League of Legends Pro League (LPL) Summer 2021
Roster Change Breakdown and Futures
A couple of “big picture” concepts to consider as we move into the Summer season:
LPL Summer starts up on Monday June 7th but before I break down the opening slate, I wanted to go over a few of the key roster changes as well as some general adjustments to my power numbers for each of these teams as well as some big picture concepts regarding the LPL in general and finally any futures positions I have and why.
The LPL was an EXTREMELY polarized league last season. In other words, there was not a lot of middle ground in terms of quality amongst these teams. The top nine teams were significantly better than the rest of the table. In fact, for the sake of handicapping playoff matchups I isolated a lot of the teams performances against the top nine and not just generically the “playoff teams” because LNG who were the #10 seed were a massive amount behind the rest of the field. This difference was so extreme that you can list very quickly ALL of the “upsets” from the season on one hand.
- Victory Five def. FunPlus (week 9)
- LGD Gaming def. RareAtom (week 9)
- BiliBili def RNG (week 5)
- LNG def Invictus (week 2)
I mentioned on episode 107 of The Gold Card Podcast that this is going to create some weird betting dynamics for the Summer Season for a few reasons. On one hand you could argue that a lot of these teams can’t possibly remain as bad as they were during Spring season. There is typically a “bump” for the bottom and middle of the table as the season progresses because they just get better over time from more reps against strong competition. If we look at 2020’s betting trends (keep in mind COVID maybe affected this) we can see that it actually became MORE polarized in Summer.
- Spring Split, favorites went 89-55 straight up, 57-87 against the map spread.
- Summer Split, favorites went 96-40 straight up and 54-82 against the map spread (with the kill spread being 167-168 nearly perfect 50/50)
The reason I’m bringing this up is because it’s a betting trend that dates back to 2019 and 2018 as well. Typically we get some late Summer shenanigans with standings set and teams trying out prospects or experimenting. Those situations aside, the LPL typically becomes MORE polarized during Summer. Now, with that in mind, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this league so clearly divided between the good and bad so there’s a chance we regress to some sort of mean but big picture I’m really only seeing a couple of teams that I think could elevate to be “best of the rest” status (Bilibili, maybe LNG, maybe LGD’s new roster but I’m not optimistic). An angle that was profitable for a vast majority of the season before the markets caught up was to just bet tower unders which hit at a significantly higher clip in the LPL than any other league (another indication of “not close” games on average).
I had a +2.24% Return on Investment in the LPL Spring season in straight wagers (excludes futures). My average odds were in the plus money and it was my largest overall net despite not being my highest ROI by percentage. Frankly this Summer season is going to be weird to watch and handicap. The only “interesting” matches are going to be bad vs bad, good vs good, and the couple middling teams against good teams once in awhile. That’s it. How we attack this season is going to depend on how much or how little the market overreacts but I’d anticipate we’ll be making significantly fewer plays in the LPL Summer, at least on sides.
I’m just going to go team-by-team here and then big picture view at the end.
Add: Weiwei and ppgod from V5
Out: Meteor, Mark
Overall I think BiliBili SHOULD have been better than they were last season and these are, in my opinion, two upgrades that could boost this team into relevancy. This team severely underperformed expectations both statistically and on film last season but I think the combination of both upgrades and some regression to their mean level of expected performance for these players and I think BiliBili could end up being a “best of the rest” type of gatekeeper team for the LPL. I think they’re the #10 going into the season.
EDward Gaming (EDG)
Out: Gori (to Nongshim in LCK)
EDG were great last season and should remain great this season. There’s really not a lot to say here. They’re one of the most intelligent teams in the LPL and while they might not have the ridiculous statistical profile of some of their colleagues they more than make up for it with brains (like RNG). That said, they performed the worst against other elite teams statistically of the top six playoff seeds so perhaps a sign we get a small amount of regression. Still, EDG should be one of the better teams in the league, competition is just stiff.
A bit of an update regarding the suspensions. Bo’s suspension is until July 1st but FPX retained Beichuan AND Tian. Bo had an absolutely ridiculous start to his career and people are rightfully excited for him but I think there’s a bigger picture concept here that people are just missing out on. No matter who jungled for FPX they were a good team. Tian had a bit of a renaissance season after taking time off for mental health/burnout and Beichuan offers unique tools and performed well also. DO NOT ASSUME the Bo is going to return to the lineup when his suspension is up. We have no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes here and given his time out I’d actually bet against seeing him much more this season. This could turn into a time share situation but I think all three junglers are good and that the team has worked well with all of them so it shouldn’t really impact your handicap of them too much unless we see a stylistic change up between the three. FPX were the models favorite team with the full season and playoffs included and they had the best numbers against other elite teams. If I had to pick a favorite to win the split it’d be them.
