The start of the professional League of Legends competitive year is rapidly approaching with China’s League of Legends Pro League, the LPL, set to begin next Saturday, January 9th. Home to the 2018 and 2019 World Champions, the LPL was unable to defend its title with Suning Gaming falling to Korea’s DAMWON Gaming 3-1 in the Grand Finals this season. Still, the LPL had three of its four Worlds representatives make it into the quarterfinals stage with two, TOP Esports and Suning, making it to the final four in semifinals.

However, all of that is in the rear view mirror now as we move forward to 2021. There are a lot of new faces, many returning players, and the roster construction throughout the league has changed quite a bit overall. In this post I’ll be going over each and every team in the LPL, their roster changes, and my perspective on their outlook for the 2021 Spring season and beyond. I’ll also be including some market analysis and my futures positions. 

For those of you that are new, welcome to The Esports Department! For those returning from last year, welcome back! Let’s get started!

What’s new?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Positional Rating by player-based model in parenthesis)

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

 

BiliBili Gaming

Coaches: Kim from (SKT, DWG 2019, Invictus, Longzhu)

Top: Aliealie (NA), Biubiu (+0.04 / 51.59) [15]

Jungle: Meteor (+0.746 / 77.04) [4]

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

ADC: Aiming (NA), Wings (+0.356 / 63.68) [9]

Support: Mark (+0.365 / 64.06) [10], XinMo (+0.002 / 50) [17]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.333 / 62.47 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 9.6 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.338 (13th)

Thoughts:

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

Essentially a slight upgrade over last season especially if Meteor, their best player, actually plays a majority of the season. BiliBili have shown flashes of being a highly disciplined team but the coaching staff in 2020 struggled to maintain any kind of momentum with the constant roster disruptions and off the field issues. I like to say BiliBili are “well-coached but mismanaged.” I expect one of the best coaches of all time to help this very new school Korean-style lineup come into form. 

BiliBili had a lot of off-the-field issues going on behind the scenes last season and never really found their stride with all the disruptions but by season’s end you could see the ability was there. My player-based model is extremely high on this lineup grading it as the #2 team in the LPL overall. While I think that’s pretty clearly deserving of an adjustment downward I do think it speaks to the fact that perhaps a number of these players are being undervalued. Aiming has been consistently excellent throughout his career and could represent an even bigger upgrade than the conservative “league average” grade he received for the purposes of this piece. Meteor, drama aside, is an excellent player especially in the current style of jungling that we saw last season and so far during the pre-season. Zeka was rock-solid and versatile last season even while rotating in and out of the Vici lineup. BiuBiu and both supports also represent league average or better offerings. 

In a field of teams with a lot of turnover and change I think people gravitate towards “known quantities” but only if they were on team that is perceived as “good.” For whatever reason the known quantities on bad teams always seem to fly under the radar. You see this in traditional sports all the time too. This roster is pretty solid looking to me with some upside given that we have some players coming into sophomore seasons and getting their first “full-time starter” reps like Zeka.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Coaching staff upgrade (substantial)
  • Meteor hopefully playing full time
  • Maintained quality and depth of roster

Cons

  • No major individual upgrades
  • Slight disruption of continuity

 

Futures

Price: +8000 (1.23%)

Positions: BiliBili to win LPL Spring +8000 (0.5 units)

I think BiliBili could be sneaky good once they settle into the bottom lane that works. I’m confident that they’ll do that. All four players listed in the bottom lane are rock solid, a few are very good. Add coach Kim, one of the most successful coaches the scene has ever seen and who importantly has had success in both Korea and China and I think we have the makings of a good team. I’m not as high on them as my player-based model but at this price point I think they’ve got more than enough going on to justify a position. 

———————–

EDward Gaming

Coaches: Maokai (from RareAtom)

Top: Flandre (+0.66 / 74.54) [2](really #1), Xiaoxiang (+0.32 / 62.55) [10]

Jungle: Clearlove(NA), Jiejie (-0.06 / 47.21) [13]

Mid: Scout (+0.358 / 63.68) [7], Gori (NA)(3 years in SKT system)

ADC: Hope (+0.42 / 66.27) [5], Viper (+0.82 / 79.39) [9]

Support: Meiko (+0.24 / 59.48) [13]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.324 / 62.24

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 8.0

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.543 (6th)

Thoughts:

 

EDG bring in Flandre who is a bit of an enigma to me. I personally think he’s a little bit overrated based solely on his film but the public loves him and my model does as well (he’s actually #1 if you eliminate samples of 10 games or fewer). He’s very good but maybe not quite as great as his reputation. That said, maybe getting onto a good team again will reignite the fire and we see him flourish.

I think Meiko and Scout are both underrated by my model. Hope and Viper are both excellent carries. This is a complicated situation because I simply can’t see EDG ignoring Hope, an amazing domestic talent, but I’m sure they paid big money to bring in Viper who was being courted by just about everyone this offseason. I bet we get a timeshare until one settles in as the better choice. We could see Hope in Spring while Viper gets integrated or we could just see Viper as a sub weirdly enough. It’s just weird to me to disrupt the obvious chemistry they had going but maybe they see something behind the scenes that I don’t. Keep in mind we’ve gone from Clearlove to a Korean coaching staff with Maokai at the helm. 

EDG should be competitive as they seem to be every single season in the Scout/Meiko era. That core essentially guarantees “playoff caliber” and they’re often the LPL’s gatekeepers. If not for some unfortunate mid-season roster issues regarding COVID I think this team would have settled into a playoff spot.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Substantial upgrade in overall talent and depth of talent
  • Substantial upgrade in top lane
  • Veteran leadership
  • Continuity through veterans (Scout, Meiko, Hope)
  • Potential ceiling extremely high

Cons

  • Head coach experienced but not as a lead
  • Potential disruption of momentum with such a deep roster if mismanaged (doubt this will come up but it’s possible)

 

Futures

Price: +2500 (3.846%)

Positions: EDG to win LPL Spring +2500 (1 unit)

I’m going to end up talking a lot about it in this article with a few examples but a teams win total or “results” are not as accurate a measure of their overall performance as most people tend to think. It’s very easy to lose a game of League of Legends or win based on a stupid mistake from an opponent. I try to look at the film in combination with a player-based AND team-based data modeling approach to see what the “real” story is. 

EDG are a great example of expectation based on production vastly exceeding their results. EDG graded as my #6 team by the end of Summer but finished 10th in the standings at 8-8 (20-18), their worst finish in franchise history. They were 5th in the LPL in “quality wins” with 55% of their wins grading above league average threshold for a “quality win.” Adding Flandre to the mix in the top lane bumps them to the #3 rated team in my player-based model.

EDG are going to be one of my stronger positions in the futures market. This team is absolutely loaded with talent even on the bench and are definitely flying under the radar as they’re being priced according to their 10th place finish. 

———————–

eStar 

Coaches: Panda (temporary), Dandy left

Top: Zs (formerly Yi of IG Young)

Jungle: H4cker (-0.94 / 17.11) [20]

Mid: Insulator (NA), Irma (NA)

ADC: Rat (+0.12 / 54.78) [19]

Support: ShiauC (+0.48 / 68.44) [6]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.046 / 48.86  *See note below

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 14.6 * See note below

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.463 (14th)

Thoughts:

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

IG Young went 22-3 in series, 46-9 in games en route to a LDL Summer title on the backs of Captain and Yi (Zs). He didn’t have stellar numbers but was rock solid posting an impressive KDA of 4.55 over 55 games which is great as a top laner even on a winning team. His statistical profile in terms of economy and KDA looks awfully similar to Zoom although I wouldn’t go as far as to call him that yet by any means. Insulator from FPX Blaze earned four player of the game titles in the Summer playoff and sported a 6.18 KDA over 15 champions averaging less than two deaths per game. 

