Sunday, January 10th Recap

*Note: There was a correction to yesterday’s post. I had graded a Suning map 3 first tower as a loss but it was a push/cancel. Changed it on the spreadsheet.*

 

Team WE vs Rogue Warriors (Net: -0.5125 units)

Game one was fairly close throughout with a few minor mishaps from each side but Team WE got the better of the overall opening landing the first three dragons which would have allowed them to leverage soul point but they conceded vision around the fourth drake for seemingly no reason and still gave up the pick after RW took the dragon. RW had an opportunity after WE took baron to flank engage a 5v3 but they were too slow to realize that WE were without both solo lanes.

Game two I thought WE won in the draft pretty hard so RW were going to be up against it with such a strong dive composition against Aphelios. The game started fast and furious with a huge fight bottom in the first five minutes, an attempted mid lane dive, a caught invade which ended up resulting in first blood to Kelin’s Aphelios who would end up 4-0 with a ten minute Kraken Slayer. Not exactly a great start for Team WE. RW looked like they were completely running away with this game. Really proactive, trying to choke Beishang out of his jungle to shut the Olaf down. However, even with all of this action going in RW’s favor, Breathe managed to amass a 70 cs lead in the 1v1 matchup amidst everything going on. Gragas struggles in this so it’s not a big surprise especially given the fact that he was committing to assisting in these fights while Breathe was solo farming trying to scale up. Eventually RW started the baron after WE committed two to bottom lane, the top laners teleported, and this fight just went disastrously wrong for RW. As they scattered, Haro tried to finish the baron, got it to within smite range before the barons rear attack killed him before he could smite at around 600 health. Kind of a brutal beat but RW should have stood their ground more than they did and it looked like a split call. Eventually WE would turn this into a win over the next ten minutes but this was by no means a clean close, they almost let RW back in.

It’s obviously early in the season and this is only one series WE still showing that they aren’t exactly the best at engineering their own advantages. If RW didn’t make the handful of unforced errors that they did they probably win this game. Rogue Warriors still showing some signs of being their old selves but they did look a bit more disciplined, at least from what we’ve grown to expect. I’m not sure what this means. RW didn’t look bad in this series it was just a few dumb mistakes that could be cleaned up but they also did a lot of great things to get themselves back into this game during the mid game with some nice picks. Interestingly, Forge soaked five first rotation (first three) bans over the two games in this series and six total. Might be something to keep an eye on. Other teams showing a lot of respect to him. After a great season last season where his trademark was making very VERY few mistakes, maybe fewer than any other ADC in the LPL, Jiumeng had a really rough series despite the 2-0 victory. He was caught out half a dozen times in these games so hopefully he can get it back together.

 

JDG vs Invictus (Net: +2.5705 units)

This first dragon fight was a bit of a clown fiesta as XUN nearly died to the dragon, and eventually he did to Leona, allowing Loken to take the dragon with a Jhin auto attack. JDG kept the pressure up, immediately contesting red, Zoom matched to contest XUN trying the cross map mirrored play and managed to prevent him from taking it but from there XUN went to mid and along with Rookie pulled a 2v3 against Kanavi, Xiye, and LvMao that looked like a bad miscommunication. At this point Rookie was 3/0/3 at the 9 minute mark on Orianna. They also nearly popped the mid tower with first herald to try to end lane phase and prevent Viktor from scaling up. You could argue that this game was effectively over at this point in the hands of someone as good as Rookie but I was keeping an eye on how Invictus would close this out. It was a fairly clinical close. They were first to the rest of the objectives, diligent about clearing out vision, controlled waves, and made sure they weren’t able to be flanked from any bad positions.

Game two was actually some pretty slick jungling by both sides in the first minutes of the game but TheShy took a rough level one trade against the Wukong counter so when the collapse happened he was in an awkward position and unhealthy so JDG got the best of the situation. XUN instantly read that his blue was gone before this play even happened and was lightning quick to get to Kanavi’s red and contest. He ended up barely missing a spear or this likely would have been a 1v1 without that 2v2 even happening. Either way, TheShy stacked the next wave after returning to top lane, Rookie stacked his wave, and XUN and Rookie were able to get the rotation, kill both Kanavi and Zoom and deny a double creep wave to Zoom. Invictus with a great macro play denying the counter, keeping up the pace with their poke comp. They landed a dragon off of this too. IG were in full control of the rest of this game choking Kanavi out of his jungle, stacking dragons up and completely abusing their poke composition.

