Following the signing of Chan-Ho "Ssumday" Kim and Sang-hyun "Chaser" Lee, Team Dignitas finalized its League of Legends roster on December 20th by retaining mid laner Lae-Young "Keane" Jang and Alex "Xpecial" Chu, as well as signing former Team Envy AD Carry Benjamin "LOD" deMunck. As a continuation from Part 1 on Ssumday and Chaser, let us explore some exceptional figures regarding Team Dignitas' domestic talent leading up to the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split.
Mid Lane: Lae-Young "Keane" Jang
Formerly the mid laner of Curse Academy, Team Gravity, and Apex Gaming (APX), Keane is no stranger to the NA LCS. Playing professionally in North America since Season 4, Keane is best known for his eccentric mid lane counter-picks (i.e. Jarvin IV, Hecarim, and Urgot). Even with his unorthodox picks, Keane's meta-picks should not be underestimated, as most statistical measurements point him to being more than just a LCS mainstay. Take a look at his peripheral statistics during the 2016 NA LCS Summer Regular Season, namely average kills, average deaths, average assists, and average kill/death/assist ratio (KDA) per game:
As shown in Figure 1.1, Keane wielded above-average numbers in these figures Summer 2016; among NA LCS mid laners, he was fifth in average kills (3.6), third in average assists (5.3), and fourth in average KDA (4.5). While these peripheral statistics should be used with extreme discretion, as they are often attributed to a team's aggregate win-loss ratio, Keane's individual involvement, and overall team coordination, these figures can shed some light onto Keane's finesse and decision-making during skirmishes and team fights.
Keane's Team Fighting Finesse
Despite many lauding Apex Gaming's former top laner Ji-won "Ray" Jeon for being the driving force behind APX's offense (Ray's carry pants are evident with a 22.99% damage share in wins versus a 21.44% damage share in losses), Keane may have been the most sound member on the team. To demonstrate this point, let us first observe Apex Gaming's 2016 Summer roster's average damage to champions per minute (DPM) relative to NA LCS averages:
As shown in Figure 1.2, Keane firmly sits at the NA LCS mid lane average in DPM (592.8) with 594. Yet while average in this statistical category, Keane's underrated positioning and influence during many APX teamfights were nothing but critical for his team's success. Keane boasted during Summer 2016 an average share of team's total damage to champions (DMG%) of 30.7%, making him the fifth most dependent mid laner in terms of DPM.
Even more astounding was that Keane ties with Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen for the second fewest average deaths among NA LCS mid laners during Summer 2016 (2.0). Not only was he one of the premier damage-dealing carry threats in the NA LCS, but one who could recognize his surrounding threats. All it takes is observing one series to note the necessity for Keane's sound positioning as his teammates protect and peel for him.
<iframe style="backface-visibility: hidden; transform: scale(1); display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="//gifs.com/embed/apex-vs-liquid-game-1-highlights-na-lcs-w9d2-summer-2016-season-6-apx-vs-tl-g1-76yLP8" width="600" height="360px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>Figure 1.3 APX vs. TL Game 1 W9D2 (34:53 - 35:08).
<iframe style="backface-visibility: hidden; transform: scale(1); display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="//gifs.com/embed/apx-vs-tl-highlights-game-3-na-lcs-2016-summer-w9d2-apex-vs-team-liquid-2Rqv0P" width="600" height="360px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>Figure 1.4 APX vs. TL Game 3 W9D2 (28:14 - 28:28).
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Figure 1.5 APX vs. TL Game 3 W9D2 (36:42 - 36:57).
As Figure 1.3 illustrates, Keane holds Cassiopeia's Petrifying Gaze (R) until Team Liquid (TL) counter-engages, stunning TL's frontline while maximizing damage per second (DPS). Figure 1.4 showcases Keane's mechanical aptitude in salvaging a potentially lost series of events, elongating his life with his Petrifying Gaze and the shield of his Seraph's Embrace in order to delete TL's bottom lane. Lastly, Figure 1.5 is a just snippet of a 30 second team fight where APX and TL waltz with one another in the fringes of TL's tier-1 bottom lane turret. While this three-game series was dictated in the mid lane by Cassiopeia, the preceding clips demonstrate Keane's knack for maximizing DPS uptime while simultaneously maintaining adequate positioning.
