Jul 4 2014 - 3:42 pm

How important is buff control in pro 'League of Legends'?

Controlling buffs is one of the keys to victory in League of Legends
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

Controlling buffs is one of the keys to victory in League of Legends. Buffs provide a tangible benefits to the champion who wields them, and often are the difference in a close fight, deciding which mid laner has enough mana to cast a last spell, or marksman has the bonus damage to finish off a close kill.

A buff is a timed effect that boosts the statistics of a character, providing a tangible combat benefit for a short period of time. In League of Legends, the two most commons buffs are the Crest of the Elder Lizard, or “Red Buff”, and the Crest of the Ancient Golem, or “Blue Buff”. Both are named for the jungle monster that provides the effect when killed, but colloquially titled after their colored visual effects.

The Red Buff adds extra damage to a champion’s basic attacks, as well as a slow effect, making it ideal for marksmen and brawling champions. But the Blue Buff is much more important, a staple of mid lane matchups.

The Blue Buff provides mana regeneration and cooldown reduction, turning a champion into a spell slinging machine. The statistics a Blue Buff provides are worth an estimated 2000 gold for its two-and-a-half minute duration. That’s the size of a pretty hefty item.

We took a look at how well teams controlled their buffs, and especially the blue buff, in the League Championship Series so far this season. Which teams are the best at controlling their buffs? How do they distribute the buffs? Do most teams do it the same, or are there outliers?

Our sample size was the first half of the season, the 14 games before the currently running Super Week.

We looked at buffs in the context of the map as a whole, instead of just say buffs from a team’s own jungle. “Buff Control” signifies what percent of the total available Red and Blue buffs a team acquired over the course of the match, so it measures both how well a team controls their own buff and how well a team controls the enemy’s. That shows what priority a team places on the buff, and how successful they are securing them.

The team that performed best at controlling buffs through the previous week of LCS was Team SoloMid, who acquired 54.89 percent of all buffs on the map. They were followed closely by Europe’s Fnatic, who controlled 54.44 percent of buffs.

You might expect the teams with the best records would benefit from the best buff control—for one, they’re doing well, so they likely took advantage of having more buffs, and two, winning games necessarily means they have more map control, so they are able to rack up more buffs late in the game while they are controlling map.

But the stats show that isn’t always the case. SoloMid, for example, isn’t ranked in the top three of their league, and in our sample, neither was the then 7-7 Fnatic.

There are other outliers, too. Millenium had a solid 8-6 record through fourteen games, but they posted the lowest buff control of any team in the league at 45.26 percent. Their objective control stats are very strong, rankings second in the EU LCS, so they may be trading buffs to take dragons and towers.

So that means the numbers have some value in differentiating team play styles, and possibly figuring out which ones lead to victory. To find out more, we looked at Blue Buff control specifically, and how each team distributed the buffs they controlled.

Some important numbers for contextualizing the stats: the EU LCS averaged 13.51 blue buffs per game, while the NA LCS put up 11.875 blue buffs per game. The difference largely comes down to game time: European games are 40:48 long, while America averages 36:28.

Like the overall buff control statistic, Blue Buff Control was scaled to all blue buffs on the map, as were the individual role totals. For example, the numbers indicate that the mid laner for SK Gaming, Jesse “Jesiz” Lee, received 35.63 percent of the blue buffs in games he played, compared to 15.52 percent for his jungler and 54.02 percent for his team overall.

The European region is known for its star mid laners, so it’s no surprise that some of those icons lead the charts.

Fnatic takes the Blue Buff 54.05 percent of the time, and Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez himself receives it at a 37.30 percent rate in his games.

Alliance wins many a Blue Buff, fourth in the EU LCS with a 52.51 percent control mark, and mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen takes 34.08 percent of the overall blues. But that number is a little skewed - Hansen has a game on Yasuo, a mana-less mid laner that gets little use from his own blue. No LCS mid laner has taken a blue buff while playing Yasuo this season. In games on mana-based champions, Alliance takes blue for Hansen 36.7 percent of the time, more in line with their team number.

The big surprise in Europe thus far is ROCCAT. The surging team only controls 51.69 percent of buffs, but posted a whopping 56.35 percent blue control stat. Their mid laner, Remigiusz "Overpow" Pusch, is taking blue 39.23 percent of the time. Pusch has received more blue buffs than any other mid laner this season, 71, and his team is taking them at a higher rate.

ROCCAT’s jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski also takes an above average number of blues: 14.92 percent. It seems ROCCAT is forsaking red buffs in favor of prioritizing blues, a strategy that may seem to indicate them pushing Pusch as their carry player.

