Wednesday, January 13th Recap
Team WE vs Victory Five (Net: -0.765 units)
The first game of this series had a blistering pace to it and plenty of blood to boot. WE got the most of it all and ended up with an ocean soul to close the game. Other than one dragon and a questionable mid tower dive, V5 rolled the second game off the back of Mole’s two solo kills on Shanks who had gotten the better of him in game one.
Game three is where this one got interesting. It was looking like Team WE were pulling ahead after a few early skirmishes and the first dragon. Victory Five forced the swap and a dive top to get some gold in their pockets. Afterwards V5 were caught doing the herald and Weiwei got killed just before the smite allowing WE to not only score the kill but also steal the herald in a huge momentum swing. After securing a third drake WE overextended for a completely unnecessary pick (around 22:00) that V5 managed to turn into a few kills, then a baron. With the Infernal dragon spawning a few seconds after finishing the baron, V5 had effectively bought themselves another 5 minutes away from infernal soul AND picked up the baron for their 1-3-1 comp, a huge momentum swing that likely could have won them the game in the coming minutes or at least effectively won them the game. Shanks managed to get a lucky steal on that drake with Syndra E-Q combo securing infernal soul for WE.
This was a bit of a heartbreaker for V5 as they had successfully punished a really stupid and uncharacteristic overreach by Team WE and they got unlucky on the smite burst. They didn’t have vision of the Syndra but did know that he was in the area. With ppgod having to help zone them off of the dragon he didn’t have time to get a ward behind the pit.
This was a competitive series but my main take away is that Team WE have got a lot of cleaning up to do. Jiumeng had a nice stat line but did not play that great a series. He doesn’t look nearly as comfortable on these playmaking ADC’s as he does your traditional hypercarries. That marks two relatively poor showings for him. It’s still early in the season but this is a situation to monitor. And I say relatively poor because this was a guy that made very few mistakes last year, that was his modus operandi.
Shanks had a great game one, less so in the 1v1 than he did in keeping up his economy in a very chaotic game which can be hard to do especially against a counterpick in Syndra. The second game he was destroyed as Viktor vs Syndra, a tough matchup. Game three was neither here nor there. I’m paying close attention to him and how this team behaves with him in the mid lane now. So far it’s an upgrade but we’ve only seen two series.
Victory Five are very much the same team and I honestly don’t have much to say about them in this series other than sometimes games are going to get away from this team. When you put such a focus on this tempo-focused play the losses can look a lot worse than they are. Speaking of that….
LNG vs Invictus (Net: -0.96 units)
I’m not making excuses, the Invictus bottom lane needs to be criticized for this one. That said, anybody that has played knows the experience of the resetting hyper carry picking up a few early killing blows on a weird play. The game is essentially over right then and there. There is a reason you don’t see Tristana more often, she has problems, but when she looks good it looks completely broken. Game one was effectively over when he picked up that early triple. The rest was just going through the motions.
Game two they ran the Tristana back. They also scored Olaf in the draft. I’m glad Invictus didn’t overreact and ban it but Light and Iwandy managed to pop off again.
I’m always paying a little more attention to the mid lane as it’s my main role and I gotta tell you, playing the Orianna vs Zoe matchup as the Orianna can be utterly infuriating, especially if Zoe just automatically wins lane by rolling a couple of redemptions for her random. Icon lucked into two for his opening. There’s no beating that, especially as Orianna. The reason I’m mentioning this is to remind people that sometimes teams get a little lucky. LNG made a bunch of mistakes in the second game that nearly allowed Invictus to turn the corner but they picked up the 2-0 anyway.
Now, it absolutely wasn’t all luck. LNG’s bottom lane legitimately dominated this series and Tarzan was able to play through that advantage to gain his own which helped them run away with this. Good on LNG for doing what they’re supposed to do for the most part but it’s important to separate what is happening from the results. I’m not going to be putting a lot of stock into this series for either side in terms of overall quality, but I will take note that these teams were willing to play certain things in certain situations and that’s a lot more useful moving forward. Treat it like an NFL game where there were some really weird, flukey turnovers. Sometimes they’re forced from the defense, in this case I’d say it was closer to that as LNG were making things happen. Sometimes it’s closer to random like we saw with Shanks stealing the soul in the last series. It’s pretty easy for a game to get away from you and it’s even easier as an onlooker to overreact in one or both directions, especially if it turned out in your favor. Leave your bias at the door or it’ll kill you over the course of the season.
Gen.G vs KT Rolster (Net: -0.415 units)
First of all, Gen.G picked up Yone who has been mostly banned around the world so far. Second, Doran made a huge wave management error in the opening minutes of this game and he was swiftly punished for it by Rascal’s Camille, and then again… Gen.G are simply too good to make these kinds of errors and against and the game was effectively over in the first five minutes.