* These grades are filling in the “average” player for the unknowns. If you consider the new guys as league average this team grades out fairly low. I happen to think that the new guys, especially Insulator could make some noise in their debut. Irma played a couple of games last season as did Rat. Sophomore’s typically develop well in LOL and I could see them taking a step forward. Even then, it’s tough to see this as a playoff team. They’d need a lot to go well.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Premium prospects like Insulator could be well above league average
  • Blend of rookies and veterans
  • Some continuity with Rat and ShiauC (and possibly Irma)

Cons

  • Coaching staff wasn’t sorted out until later in offseason
  • H4cker performed terribly last year and will need to be significantly better especially with how important mid+jungle synergy is. 
  • Weaker jungle play could prove detrimental to Insulator’s development and outlook for his first year.
  • Are going to need a lot of things to go well (rookies meet high expectations, H4cker improved performance, bottom lane maintains). Lots of questions means you have a fairly unstable foundation on which to stand.

 

Futures

Price: +25,000 (0.398%)

Positions: None

eStar have upside. We’ve seen this organization pick out young talent before with their stud lineup from Spring last year but H4cker feels like a really odd choice for a team like this. Maybe they wanted a veteran presence? Still, the rest of this lineup has the potential to pop. Insulator was one of the top two or three mid laners in the LDL, Zs is promising, Rat gets full first-team reps, ShiauC was excellent last year, and maybe H4cker can recapture some of his glory days. My concern is that they didn’t have a plan in place for the coaching staff as it appears Panda, the temporary coach will be remaining the head coach for now. At this kind of number I really don’t hate taking a shot on the upside of the rookies here but this is strictly because of the price. 

———————–

FunPlus Phoenix

Coaches: Steak (of LNG last season, RNG season before), retained asst Refra1n

Top: Nuguri (+0.72 / 76.42) [1] (in LCK Summer)

Jungle: Tian (+0.03 / 51.2) [11]

Mid: Doinb (+0.525 / 69.85) [3]

ADC: Lwx (+0.26 / 60.26) [14] , Prince (from Spear, DWG, BBQ in CK)

Support: Crisp (+0.125 / 54.78) [16]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.32 / 62.12

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 9.2

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.283 (12th)

Thoughts:

So obviously the big addition of Nuguri was one of the larger splashes of the offseason. He fits right into the fast-paced, mobile style that FPX want to be doing but the truth of the matter is this team had issues last season and it wasn’t in the top lane. GimGoon and Khan ranked #6 and #4 in the top lane based on my model last season well above league average at the position. There were clearly some drafting issues working with Khan but more than that it seemed as though there was a bit of a lack of chemistry. That said, I think this narrative was overblown. GimGoon “saved the day” when FPX went on a win streak to sneak into the playoffs but during that win streak it was against the softest possible part of FPX’s schedule. 

Coach WarHorse moved on (to TOP). There are a few ways you could look at this. I don’t think FPX were a bad team last season but I don’t think WarHorse got the best out of this roster at all. They have the players and simply could not put it together. You could blame the metagame not being as favorable to them as it was during their World Championship season which you could blame on both the players and coaches but to me it took this team way too long to adapt to the times. 

FunPlus were a massive disappointment in 2020. It was reasonable to expect some regression as teams had seemingly “figured their style out” but when the rest of the league got better and they took a step back it was noticeable. This team will be good because they’ve got some pretty insane individual player quality but I haven’t been impressed with Steak as a coach and we just don’t know how the Nuguri transition to the LPL is going to go. This team is almost definitely going to be hard to bet because they’re good but will be overpriced.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • It’s up for interpretation but you could look at losing coach WarHorse as either an upgrade or downgrade. Given his handling of this roster last year I consider this a slight upgrade but that could end up being wrong.
  • Nuguri has international experience, is a reigning World Champion, and while top lane player quality certainly wasn’t an issue for this team this provides an upgrade if he can be integrated into their system quickly.

Cons

  • Team just felt slow to the punch very often last season. Players played well, team wasn’t bad fundamentally they just weren’t particularly exceptional at anything.
  • Nuguri and new coaching staff could take some time to acclimate to new environment. This could end up being a good thing if FPX end up benefiting from the “fresh” new energy. 
  • Could still be a meta dependent team it’s difficult to tell. 

 

Futures

Price: +450 (18.182%)

Positions: None

FunPlus are a tricky team to handicap because they SHOULD be really good but they SHOULD have been really good last year as well. The concern hasn’t been the players, although it’s fair to be concerned about the bottom lane. FunPlus simply didn’t play well enough to make any real noise in 2020. They didn’t miss Worlds because of the top lane or the metagame or any of that stuff. By Summer they were playing the same things and the same way everyone else was except not as well as some other teams. FunPlus might thrive under a new coach and a fresh take on things even though I’m not a fan of Steak’s work personally. They have the players to win the LPL and go to Worlds but it’s that other stuff I’m more concerned about. 

This price is just too much for me with such a competitive top of the table this year. I could see FunPlus winning the LPL just not this often. I’ll pass.

———————–

Invictus Gaming

Coaches: FireFox (headl, from 2018 JTeam, 2016-17 RNG, iMay)

Top: TheShy (+0.45 / 67.0) [5]

Jungle: XUN (IG Young jungler), Ning (-0.82 / 20.6) [19] 

Mid: Rookie (+0.25 / 59.48) [8]

ADC: Wink (+0.26 / 60.26) [13], Puff (-0.24 / 40.52) [20], Snow

Support: Baolan (+0.40 / 65.17) [9], Lucas

Designated Subs: Reheal (-0.65 / 25.78) [28], Southwind (-0.2 / 41.68) [21]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.11 / 54.51

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 10.8

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.618 (3rd)

Thoughts:

XUN, Snow, and Lucas are added to the roster from LDL Champions IG Young.There’s a chance we end up seeing three out of five parts of IG Young in the starting lineup. Ning is the clear outlier here. Statistically he’s never ever going to make a lot of sense and any model isn’t going to really like him unless it’s the “how often can you gank for your solo lanes and give them a lead” rating model. So while I don’t personally like the way Ning plays he certainly does something for this team. Invictus steadily improved as they “got the band back together again” over the course of the Summer season but unfortunately had their two lowest points at the worst possible time. This team should have been at Worlds over LGD this year and it’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to see them there… anyway, I digress. 

With the news that Ning will be stepping down for an undisclosed amount of time that thrusts IG Young jungler XUN into the starting role. I actually think this could be an upgrade. Ning found a way to make things work with this team but in much the same way Teacherma did for Team WE in the mid lane, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been replaced anyway. I think XUN is one of the best jungle prospects in the LDL system and if Invictus can make an upgrade at a position that’s been remarkably inconsistent for them then I think they’re on the short list to win this split. 