I was really impressed with XUN in his debut. He wasn’t perfect. Missed a few skill shots but you can already tell this kid has a fast processor for the overall state of the game. From a macro perspective he played the first ten minutes of this game about as perfectly as you can after evaluating every situation. He lands a few more of these spears early and this game would have been over in the first five minutes instead of the first ten. It’s only one series but Invictus look really sharp so far. JDG did what they could in this matchup. They really didn’t play poorly but in each game they made one crucial mistake on a play early in the game and Invictus took that little advantage and snowballed it into a win. Last season Invictus had the second highest percentage of their wins grade as quality wins (60.71%). Give them an inch and they take a mile. That was the case here today. I’m not downgrading JDG for this loss.

 

Daily Net Total: +2.058 units

 

——

(I’m going to copy/paste this intro from day one into the first handful of days of matches as a reminder for those just joining us)

“Predicting the metagame”

I’ve done some research into what has been played during the offseason tournaments and on the current patch but while I think it’s important to have a general idea of what’s going on in terms of the champions picked and style of the game in its current state, it can be a futile endeavor to predict every team’s tendencies. Even if you consider your read on the game to be very accurate, it doesn’t mean that all teams, coaches, and players will act rationally and hold the same opinion. For these reasons I try to abstain from making decisive calls based on the metagame in the first few weeks.

That leads me to my next point….

Cognitive Biases and Overall Approach to Opening Weeks

How you decide to attack the first few weeks depends heavily on your risk tolerance but no matter what you choose to do it’s important that you have structure within your process. Over the years I’ve been very aggressive early on in the year because I trust my evaluation of the offseason more than the books and there are frequently very bad lines. There are pros and cons to this approach. While you might be “ahead of the curve” on a team, you could also get yourself in trouble “sticking to your guns” for too long. Last year, for example, I was overconfident that TSM were a good team based on my pre-season evaluation and continued backing them over and over insisting that they’d eventually meet my expectations. Long story, short; they never did.

Another way to play the early season is to be very selective and take more of a “wait and see” approach. This is more what I’ll be doing this season with a few exceptions for what I think are extremely undervalued and overvalued teams.

I’ll be discussing the different cognitive biases over the course of this season, likely in an evergreen style article or podcast but I think the two that come into play this early are overconfidence and confirmation bias if you are “right” about a team in the first few games. It’s a long season folks and the first few weeks mean very little in the grand scheme of things.

In short, I’ll be taking a less aggressive and more of the aforementioned “wait and see” approach to the opening weeks than I have in the past. Staking will be smaller until we get a decent picture of what each of these teams starts to look like and then we’ll ramp up from there along with the models and our eyes collecting more data. Of course, there are going to be a few exceptions to this. There are a handful of teams that I think are not just undervalued, but extremely undervalued and we have some bigger picture trends that I’m going to discuss below that I want to take advantage of early on.

Spring Last Year

We had a bit of a bizarre year last year (obviously…) with the first LPL week being played before the league went on hold over concerns about COVID-19 before picking back up again in the second week of March. In a way we got two different week ones. We had 34 matches over those two separate week ones. Let’s take a look at some of the results:

  • 8 underdog 2-0’s (LGD def TOP, SN def BLG, EDG def eStar, SN def EDG, RNG def TOP, RW def SN, eStar def RW). Admittedly a few of these look a bit silly in hindsight such as eStar who dominated the rest of Spring split and Suning being underdogs to BLG only to eventually end up in World finals.
  • Favorites had a combined 20-14 moneyline record with average odds of -521 over the 34 matches. (underdogs averaged +237 on the moneyline)
  • Favorites went a combined 13-21 against the map spread with average odds just over even at +17.38 (underdogs near even as well at -98.38)

If you would have wagered the same amount on every single underdog map spread through the first two weeks you would have had a +84.35% return on investment. While that seems ridiculous there is a history of this phenomenon across the globe in the major region domestic leagues specifically in the Spring split.

Why is this the case? Some of the good teams had a longer season with a handful of them going to playoffs and the World Championships and the players and coaches don’t get as much preparation time since most take a break while other teams are working (think Super Bowl hangover). Many teams both good and bad are dealing with roster shuffling as players are moved around. The game is also more “chaotic” and “raw” early in the season with the pre-season patch, where most of the major changes to the game for the year take place, only about a month old. It takes awhile to figure the balance out resulting in some over and underpowered champions and higher variance games. There are also coaching and infrastructure changes similar to the players changing teams which can disrupt things.

How the books derive their prices early in the season?

In addition to the points above, books tend to heavily overprice the favorites, especially those that went to the World Championship or finished the Summer season in a high position. They also shade toward popular teams with name brand value that receive a lot of action as favorites. If we look back at Summer 2020 in the LPL anecdotally who would you guess were the most heavily bet and talked about favorites? TOP, Invictus, FunPlus,  JDG, Team WE, and Suning are your top six teams in the futures markets and their prices are reflected accordingly in the opening match lines. The books also favor teams that didn’t change much, especially ones that were favorites, like the top six in our case. While they consider other roster moves there isn’t a lot of faith given to unknown qualities. In a traditional sports context this would be like grading a rookie quarterback as a varying amount below league average for example. Some end up performing at about that level, others exceed it, and other still far exceed that expectation.