Copenhagen Wolves is another interesting case. Unsurprisingly, the subpar team posted poor buff control at 46.32 percent, but their distribution was different compared to every other team in the league. On average, mid laners took about 2.2 times as many blue buffs as their jungling teammates.

But Wolves was the only team in the league whose jungler took more buffs than their mid laner—and it wasn’t even close. Karim “Airwaks” Benghalia grabs 23.95 percent of blue buffs in his games, a full 7 percent higher than the next ranked jungler, Curse Gaming’s Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera.

Part of the reason is champion selection. Wolves mid laner Viktor “cowTard” Stymne played three games on Yasuo to start the season, freeing up the blue buff for his jungler. But in games excluding Yasuo, the team still only managed to give the blue to Stymne in 23.26 percent of opportunities, while Benghalia showed 16.27 percent control, a ratio favoring the jungler much more than any other team in the league.

Is that a conscious strategy on the part of Wolves, trying to feed their jungler, or does Stymne just miss buff timings? Maybe Benghalia does a similar job to other junglers of taking blues in invades, but Wolves fails to protect their own buff for Stymne’s benefit.

The NA LCS follows a similar pattern: The teams with star mid laners prioritize the Blue Buff. But much like the standings, the buff control stats are a lot more even.

While Team SoloMid has a 3 percentage point lead on buff control over other teams in the league, the other four contenders all posted numbers between 50.70 percent and 51.71 percent. Their distributions, however, were quite different.

LMQ and Dignitas are known for their star mid laners, Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian and Danny “Shiphtur” Le. As such, it’s no surprise they focused on giving blue buff to their power players. Xian took blue 35 percent of the time in his 11 games on champions other than Yasuo, while Le managed it in 36.31 percent of cases. Those were the top two numbers in the region. But both teams are sacrificing red buffs to boost their mid laners: Their blue buff control numbers were both three percentage points above their total buff control numbers.

Counter Logic Gaming, on the other hand, handles things quite differently. They control 50.96 percent of all buffs, which is just 0.26 percent higher than LMQ’s number. But Counter Logic Gaming only controls 46.84 percent of blue buffs. That’s a whopping 8 percent less than LMQ’s 54.49 percent number.

So that means Counter Logic Gaming focuses their efforts on the red buff, which makes sense considering their star player is the marksman Peter “DoubleLift” Peng, and marksman benefit most from the auto-attack boosting red.

Much like Copenhagen Wolves in Europe, Curse Gaming’s blue buff numbers are skewed thanks to their mid laner Voyboy’s reliance on Yasuo. In games where Curse doesn’t use that champion, they’re taking blue for mid 30.51 percent of the time, a much more reasonable amount for a team with their admittedly poor 43.43 percent overall buff control.

Other interesting things to note: Teams take advantage of mid lane Yasuo in different ways. For example, last week LMQ used him against Team SoloMid, paired with a top lane Lulu. That allowed Lulu to pick up 8 out of 18 blue buffs, which boosted LMQ’s distribution for the “other” category to 8.99 percent.

Other outliers include Team SoloMid, who gave their blue buff over to Jason “WildTurtle” Tran on Corki during a match against Evil Geniuses where their mid laner Soren “Bjersen” Bjerg played Yasuo. It seems that one advantage of Yasuo, if not his imposing presence as a capable carry, is the ability to distribute your buff resources differently, if your team builds a composition to take advantage of it.

...

These are just basic stats regarding the blue buff, and how teams are distributing it this season. It’s the tip of the iceberg in what could be a wide field of study.

There’s plenty of room for further research, like looking at how effective controlling buffs really is, like how ROCCAT’s mid taking more buffs helps him in game, or Wolves’ mid taking less hurts.

Studying where the buffs are coming from and how teams secure them might also have value. Are they making sure they get all of their own buffs, or often invading the enemy jungle? Are the blue buffs taken by junglers, roughly 28.14 percent of them overall, mostly from invades?

The red buff, which adds a slow and extra true damage to auto attacks, is another area that deserves further study. While it doesn’t receive as much attention as the huge boost the blue buff affords mid laners, the red buff often decides fights.

We’ve already seen how a team playing Yasuo frees up the blue buff for other laners. What kind of boost does that provide? What other champions benefit? In the future, it will be useful to look at buff control and distribution based off team composition could be useful. 

Image via Riot Games/Wikia

Jan 16 2017 - 8:53 pm

2017 NA LCS Preseason Rankings

The LCS is back this weekend! We ranked each NA team heading into week one.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

Season 6 in the North American League Championships Series was something special. Play reached a new level as two teams basically ran the table in both spring and summer. And for the first time, a North American team made the final at a major Riot-sponsored international tournament.