I would like to see the IG Young kids get a chance to play, especially early in the Spring season. Rookie, TheShy, and Baolan are still ridiculously good and unless we see a dramatic drop off almost anything is going to be an upgrade at the jungle position. The player-based model isn’t going to like IG because of how poor Ning is but if you insert a league average jungler into this lineup (like Tian or Jiejie for the sake of this example), they end up with a +0.28 / 60.6 overall and an average positional rank of 9.2 which is more in line with a team like FunPlus who we just reviewed. With Ning now out of the equation I think that’s a very likely possibility. If Baolan ends up going back into slumber/pseudo retirement I could see the young bottom lane being very promising as well albeit not quite as good as Wink/Baolan should be.

IG could run it back and be great or they could mix it up and be potentially even better. I like the way this team is set up this season. I’m optimistic that XUN will be an upgrade and potentially a big one that allows this team to be more versatile and less predictable. Wink is also an upgrade over Puff although he did have ShiauC to help boost his performance. Invictus graded 3rd in my team based model at the end of the LPL season and unfortunately collapsed at the worst time to miss a chance at Worlds. You could look at that as damning evidence or as variance. To me, Invictus were an excellent team by the end of Summer and if they can make multiple upgrades then the ceiling for this team is very high.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Ning “works” for Invictus but that doesn’t mean he’s good. XUN should provide a substantial upgrade even if he’s just a league average jungler.
  • Ridiculous solo lane talent. It goes without saying that Rookie and TheShy are still absolute monster players.
  • Depth of talent. Prospect team IG Young completely dominated the LDL and is loaded with talent. Backups have stage experience.
  • Coaching change might be a slight downgrade from late Summer but overall upgrade over past two years where this team was woefully mismanaged. 

Cons

  • “It’s Invictus…” – this team has a bit of play up-play down to them meaning that the players have had a history of playing up and down to competition. I tend to put this on coaching but it’s possible it’s more than that.
  • Rookie XUN could have a rough start or even not pan out at all.
  • Baolan was seemingly retired and came back out of nowhere. Hard to tell what’s going on behind the scenes with him but if he’s not starting full time, unless the academy bottom lane steps right in (they could) it’s a potentially large downgrade for that entire lane.

 

Futures

Price: +400 (20.0%)

Positions: None

Unfortunately the market is pricing Invictus in a way that makes them a poor wager by my grading. As optimistic as I am about this team I’d need a better number to back them in a futures wager.

———————– 

JD Gaming

Coaches: Chashao (Fluidwind or BBQ Pork), long time LMS, asst on SN 2020

Top: Zoom (+0.07 / 52.39) [13]

Jungle: Kanavi (-0.05 / 48.01) [12]

Mid: Yagao (+0.25 / 65.54) [6], Xiye

ADC: Loken (+0.23 / 58.71) [15], Mystic 

Support: LvMao (+0.32 / 62.55) [11]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.19 / 57.44

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 11.4

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.634 (2nd)

Thoughts:

So obviously JDG are more than the sum of their parts. For a team that most people, myself included consider excellent individually, they don’t always grade out that way statistically. JDG are one of those intangible teams kind of like Invictus. They’re just got playmakers all over the place and it’s difficult to really quantify that so they’re not always going to be accurately represented in an individual model but make no mistake this is a collection of ballers. They bring in Mystic who returns to the LPL, as well as LGD mid laner and grisled veteran Xiye fresh off of a great performance at Worlds 2020. Xiye and Mystic will challenge Yagao and Loken for starting reps but realistically this will be a timeshare situation. As we see more and more teams, especially in the LPL, adopt extended roster to help battle burnout and fatigue I like teams that aren’t afraid to spend up on talent even as subs. It never hurts to have more quality players. Other than fans whining for the backup quarterback, which you can ignore, there’s absolutely no harm in it whatsoever.

JDG should be good again. The new coaching staff might bring a fresh look for this team but frankly JDG don’t need to change much, just enough to keep up with everyone else. This was a top four team in the World last year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them in the knockout stage there again in 2021.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Added high quality depth. I’m not as high on Xiye as most but he’s still a starting caliber mid laner that’s roughly the league average which is impressive coming off the bench. If JDG field a lineup with the two new players they’re still a playoff team just with a slightly lower ceiling.
  • Depth leads to more time to rest for long time veterans as well as a “fresh” take on things to help stave off both burnout and stagnation.
  • New coach just took a dark horse Suning team to the World Finals through multiple domestic powerhouses along the way.

Cons

  • Offseason documentary showed that the players had symptoms of frustration and burnout. If this remains or players lose motivation could be a completely different looking team.
  • Depth of talent leads to more mismanagement opportunities (not likely but worth mentioning). 

Futures

Price: Ranges from +300 to +500 (16.67% for +500)

Positions: None

Too rich. While this team is excellent and added some depth to stave off burnout I think the fact that they might not be at full strength right away could potentially affect seeding and their overall outlook for the Spring season. JDG should be very good regardless of the lineup but the price isn’t good enough.

———————– 

LGD Gaming

Coaches: Maizijian, Eimy (same as last season)

Top: Cult (sub last year, didn’t play)

Jungle: Flora and Kui  (both from LGD Young last year)

Mid: Uniboy (from AHQ, saw at Worlds subbing for Talon)

ADC: Kramer (+0.4 / 65.54) [6],  Garvey (swaps from top)

Support: Peace (from JDG, studied under LvMao)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.13 / 55.1 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 12.2 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.13 (10th)

Thoughts:

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

LGD have a ton of questions after being cannibalized in the post-Worlds “brain drain” we see a lot in League of Legends. Peanut, Mark, Langx, and Xiye are all gone leaving only Kramer who was looking for other deals before returning to LGD for a new contract. A few of the subs hung around including Cult and Garvey who will be making the roll change from top to ADC likely as a sub. 

Uniboy has been excellent in his career in the LMS/PCS but spent most of it with buddy Kongyue so it’ll be interesting to see him out of that element and getting a fresh shot here. He’s been in the game a long time and this is maybe the first big money contract he’s ever had so I’m happy on that end but I can’t help but think this might be his last go around. Peace is a very promising prospect that was getting a lot of hype but was unfortunately behind one of the best in the world at the position in LvMao on JDG. I’m excited to see what he can do.

So we’re going to see veterans Kramer and Uniboy do their best with a few rookies and prospects promoted from within the system. This roster has a wide range of outcomes. The bottom lane should be good and I’d assume Uniboy ends up about average, in fact I used Maple as his comparison rating for “league average mid laner” in this measurement. If Peace ends up being a stud this bottom lane could carry a lot of games but I didn’t like this coaching staff all last year and they didn’t change that and downgraded in the top and jungle so it’ll take a lot of heavy lifting to make LGD a playoff team.

Adjustments:

Pros

  • Peace looks like a bonafide stud of a support prospect and studied under one of the best in LvMao. Bottom lane could be formidable.
  • Continuity in coaching staff can be a good thing but more on this below.

Cons

  • Coaching staff left a lot to be desired last season. Solid drafting but players and overall LGD team were very poorly coached in terms of decision making. Threw more leads than any “good” team in the world did last season. 
  • Worlds appearance bias. Teams that were at Worlds are almost always treated as what people saw. LGD was playing their best LOL of the entire year at that tournament and in the regional qualifier. Not an accurate representation of what that team was all of 2020.
  • Severe downgrades in talent in jungle. Sure the rookies could end up being good but Peanut is a proven veteran that more or less was the reason this team won the majority of their wins in 2020. Big shoes to fill.
  • I tend to think Langx is overrated from past performance but even in a down year last year it’s tough to say this isn’t a potentially sizeable downgrade in the top lane.

