On December 15, Team Dignitas formally announced the addition of two star players, Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho and Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun, to its League of Legends roster. In anticipation for the 2017 NA LCS Spring Regular Season, let us first examine both Ssumday and Chaser's previous seasons in League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), the top level of professional League of Legends competition in South Korea. Especially for those unfamiliar with the LCK, I'm sure providing suitable game analysis and context will help all our fans gain newfound levels of excitement, anticipation, and enthusiasm for the potential of Team Dignitas' upcoming League of Legends team.
Top: Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho
While narrowly missing two berths to the 2016 League of Legends World Championship (a 2-3 in the 2016 LCK Summer Finals and a 2-3 defeat in the 2016 LCK Regional Qualifiers), Ssumday is world class. The 2015 LCK Summer Regular Season MVP, Ssumday has not only been widely recognized as one of the premier top laners in Champions Korea over the past two years, but was ranked as one of the world’s top ten League of Legends players in ESPN’s August, 2016 individual global rankings.
Formerly the top laner for KT Rolster, Ssumday is best known for his teamfighting prowess in both tanks and carries, self-sufficiency, and indefinite champion pool. Even for those unfamiliar with the LCK, simply recognizing some of his peripheral statistics compels critical acclaim.
For the 2016 LCK Summer Regular Season in KT Rolster, Ssumday was also the top lane leader in average kills per game (3.5), second in average assists per game (3.5), and second in average KDA (3.5). While the figures may not be eye-popping initially, what is most significant is where Ssumday stands relative to his peers. Diving deeper, let's explore how Ssumday became one of the most relied upon top laners in the LCK, reassuring a somewhat smooth transition as a dominant force within Team Dignitas for the 2016 NA LCS Regular Season.
Ssumday Soared to New Heights During Champions 2016
Following his MVP season in Champions Summer 2015, Ssumday only widened the gap in several statistics between himself and the average LCK top laner. A look at his average damage to champions per minute (DPM) over the past two years:
In the upper echelons amongst top laners in DPM, Ssumday towers as one of the premier laning and team fighting players in the LCK. By recognizing Ssumday to top lane averages, we can curb some of the inconsistencies resulting from the developing patch updates, making our comparisons appropriate to the relevant top lane champion pool and trending meta-games. A look at Ssumday's average share of team's total damage to champions (DMG%) over the past two years:
Figure 1.3 Data courtesy of Oracle's Elixir.
In Figure 1.3, we can observe that LCK top laners have gradually seen their DMG% reduced over the past two years, a symptom of the LCK meta-game relegating them to tanks, off-tanks, and initiators while relying on other roles to make up for the lost damage (particularly the jungle). As the top-lane leader in DMG% during Champions Spring 2016 (24.9%,), along with being the runner-up during Summer 2016 (22.5%), Ssumday stands as one of the LCK's few top lane carry threats.
Ssumday Was KT Rolster's Most Versatile Player...
Quietly performing as KT Rolster's swiss army knife, Ssumday was also the league-leader amongst active LCK top laners for having the largest champion pool (39 unique champions used in 237 games). In lauding Ssumday's ability to learn new champions, the amount of trust Ssumday earns from KT Rolster and his teammates is equally praiseworthy. A look at the development of Ssumday's champion ocean:
As shown in Figure 1.4, Ssumday is not only incessant on fielding new champions that have not undergone competitive experience, but does so without succumbing back to formerly played champions. With a new champion rate that will decline only due to the release rate of new champions, expect Ssumday to not only be Team Dignitas' most potent counter-picking threat but one of the most adaptable forces during large-scale meta-shifts.
... And Most Trusted Carry
Ssumday’s domestic dominance isn’t self-attributed however; it is partially a byproduct of his team’s trust in him as one of their primary win conditions. A look at several measurements on KT Rolster's gold distribution during Champions Summer 2016, namely average share of team's total gold (GOLD%) and average share of team's post-15 minute minion and monster kills (CS%P15):
By the end of Champions Summer 2016, Ssumday was the regular season top lane leader in GOLD% (23.0%) and CS%P15 (28.2%). Rather than an indication of overall head-to-head laning prowess and creep minion/jungle monster accrual, Ssumday's top lane leading CS%P15 is more of an indication of his incredibly high self-sufficiency and independence in securing side waves with minimal attention.
More astounding, Ssumday is the only top laner in Champions Summer 2016 who leads his team in CS%P15. KT Rolster funneled more side-lane minions to its top laner, Ssumday, than to its ADC, No "Arrow" Dong-Hyeon-- a regular season strategy no other LCK team adamantly practiced. Gold allocation did not come without a price however; with this burden, Ssumday's top lane leading gold rates not only made him one of KT Rolster's primary win conditions, but one of the most pressured to succeed in the LCK.
Jungle: Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun
Conversely, Team Dignitas’ second import, Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, is one of the more enigmatic acquisitions from the NA LCS off-season. Known for being one of the premier carry junglers of Champions 2015, Chaser is often credited for being the star of the 2015 Jin Air Green Wings with league-leading statistics amongst LCK junglers in kills, assists, and KDA.
