Sunday, January 17th Recap
Afreeca vs Fredit BRION (Net: +1.26 units)
This was a fairly close game one with a few early mistakes from Afreeca that Brion capitalized on. Afreeca were able to maintain the macro control stacking up dragons throughout the chaos and picked up an early cloud soul. They forced the baron fight, landed a three person shockwave and this game was all but over…. until Afreeca got sloppy and nearly lost a fight around elder drake. Kiin and Dread managed to bully Brion off of it in order to buy time for their teammates to get back, Afreeca won that fight and that was game. Cloud soul Mordekaiser is a hell of a drug.
Game two was somewhat sloppier looking than it actually was and Afreeca managed to accrue a 4000 gold lead in the first 18 minutes on top of three drakes. Lehends landed a few excellent Seraphine ultimates in this one that, in hindsight, iced this game.
Brion are looking a lot like APK without the cheese. They’re not a bad team but individually they just lack the horses in their stable to hang in a race as competitive as the LCK. They’re going to beat teams that screw up but they’re going to rely mostly on solid decision making, drafting, and macro because individually they’re not going to be able to rely on outplaying on this level.
Afreeca have looked really sloppy but they are amassing these gigantic leads even when it looks bad. I suspect against better teams they’ll struggle but against the bottom of the table they’ll be fine. This was a good get right after a tough loss to DRX.
DAMWON vs Nongshim RedForce (Net: no action)
DAMWON had a 1000 gold lead in 9 minutes without any kills and only one tower plate. A lead purely on economy/farm. They picked up a contested herald and afterwards looked like they had a catch in the bottom lane but overcommitted once it didn’t work, perhaps a little tilt trying to get something before being choked out. 7500 gold at 18 minutes… that’s DAMWON for you.
They slightly overextended in game two in a jungle fight but still came out on top of it all and yet again just had a massive pre-15 minute gold lead of 3500+ gold. This team and their ability to consistently gain these gigantic advantages early in the game is honestly incredible. They don’t even really gamble either most of the time, although they did in this game two.
Bay has struggled mightily in his first few series as a pro. It’s very early on but my main concern with this team was whether or not Bay would be able to keep up in a competitive pool of mid laners in the LCK. I’m going to give it some more time but this was the main thing I was watching for going into this season and I’ll be continuing to monitor the situation.
TT vs LNG (Net: +0.4 units)
This was a competitive but extremely sloppy series all around. Both teams basically tried to outplay every possible situation that arose and nobody had their eyes on the big picture at all. I would have liked to have seen a less lopsided draft victory in game three but this game was more or less over in favor of LNG before it started picking up three winning lanes (two of them hard winning) and Pantheon in the jungle to supplement that. TT kept it competitive and tried to snowball it but after a sneaky baron call by LNG the lead and team comp were too much to overcome.
SamD was the standout performance for the series overall to me. He tried the Vayne in game one in what I thought was a reasonable spot for the pick it just didn’t quite pan out, and in games two and three he outplayed Light and Iwandy a few different times in isolated situations early on with the Kaisa. Icon showed some good and some bad in this series, akin to last year. Sometimes he’s so good while others it looks like he tilts off. It’s so hard to gauge what you’re going to see but I think when you see him against the class of the LPL he’s going to struggle mightily.
Invictus vs Team WE (Net: -0.165 units)
Invictus snowballed this first game scoring kills in all three lanes in the first 7:40. The rest was a clinical four drake close.
Invictus gambled giving the Taliyah away in this draft. Even besides that this was a pretty big draft win for Team WE in my opinion. I still think teams are severely underrating Camille. Game two started with a bottom lane snowball for Team WE on some really suspect positioning by Baolan. You have absolutely no reason just give a free flash+Q opportunity to Leona when you’re at that health. You have no ability to react to it with a snap W in the time that you get stunned and give the kill away. Wave was stacking against you too, just a really dumb decision. More on this later. A handful of the fights in this game were really close but Invictus looked really disjointed in team fights which makes a lot of sense given their engage tools. They were playing the reactive team in this case and it’s a lot harder to do that than the simpler, pull the trigger type comp Team WE had. It showed. The fatal blow was a poor decision to go for the fifth drake with baron up and Breathe shoving top. You 100% go for the baron in this situation because you’re not wedged between the split pusher and baron meaning you don’t have an equitable decision while if you force the baron you bring them to a decision because they have to choose a side to approach from.