Futures

Price: +10,000 (0.99%)

Positions: None

LGD lost all but one of their good players, I had questions about this coaching staff even when they had superior talent, and they didn’t make any free agent acquisitions or roster moves that I’m excited about. Even if things go really well and we see the high end of the range of outcomes for this team they’re still probably not a playoff caliber team. This looks like a bottom two team to me. 

———————– 

LNG Esports

Coaches: Martin and Wuyan (from LinGan in the LDL)

Top: M1kuya (from SDX in the LDL for 2 years)

Jungle: Tarzan (former Griffin)

Mid: Icon (-0.79 / 21.48) [19], Plex (

ADC: Light (-0.12 / 44.83) [23]

Support: Iwandy (+0.54 / 70.54) [4]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.06 / 47.85 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 14.6 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.2 (11th)

Thoughts:

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

So the big pickups here are obviously Tarzan, of Griffin fame, and Icon who many feel was “in prison” on a poor OMG team. Light and Iwandy return keeping the bottom lane intact. Iwandy actually graded out very highly ranking 4th among supports with a very balanced blend highlighted by one of the better vision scores per minute in the league. Light performed admirably in a season where LNG struggle until the last few weeks. Playing ADC on a bad team is going to warp your statistics pretty badly (something the model tries to separate) so these are probably just a tad lower than his actual performance at least to me.

For the free agents I’ll first touch on Icon. I had high hopes for OMG last offseason but the fact of the matter is the “stud” solo lanes that we all were so certain would elevate in their sophomore seasons underperformed and in Icon’s case, VASTLY underperformed. Icon was honestly terrible in Summer split this season. He had a few highlight games but even in those games he was in situations that he never had to be in and just played his way out of paper bag. Now you could make the argument that if he can get a head on his shoulders or a coach to work with him he could be amazing like he was in his rookie season but the level of consistently poor decisions he made over a large sample size have me worried. Maybe a fresh start is what he needs but I think Icon has a chance to be the worst player on this team and a liability if he can’t get his act together.

Tarzan is a gigantic question mark and I really mean that; gigantic. Tarzan has the potential to run wild on the LPL. Quite frankly the overall pool of jungle talent in the LPL is lacking with only a few truly world-class names. If he can recapture some of his former glory he’s got a good chance at being one of the best at the position in the league. I’m not jumping to that conclusion. He was great in CK last season but he’s far removed from the highest levels of play and looking back on it now, the players and coaching on Griffin made it really REALLY easy for him in hindsight. He’s obviously very good but thinking back to that incredible Griffin team all he had to do was snuff out the last ditch effort by the enemy team to avoid getting choked out by the boa constrictor that was Griffin’s lanes. He was remarkably consistent but that Griffin team played a VERY DIFFERENT style than he’s going to see in the LPL. Tarzan could be “unleashed” and run wild on this league or we could see him struggle at first as he adapts to a very different style of play here in the LPL. He won’t have the dominant lanes to bail him out.

Lastly is M1kuya who has been a journeyman playing two years for SDX in the LDL. I tend to like guys that are finally getting their chance after a long grind in the developmental leagues but there’s also the argument that there’s a reason he spent so much time there. What’s weird to me is that LNG didn’t retain Chenlun17 who showed that he can at least start and not be a complete disaster (although he did grade out pretty terribly). 

LNG were going to have a really hard time replacing Flandre no matter how you slice it. Tarzan could potentially represent a huge upgrade in jungle to counteract that IF things go well for him in a completely new setting. I’m not a huge fan of Maple but he was a serviceable starter, in fact he is the “league average” here, but Icon could represent a downgrade to me unless he can get his act together and play smarter. Hopefully that was just “OMG syndrome” and not his actual level. It’s hard for me to be that optimistic about this team. They look like a bottom five squad unless a lot of things go right for them.

Pros

  • VERY high ceiling if Icon can be closer to his rookie level and not the abysmal performance from last year and if Tarzan can make the transition quickly and effectively to the LPL and a team with less dominant lanes than Griffin had.

 

Cons

  • Coaching staff has spent many years in the LDL but no LPL experience.
  • See above Tarzan bear case. It could not work out.
  • If Icon ends up being closer to what we saw last year and not during his rookie campaign then this team could be very poor.
  • VERY low floor.

Futures

Price: +6600 (1.49%)

Positions: None

To me this team needs Tarzan AND Icon to be in top form to be a playoff team. As mentioned above I’m not as “automatic” about Tarzan as most given the extremely different environment he’s going to be in both in overall style of the league and team structure. Icon was also just bad last season. Not underachieved expectations, just bad. Regression to the mean of his rookie campaign and this one won’t be enough he’ll have to be a top seven or eight mid for this team to have a shot at playoffs.

———————– 

OMG

Coaches: NoName (yea remember LMQ?)

Top: New (-0.36 / 35.57) [21]

Jungle:  Aki (former jungle from TOP system)

Mid: Wuming (-0.83 / 20.33) [20], Bright (OMG Dream/Academy since 2018)

ADC: Eric (+0.34 / 63.31) [10]

Support: Cold (+0.13 / 54.78) [15], Sora (+0.56 / 71.23) [3]

Designated Subs: Bafang (OMG Dream/Academy since 2018)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: -0.14 / 45.04 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 15.4 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -0.961 (15th)

Thoughts:

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

Oh OMG…. You know for one of the behemoth names in the old days of League of Legends they’ve been toiling in sub-mediocrity for literally years. Last years’ lineup looked promising but this one much less so. Wuming comes over from Rogue Warriors but I’d guess we’re going to see Bright at some point since Wuming wasn’t very impressive. New joins from RNG who I’d say was better than his statistics imply but still isn’t very impressive. Aki was a jungler in the TOP system for the past few seasons. He’s got potential but didn’t exactly stand out in the LDL. 

The bottom lane is the promising lane here. Eric was excellent in his smallish sample size last season. Sora only played 14 games but was absolutely stellar statistically in those performances enough so that he’d grade as the #3 support. The film backs it up too, he was superb despite OMG’s clear flaws. The bottom lane was never an issue last season and it was good to see Puff and Southwind were able to have their shoes filled by prospects. Whether it’s Sora or Cold I think the bottom lane will be the strength for OMG. They had strategic and coaching issues as well as some poor mid lane performances to blame for a lot of their problems last season and while I don’t see one of those really changing I don’t think there’s really any reason to expect OMG to be that much worse than they were last season which was slightly above the worst teams. 

Very unexciting but let’s see how hard Eric and Cold/Sora can carry this team and maybe Aki ends up being something.

Pros

  • Bottom lane, in either iteration, looks very promising. 

 

Cons

  • Need a lot of things to go right to even be a mediocre team. Wuming was not good last season, New is slightly better than his numbers and started 2020 well but overall unexciting, and Aki is an unknown. 
  • If top half of the map isn’t solid it might not matter how good the bottom lane is.
  • Low floor, low to mediocre ceiling.