Tying it all together

Good teams from the previous season with a lot of continuity seem like an attractive position to take but historically they have not been successful early in the season for a litany of reasons (see above). Bad or mediocre teams with a lot of changes or unknown players, especially rookies, aren’t given a lot of respect early on and most people are afraid to back them so it makes sense for the books to lean toward juicing up the favorites. This results in a double whammy situation. Not all unknown players end up bad or below average and if you can figure out the more promising prospects in good situations there’s even more gold to be mined here early in the season.

In the early weeks I’ll be asking a lot of favorites if I’m going to pay the tax that comes with their price tag. Typically you want to operate in the middle, making the case for both teams and weighing your options but I tend to shade more towards the underdogs in the first couple of weeks in combination with a lighter staking structure.

We’ll be touching on these points and more as we go today but I’d encourage you to check out my LPL Pre-Season Power Rankings post where I break down each team and their expected trajectory in greater detail.

 

———————–

LOL Pro League (China)

Week 2 – Day 1

BiliBili Gaming -345 (-1.5 maps @ +101, +1.5 @ -1000)

vs

eStar Pro +238 (+1.5 maps @ -132, -1.5 @ +548)

 

Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +121 / under -154)

Kill Total: 26.5 (over -116 / under -112)

Kill Spread:  -6.5 @ +100 / +6.5 @ -130

Team Kill Totals: 16.5 / 10.5

Time Total: 33:00 (over +100 / under -130)

Starting Lineups:

BLG – Biubiu, Meteor, Zeka, Aiming, Mark

EST – Zs, H4cker, Irma, Rat, ShiauC

 

This is maybe the most difficult handicap of the first few days for me. That might seem a little odd to say but there’s a lot of factors at play here. The books graded eStar as the second worst team in the LPL only behind TT in futures markets. Obviously I don’t align with the book on these prices but they do inform where they’re deriving their lines from. These teams are a tier apart to me. I placed eStar in my B tier and BiliBili in A tier.

I expect BiliBili to be much better this season. Their underlying metrics, especially once Meteor was playing full time again, were that of a borderline playoff quality team. The changes made were largely what I’d call “sidegrades” or horizontal moves in terms of quality. Zeka and FoFo graded out similarly and offer similar things to teams, versatile pool, outplay potential. Aiming and Mark should prove to be at least the same level as the previous bottom lane iterations and possibly better. The big upgrade was the addition of one of the best coaches in the history of the game, Kim. Coach Kim was with T1 in 2020, DAMWON in 2019, Invictus 2018, and Longzhu before that. He has a history of success in both the LCK and LPL and has never struggled in making the transition between leagues. He’s just a great coach. Admittedly this is the worst roster he’s ever had in terms of overall talent level but this team is by no means really lacking in that category either. This team was mismanaged and plagued with off-field issues last season and I’d expect a lot of that to be remedied along with in-game play.

eStar add top lane prospect Zs (formerly known as Yi on IG Young), H4cker, and retain backups Irma and Rat, each who played a bit last season, and veteran stud support ShiauC. They also added Insulator, one of the two elite mid lane prospects from the LDL moving up to the big leagues this year from FPX Blaze. eStar have some degree of continuity working in their favor but unless H4cker completely reinvents himself and can turn back time a few years, they’ve made a massive downgrade in the jungle position. I don’t doubt that the new faces can make an impact but with such a liability in H4cker (unless he figures it out), the lanes for this team are going to need to be exceptional. I’m likely more optimistic about this team than my colleagues but my optimism stemmed mostly from upside and actually playing Insulator. eStar could be decent if things go well but the fact that they’re going to need multiple things to go in their favor to overcome their deficits makes me skeptical to back them until we see something.

I want to back BiliBili here but this price is just a bit too steep for a roster with a ton of turnover vs a roster that has at least some degree of continuity. Especially because you could have had this price at -270 earlier in the week. On The Gold Card Podcast this week I mentioned that I was going to be one of those positions that you just back eStar as a number play and because it’s early in the season. We’re getting an even better number on them now. Just take a small position on eStar or pass this series. I’m quite bullish on BiliBili and I think in a few weeks we’re going to look back at this as a missed opportunity especially with the metagame in a place that’s perfect for Meteor but I just can’t justify backing them at a bad price in their first series. Shame on me for missing the early number but we’ll hopefully be remedying that situation when I start hosting our Monday look ahead show!

