end up being a bigger loss in terms of in game leadership. 
  • If all players don’t show at least some positive progress (which I expect), their ceiling might be capped in terms of how far they could go.

 

Futures

Price: +6600

Positions: to win Spring @ +6600 (0.5 units)

Vitality are the kind of undervalued long shot I like to take. This team looked great by the end of the season even in losses and only had a single “quality win” against them once Milica entered the lineup and that includes against some very good squads. Players tend to be better in their sophomore year unless they were ridiculously impressive as rookies and I think we could see a situation where they each take a step forward at the same time suddenly making them a significant threat. Szygenda is also one of the best prospects in any position coming out of the EU Masters scene this year and I’m expecting him to make an immediate impact. I like this team the most out of the logjam in my A Tier and I happen to think they’re being slept on quite a bit.

 


 

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

 

  • G2 Esports (S+)

——————————

  • Fnatic
  • Rogue

 

A Tier

 

  • Team Vitality
  • FC Schalke 04
  • MAD Lions
  • Excel Esports

 

B Tier

 

  • Astralis
  • Misfits 

—————————–

  • SK Gaming (B-)

 

Futures Portfolio:

 

When considering outright futures you need to calculate the books hold percentage, convert the odds to percentage chances, and as a rule of thumb take an even distribution of the hold percentage to each team. Some prefer to add more to the top end as that’s typically how books price it but for the sake of this exercise I just used an even distribution. Then factor in that this capital will be tied up and not available to you for other positions/leverage. 

 

For me, a team needs to have not just a higher chance than their projected odds, but a significantly higher chance to justify tying up the capital. For higher end teams I typically need to see a 10% edge between my projection and the implied price. For medium and lower it’s usually double.

 

I broke down each team, assigned my own percentage chance based on a combination of factors. I took the player-based model projections, adjusted upward or downward by percentages based on the pro’s and con’s listed here for each team, and factored in priors to some degree for teams with a lot of continuity. I then created my own outright market by assigning a percentage to each team and compared it to the book markets. Any place that I saw substantial value I took a position. 

 

Hold percentages grow with the amount of offerings in the market. While the LPL futures had roughly a 37.4% book hold, the LEC came in closer to 21.5%. These are only at one location for the sake of this piece but you should calculate the hold percentage for whichever book you’re using. It’s typically going to be a shade over 2% which is in line with the -110 “rake” of 2.4% per side that we’re used to in most traditional sports. 

 

G2 are the prohibitive favorites in this market. I was really hoping to get a cheap price on Fnatic or Rogue as a result but this isn’t divided up quite the way I anticipated it would be. The value is further down the board which raises an interesting question that requires a bit of personal preference. 

 

“Value” as a concept has boundaries to certain people. There might be value from a handicapping perspective on a team but from that point you need to evaluate how realistic you actually think that is of happening and if you want to tie up your capital with it. 

 

I’ll be taking a few longer shots in the LEC for very small stakes for a few different reasons. First, the assumption to most people right now is that G2 are just going to roll over this league. They added the legendary Rekkles at ADC to fill what was arguably the weakest point on their roster last season. To a lot of people this team can’t miss but as I discussed in the G2 section of this post, we’ve seen super star rosters not get it together right away or have struggles. Just look at Team Liquid last season or even Cloud 9 when it mattered. Hell you could even point to G2 despite the results of their domestic seasons. In Spring they were nearly eliminated by a squad of four rookies and a sophomore (MAD Lions). These things happen. It’s called volatility.

 

My colleague John George, here at The Esports Department, has one of the most succinct ways I’ve heard of putting the concept of volatility in regards to futures markets;

 

“You’re not picking who the best team is, you’re picking who is going to win the league.” 

 

How often does the best team actually win their conference or the title in traditional sports? 50% of the time? 75%? 90%? Oftentimes we see the team that is widely considered to be the best fail to finish as the eventual winner. Does this make them not the best team? No. When evaluating top of the table or expensive teams it’s important to determine their level of volatility. Some teams “bad case scenarios” still look pretty good on paper. Certainly take that into account but remind yourself that no team is immune to volatility. No one. 

 

We handicap an event by determining our likelihood of winning it, comparing it against the book offering, and determining if there is enough value to justify a position. G2 may be the clear best team on paper. Their lower ranges of outcomes are still very solid placements but I’ll remind you again, you’re not picking who the best team is, you’re picking who is going to win the league. At an implied 71.4% championship win rate you have very little room for error. All it takes is one down day. The counterargument here is that with double elimination and a full season to figure things out, you’ve given G2 more margin for error than they’ve had in years past. Regardless, I’m not touching them at that number. I can use the capital in other ways. 

To Win Spring 2021:

  • Schalke +2600 (0.5 units)
  • Team Vitality +6600 (0.5 units)
  • Excel Esports +5000 (0.5 units)

 

These three teams all had a significant delta between my projected price and the implied book odds. Each has things to be optimistic about from a qualitative perspective and their quantitative measures, especially on an individual basis, were far in excess of public perception. I could see each of these teams making the Spring finals or even winning it which would afford us the opportunity to hedge if we so choose which would secure a profit. 

 

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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