AD Carry: Benjamin "LOD" deMunck
Meandering between Challenger teams and serving as a substitute for multiple NA LCS teams, LOD finally made his debut last summer as a bona fide starting AD carry for Team Envy (NV). A fan-favorite for promoting camaraderie with fist bumps after every series, LOD's exuberance for being the consummate teammate can be demonstrated on (as well as off) the Rift. A look at LOD's peripheral statistics demonstrates his team fighting prowess:
As shown in Figure 2.1, LOD ranked among NA LCS AD carries fourth in average kills (3.8), sixth in average assists (4.8), and third in average KDA (4.3). A team fighting presence, LOD was no stranger to combative circumstances during professional matches. While these figures pose a great deal of excitement for next split (especially his league-low among AD carries 1.8 average deaths per game, what makes these figures more astounding is how LOD compensates his below average early-game proficiency with his above-average impact outside of lane.
LOD is Susceptible Yet Capable of Overcoming Early Deficits
Let's breakdown some figures that flesh out the hurdles behind LOD's third-best KDA among AD carries (4.8). Firstly, let us take a look at LOD's early game by examining his average creep score difference at 10 minutes (CSDat10) and average gold difference at 10 minutes (GDat10) relative to other NA LCS AD carries:
The big takeaway from Figure 2.2 is that LOD on average acquired gold deficits within the first ten minutes in lane with NV support Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent. Residing next to the lower quartile for both CSDat10 and GDat10, we can deduce that LOD's early game laning phase leaves much to be desired. However, if we assess Hakuho's CSDat10, we see that he wields the third highest among supports (1.7). While not completely eliminating LOD's gold income deficiencies as shown with his low GDat10,
Despite acquiring early game deficits, we can observe LOD making a definite impact once the game becomes dictated by skirmishes and team fights. Below is a look at LOD's DPM and DMG% relative to other NA LCS AD carries:
Figure 2.3 Data courtesy of Oracle's Elixir.
Boasting the median DPM (5.15) and DMG% (25.2), LOD firmly sits within in the interquartile range. Right in the middle of both statistical categories, LOD's high figures on average kills, assists, and KDA are well earned with quality figures in DPM and DMG%. A legitimate carry threat, LOD's damage output was critical for NV's victories, as he maintained a 26.20% damage share in wins versus a 24.55% damage share in losses. Give credit to both NV's members for supporting LOD as well as LOD himself for maximizing his gold value while in combat. With a higher damage percentage in wins as opposed to losses, one of NV's primary win conditions was to secure LOD active DPS uptime. With no other NV member achieving a damage share differential of +0.5%, LOD's success became synonymous with NV's success.
Support: Alex "Xpecial" Chu
Xpecial is one of the NA LCS' most veteran players, contending in competitive League of Legends since 2011. Now the starting support for Team Dignitas, Xpecial has become the domestic veteran presence in a team expecting to contend for a position in the 2017 World Championships. To give a brief introduction on Xpecial's previous split on Apex Gaming, below are several of his peripheral statistics:
As shown in Figure 3.1, Xpecial ranked ninth amongst Supports in average kills (0.5), fifth in average assists (8.6), and eleventh in average KDA (3.3). While several of these peripheral statistics, most notably average KDA, may seem paltry to his peers, we can laud Xpecial in specific non-combat metrics and pinpoint these concerns to a specific predicament that faced Xpecial and APX throughout the regular season.
Xpecial Remains a Stalwart in Some of his Peers' Most Significant Metrics
While uplifting Apex Gaming from the Challenger Series and into the NA LCS, Xpecial has demonstrated to fans an unparalleled drive that carried over with league-leading figures in several key statistics during 2016 Summer. To illustrate a fraction of Xpecial's newfound success back in the LCS, below are Xpecial's average wards placed per minute (WPM) and average wards cleared per minute (WCPM) relative to his peers over the past two years:
After the 2016 Summer Regular Season, Xpecial boasted among supports second in WPM (1.34) and tenth in WCPM (1.24). While both casual and hardcore League of Legends enthusiasts will always claim warding quality trumps warding quantity, Xpecial's warding rate signals continual apprehension against his enemies' movements, as well as a desire to provide his teammates with as many resources as possible on the Rift in order to succeed. While his WCPM leaves much to be desired, Xpecial hovered above the league average in this statistical category during 2015 Spring and 2015 Summer, indicating there is potential improvement given proper attention individually and from Team Dignitas' new coaching staff.