Add: NoFe (coach), neny (top)
TheShy and NoFe are both going to be late to start the season due to visa issues but overall I think that Invictus actually have a ton of things going for them moving into Summer. First, the top lane meta is EXACTLY the kind of meta that TheShy thrives in and that could be a huge boon. Second, NoFe is one of the best coaches of all time with multiple Worlds finals appearances, domestic titles in both the LCK and LPL, and some international play himself way back in the day as a player. Every time Invictus have made coaching changes it seems to work out well for them at the very least in the short term. We saw last Summer with additional assistants added to the staff that they completely reinvented their game and likely should have been one of the LPL representatives at Worlds if not for an unfortunately poor performance (or two) against LGD when it mattered most.
I’m very bullish on Invictus’ Summer potential and given the price we’re getting on them due to their lackluster looking Spring finish it’s a nice position. Keep in mind, all of the top nine teams were very good so getting 8th or 9th isn’t really an indication of overall quality in this league.
Add: LPC (ADC from academy)
I’m not sure how much we’ll see LPC or this is just a depth/rest add. I’d expect the latter. Generally speaking I think JDG were very good but also slightly overrated by the markets last season. They had one of the worst statistical profiles of the top nine teams when filtered for their matches against the other top nine teams despite picking up a lot of wins in those matchups. We made a good chunk of money fading their rough start into the rebound in late season but I think there are some macro concerns that I have with this team. For most of the season they were incredibly predictable and teams just kind of let them do their thing without contest. They made some decent adjustments in playoffs which was good to see but I’m hoping they continue to develop into a more versatile and less linear team in Summer. They certainly have the talent to do so.
Add: Shad0w (from LEC), Mark
Out: Peace, Flora, Uniboy
Cult also renamed to Fearness
Shadow will be the first LEC import to the LPL in history which is kind of neat but he’s one of the few players uniquely positioned with dual citizenship. His domestic residency for the sake of professional LOL is China so this does not count as an import slot for LGD if they wanted to bring in other imports.
Shad0w is a playmaker but we saw that he struggled with metagames that weren’t favorable to him and while I don’t think he was really a “Lee Sin one trick” per se, it was interesting to see how much worse he performed when not on his premium picks. The meta seems pretty good for him so this could work out and I don’t think there will be any language barrier issues.
Xiye and Mark also returned to LGD who are looking more and more like the LPL retirement home every year. As terribly unexciting as this team looks, and frankly as infuriating as this teams management and coaching staff is, they’re likely going to be a significantly better team than they were last season. It’s going to be interesting to see if the market over or under values all of these players in terms of LGD’s price in series early in the season. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think this will be a playoff team but I do think they probably elevate to near the BiliBili, LNG tier of “best of the rest” and have some potential upside for more if these players all play near their peak level.
No changes for LNG and I’m not going to lie I kind of think that’s a bad thing but I can’t blame the organization for it. LNG were not a particularly good team last season, they just weren’t a bad team and that was enough to sneak into playoffs with the #10 seed. Overall there wasn’t too much to be optimistic about even individually besides maybe Iwandy and a few standout performances by m1kuya. It was nice seeing Tarzan playing again but he didn’t exactly blow the doors off either. That was essentially this team in a nutshell. I don’t think LNG make playoffs this time around but they showed last season that they’re capable of beating the teams that they’re supposed to. LGD better upside, and I think Bilibili are overall better.
Add: Crime (renamed to Creme, mid from academy), Able (ADC)
Out: Alielie, Bright
Unless some of these players vastly improve OMG are going to be a botton dweller yet again. AKi showed us some signs last season which was nice and the bottom lane was decent so it’s not like there’s nothing going for OMG but they have a lot to fix on the top half of the map. Wuming was the worst rated mid laner in my model as well as the eye test so I think if Creme can be even a moderate upgrade there’s a chance OMG join that “best of the rest” tier with LNG, BiliBili and maybe LGD but I think that’s being optimistic.
Add: no changes
Out: no changes
RareAtom were, as I predicted before the season, sneaky good last season. I’d anticipate that they continue to be underrated by the markets which just refuse to give them any credit whatsoever even after a strong Summer 2020 and Spring 2021. Top nine with upside.
Add: 8917 (top, academy, former AHQ and Alpha in LMS)
Out: Ziv, insence and ZYB (coaches) leave on May 28th
Well… I mean I don’t know Rogue Warriors were just awful yet again last season and as much as I like Ziv as a player for his entire career, his late career attempt to play with the big boys backfired. I admire the courage of making this move but it was not a good result. 8917 will potentially be an upgrade but keep in mind Ziv kind of smashed him around the LMS a few years ago so maybe we see a similar look. Rogue Warriors also dropped both of their coaches a few days ago.