Futures

Price: +20,000 (0.4975%)

Positions: None

OMG look like the worst team in the league to me. Other than the bottom lane and potentially Aki there’s just not a lot to look forward to here. They would need a completely revolutionized Wuming and New would have to elevate on top of Aki showing well as a rookie in order to have a remote shot at playoffs and I just don’t see it happening.

———————– 

Rogue Warriors

Coaches: Incense (eStar), ZYB, MingZhe/Nick

Top: Ziv (from AHQ and HKA)

Jungle: Haro (-0.31 / 37.83) [16]

Mid: Forge (+0.44 / 67.0) [4]

ADC: Betty (+0.22 / 58.71) [16], ZWuji (-0.04 / 48.41) [21], Kelin (former LuXun)

Support: QiuQiu (poor sample from Summer)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.104 / 54.776 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 13.6 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -1.629 (17th/last)

Thoughts:

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

We got to see a lot of Qiuqiu in Spring. He was solid to me and felt like a league average support at least so I graded him accordingly but his Summer sample was very small and mostly Senna or sub games so I just went with the average. 

Haro is another one of these Ning-esque junglers. Stats models are never going to like him. His rate statistics are incredibly poor because he’s all about action. Ganks, skirmishes, invading, getting the ball rolling through feast or famine gambling essentially. He’s extremely good at it. As a matter of fact, I’d argue he’s one of the best junglers on the planet at this particular style. He’s about as consistent as you can be playing this way but it’s inherently inconsistent as a strategy. 

Rogue Warriors upgrade at ADC, which it pains me to say but ZWuji struggled after a strong rookie campaign. Maybe he just needs a better team to shine and he still had his moments last year but he was largely unimpressive. It doesn’t mean he’s bad, it’s tough to perform well on a bad team but compare him to someone like Light and you can see what I’m talking about. There’s a chance we see some of LuXun who played on Rogue Warriors’ LDL team last season but I’m not sure with Betty AND ZWuji in front of him.

Forge represents a MASSIVE upgrade in the mid lane. People love to give him crap for anything and everything (I really don’t know why people irrationally hated that Vici team so much) but he was damn good last season grading out as the #4 mid laner in my statistics model. He’s a bit linear but if he can deliver even the average of his first two seasons then I think this team should be much improved from last year, albeit not a playoff team. 

They also added another long-time vetern from the LMS in Ziv. Ziv has been a monster for years in the LMS and I’m excited that he’s getting a chance to prove himself in the LPL but you have to trust that he can perform as his career level against stronger competition. The LMS/PCS has some very strong players so I don’t think this will be too drastic a step up by any means but it’s fair to expect he’ll look “mortal” here unlike domestically. I gave him a league average grade for the sake of this projection.

Rogue Warriors are significantly more talented and should be better. The look like they could once again be the “punch up” underdogs we love based on Haro and strong individual player upgrades. If this team can gel they’re going to be dangerous on a game-to-game basis but I have questions about their consistency over the course of a season given their approach to the game. 

Pros

  • Upgraded overall talent at every single position besides jungle.
  • High variance makes them a good bet when they’re heavy underdogs, especially against sloppy early teams.
  • Talented overall roster individually.

Cons

  • Ceiling is capped by Haro’s playstyle. Unless he can reinvent himself into a well-rounded, efficient jungler this team is always going to be limited by how consistent they’ll be. A team can look amazing when they flip heads but still only have a 50% chance of doing that. Over a full season sample size that limits their potential ceiling.
  • Imports don’t always work out. Ziv is a long time veteran of the scene but hasn’t played in the LPL. This will be a step up in competition. He could end up doing just fine or this could fail. Keep in mind he’s been around for a long long time and has never made the transition. Could be good or bad sign.

Futures

Price: +12,500 (0.793%)

Positions: None

Rogue Warriors are going to be a team I end up backing as an underdog a lot but I wouldn’t ever place a future on them because it would take an unbelievable string of luck for them to flip heads that many times in a row. If you think Haro can reinvent himself, and that hasn’t appeared to be the case so far from his showing in Demacia Cup, then you could talk yourself into a small position here but I’ll pass. I’ll make my money on Rogue Warriors in good spots and at cheap prices.

———————– 

Royal Never Give Up

Coaches: Tabe, Poppy (from academy)

Top: Xiaobai (-0.67 / 25.14) [24], Xiaohu (+0.41 / 65.91) [5](mid lane)

Jungle: Wei (+1.387 / 91.62) [1], XLB (+0.25 / 59.48) [7]

Mid: Cryin (-0.21 / 41.68) [14]

ADC: GALA (+0.276 / 60.64) [12]

Support: Ming (+0.289 / 61.03) [12], Lele (RNG Academy since 2019)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.215 / 56.02 (Xiaobai)

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 12.6 

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.582 (5th)

Thoughts:

Legendary Annie Support aficionado, star interviewer, and analyst Tabe will be the head coach for this very exciting iteration of RNG. He’s been in the coaching ranks for awhile now and I hope he’s ready for this. 

Many of us thought that once RNG recalled Cryin from eStar last season that we’d see something like this. Xiaohu or Cryin swapping to top lane but with a roster packed with solid top laners it didn’t make a lot of sense to disrupt that mid season nor did it make a lot of sense to interrupt Xiaohu who was having arguably the best season of his career. Presumably we’re going to get a chance to see what that looks like at some point this year. The thing I love about this is that they went and picked up a serviceable guy in Xiaobai who may not boast the most amazing numbers, was more than capable on eStar last season and has some built in chemistry with Cryin who I’d assume had some input on whether or not to bring him in as a possible transition guy or the full time starter if Xiaohu doesn’t make the transition smoothly. 

They also added Wei who graded out as not only the best jungler by a mile last season but the best player at any position in the entire LPL when compared to his position. It’s hard to argue with it. He was ridiculously efficient with his time and exerted more pressure than any jungler in the league. Wei just turned 18 in November and will be reunited with the top and mid laner that he he unbelievably chemistry with in Spring 2020. 

GALA and Betty were both excellent and Ming turned in yet another great season. The bottom lane should maintain its level. 

This team was significantly better than their record last season but they had a problem with being two-faced within a series playing out of their mind, world-class level great in one game and then seemingly falling asleep the next, regardless of opponent. RNG laid out some really good teams and made it look easy but they had consistency issues. If you just look at this roster and last years’ roster, RNG honestly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to overall talent. If this team can get a little bit more consistent I think they have a very solid chance at winning the LPL. I’ll also add that you’ll have previous chemistry  between the two bottom laners and the top trio, who played incredibly well on eStar. This should help RNG start off on the right foot while everyone else is getting acquainted with their new lineups and probably start the season strong.

Pros

  • Extremely high ceiling. Bull case for Xiaohu transitioning to top is the absolute best case but even without that coming true the ceiling here is very high.
  • “Double” continuity. Returning bottom lane with great chemistry. Top trio were absolutely dominant during their time together on eStar. 
  • Deepest roster in the league. XLB was way above average, Xiaohu was way above average in mid lane if it came down to that. 

Cons

  • Possible that management really tries to force Xiaohu into playing top when he isn’t ready and he just gets rolled for awhile as he’s figuring things out.
  • First time head coach.