Following a cinderella-story run cut short to KT Rolster during the 2015 LCK Regional Qualifiers for the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, Chaser became one of the most sought-after free agents in South Korea. After deciding to sign with Longzhu Gaming on December 2015, Chaser and Longzhu have been repeatedly criticized for their disappointing play throughout Champions 2016. To provide additional context over the two-year period, here is a look at Chaser's peripheral statistics between Champions Summer 2015 with the Jin Air Green Wings and Champions Summer 2016 with Longzhu Gaming:
By the end of Champions Summer 2015, Chaser was second among qualified LCK junglers in average kills per game (2.3) and fourth in average KDA (4.9). Yet in just one year, Chaser's figures plummeted to the lower echelons of junglers in Champions Summer 2016. How did Chaser's performances and peripheral statistics seemingly dwindle in a span of one year?
Chaser's Late Game Conundrum
While Longzhu may have acquired additional tantalizing pieces for domestic and international success (former CJ Entus star Shin "CoCo" Jin-yeong and former Samsung Galaxy ADC Lee "Fury" Jin-yong come to mind), erratic individual performances and incohesive team play contributed to Longzhu's demise. Possessing the ninth highest average game time (40.27 minutes), Longzhu fought with muddled win conditions in their attempt to stall out the map for late game teamfights. Need some clips as examples?
<iframe style="backface-visibility: hidden; transform: scale(1); display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="//gifs.com/embed/lz-vs-cj-game-1-highlights-lck-summer-2016-w3d2m2-longzhu-vs-cj-entus-j2JlQY" width="600" height="360px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>Figure 2.2 LZ vs. CJ Game 2 2016 LCK Summer W3D2 (50:13 - 50:32).
There isn't so much any particular player that is at fault, but rather a lack of team coordination. What does this mean for Chaser? A look at several measurements on Longzhu Gaming's gold distribution during Champions Summer 2016, namely GOLD% and CS%P15:
While Chaser's discouraging 26% win rate on Longzhu may signal the main cause for his tenth place figures on GOLD% (19.9%) and CS%P15 (13.5%), as enemies will most likely suffocate Longzhu's jungle, Chaser seemingly has a lower GOLD% in wins (19.93%) than in losses (20.13). Longzhu's high average game time will play into that, as kills off of 40 minute victories off of team fights will most likely be rewarded to champions other than Chaser's (4 victories with Rek'Sai, 1 victory with Elise, and 1 victory with Gragas).
Long victory times with poor late-game scaling champions will also account to Chaser's low DMG% in wins (11.92%) versus losses (16.83%). In late-game situations where Chaser has to become the initiator, secondary initiator, and/or peeler, it is imperative for the team to acquire proper setup and maintain sound shotcalling. Unfortunately, these were two elements Longzhu seemingly lacked all of Champions 2016. If Chaser and Longzhu were not able to snowball their early game advantages into clean victories (which was more often than not), then Chaser's role was subject to the performance of Longzhu's five man unit working as a team.
Chaser's Transition to Revitalize his Career
In Chaser's transition to Team Dignitas with hopes to bring back his 2015 form, several figures suggest his disappointing tenure at Longzhu may have assisted him in becoming a newly multifaceted force on the Rift. Second amongst all LCK junglers during Champions Summer 2016 in average creep score difference at 10 minutes (1.4), expect Chaser to already understand efficient jungle farming routes. What else can we expect? A look at his average wards placed per minute (WPM) during the 2016 LCK Summer Regular Season:
While warding quality tends to outweigh warding quantity, it is worth noting Chaser’s newfound identity as a more vision-oriented jungler during Champions Summer 2016. Among qualified players, Chaser ranked 9th amongst all LCK junglers in WPM during Summer 2015 (0.91). The next year however, where stealth wards became unavailable to purchase on the Rift, Chaser readjusted this specific play pattern and ultimately ranked 2nd amongst LCK junglers in WPM during Summer 2016 (0.82). While Chaser crumbled with Longzhu, he was no slouch in maintaining vision and information for his team.
If we are to look ahead, we can potentially predict several of Chaser's play patterns by utilizing boxplots, which record individual play patterns while making note of the unique statistical landscape of multiple competitive regions. As such, by comparing the distribution of WPM between the LCK and the NA LCS, we may optimistically see Chaser as one of the premier vision-centric junglers in the NA LCS. A look at Chaser's average wards cleared per minute (WCPM):
Figure 2.5 Data courtesy of Oracle's Elixir.
By assessing the interquartile range (25% to 75% colored boxes), we can observe variations in statistical samples without making any distributional assumptions. Based on the interquartile range of the two boxplots, we can thus assert that in aggregate, LCK junglers tend operate with lower amounts of vision and information than NA LCS junglers, who have more wards placed and less wards cleared. A possible indication of the different levels between the two regions, expect Chaser as a potential league-leading jungler in WCPM for 2017, bringing vision-denial play patterns from the LCK to the NA LCS.
While Chaser may have had a disappointing 2016 run, new teammates anda new coaching staff may be what he needs to not only reclaim former sucess, but shore up former inconsistencies on shot calling that plagued Longzhu.