I don’t know what’s going on with this team but they clearly don’t look like they have their shit together and I think there’s a pretty strong chance they end up last or near it again. Hopefully we get some more continuity without Betty having visa issues this time around?
Royal Never Give Up
Add: no changes
Out: no changes
RNG took down MSI and looked pretty good while doing it but I do expect them to be severely overvalued early on based on hype alone. One of the best teams in the league for sure but doesn’t mean there won’t be value in going against them, especially early. Similar to Cloud 9 on opening day I could see a bit of a hangover from MSI here given the limited time off and prep time compared to the teams that didn’t go.
Add: Assum (bot, academy)
Out: ADD, Jinjiao
Suning rounded into form nicely over the course of the season and once ON looked more comfortable playing in the big leagues this team was actually pretty solid. I don’t really see them winning the league but they’re one of the top nine teams for sure and capable of beating anybody. Likely going to be favorable prices on them early on in the season based on their finish.
Add: Mole from V5, Stay (ADC, academy), Jiumeng renames to Elk, Add coach Assassin from V5
Out: Yimeng to academy
Shanks looked pretty solid to me and there’s a chance we see a timeshare situation here but Mole is a more dynamic playmaker. If Team WE see themselves as more or a Summer 2020 version of themselves then I like this move but Shanks showed some great control mage chops so if they want to go that direction I’d prefer to see him. Either way this addition makes a ton of sense. Team WE are now covered for whichever direction they or the game want to go. Team WE had some minor issues last season but generally were a solid team and I’d expect similar again this season especially of Jiumeng (Elk) can get back into 2020 form after a bit of a rough split. My only real concern with this team is that they have a rough start as they build chemistry with Mole. Maybe a fade early, back late after a rough start sort of team.
Add: Qingtian (top), Crescent (coach/supervisor rejoins)
There’s a lot of speculation about 369 but nothing official as of yet but it’s looking like we’ll get to see some Qingtian at the very least. He performed well in academy but didn’t really blow the doors off by any means from what I watched.
TOP were the #2 rated team after playoffs in my model and I personally remain very bullish on them. Almost all of their losses were them beating themselves rather than being outplayed. Whether it was greedy overextensions, bad individual positioning mistakes, or JackeyLove being JackeyLove, TOP beat themselves more often than opponents beat them. Statistically they were in an elite tier above the rest of the league with FPX. If we see that this is a full time more to Qingtian or that they have some growing pains with him then it’s possible that we see a rough start from TOP but I’d expect them to be one of the teams contending to win the split. Just to add on, I think 369 was quietly one of the best top laners in the world last split so hopefully this is just a temporary thing and not a major problem.
ThunderTalk (TT) Gaming
Add: Langx, Ye (mid), Catch (support, renames to Patch), Captain (added back to main roster from academy)
Out: Bless (suspension), Teeen (suspended until August 21st), Chris (coach, suspended)
ThunderTalk had their moments last year and were actually one of the best pre-15 minute teams in the league they just couldn’t translate that into wins at an almost comically bad rate. Langx, while overrated and unexciting, should be an upgrade over Chelizi but I’d assume Ye, Captain, and Twila will battle for the starting mid job. Patch will replace Teeen to create a full Korean bottom lane.
Thundertalk look similar. They have some upside to point to and we saw that they were good at what they did last season. If they can just learn how to translate some of these leads into wins then I think they could potentially challenge to join the BLG/LGD/LNG tier but more likely than not will still be a step behind them. They’re at least talented individually so they’ve got that going for them.
UltraPrime (formerly eStar)
Add: Smlz, Xiaocaobao (mid)
Out: rat and Insulator to academy
eStar were incredibly disappointing last season. Frankly, ShiauC is in prison on this team in their current form. Almost all of their wins were solo support carries by the veteran. A veteran carry to join him in the bottom lane in Smlz and another prospect mid could spice things up. I’m not completely down on this team but they have a lot of strategic concepts that they need to work out. Perhaps it was just the young players learning the ropes but I’m taking a wait and see approach to UltraPrime. This team could be sneaky mediocre kind of like ThunderTalk. Good blend of serviceable veterans and young prospects with a few entering their second split. Potential is there but I need to see it first.