Game two was a little bit closer with both teams overreaching multiple times in the first 15 minutes or so, which looked a lot like a typical LPL game. The thing is, Gen.G were winning the important battle which was picking up all the objectives while wading through the skirmishes. They had a 23 minute cloud soul and a 3000 gold lead seemingly out of nowhere. Additional note: I loved this team comp from Gen.G. Three gankable lanes, three lanes that can get priority fairly easily, great at skirmishing, great for picks, plenty of cc for the Kaisa… *chefs kiss*
Game one got away from KT a bit off the Doran error but game two they were at least keeping pace even though they were losing the objective war. Gen.G didn’t steamroll game two nearly as hard as the final score indicated but they did play extremely confidently. KT will be fine. Zzus actually had a few really nice plays, as did Bonnie. I think Gen.G are just really good and that’s all this was.
T1 vs Hanwha Life Esports (Net: +0.25 units)
T1 with a near perfect game other than the two drakes winning 12-0 and taking every tower in game one. Not much to say there.
Game two was back and forth, fast-paced, and similar to Gen.G in the previous series’ game two, Hanwha were just coming out ahead in the objective war.
Game three was the fun one. I guess Clozer heard everyone’s criticism of “he struggled against the elite mid laners.” That, or he was just hyper motivated after being benched after a rough game one in his playoff debut because Clozer threw down the gauntlet picking his former main Irelia BLIND into Chovy. If that’s not confidence, I don’t know what is. It paid off as he scored an early solo kill on Chovy and utterly dominated a few fights over the course of the rest of the game.
We got to see the “younger” iteration of T1 for this series with Cann, Ellim, Clozer, Gumayusi, and Keria getting the start. We’re going to see a lot of this with T1 over this year. I mentioned in my Team-by-Team Outlook that this is the deepest team on Earth and their investment into their development program is paying dividends. Competition breeds excellence and T1 exemplify that.
Hanwha had a lot of people excited this offseason. Maybe they’re being a bit overrated but still, an exciting new look with some nice upgrades. They just got steamrolled by the “subs.” Think about that. It’s only one series for each of these teams but T1 are going to be a hard team to beat this year. No shame in losing to them.
LPL Net Total: -1.725 units
LCK Net Total: -0.165 units
Daily Net Total: -1.89 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 Champions Korea (LCK)
Week 1 – Day 2
Nongshim RedForce -208 (-1.5 maps @ +164, +1.5 @ -625)
Liiv Sandbox +161 (+1.5 maps @ -213, -1.5 @ +413)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +141 / under -182)
Kill Total: 24.5 (over -123 / under -105)
Kill Spread: -3.5 @ -115 / +3.5 @ -114
Team Kill Totals: 14.5 / 10.5
Time Total: 33:00 (over -111 / under -118)
NS – Rich, Peanut, Bay, Deokdam, Kellin
LSB – Summit, Croco, FATE, Route, Effort
The LCK does NOT announce starting lineups like the LPL does. Sometimes teams will announce via social media beforehand. Be diligent! These are my anticipated starters but do not take this as gospel!
If you want a more detailed look at both of these teams check out my LCK Spring 2021 Team-By-Team Outlook and Futures Portfolio post.
This is going to be a fairly simple handicap based on my pre-season evaluations of these teams. I put both of these teams in my B+ tier and actually put Sandbox slightly ahead of Nongshim in my power rankings.
I’m optimistic about Nongshim don’t get me wrong. Dynamics were a better team than their final record showed in LCK Summer 2020. I was beating that drum all season long. Has this team really changed that much though? Peanut represents an upgrade in the jungle I’ll give you that. Kellin is a substantial upgrade over Guger. Did people just not view Kuzan as a very good mid laner because he’s old or something? I don’t know where the bias came from. Kuzan graded out as the #5 mid laner in my individual player model with only Chovy, Faker, ShowMaker, and FATE ahead of him. While that’s a statistically biased grading, I don’t think he was that much further off than that. I’d put all of those plus Bdd ahead of him for sure but I’d have him in that tier with UCal, Fly, and Clozer (only because he faced mostly soft schedule). Sure, Bay could end up being a monster but I think a lot of people are treating him as an automatic upgrade and I simply don’t see that as the case here until he proves otherwise.
Meanwhile, Sandbox also added a jungler, one who myself and others are very high on. They also picked up one of the best supports in the world , Effort, to replace Gorilla and Kabbie who were remarkably unimpressive last season. So even if you consider just the additions/changes and give an edge to Nongshim I still don’t know how you arrive at this conclusion. Perhaps people have forgotten that Summit has the ability to be the best top laner in the league, we saw it not long ago. Or maybe it was that Sandbox were very mediocre last season. Dynamics had great underlying numbers but overall were fairly mediocre too.