Xpecial's Niche Role Within Apex Gaming
When assessing supports, it is incredibly difficult to pull together aggregates of data to make a sound conclusion. Whenever critics use combat statistics such as DPM, DMG%, and KDA, they often become heuristics that do not take into account intangibles during a game, including shot calling, pivotal early-game roams, and the usage of a key spell rotation during a major team fight. With very few sound individual metrics, pundits often laud and critique supports with a standard eye test.
With this in mind I will refrain from making any claims with traditional statistics used to judge individual players. I will not claim Xpecial's league-low DPM (102) is an indication of his skill, but rather the byproduct of his champions played. To further dissect Xpecial's play patterns, what we can statistically do is observe and evaluate Xpecial's role and champion versatility with the frequency of his (and APX's) affinity towards specific support champions last split.
Figure 3.3 Data courtesy of EsportsWiki (compiled and calculated by hand).
For clarification measures, frequency (%) is a metric that illustrates the rate at which champion "X" is selected throughout a season/ split in a given position. In other words, frequency = (number of games for champion "X" from select player) / (total games played from select player). We can also call frequency the "affinity" a team (not necessarily a player) has for champion "X" in a select role relative to other teams. Why affinity? This is because I am hesitant to discredit limitations in players' champion pools if teams are finding a winning formula with specific champions.
Note that one primary limitation of this metric is that it does not take into account champion bans, which will depress the statistical affinity of particular champions to specific teams and players when targeted (i.e. Zaqueri "aphromoo" Black and Bard). Now, to note some observations with Figure 3.3:
APX had a lower affinity towards range champions than what NA LCS support frequency averages stipulated to be meta-worthy (+/- frequency), particularly Karma (-10.01), Bard (-8.49), and Zyra (-6.65). Pay close attention to Karma later on, as one of the league's most used support champions was averted in most of APX's team compositions. It would be unfair to posit Soraka and Nami as champions outside of Xpecial's champion pool, as averages clearly indicate that most NA LCS teams didn't prioritize the two similarly as APX and Xpecial.
APX utilized Braum and Alistar (especially Alistar) more so than the majority of NA LCS teams. With these polarizing +/- frequencies (+9.78 on Braum and +19.97 on Alistar), we can deduce that APX relied on Xpecial as one of their main initiators, secondary initiators, and peelers. Does this mean Xpecial has a narrow champion pool if his +/- frequency is concentrated onto two champions that did not receive the same prioritization as other NA LCS teams? Possibly. However, with Figure 3.4 illustrating how champion frequency correlated with win rates, we can amend our question to 1) potentially justify Xpecial's concentrated frequency on Braum and Alistar, and 2) shed some light onto a larger predicament involving APX last summer.
Figure 3.4 Data courtesy of EsportsWiki (compiled and calculated by hand).
Even though Xpecial's highly positive +/- frequency in Alistar (+19.97) meant he relied on that specific champion more so than most NA LCS supports, APX equally relied on Alistar, as they received a 75% win rate with the champion. A comfort pick with an exceptionally high +/- games (+9.55), Alistar became a champion both Xpecial and APX could maximize with clear win conditions, evident with a +/- win rate superior to the 2016 Summer league average (+15.75) .
As shown in Figure 3.4, APX's aversion to Karma was justified in that the team never seemed to convert Karma into victories, as they earned a significantly lower +/- win rate in Karma (-36.59) relative to other teams. With 7 games played, APX seemed to trust Xpecial in his proficiency in Karma; yet with a 14.3% win rate, APX seemed unable to consistently translate victories with that particular champion.
If we assess the positive +/- frequencies on champions such as Braum and Alistar with their positive (or barely negative) +/- win rates, as well as sharply negative frequencies on champions such as Karma, Nami, and Soraka with their largely negative +/- win rates, we can deduce that Xpecial had a fairly one dimensional role within APX. Albeit that role converted victories, APX never seemed to have developed a consistent means to acquire wins when Xpecial was utilized differently with ranged champions. It is up to new Team Dignitas coaches Jung Su Kim and Jae Seok Park to not only develop reliable play with Xpecial in these largely negative +/- frequency champions, but to help the team develop clear and consistent win conditions when fielded.
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