In the competitive world of League of Legends, this week was the tipping point. Three squads benched starting players in the hope of improving their performance—either reaching the level expected of them before the season in the case of Team Liquid and Elements, or trying to save themselves from relegation like Team Coast.
But there’s one struggling team who decided to stick with their roster, at least for now, despite lofty expectations before the start of the season. Many expected ROCCAT to lead the European LCS after spending the offseason upgrading the roster with the additions of marksman Paweł “Woolite” Pruski and mid laner Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm. Some said ROCCAT “won” the offseason with their pickups, the perfect duo to complement the team’s best players, budding superstars Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski.
When a team fails to meet expectations, it’s easy to point the finger. The most obvious culprit? The new guys.
We took a look at team ROCCAT and specifically the performance of Nukeduck. A common refrain from fans this season is that Nukeduck isn’t doing what he was brought on to do. His favored assassins don’t play well in the current metagame and he struggles on mage champions. He was supposed to be a carry capable of taking over every match, especially after a jump start from first blood master Jankos, but the pair rarely link up.
Are they right? We stacked Nukeduck up against the player he replaced in the mid lane and one of ROCCAT’s potential other mid lane options, Ryu Sang-wook, who played with the team at Intel Extreme Masters Cologne, to rate how well Nukeduck has performed on an individual level.
Note that any eight-game sample is prone to massive amounts of uncertainty, but those eight games represent nearly half of the 18 match LCS slate this year, and those eight games were enough for three teams to make major changes to their starting lineups.
The numbers show a solid—if unspectacular—season from Nukeduck thus far. Taking his team’s play so far this season into account, his numbers are simply average.
That’s not the superstar many expected when Nukeduck returned to the LCS. But is that really so far off his career norms? Looking back at his numbers in the Summer Split of Season 3 in 2013, the answer is no, not really. In 28 games as a member of Lemondogs, Nukeduck posted a 108/73/147 line (3.49 KDA) with a 353.94 GPM and 7.53 CSPM. While the metagame was unquestionably different, those numbers are very close to his performance this year. Plus, in terms of where he ranked against other mid laners that split, he was in a similar spot—average. In Season 3, Nukeduck was third in KDA, but just sixth in GPM out of eight mid lane starters. His CSPM ranked seventh of eight. His biggest skill was staying alive—Nukeduck only had 73 deaths, second in the league behind Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. But he wasn’t nearly as active as Froggen in scoring kills or farming.
Nukeduck is famed for his assassin play, but he’s never been a player that posts tons of kills, or in fact seems very active at all. His laning is historically average at best against the LCS field, as evidenced by his creep score differential statistics this season.
Of course, compared to the man he replaced, Remigiusz “Overpow” Pusch, he’s still quite an improvement. One thing to note in comparing the two seasons in the above infographic: mid laners in the Season 4 Summer Split averaged about 70 more damage to champions per minute than mid laners in the current season. So while Overpow’s 478.33 DPM number looks solid next to Nukeduck’s this split, it actually ranked last among all qualified mid laner players that split.
So while Nukeduck perhaps isn’t the superstar he was billed to be, he’s still a solid player and one that’s an improvement over the Summer’s 12-16 ROCCAT lineup.
So where is the problem?
Right now, it looks like a lot of things.
Nukeduck was hyped for the way he might interface with a star jungler like Jankos, similar to what he did with Lemondogs and Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp. But Jankos and Nukeduck have shown no ability to combine in the mid lane. Part of that is because ROCCAT’s other lanes are struggling, leaving Jankos little recourse but to help Overpow in the top lane.
So far this season, Overpow has struggled mightily in a metagame where the top lane is perhaps more important than it’s ever been. A wide array of champions and styles are available for top lane players, and the mid lane move to the top lane has been a struggle for Overpow so far. His 2.07 KDA is dismal and he often seems to find himself behind in lane, looking for Jankos to bail him out. When enemy top laners are capable of carrying games in the current meta, that’s not a winning formula for ROCCAT. Especially when it means their star jungler can’t snowball the team’s real star carries.
Granted, Overpow is new to the top lane. He has room to improve. But as ousted Elements top laner Mike “Wickd” Petersen put it in his AMA Wednesday, top lane is tough to learn in the current metagame. And Overpow was never a top talent in mid, either.
The team’s other new addition, Woolite, isn’t holding up as well as hoped so far, either. While he’s been about average in lane, Woolite’s made some critical positioning errors in late game team fights that have cost ROCCAT games. The man he replaced, Paweł “Celaver” Koprianiuk, was the worst laning marksman in the LCS last year, but he was less error prone in late game team fights.
Other issues seem to be the team’s champion select phase, which has been puzzling at best. Moves like a Renekton ban against SK Gaming, allowing them to pick the Gnar and Jarvan IV combo, sum up their season.
ROCCAT has the pieces to succeed, but they’re struggling to put them together. Nukeduck is a lightning rod for criticism based on the hype surrounding his pickup. He may not be a superstar, but he’s still a solid mid laner. His famed mechanics are certainly real. But the narrative surrounding him as this star carry, who wields assassins like a blade to cut the enemy to shreds, is a house of cards. He’s not that player. He needs a push to take a lead and run with it, to make him use those mechanics to win games. And he’s not getting it, so far.
That’s little consolation for a 3-5 squad teetering on the line between relegation and playoffs. ROCCAT was supposed to be topping the standings with this lineup, but it’s shown a lot more chinks than expected. Nukeduck may be one of them, but he’s hardly the biggest thing holding them back—far from it, in fact. The team can succeed and even excel with Nukeduck, but they’ve got some other issues to look at first.