Other than hype and pre-season futures markets, I see absolutely no reason why Nongshim are favored by this much in this position. I don’t get it. Even if you do prefer Nongshim I don’t know how you could justify backing them at this price. I think Sandbox actually have better players pound-for-pound. Rich and Summit are both excellent, Peanut I’ll give the edge to over the rookie in Croco, I think FATE is extremely underrated I’ll give him the edge over the rookie, and I prefer the Sandbox bottom lane but let’s call that one a draw. So you’ve got an edge at one position for each team…. how do you come up with this number. I do like the Nongshim coaching staff but these are still two very evenly matched teams. Give me the dogs..
I’ll be taking the game time unders here for sure. Not only are most games so far in multiple leagues coming in much shorter, but both of these teams had some averages boosted by a few outlier performances last season that made their average game times look much different. I also think the current metagame lends itself to very fast-paced, lopsided games with junglers like Olaf, Taliyah, and Pantheon as prevalent as they are.
Map Spread: Liiv Sandbox +1.5 maps @ -213 (2.13 units)
Moneyline: Liiv Sandbox +161 (1 unit)
Map Spread: Liiv Sandbox -1.5 maps @ +413 (0.5 units)
Time Total: Map 1 UNDER 33:00 @ -118 (1.18 units)
Time Total: Map 2 UNDER 33:00 @ -118 (1.18 units)
Time Total: Map 3 UNDER 33:00 @ -118 (1.18 units)
DRX +109 (+1.5 maps @ -323, -1.5 @ +311)
Afreeca Freecs -139 (-1.5 maps @ +237, +1.5 @ -455)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over -114 / under -112)
Kill Total: 22.5 (over -145 / under +111)
Kill Spread: +2.5 @ -112 / -2.5 @ -116
Team Kill Totals: 11.5 / 12.5
Time Total: 34:00 (over -101 / under -128)
DRX – Kingen, Pyosik, SOLKA, BAO, Becca
AF – Kiin, Dread, Fly, Bang, Lehends
The LCK does NOT announce starting lineups like the LPL does. Sometimes teams will announce via social media beforehand. Be diligent! These are my anticipated starters but do not take this as gospel!
This match is a prime example of the books pricing based on priors. DRX are only returning 1.5 members, Pyosik was the only returning starter, Quad (now SOLCA) was a sub. The rest of this team is new. Kingen has been around for a long time and has been a serviceable top laner in his career but nothing more than that for the most part, BAO and Becca played together in Challengers Korea. So there is some degree of continuity I suppose with 4 out of 5 being within the organization. I don’t doubt DRX’s ability to find talent but we’ve got a journeyman coming in to mentor a couple of rookies and sophomores. Pyosik was impressive last season but when you’ve got the roster that DRX did last year that’s significantly easier to do.
Afreeca are returning the top trio, added Keine in the mid lane for depth, and brought in yet another bottom lane that looks like it’s going to be rock solid with Bang returning to the LCK and Lehends freed from the prison that was Hanwha last season. Last season Afreeca almost never lost to the bottom of the table. They were a classic gatekeeper team in that they stomped everyone below them and struggled with the top of the table. I expect them to fill a similar role again this season although with a few of the mid table teams upgrading it might be more competitive.
The thing is, I definitely don’t think losing four members of your worlds roster is an upgrade… unless I’m losing my mind. While I’m a bit optimistic that this DRX team might be better than they look, I still have relatively low expectations for them and placed them dead last in my power rankings in the B- tier. Some things could go right and I expect that once the rookies have some time to develop that they’ll be at least competitive but I doubt that happens right away and there’s a reasonable chance that it just never does.
This line is putting entirely too much weight on prior year results. This is a slam dunk on Afreeca and my largest position of the young season.
Unders again, even with the juiced 34. Afreeca did sometimes take their sweet time closing last season but again the metagame is pushing these game times down plus I think there’s a very reasonable chance that Afreeca just stomp this series. I like the over kill total as well.