 

Other Markets:

eStar were an extremely bloody team last year while BiliBili weren’t but that wasn’t for a lack of pace. This matchup feels like whoever gets ahead is going to just smash but given the uncertainty this is yet another situation where the price is inflated and you should just take the value on underdog props if you’re going to take anything. For me, there’s not really anything I like in the first props. I was expecting slightly better prices.

BiliBili averaged 16.7 kills per game in wins during the Summer split and while I do think Coach Kim is a strict upgrade, I’m not sure this team will look much different from a stylistic perspective. His teams have always been tempo-oriented teams. I’m going to play the overall game total under in this match. Both of these teams are committed tempo teams that really try to build advantages and run the game over quickly. Those games tend to be lopsided one way or the other.

 

My Picks:

 

Map Spread: eStar +1.5 maps @ -132 (0.66 units)

Moneyline: eStar +238 (0.25 units)

Map Spread: eStar -1.5 maps @ +548 (0.1 units)

Kill Total: Map 1 UNDER 26.5 @ -112 (0.56 units)

Kill Total: Map 2 UNDER 26.5 @ -112 (0.56 units)

Kill Total: Map 3 UNDER 26.5 @ -112 (0.56 units)

 

 

—–

 

TT Gaming +345 (+1.5 maps @ +110, -1.5 @ +883)

vs

Royal Never Give Up -500 (-1.5 maps @ -143, +1.5 @ -2500)

 

Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +144 / under -185)

Kill Total: 27.5 (over -115 / under -114)

Kill Spread:  +7.5 @ -116 / -7.5 @ -112

Team Kill Totals: 9.5 / 16.5

Time Total: 32:00 (over -102 / under -128)

Starting Lineups:

TT – Chelizi, Bless, Captain, SamD, Teeen

RNG – Xiaohu, Wei, Cryin, GALA, Ming

 

So unless the team reports it, and even then, don’t trust everything you hear going into a season about who is going to start where and why. That’s all I’ll say on that front. Read my section on RNG in the pre-season team-by-team breakdown but the long story short is that this might cause some growing pains as he figures this out top lane but ultimately unlocks a higher ceiling for RNG and I still expect them to be quite good regardless of what iteration of the lineup they march out on a game-to-game basis.

TT, formerly Dominus, made a number of upgrades including the acquisition of SamD and Bless in the jungle, retaining the services of Xiaopeng and Chelizi, and picking up a few very high upside prospects JoyDream’s Teeen and, in my opinion the best player in the LDL last season, IG Young’s Captain. Obviously there’s a lot of turnover and there is a ton on the backs of the rookies in this spot but if anyone can deliver it’s this crop of them.

I’m very bullish on RNG’s prospects this season overall but in week one I’m not messing with this number, especially for a team that was as two-faced as they were last season. With Xiaohu playing top lane, where he looked a little rough in Demacia Cup as he makes the role transition, I like the TT position even more. We’ve got the week one underdog trend bump (see intro), some growing pains to go through with Xiaohu, and TT having upgraded across the board with their weakest position on the map up against new-to-top lane Xiaohu where I don’t see him taking massive advantage of the opportunity against Chelizi. I think TT are totally live to take this match.

 

Other Markets:

Obviously I like the first props here given the price tag and situation. I also like the under kill total given that if RNG were to win this they were one of the better tempo teams and graded out as the strongest early game squad in the LPL last season. I can only see that improving with these roster changes. We’ve had a few spike games but overall games have been significantly lower scoring than they were in Demacia Cup.

 

My Picks:

 

Map Spread: TT +1.5 maps @ +110 (1 unit)

Moneyline: TT +345 (0.5 units)

Map Spread: TT -1.5 maps @ +883 (0.25 units)

Kill Total: Map 1 UNDER 27.5 @ -114 (0.57 units)

Kill Total: Map 2 UNDER 27.5 @ -115 (0.575 units)

Kill Total: Map 3 UNDER 27.5 @ -122 (0.61 units)

Prop: Map 1 TT first blood @ +107 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 2 TT first blood @ +107 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 3 TT first blood @ +111 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 1 TT first tower @ +138 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 2 TT first tower @ +138 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 3 TT first tower @ +136 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 1 TT first dragon @ +127 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 2 TT first dragon @ +124 (0.25 units)

Prop: Map 3 TT first dragon @ +136 (0.25 units)

 

 

 

—-

 

I believe in accountability. For years I’ve tracked all of my picks publically. 2021’s selections will be via this spreadsheet but it isn’t updated until AFTER the games have started. The Esports Department subscribers get the first look.

Check out The Gold Card Podcast and can find me on Twitter @GelatiLOL

(all lines from Nitrogen unless noted otherwise)

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