After a hectic offseason, we are almost ready to dive back into LCS play. Before we start, Dot Esports took a look at the NA LCS landscape and ranked the teams for the Spring Split. Ranking teams at the start of the year is extremely difficult because of roster changes and a new meta, but that won’t stop us from trying.

With a couple strong teams choosing to keep their rosters together and a few potential contenders adding exciting foreign stars, Season 7 could be the best yet.

1) TSM

We start where Season 6 ended: with TSM on top. For most of last summer, nobody could touch them as they out-laned, out-jungled, and out-macro’d everyone. Nobody could match Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg in the mid lane, which unlocked the whole map for Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen to roam.

The big question for this team is who replaces Doublelift as a late game shot caller. We think it should be Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Having an experienced lane partner in Jason “WildTurtle” Tran will also help him navigate the duo lane. But he will have to do better controlling vision and winning contested objectives. They’ll need stronger initiations that layer the abilities of all five members.

Deliver on that and TSM fans may be able to forget all of their 2016 disappointments.

Best case: Semifinals at Worlds

Worst Case: Semifinals in the NA LCS playoffs

2) Cloud9

After making it to the bracket stage at Worlds, there’s reason to believe that Cloud9 will be even stronger this year. Remember, the team initially struggled to integrate Jung “Impact“ Eon-yeong at the beginning of the Summer Split. Those memories were put to rest by Impact’s flashy “top die” plays at Worlds.

The real question is whether new jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia can give the team better initiations and map control. William “Meteos” Hartman played a valuable role but didn’t have the mechanics to dictate games. Shot calling will be crucial now that Contractz doesn’t have Hai Lam, shot caller extraordinaire, next to him. Someone on this team will have to become its voice. We’re not sure who.

Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu has a lot of work to do to make sure his team executes on their strategy and communicates effectively. He made great progress with the team last Summer, but can it continue?

Best Case: Contractz is the solution and they make someone nervous in the bracket stage at Worlds

Worst Case: Meteos is brought back in and they have to scrap their way into the LCS playoffs

3) Team Dignitas

There’s a lot of risk putting Dignitas this high. But the team has put a lot of thought into how to build this roster. It’s clear that they want to play around the solo lanes, where Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang "Keane" Lae-Young will benefit from Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun’s pressure. Meanwhile, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck was quietly one of the better AD carries last summer.

How this team communicates with two new Korean players will dictate their place in the standings. The jungle especially requires special synergy with the team. Dignitas has said all the right things about playing together and identifying communication as a major early issue. Knowing those things is one thing; executing is another.

Ssumday and Chaser have a shot at being the best top/jungle duo in NA. But the team could take more than one split to jell.

Best Case: They make the LCS finals in their first year together and compete for a Worlds spot

Worst Case: Communication is an issue all year, they can only win hour-long slog fests, and they fall to the relegation zone

4) CLG

We’re now getting to teams with major question marks on the roster. For Counter Logic Gaming, it’s mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun. We wrote about HuHi in our “Players to Watch” piece. Mid lane’s priority could increase in a jungle-focused meta. And the rest of the team is ill-suited to make up for HuHi’s shortcomings.

It’s been a while since Darshan Upadhyaha has served as a consistent carry. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes is probably their most consistent damage dealer, but playing around the AD carry is risky with regards to meta changes. Coach Tony “Zikz” Gray’s team is always well prepared and has some of the best early-level strategies in the game. But they desperately need some mid-lane pressure to start exploring next-level strategies.

Best Case: HuHi figures it out, they play multiple winning lanes, and split people to death

Worst Case: HuHi is the same, the competition has leveled up, and they miss the playoffs

5) Team Liquid

There is a risk that we’re ranking Liquid too low. Stars like Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin can be terrifying. New coach Matt Lim is highly regarded for his work on Team Liquid Academy last year. They should have better communication with Reignover calling the shots. What’s not to love?

Like CLG, it goes back to the mid lane. It’s not clear who will start, but it will either be a Challenger player who’s never put it all together on the LCS stage (Grayson “Goldenglue” Gillmer) or someone who hasn’t even seen the stage in years (Austin “LiNK” Shin).

This is a roster that has the talent to win it all if a few breaks go their way.

Best Case: Things click between Reignover and Piglet and they break the fourth-place curse on the way to Worlds

Worst Case: They never find a solution to the mid lane and we get version two of the Donezo Manifesto (or Break Point, part two)

6) Immortals

We’re now getting to teams where the win condition is not immediately obvious. For Immortals, it starts with the jungler they basically traded Reignover for: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. He can be a win condition in himself.

But there are more question marks than certainties. Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong hasn’t really been at Flame Horizon level (+100 CS over his lane opponent) for some time. The bot lane is a mystery. Finally, there’s the potential that Dardoch self-destructs.