Moneyline: Afreeca -139 (4.17 units)
Spread: Afreeca -1.5 maps @ +237 (1.5 units)
Time Total: Map 1 UNDER 34:00 @ -128 (1.28 units)
Time Total: Map 2 UNDER 34:00 @ -169 (1.69 units)
Time Total: Map 3 UNDER 34:00 @ -128 (1.28 units)
Kill Total: Map 1 OVER 22.5 @ -145 (0.725 units)
Kill Total: Map 2 OVER 22.5 @ -143 (0.715 units)
Kill Total: Map 3 OVER 23.5 @ -120 (0.6 units)
LOL Pro League (China)
Week 2 – Day 4
JD Gaming -263 (-1.5 maps @ +131, +1.5 @ -1000)
BiliBili Gaming +194 (+1.5 maps @ -169, -1.5 @ +548)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +109 / under -139)
Kill Total: 25.5 (over -114 / under -114)
Kill Spread: -5.5 @ -127 / +5.5 @ -103
Team Kill Totals: 15.5 / 9.5
Time Total: 32:00 (over -118 / under -112)
JDG – Zoom, Kanavi, Yagao, LokeN, LvMao
BLG – Biubiu, Meteor, Zeka, Aiming, Mark
Yagao gets the start reuniting last years’ roster for JDG’s second match. Xiye and JDG as a whole didn’t play particularly poorly against Invictus in their first series. One key mistake in the early part of both games really blew both of them open and that was that. I said in my recap that “I’m not downgrading JDG for this loss” and that still holds true.
After a bit of a rocky start in game one, BiliBili drove it home with two decisive wins against eStar to finish the series. This metagame is excellent for BiliBili, Meteor in particular. Despite their low kill totals last season, they were more often than not a dedicated tempo team and when they had their full starting lineup they were quite good at it. They look like much the same style this season through three games.
JDG are a better team and they weren’t really bad in their first series as much as Invictus was just good on the day. They’re also bringing back Yagao who is definitely more of an “x” factor in the mid lane than Xiye. There’s a chance we see a bit of a slow start from JDG this season with the new players likely getting some reps to get integrated. On the plus side if gives players like Yagao a rest so they should be sharper.
Based on my priors from 2020, I would have made this line -275 / +207 (1.364 / 3.073) by the end of last season. The difference to me is that BiliBili have upgraded individually and significantly upgraded their coaching staff. The meta is also outstanding for them right now. This would have been a fair line last year and a no bet from me but given the improvements to BLG I think they’re worth a play here even without factoring the questions for JDG.
Given their preference for it while JDG have preferred dragons and considering the prices, I’m going to take BLG first herald. I’ll also be taking first blood as this wasn’t a strong suit for JDG last year either.
Spread: BLG +1.5 maps @ -169 (1.69 units)
Moneyline: BLG +194 (0.5 units)
Spread: BLG -1.5 maps @ +548 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 1 BLG first blood @ +104 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 BLG first blood @ +103(0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 BLG first blood @ +102 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 1 BLG first herald @ +117 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 2 BLG first herald @ +117 (0.25 units)
Prop: Map 3 BLG first herald @ +117 (0.25 units)
Royal Never Give Up +171 (+1.5 maps @ -185, -1.5 @ +445)
Suning Gaming -222 (-1.5 maps @ +143, +1.5 @ -714)
Total Maps Played: 2.5 (over +100 / under -128)
Kill Total: 26.5 (over -112 / under -116)
Kill Spread: +5.5 @ -111 / -5.5 @ -118
Team Kill Totals: 10.5 / 15.5
Time Total: 33:00 (over +100 / under -133)
RNG – Xiaohu, Wei, Cryin, GALA, Ming
SN – Bin, SofM, Angel, Huanfeng, ON
What’s interesting about this matchup is that it’s pitting two very strong pre-season takes against each other. I am very bullish on RNG and even played them in the futures market to win the split. Suning should regress back to a middle of the pack team after running white hot at the World Championships. Still a good team but maybe not THAT good. Suning had a decisive win against TOP Esports on opening day while RNG had a much easier out in TT for their first series. Each team had players that popped off, Wei for RNG and Bin/SofM for Suning.
This feels like an obvious RNG play. I had them rated similarly to Suning at the end of the Summer season, they’ve made upgrades, and Suning have made a few changes. The more I think about this series the more I can’t un-see Bin putting Xiaohu in the dumpster. Xiaohu had some questionable moments, as well as a couple bright spots, against Chelizi in his debut in the position but Bin is on a completely different level. We just watched Bin and SofM completely abuse 369 and Karsa in their last series and we saw plenty of awesome stuff from them at Worlds. This is going to be a nightmare and I’m honestly shocked they’re throwing him to the wolves (lions I guess?). Trial by fire lions….
Wei was unbelievable last year and had a ridiculously good debut performance on RNG this weekend but I’m having a tough time justifying a position on them with Xiaohu playing. There’s a chance we see Xiaobai in game two but if RNG are starting Xiaohu it tells me that they care more about him getting the opportunity than not so I think he’ll play the whole series.
Bummer, I really liked RNG in this spot. I’ll take a light position on Suning as I do think RNG are still capable of winning this series but that mismatch is going to be a problem.
Given Suning’s propensity for fiestas the time and kill totals were my first look for this series but the price is appropriate. I’ll be passing all around on this series.
Moneyline: Suning -222 (1.11 units)
Spread: Suning -1.5 maps @ +143 (0.5 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)