Game three Invictus tried the Lucian bottom but gave up the Pantheon+Camille top camping dream. This game became a weakside game. TheShy playing weak vs Team WE’s bottom lane getting ganked, dived, and otherwise heavily pressured. TheShy who is normally pretty good in these situations, despite public opinion, played a really poor weakside game in this one. He was way overaggressive and against Pantheon there’s really just not a lot of “outplaying” you can do. Hit bottom lane was winning really hard, all he had to do was limit losses but I think the fact that he was on Jayce, a gold hungry carry, made him want to play this more aggressive than he had to. Invictus did a tremendous job stunting Jiumeng’s growth on Tristana in this one but got themselves Camille+Orianna wombo combo’d at the third drake fight and Jiumeng picked up contribution on four kills making all of that work useless.
We’ve seen this kind of thing from Invictus before. They sometimes just choose to play the game on hard mode when they absolutely don’t have to. I don’t know if it’s just limit testing or a poor read on the metagame. It’s a little early to tell this season but it’s something to keep an eye on. If they’re going to keep trying to draft these win in two or three lanes comps that’s fine, and very on-brand but you can’t give up the really powerful ganking (and side lane punishing) junglers if you’re going to do that. Taliyah and Pantheon specifically just destroy those kinds of strategies and make it way too easy for your opponents to punish they way you’re going to play. I guess they thought they’d outplay this one and got smacked in the mouth for it.
Team WE looked solid in this series but I do think this was more of an Invictus loss and questionable drafting than anything else. Still, beating Invictus is no joke so they get props. It was good to see them actually creating their own advantages for a change although I think picking up Taliyah and Pantheon in games two and three made that significantly easier to do.
Baolan has been a huge liability so far this season after having a solid comeback in Summer. I’ve seen enough to think they should probably go to Lucas at least for a few series to see how that goes. The bottom lane seems to be getting behind every single game and it’s almost entirely on Baolan when that happens as Wink has made a few hero plays to mask this deficiency.
Immortals vs Cloud 9 (Net: -1.64 units)
Team Liquid vs 100 Thieves (Net: +2.0 units)
Dignitas vs Evil Geniuses (Net: +0.495 units)
CLG vs TSM (Net:-2.705 units)
Golden Guardians vs Team Liquid (Net: +0.5 units)
LPL Net Total: +0.235 units
LCK Net Total: +1.26 units
LCS Lock-In Net Total: -1.35 units
Daily Net Total: +0.145 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 3 – Day 1
OMG +133 (+1.5 maps @ -227, -1.5 @ +377)
eStar Pro -169 (-1.5 maps @ +174, +1.5 @ -556)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over -101 / under -127)
Kill Total: 26.5 (over -110 / under -119)
Kill Spread: +4.5 @ -110 / -4.5 @ -119
Team Kill Totals: 10.5 / 14.5
Time Total: 33:00 (over +120 / under -156)
OMG – New, AKi, Wuming, Eric, Cold
EST – Zs, H4cker, Irma, Rat, ShiauC
eStar played down to Rogue Warriors “rough and tumble” style in a game one that was eventually a win and completely destroyed them in game two. Against the tougher BiliBili it took some hero plays from ShiauC and a couple of mistakes to get them a win in game one before dropping game two. We saw the elusive H4cker good performance in game two of Rogue Warriors as well. To me, this team is going to be somewhat of a gatekeeper to the mid tier in the LPL. They have great leadership from ShiauC but the rest of this team is severely lacking. I mentioned in one of my recaps but until eStar are playing with Insulator and if he pans out to be such a great prospect I’m going to have a very low ceiling on this team.
OMG have had a very tough schedule facing FunPlus and EDG in their first two outings. They managed to get a game off of EDG but struggled mightily against FPX. My concern with OMG is that they looked significantly worse once FPX took them off the global compositions. Unluckily for them, eStar happen to love those styles too so there could be the double swing of take away picks AND bans for them to wade through in this contest.