Futures

Price: +3300 (2.941%)

Positions: RNG to win LPL Spring +3300 (1 unit)

This price is in line with RNG’s 9th place Summer finish but as I mentioned above, this team graded out significantly better than their overall record, especially to end the season. 33 to 1 is egregious for a team with as much talent and upside. A team’s finish isn’t often indicative of their actual performance. RNG’s ratings in both my team-based model (5th last season) and player-based models (7th) are much higher then market on this team and that’s not even baking in the upside which I’ll touch on in a second. Consider that they should start strong with built-in chemistry returning the top trio and bottom duo and you’ve got the makings of a monstrous team. 

Regarding upside, I think this price is outlandish even with Xiaobai in but if Xiaohu can make the transition to top lane and ends up being average or even good at it then this roster is stacked to the nines and has not only LPL winning potential but Worlds winning potential.

———————– 

Suning Gaming

Coaches: Dian (moves from assistant to head coach)

Top: Bin (+0.15 / 55.57) [12]

Jungle: SofM (+0.93 / 82.38) [2]

Mid: Angel (+0.16 / 55.96) [11]

ADC: Huanfeng (+0.13 / 55.17) [18], Jinjiao (former BLG)

Support: ON (former Owo, sub/developmental player in and out of Suning Young)

Designated Subs: View

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.299 / 60.77 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 11.8  * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.39 (8th)

Thoughts:

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

Some of the coaching staff as well as SwordArt were poached here. For what it’s worth, SwordArt was in an absolutely perfect metagame for him and we still just above average, not stellar by any means amongst the LPL supports. He obviously had a great Worlds tournament and will likely do well in the LCS on TSM but I think they overpaid but that’s a different conversation for a different piece. 

Suning remain largely the same and maintain MOST of what made them so good in this type of metagame. Huanfeng will be another year better and we’ll have to see if Bin can maintain his dominance as a duelist in the top lane. Angel overperformed at Worlds for sure but was still solid in the LPL. To me, the biggest question is whether or not SofM who has always been good but never to the level he was last year, will regress a lot, a little, or defy the odds and maintain. ON is a bit of a question mark as well. If he’s significantly lower than average then we’ll need to downgrade. 

There’s a looming suspension for Huanfeng for conduct detrimental to the Suning brand which could be anything from 1-3 months and a pay deduction. While Jinjiao has been a steady, consistently good ADC over the years it has to represent some “ceiling” downgrade. Now, as good as Huanfeng was last season he was somewhat overrated by the public for his impressive damage numbers and highlight plays. He’d be bringing in a new support to play with anyway so there’s a chance Jinjiao and ON come in as a solid bottom lane and we don’t see much of a drop off there.Still, there’s a lot of questions.

If we expect some regression from SofM, perhaps to league average, then this team still looks solid and likely to be competing for a playoff position to me. Nothing about the game in it’s pre-season state has fundamentally changed the overall pace and hurt the style that Suning prefer to play, if anything it’s maybe amplified it. We could see Suning have a bit of a hangover from the long season but I’d expect this team to be a playoff contender at the very least given their current lineup even if you bake in some regression.

Pros

  • Continuity. Retained four out of five (pending suspension for Huanfeng). Improved more and more as year went on.
  • Overall quality individual talent even if you bake in some regression.
  • Team just made the World Finals beating a few domestic powerhouses along the way.

Cons

  • Lost highly successful previous head coach.
  • Looming suspension for Huanfeng could disrupt development for new rookie support and for entire team.
  • Likely regression for some players.
  • Worlds bias. People saw the best of this team in a metagame that was absolutely perfect for them. Last year only 32% of Suning’s wins graded as “quality wins” and that was against both good and bad teams. They were a dark horse I liked given the circumstances but this team is going to be severely overrated for a while. Probably a bet against and then we’ll buy in again when they’re cheap.

Futures

Price: +1000 (9.09%)

Positions: None

Suning are in a bit of a weird spot. The thing is we just saw their ceiling and while it was Worlds Finals level good, they also ran quite the gauntlet to get there AND the metagame was absolutely perfect for them. It sounds odd to say but, to me, Suning have a lower ceiling than a lot of the other top teams and while I think the floor is relatively high, it’s not like they’re TOP Esports level individual talents. The looming Huanfeng suspension adds more doubt to the equation. Jinjiao has been a very consistent player over his career so it’s good to have that kind of backup but I don’t see Suning winning with the short offseason and some of the turnover in the coaching staff and roster. 

If we got a better price it’d be different but Suning are going to be a decent but likely overpriced team for awhile. Perhaps we’ll look back into them further into the season if they have a rough start but there’s going to be plenty of money to be made along the way that you don’t need to bet into a high hold market for this team.

———————– 

Team WE

Coaches: Domo and Changan (same as last year)

Top: Breathe (Curse renamed)(+0.04 / 51.2) [16]

Jungle: Beishang (+0.473 / 68.08) [6]

Mid: Teacherma (-0.84 / 19.77) [21]

ADC: Jiumeng (+0.573 / 71.57) [2]

Support: Missing (+0.47 / 67.72) [7]

Designated Subs: Shanks (sub from last year), Yimeng (from academy)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.14 / 55.67

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 10.4

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.21 (9th)

Thoughts:

We’ve got a bit of a party in the mid lane and I’d assume we see some more looks there this season. Teacherma is sort of like the Haro of mid lane. Statistics are never going to be kind to him since he tends to focus on playing the map and not his economy. He’s well below league average but like a diet Doinb, ok maybe Diet Shasta Doinb is more like it, he just works for this teams’ personality. He’s the main limiting factor for Team WE who are otherwise fairly loaded with talent and just need him to play his role. 

Curse, now Breathe, in from OMG to replace Morgan is the other main question here. Curse didn’t live up to the hype last season and underperformed my expectations even considering the team he was on. He wasn’t bad, like his teammate Icon, but he didn’t do a whole lot to differentiate himself either. Tough on a bad team I’ll give him that but I expected more. He should fit right in here though.

Team WE should be really good but I want them to develop a bit. They relied way too much on the mistakes of other teams last season. In the LPL that’s a playoff team if you can be as disciplined and fundamentally sound as they are but they struggled against the elite teams in the LPL because they didn’t have well enough developed tools in the rest of their arsenal. They were linear and had a hard time engineering their own advantages. If they can take a step forward and Teacherma can perform better individually, perhaps add more traditional looks to his game, then this team could win the LPL. They’re above average everywhere, have one of the best bottom lanes on the planet, and they’re young. I’ll definitely have some Team WE in my futures portfolio if the prices are where I think they’ll be.

Pros

  • Continuity. Retained four out of five players (maybe three if Teacherma doesn’t end up playing much). Also retained coaching staff.
  • Upgrade to top lane. Morgan was very good at his job but Breathe will bring a new dynamic to the top lane. 
  • Solid fundamental team last year. 

Cons

  • Didn’t make any big acquisitions to fix their biggest problem, the mid lane. Similar to Ning on IG, Teacherma worked but was certainly not good. If one of the other mid laners or the overall combination of them ends up being closer to league average then Team WE are a title contender but we simply don’t know right now.
  • Had trouble engineering their own advantages. Didn’t make a lot of mistakes but had a difficult time forcing them. Relied too much on opponents making mistakes which gave them trouble against the better teams.
  • While Breathe could be an upgrade overall, Morgan was an excellent role player and fit for WE’s playstyle while Breathe has been more of an individualistic performer, albeit on a very poor team. Could be a bit of a Khan/GimGoon situation where both players were good but it simply didn’t work with the team dynamic that was in place.