Add: Uniboy, Invincible (from academy), Coaches Domo and Zero
Out: Langx, Mole, Weiwei, ppgod, Trigger, y4, Aodi
Victory Five lost their four best players and besides Uniboy are going with an all rookie / prospect lineup. Clearly management was not accepting of their disappointing Spring result. Victory Five were a weird team last season. Like ThunderTalk, they actually were a good uptempo, early game centric team when they wanted to be but they simply refused to enable that which they did best. Perhaps it was a conflict with the players and coaching staff but they seemed like a team that was trying to jam a square peg in a round hole. The previous roster was talented and the core of Mole, Weiwei, and ppgod was definitely something to build on but they’re completely blowing things up AND bringing in new coaches which is a bit odd to me.
I’m putting Victory Five on dumpster fire alert. I appreciate the decisiveness to “blow it up” but these things more frequently backfire than work out. I could have seen if there was a coach-to-player conflict going on but usually you’d see one go not both. This is effectively going to be a brand new team stepping into the lion’s den. We’ve seen all rookie squads like eStar have success in the past and a few of these prospects like Invincible are very promising but this team needs so many things to break their way to even be relevant that I have my concerns.
Overall I think you need to consider this almost like two different leagues between the top nine and bottom eight teams. While the top nine might have two tiers within it, generally they’re all very good and capable of beating each other. What this means for us is that the bottom portion of that top nine teams (think Invictus, Suning, RareAtom, WE) are being underpriced because of the optics of where they finished. They aren’t being properly rated based on their performance just the results.
Spring Priors / Power Ratings
|Royal Never GU||0.8664808903||2|
My Tier List
Tiers more important than individual order
S+ Tier – FunPlus, TOP Esports, Royal Never Give Up
S Tier – EDG, Invictus, JDG, RareAtom, Suning, Team WE
A Tier – BiliBili Gaming
B Tier – LNG Esports
C Tier – LGD Gaming, ThunderTalk (TT), Ultra Prime (eStar)
D Tier – OMG, Victory Five, Rogue Warriors
|Team||Futures Price||Futures Price (Decimal)||Futures Price (as %)||% needed to warrant wager|
Total Book Hold Percentage (%): 33.887%
Break-Even Modifier (%): 1.993%
The break-even modifier is the hold divided by the number of options in the market. If you apply it to the implied odds suggested by the market price you get the implied percent change of the outcome necessary to warrant a futures position.
For example: Suning’s implied price from the book is 5.882% to win the split but given the hold (vig, rake, etc.) you’d need to consider 7.876% the odds you’re really betting into in this market. So unless you think Suning are more than 7.876% to win the split then it’s not a wager you should make UNLESS you have a plan to play it over the course of the season or take profits, etc.
As I mentioned above, the top nine are a clear cut above the rest of the league and even if we see somebody drop off or a few teams differentiate themselves as the “middle of the table” for a change, I think the best way to attack this market is to look towards the bottom of that top nine for the best prices and who I think has a reasonable outlook for Summer based on the direction the game is going.
There are a few long shots I like:
Invictus +2800, RareAtom +2800, Team WE +2500 (1 unit each)
All three of these teams have the talent to win and specifically in the cases of Team WE and Invictus, just need a few things to break their way regarding the metagame to make this suddenly look like a huge value. These are all top nine teams and clearly ahead of the rest of the pack. It would just take a hot playoff run to make these look great. Admittedly not as strong on these positions as I was on EDG and RNG going into Spring but those were egregiously priced and we don’t see that every day.
LGD Gaming +15,000 and BiliBili Gaming +15,000 (0.5 units each)
These are admittedly longer shots as they’re outside of the top nine break point but I do think these are likely the “best of the rest” teams in the LPL. LGD need to come together quickly which is a tall ask but a handful of veterans could pull it off and we’ve seen miracles from this team before even though I hate this organization in recent years. BiliBili SHOULD be a good team and just severely underperformed last season. They also made two upgrades so I could see them potentially even joining the top nine and making it a top ten if nobody falls off a cliff.
Considered but didn’t bet:
There’s a reasoanble case to be made here to group them in with the IG/RA/WE group but I’d want a slightly better number if I’m splitting four ways. I also have more meta concerns for this team with SofM than the others in that group.
UltraPrime +20,000 and ThunderTalk +25,000
Good blends of young and old and arguably the most talented of the “bad” teams in the league but there’s just too much to prove and this field overall is just too strong. Could see a case where the top teams all cannibalize each others wins and they sneak into playoffs and get hot but just couldn’t justify a position even at these long odds.
I believe in accountability. For years I’ve tracked all of my picks publicly. 2021’s selections will be via this spreadsheet but it isn’t updated until AFTER the games have started. The Esports Department subscribers get the first look.
Check out The Gold Card Podcast and can find me on Twitter @GelatiLOL
(all lines from Nitrogen unless noted otherwise)