Best case: Flame and Dardoch click, Cody Sun stays alive, and they compete for a playoff spot. Dardoch keeps an even keel and their steady improvement gives fans something to hope for

Worst case: Dardoch blows up, everyone blows up

7) Phoenix1

This was one of the hardest rosters to rank.

P1 was ascending in the latter half of the Summer Split. Then they signed Ryu Sang-wook and No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon. Unlike other teams adding Koreans, P1 should have a better time integrating these two. Ryu has played in Europe since 2014. And AD carry is an easy position to integrate communication-wise, as long as there’s good synergy with the support.

Whether Arrow and Adrian can develop synergy is the primary question. Adrian was able to do some great things for the carries on Immortals in 2016. But his champion pool was also called into question and his duo lane was not usually a strength.

Best Case: Inori and Ryu stand out with flashy plays, Arrow is the second best ADC behind Piglet, and the team makes it to the LCS semifinals

Worst Case: Arrow and Adrian never jell, they get beat in the macro and late game, and head to the promotion tournament

8) Echo Fox

Echo Fox has two star solo laners: Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok and Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. Beyond them, the roster is a complete mystery. Not that players like Yuri "Keith" Jew are unknown—we just don’t know what their true talent level is. It’s not clear how many players on this team are really LCS-level.

Then there’s the question of shot calling. It’s anyone’s guess how this team coordinates. You can’t turn every game into a farm fest (though Froggen would surely prefer that). At some point, someone needs to go in with Looper and start fights.

Best Case: The make a surprising run at the playoffs behind unstoppable play from Looper and Froggen. Who needs a jungler?

Worst Case: Froggen sets another CS record, but Echo Fox can’t survive the promotion tournament

9) Team EnVyUs

This team started out strong in their first LCS split last summer. Behind stellar play from top laner Shin "Seraph" Wu-Yeong, they went 5-1 in series before other teams started figuring them out.

The team will need to regain their footing in 2017 and play more patiently around Seraph. New jungler Nam “lira” Tae-yoo may help, but his addition results in a strange situation with three Koreans in the solo lanes and jungle and two native English speakers in the duo lane. Can they figure out how they want to play and stick with it?

Best Case: They don’t get relegated. The duo lane follows the Koreans around and Seraph and Ninja put their carry pants on

Worst Case: None of that happens, they make too many mistakes, and there’s not enough talent on the roster for Seraph to carry

10) Fly Quest

It may seem obvious to stick the new team at the bottom. But this decision was not made easily. The reason? Hai.

We don’t know how teams like P1, Echo Fox, or even Dignitas will communicate. Not so for Fly Quest, who should continue relying on Hai’s impeccable shot calling. There’s a lot of value to a team being on the same page and knowing what to do as a unit. Just ask TSM about their experience with that last spring.

The problem is, it’s unclear what Hai is working with. Stomping on Challenger squads is completely different to facing LCS competition each week in best-of-three settings. Teams are going to identify Fly Quest’s weaknesses quickly and pounce repeatedly. It’s just hard to find winning matchups anywhere on this roster.

Best Case: Hai’s shot calling allows the team to grind out late-game victories off of superior macro play. They go .500 in the regular season and get a game in the playoffs

Worst Case: It becomes apparent that they just don’t have LCS-level stuff anymore. They go back to the Challenger Series where they romp

All photos via Riot Games

Jan 15 2017 - 10:31 pm

Kinguin and Fnatic Academy secure spots in European Challenger Series

The two teams made short work of the opposition.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic Academy and Team Kinguin qualified for the European League of Legends Challenger Series, taking themselves one step closer to the game's premier competition.

In rather emphatic fashion, the two teams completely decimated their opposition. Both teams were able to secure quick 3-0 victories, and will now be competing in the upcoming season of the EU CS league.

While both teams fell short of first place in the qualifiers group stage, the teams made up for it in spades in the tournament finals. The Polish Kinguin roster were the first team to qualify for the league, as the team completely decimated opponents on Nerv.

Despite featuring former EU CS players such as mid laner An "SuNo" Sun-ho, as well as support Christophe "je suis kaas" van Oudheusden, it seemed as if Nerv weren't able to find any opening against the Polish team.

The final series of the day saw Fnatic Academy, in equally as dominant fashion, defeat Team Forge.

The academy team's display in the three games was incredible impressive, in particular the performances of mid laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer and former FC Schalke AD carry Rasmus "MrRalleZ" Skinneholm, as both players only died once throughout the entire series.

With the qualifiers over, Kinguin and Fnatic Academy now join FC Schalke, Paris Saint-Germain, Millenium and Misfits Academy in the 2017 Spring Season of the EU CS.

The 2017 League of Legends season gets underway next week, when all regional leagues begin their spring seasons.