 

Futures

Price: +700 (12.5%)

Positions: None

I like this team a lot but this is just a little too rich for my blood. Of all the prices for the top six or so teams this is the one that intrigues me the most but it’s not enough. Team WE are a team that I’m going to be backing early and often and there’s a chance, that if this split goes poorly, they make a big free agent mid lane acquisition that could put them squarely in Worlds contention but we’ll cross that road when we get there.

———————– 

TOP Esports 

Coaches: WarHorse (from FunPlus)

Top: 369 (+0.54 / 70.54) [3]

Jungle: Karsa (-0.73 / 22.96) [17]

Mid: Knight (+1.06 / 85.31) [1]

ADC: JackeyLove (+0.649 / 73.89) [1], Photic 

Support: Yuyanjia (-0.06 / 47.21) [19], Zhuo (Team WE Academy for 2 years)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.291 / 59.98

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 8.2 

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.993 (1st)

Thoughts:

Quick note: Karsa is another one of these gank first junglers like Ning and Haro so his statistical profile is rather poor and might not represent all of what he brings to a team.

It’s hard to fault TOP for running back the same lineup again. They were remarkably consistent over the course of the season and just ran into a familiar opponent who were peaking (Suning) in the semifinals. Were TOP perfect last season? No, they had a few minor tendencies in the draft over the course of Summer that I was concerned about and they were rather predictable but there’s absolutely no reason for them to not march back the same lineup. Perhaps a new coach will reignite that fire but as we saw with FunPlus last season there’s reasonable questions about WarHorse coming off of that season as well. Still, he’s a World Championship winning coach and represented one of the best options for them if they were looking to upgrade there.I just don’t know if I’d automatically assume it is, in fact, an upgrade.

TOP are going to be competitive again and are probably going to be the favorites to win the LPL, at least they should be. Yuyanjia was much better than I expected and he’ll be improved with another year under his belt. If you consider that it’s hard to see TOP not back where they were atop the table unless they have a wicked hangover. If anything I’d think this team is hungry after being ousted early and they come back in full “FU” mode. 

Pros

  • Continuity.TOP are running back the same roster and it’s tough to blame them for doing so. 
  • Stud players at most positions.
  • Made the correct decision to run this roster back instead of panicking and making major adjustments.

Cons

  • If you don’t like WarHorse you could see that as a slight downgrade.
  • Could possibly see some burnout/malaise like we occasionally do on rosters that stay together for a long period of time but think the chance of that is very low.
  • Karsa could regress but based on his play in the offseason tournaments where he’s been dominant, I doubt that will happen.

Futures

Price: +150 (40%)

Positions: Absolutely not

We made TOP Esports our consensus number one on The Gold Card Podcast but with the caveat that the top handful of teams are all more than capable of winning the split. It’s exactly this kind of reason that you avoid bets like this. Unless you’re extraordinarily bullish on TOP it’s tough to imagine them winning the Spring split about half the time which is what you’d need to think happens to justify this position. If you think TOP are that good and think they win more than half the time then by all means entertain this option but I think the top of the table is going to be a lot more competitive than the books do.

———————– 

TT (former Dominus)

Coaches: Chris (Invictus Summer 2020, Snake 2018) and X1ri (LDL mainstay)

Top: Chelizi (-0.30 / 37.83) [20]

Jungle: Xiaopeng (+0.11 / 54.38) [10], Bless, VV (IG Young)

Mid: Captain, Twila (-0.39 / 34.83) [15] , Sky 

ADC: SamD (+0.53 / 69.85) [3]

Support: Teeen (from JoyDream)

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.11 / 53.92 * see note

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 12.2 * see note

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): -1.24 (16th)

Thoughts:

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

Dominus were pretty terrible last season. While Rogue Warriors graded out as a worse team they at least had that “punch up” potential with the variance machine that is Haro. Dominus just rolled over and died in a lot of their matches and it felt like the culture of this team overall just didn’t have a lot of “win” in it. A new start, a fresh page, whatever phrase you want to use is likely just what the doctor ordered. We’ve seen Victory Five do it… I know that was wild but really anything can happen.

Xiaopeng and Twila were serviceable starters and SamD was the #3 ranked ADC by metrics. My guess though is that we’ll be seeing a young look here, especially early. VV spent time on IG Young (behind XUN) but has played with Captain who was also in that system and completely destroyed the LDL. 

Speaking of Captain… this is arguably the strongest prospect coming out of the LDL This offseason. He has a ridiculous 7.45 KDA over a 55 game sample in IG Young’s 46-9 Summer Split, 3 MVP votes in the playoffs alone, the highest gold per minute amongst mid laners that played more than 10 games (only Insulator was remotely close), and did so across a wide and varied champion pool. This kid is an absolute stud and could be a game wrecker immediately. 

Dominus will almost certainly be better than they were last season. They’ve got some promising young talent now especially if Captain can transition to the big leagues and SamD can be even most of what he was last season. Any number of these junglers could hit and suddenly we’ve got a dark horse playoff contender.

Pros

  • Very high ceiling. A lot of potential on this lineup with premium mid and support prospects, sophomore SamD who was an absolute stud as a rookie, and Xiaopeng was excellent last year.
  • Looks like a well-constructed rebuild. Good blend of prospects, younger players, and a veteran.
  • Chris (coach) was partly responsible for the late Summer renaissance for Invictus. Could be an excellent coach that many don’t know about and bring this fresh crew to great heights.

Cons

  • Lot is riding on the rookies. If one or both don’t pan out then this team could have problems in two lanes. While Chelizi is probably not as bad as people think, he hasn’t been the kind of player to put bad teams on his back frequently. 

Futures

Price: +50,000 (0.2%)

Positions: TT to win Spring 2021 @ +50,000 (0.1 unit)

I’m not here to convince you that TT is the next Victory Five Cinderella story but from a purely “value”  based approach, or at least as much as you can be in futures markets, I think this is worth a very small position. They’ve got the top prospect from the LDL in Captain, one of the best supports from the LDL, a stud carry in SamD who graded out as the #3 ADC last season, Xiaopeng who was roughly league average, and Chelizi who keeps getting opportunities because teams must see something in him. It doesn’t really take that much going right for this team to be a playoff team and if you get in it just takes some running hot for a couple weeks. 

I typically don’t take these kinds of “but it’s a value” positions into high hold markets because at some point you have to ask yourself how realistic it is but 500 to 1 is a ridiculous number to not at least put a small piece on for a team that looks more than competent to me. 

———————– 

 

RareAtom Gaming (former Vici)

Coaches: Loong (assistant moves up to head coach)

Top: Cube (+0.39 / 65.17) [8]

Jungle: Leyan (+0.773 / 77.935) [3], Aix (-0.22 / 41.29) [14]

Mid: FoFo (+0.21 / 58.32) [9]

ADC: iBoy (+0.53 / 69.85) [4]

Support: Hang (+0.49 / 68.79) [5], Maestro (-0.55 / 29.12) [26]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.48 / 68.01

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 5.8

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.479 (7th)

Thoughts:

You can see why I was so bullish on Vici last season. Not only did my overall team model have them significantly better than their record and public perception, but their individual players graded out higher than any other team. They had Forge too who was #4 vs FoFo’s #9. I wasn’t quite as critical of the coaching staff for the substitutions as other people were but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t critical. Even Zeka ranked #10. On paper this team was a tremendous disappointment despite being “expected level” by most of the public. You can understand the frustration but I digress…

RareAtom basically keep this roster together and bring in FoFo since Forge was poached. Not quite the same level but a similar style of player and a seasoned veteran that should slot right in here now that he’s got a season under his belt in the LPL on BiliBili.  My numbers say this team should be insane but it’s tough to tell how much of the good AND the bad were the result of Kkoma (it’s very likely bits and pieces of both). We’ll know very quickly whether or not Kkoma was making a lot of average players look amazing or if he mismanaged a stud lineup that should have been at the very least a playoff team. 

