Can Link replace Hai? Here’s what the stats say

The League of Legends All-Star Invitational starts tomorrow, but the MVP from the North American playoffs won’t be there

Lead photo via Counter Logic Gaming and Riot Games | Remix by Jason Reed

The League of Legends All-Star Invitational starts tomorrow, but the MVP from the North American playoffs won’t be there.

On April 30, Cloud 9’s captain and mid laner Hai Lam suffered a collapsed lung. Despite the fact he managed to play marathon streaming sessions from his hospital bed, Lam’s medical problems have knocked him out the event in Paris.

Two days later, third place LCS team Counter Logic Gaming offered up their own mid laner, Austin “LiNk” Shin, as a replacement in a bid to gain the young player valuable international experience.

The tournament is an important one for Cloud 9. While they’ve dominated the North American League scene since hitting the LCS in August of last year, Cloud 9’s opportunities for international play have come few and far between. The All-Star Invitational, with its round robin format, gives them their first real chance to test their skills against the best teams in the world—and to see if they have any weaknesses that American teams simply haven’t figured out how to exploit.

So Shin has some big shoes to fill. Lam was an integral part of Cloud 9’s success as a shot caller and mid player. Will Shin’s talent and playstyle be a fit for Cloud 9 in this rare opportunity to test themselves on the world stage?

We took a look at their champion pools and performance over the past season to see.

A quick glance reveals the two are surprisingly similar, though maybe that’s not surprising for the mid laners on two of the leagues’ best teams. Both were significantly above average in basic performance indicators like KDA (Kills plus Assists per Deaths), GPM (Gold Per Minute), and CSPM (Creep Score Per Minute).

That’s somewhat expected for the carry player on teams with huge winning records, as mid laners are typically late game carries who rack up the stats in winning efforts, after their teams have built a lead.

Shin posted a better KDA and slightly better farm, showing he may hold a slight mechanical advantage. But Lam held the higher GPM, probably in part due to Cloud 9’s superb objective control.

One important stat stood out for both: gold distribution, the percentage of the team’s gold that they earned.

The average mid laner in the NA LCS takes home about 22.17 percent of their team’s gold, and is even higher in regions like Europe. Lam and Shin, on the other hand, posted lower numbers: 21.42 percent and 21.54 percent respectively. That means Shin should fit right into the Cloud 9 lineup—CLG isn’t putting any extra effort into getting him going, and he’s used as a cog in a well-oiled machine.

That may not be too surprising: In many ways CLG is the team most similar to Cloud 9 in the league. They both feature solid rotations and focus on teamwork. But one important difference is the team compositions they favor. And that may come into play during All-Stars.

In some respects, the two mid laners had similar champion pools. Lam’s top two picks were LeBlanc and Lulu, with nine and four games played respectively. That aligns well with Shin and his six games on Lulu and four on LeBlanc. But after that, things are more similar than different.

Shin has six games on Ziggs, four on Nidalee, and three on Orianna to round out his five most played champions. That shows CLG, or Shin himself, likes to play siege with the mid laner. But Cloud 9, despite Nidalee and Ziggs standing out as two of the most popular champions in the metagame for most of this season, did not pick either of them a single time, and Orianna only twice.

The difference is even more stark if you look at the numbers since the release of Patch 4.4 on March 21, midway through the season. Lam played three games on each of LeBlanc, Lulu, and Soraka in that period, with Shin only one game on each. And Lam had no games on each of Ziggs, Nidalee, and Orianna, who Shin selected four, three, and two times respectively.

That means Shin may be a bit out of his comfort zone trying to adapt to the Cloud 9 macro strategy, though his numbers on LeBlanc and Lulu should at least instill some confidence he can fill a role similar to Lam. Though Shin’s single game on Soraka may spell trouble considering that pick became bannable against Cloud 9 after Hai’s run with her to close the season.

The champion selections lead into some other issues that may crop up at All-Stars, but are not obvious in the stats: play style and shot calling.

Lam takes a lot flak from fans who don’t think his laning is world-class. But his immense game knowledge and ability to know the right rotations makes him invaluable to Cloud 9. While Shin exhibits some of the same leadership qualities, how can he possibly replace the man who led his team to the top of the LCS?

Lam’s style of mid laner is a bit different from the typical carry. As CLG’s jungler Dexter put it during his appearance on Summoning Insight, Hai is “basically the new support.”

“Hai bought three times as many ward as the second person in mid lane,” said Dexter, describing how Lam uses champions like Soraka to push the lane quickly to give him time to ward the jungle. “Hai buys a lot of wards,” he continued.

“He’s sacrificing items for himself to get his team ahead.”

That’s one of the reasons why Cloud 9 favors champions who used to be supports like Lulu and Soraka, who scale well into the late game even without a big item lead. And the team can afford to do it, with William “Meteos” Hartman carrying from the jungle and marksman Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi leading the league in damage dealt to champions.

But it’s not something a team like CLG or a player like Shin does, so it will be interesting to see how that works for Cloud 9 at All-Stars. Will they try to mold Shin to fit Lam’s play style, or adjust the team’s strategy to play with more of a traditional carry in the mid lane?

That will be one of the more interesting things to watch this week.

Either way, it will be a learning experience for both Shin and Cloud 9. The top American team desperately needs to test themselves against international competition if they hope to challenge at the World Championships later this year, and this is one of their best opportunities. Shin is probably the best proxy for Lam, in terms of playstyle, that you’ll find in the LCS, so they’re making the best of the situation.

For Shin, it’s a great chance to learn teamwork and game flow from the masters of League, as well as gain some international experience of his own. Still, it’s a little disappointing Cloud 9 couldn’t bring their full lineup.

“I’m sad we won’t get to see the full Cloud 9 at all-stars,” said CLG coach Christopher “Montecristo” Mykles on Summoning Insight.

“I think this patch is really good for them and they are very smart with how they play on this patch, and I think they would have done really well actually.”

And they may still do well, thanks to Cloud 9 and CLG making the best of a disappointing situation.

Stats and graphics courtesy our partners at