This is an ugly match between to unexciting teams. I’m not really buying in yet as it took some heroics from ShiauC and mistakes from BiliBili to steal a win there, and Rogue Warriors just screwing up over and over and over in that 2-0. OMG have shown a few nice drafts and that AKi and Eric have some promise but I’m not really sure how they’re going to look off of their comfort in this series. Until they show me more depth of strategies I’ll remain skeptical.
This is a hard pass. My gut tells me OMG is worth a play here but I can’t, for the life of me, justify the position. It feels bad getting a decent number knowing one of these teams will be obvious in hindsight but I’m avoiding sides on this one for now. If this moves further in eStar’s favor (looks like it might), I might take some OMG moneyline and -1.5 maps if this gets towards +150 range on the moneyline.
Both of these teams seem to want to be play either fast tempo or global ultimate-oriented team compositions which can lead to some really lopsided games. We’ve seen that both have the ability to close cleanly in a small sample so far. It’s juiced but I do like the under time total and kill totals as a play here. These will probably be lopsided games one way or the other.
Kill Totals have gone under in 60% of all LPL games this season with an average total of 27.33 kills, time totals have gone under in 57.78% of all LPL games this season with an average total of 32.0 minutes. Favorites have faulted to cover their average team total of 16.28 kills in 62.22% of games. I’m opting for the overall under here since the favorite is priced at 14.5 but you could justify an under position there as well if you like OMG’s chances in this series. Or split the difference it you prefer.
Kill Total: Map 1 UNDER 26.5 kills @ -119 (1.19 units)
Kill Total: Map 2 UNDER 26.5 kills @ -118 (1.18 units)
Kill Total: Map 3 UNDER 26.5 kills @ -120 (1.2 units)
Time Total: Map 1 UNDER 33:00 @ -156 (1.56 units)
Time Total: Map 2 UNDER 33:00 @ -167 (1.67 units)
Time Total: Map 3 UNDER 33:00 @ -156 (1.56 units)
BiliBili Gaming +109 (+1.5 maps @ -294, -1.5 @ +300)
Victory Five -139 (-1.5 maps @ +221)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over -103 / under -123)
Kill Total: 24.5 (over -120 / under -109)
Kill Spread: +3.5 @ -109 / -3.5 @ -120
Team Kill Totals: 10.5 / 13.5
Time Total: 33:00 (over +108 / under -141)
BLG – Biubiu, Meteor, Zeka, Aiming, Mark
V5 – Langx, Weiwei, Mole, y4, ppgod
I’m excited for both of these teams and both have looked very much themselves through two weeks of play here in the LPL. We’re going to get to see two of the premier tempo-centric teams not only in the LPL, but the world and two of the more exciting junglers in the league in this match. I had BLG slightly higher in my pre-season rankings but both of these teams were in the same tier. I’m going to back the underdog here. If V5 were the dogs I’d be on them. Two evenly matched teams, each with an easy match and a hard match so far, playing a very similar style. Just take the better price.
I’m liking this more from a totals standpoint than sides.
This time total is way WAY too high even with the juice to the under. Both of these teams want to play it fast and unless we see a curveball thrown where one wants to try to weather the storm to scale, I think we’ll see fast and furious games here. So much of this matchup hinges on the early game as both teams tend to struggle from behind with the compositions they draft, maybe a little less so for BiliBili.
Under on the time total is the play here. Whoever wins each of these games is very likely to completely steamroll it off of a blowout play early. Both of these teams are very good at that. The kill total is lowered to 24.5 and while I’d lean to the under there too, there’s a chance we see a lot of early clashing in this match which can lead to some bloody games. I’ll pass there and stick to the time total.
Moneyline: BiliBili +109 (1 unit)
Spread: BiliBili -1.5 maps @ +300 (0.5 units)
Time Total: Map 1 UNDER 33:00 @ -141 (1.41 units)
Time Total: Map 2 UNDER 33:00 @ -149 (1.49 units)
Time Total: Map 3 UNDER 33:00 @ -141 (1.41 units)
I believe in accountability. For years I’ve tracked all of my picks publicly. 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)