Vici harbor a lot of bias from people. Whether it was the hype going into last season with Kkoma or the constant shuffling of players in and out to bust your DFS lineups or bets, something about this team just rubbed people the wrong way. In many way’s they were very similar to RNG in that their team and individual performances grade significantly better than their end results in the win column. With teams like this, the Chargers from the NFL come to mind, you have to decide if they’re just the outlier or if there’s really something to the current beneath the waves. Most of my colleagues are the former. I’m the latter. Do I think RareAtom/Vici are as good as their Summer statistical performances? No, but I don’t think it’s as far disconnected from reality as many do and I find it very difficult to ignore that level of production even on a sub .500 team (19-22). “But Gelati, at some point you have to win the games.” Sure, there’s some truth to this. Suning were sort of the opposite, winning a lot of really ugly games last year and look what they did. I just happen to think the inverse can be just as likely. 

Pros

  • Statistical profile is impressive even with a downgrade in mid lane (according to model). 
  • Continuity in player roster. Five out of six returning members shows both confidence from management and the players themselves. Coaching staff had a lot of people leave but Loong remains.
  • Very high skill ceiling team if they can tie it all together.

Cons

  • Struggled tying it together last season despite impressive individual performances. Could have been a coaching issue, could have been just bad luck, but they remind me a lot of the Chargers in the NFL, great roster that just always seems to find a way to lose.
  • Big changes in the coaching staff.

Futures

Price: +2500 (3.846%)

Positions: RareAtom to win Spring 2021 @ +2500 (1 unit)

I’m well aware of outliers and the data lying but when it’s so overwhelming and over the sample size we saw and under a losing record and all the turmoil with the roster I find it extremely difficult to ignore the potential this team has. The fact of the matter is that, from a statistical perspective every single player on this team was underrated and remains underrated. It’s fair to question the coaching change but with numbers like this I have a hard time not giving at least some degree of credit for the performance. 

My player-based model rates RareAtom/Vici more than 35.9% better than the next best team (BiliBili). It’s completely reasonable to want to question that so let’s assume we “cook down” this team a bit attributing some of their excellent statistical performance to some degree of variance and treat it as “sort of an outlier.” If we adjust and cut their grade in half they’d still grade out as the 6th rated team. If we adjust down by 75% they’d finish 10th. That’s the level of “hidden” performance we got from this team and why I went to bat for them so many times last season. 

I’m extremely bullish on RareAtom. Not only do I think they’re severely undervalued but given their performance rates we should have expected at least a handful more wins last season, probably more depending on how much weight you want to put on the data. With only one key player change, notably a slight downgrade, they STILL grade as the best team in the LPL in my player-based model. Obviously numbers aren’t everything but Vici deserve a look at 25 to 1 even if you drastically cut back on the data’s expectations. 

———————– 

Victory Five

Coaches: Assassin and Suannai (same as last season)

Top: Langx (-0.10 / 45.62) [19], Aliez (-0.98 / 16.35) [27]

Jungle: Weiwei (+0.726 / 76.424) [5]

Mid: Mole (-0.57 / 28.43) [17]

ADC: y4 (+0.22 / 58.71) [17]

Support: ppgod (-0.05 / 48.01) [18]

 

Projected Starters Overall AVG: +0.05 / 51.44 

Projected Starters AVG Positional Rank: 15.2

2020 Team Model Rating (Rank): +0.591 (4th)

Thoughts:

Victory Five were, like JDG, much more than the sum of their parts in their magical turnaround from the worst season of all time to arguably a top four LPL team in Summer before being ousted by eventual World Champs Suning Gaming. They return three and a half (y4 not SamD) out of the same five and bring in Langx to compete with Aliez for the starting job. 

Now most people would consider Langx an automatic and clear upgrade. I think he’s quite a bit overrated from his glory days but he’s solid and most importantly not much different, in fact a slight upgrade over Biubiu. Y4 has been a frustrating player to watch over the years. He’s had many games where he’s way ahead and oversteps or gets himself caught in a game-losing fashion. It’s been a motif in his career. People tend to assume the ADC is propped up by the support, and in most cases it is, but there’s a chance it was the inverse here as well. We saw y4 and ppgod and it was good not great, flashes of both good and bad. Even if you think it was an equal share of the credit then it’s tough to be too optimistic about this bottom lane which is my main concern with Victory Five.

If Victory Five’s coaching staff, which stayed the same, can keep them playing absolutely textbook “uptempo” League of Legends then I see them as a competitive team battling for one of the final playoff spots but it’s a little tougher to imagine them winning the split with y4 as a potential liability. If he can reinvent himself then we’ll reevaluate. 

Pros

  • Some continuity. A lot of returning members and same coaching staff that proved successful in the turnaround from Spring to Summer.
  • Some high quality individual players like ppgod and Weiwei
  • Possible the top lane change proves to be a bigger upgrade if Langx can have a better year than last year.

Cons

  • Langx had a fairly poor year not just statistically but on film as well. Very sloppy at times. Is a better player than this but needs to prove it again. 
  • Y4 can be a liability and has a long history of being exactly that. Will need to have a significantly improved performance if this team is to perform at Summer level. 

Futures

Price: +2000 to +3300 (4.762% to 2.941%)

Positions: None

I want to like this team and at 33 to 1 I think you could justify a position on them but it’d be contingent on y4 overperforming and LangX overperforming my personal expectation or, roughly translated, meeting most people’s bullish perception of him. Victory Five were always a “greater than the sum of their parts” team but it’s tough to imagine this team winning without a handful of things going their way.

 

———————– 

 

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

 

  • TOP Esports
  • Invictus
  • JD Gaming
  • Royal Never Give Up
  • FunPlus 
  • EDward Gaming

 

A Tier

 

  • Team WE
  • RareAtom (Vici)
  • BiliBili Gaming
  • Suning Gaming
  •  Victory Five

 

B Tier

 

  • LNG Esports
  • TT (Dominus)
  • eStar
  • Rogue Warriors (B-)

 

C Tier

 

  • LGD Gaming
  • OMG

 

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 (see bottom of post), 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. 

 

To Win Spring 2021:

 

  • Royal Never Give Up +3300 (1 unit)
  • EDward Gaming +2500 (1 unit)
  • RareAtom (Vici) +2500 (1 unit)
  • BiliBili Gaming +8000 (0.5 units)
  • TT (Dominus) +50,000 (0.1 units)

 

For this season in particular, the top of the table is just priced too expensively. If you’re bullish on Team WE there’s a reasonable case for taking a chance there but every other top six team was out of the question for me as I didn’t give a single one of them a higher chance than the book price.

 

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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