Jun 19 2015 - 5:15 am
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Know Your Enemy: An Analysis of LCS Teams' Standings by Looking at Their Opponents (NA Edition)

The 2015 NA LCS Summer Split is a third over, and I don't think it could have been a more perplexing opening for viewers.
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The 2015 NA LCS Summer Split is a third over, and I don't think it could have been a more perplexing opening for viewers.  Following their dominating first split, Cloud9 have looked progressively worse with every passing split, but this is the first split that they have looked legitimately shaky this far in--and the power vacuum can be felt.  With TSM faltering this split after their weak MSI performance, nobody is really sure who the top teams are, and whether or not they are truly elite, and it is showing, with Riot's own power rankings listing Team Dignitas, the only survivors of Spring Split relegations, as a tentative top 3 team.  But are up-and-comers really living up to the hype, and are top teams really struggling?

This is the second of two articles that will look at the relative successes and failings of each team as they relate to the teams they have beaten and lost to in the standings, rather than their standings in a vacuum.  For this article, I will be focusing on the NA LCS.  (The EU LCS article can be found here.)

How to Read This Data

Immediately below, you will see the standings through week three.  Each team is listed in alphabetical order by full team name (though they are listed by their two- or three-letter tags): as a result, some teams might seem out of order (for instance, "GV" is ahead of "NME" alphabetically, but "Enemy eSports" is ahead of "Gravity Gaming").  The format presented is [row team] vs. [column team].  If the row team won against the column team, it will show as 1-0; if they lost, it will show as 0-1; and if they have yet to play, it will show as -.

Further on, data for individual teams will be shown in the following format:

Team name: W-L

Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: W-L (adjusted W-L)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: W-L (adjusted W-L)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: W-L

"Win/Loss of Teams Beaten/Lost To" looks at the combined win/loss record of all teams the listed team has beaten or lost to.  The adjusted Win/Loss record looks at what the combined records of these teams is if you remove the influence the listed teams' individual wins and losses had on their overall record.  The "Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed" looks at the combined win/loss record of all teams the listed team has yet to play; as such, there is no adjusted record.

NA LCS Standings

We will look at each team individually below, but first, the standings as they are now:

XXX C9 CLG NME GV T8 DIG TDK TIP TL TSM
C9 XXX - - 0-1 1-0 0-1 - 0-1 0-1 1-0
CLG - XXX 1-0 1-0 1-0 1-0 - 1-0 - 0-1
NME - 0-1 XXX 1-0 0-1 - 1-0 - 0-1 0-1
GV 1-0 0-1 0-1 XXX - 1-0 1-0 - 1-0 -
T8 0-1 0-1 1-0 - XXX 0-1 - 0-1 0-1 -
DIG 1-0 0-1 - 0-1 1-0 XXX 1-0 - - 1-0
TDK - - 0-1 0-1 - 0-1 XXX 0-1 0-1 0-1
TIP 1-0 0-1 - - 1-0 - 1-0 XXX 0-1 0-1
TL 1-0 - 1-0 0-1 1-0 - 1-0 1-0 XXX -
TSM 0-1 1-0 1-0 - - 0-1 1-0 1-0 - XXX

With standings like these, it is difficult to truly ascertain where everyone is in relation to each other.  With the exception of TDK, everyone has scored at least one win off of somebody else; in fact, the existence of TDK in these standings is reproducing the "Coast effect" of Spring Split, where some teams look artificially better by scoring their "free win" off a bottom team earlier than others.  This is causing some "struggling" teams to look worse than they are, while some teams legitimately struggling to gain traction this split look considerably better.   To make sense of the who's who, let's look at the individual teams.

Standings by Team

Listed are each teams' individual standings, in alphabetical order:

Cloud 9: 2-4

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 5-7 (5-5)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 16-8 (12-8)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 7-11

For the first time in their more than two-year run in the NA LCS, Cloud9 looks legitimately shaky.  It's not hard to see why, either; after a shaky run of games from Hai "Hai" Lam in the Spring Split brought widespread criticism both from the community and within the organization, the veteran midlaner elected to retire for a management position within the organization, bringing in Nicolaj "Incarnation" Jensen to the starting position--the team's very first roster change since their arrival in the NA LCS more than two years ago.  Three weeks in, Hai's absence has clearly been felt, and the team looks lost without the best shotcaller in the west at the helm.  The good news for Cloud9 is, the worst is almost over: while C9's two wins come against teams with a combined record almost even, their losses come against a considerably strong set of teams: even without the wins scored off Cloud9, the four teams they have fallen to have a 60% winrate overall.  Aside from a hard-fought match against CLG, made slightly easier by Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's recent injury, C9 should be able to score a few wins off the bottom of the table while the team manages their growing pains.

Prediction for the round robin: 4-5

Counter Logic Gaming: 5-1

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 14-16 (14-11)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 4-2 (3-2)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 7-11

(NOTE: Since this analysis is meant to predict future success based on past results and current strength of schedule, it does not take into account the short-notice substitution of Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes following Doublelift's injury.)

Another split, another dominating start by long-time organization Counter Logic Gaming.  The team is the first of two which currently shares the spotlight at the top of the table, and between them and Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming appears to be the stronger of the two: the first three weeks have seen them win five out of six games against a deceptively strong playing field, with their only loss coming to long-time rivals Team SoloMid, itself a strong team in the standings.  More importantly, while some teammates have looked stronger than others in individual games, nobody has looked weak for the team this split.  Aside from the head-to-head with Team Liquid themselves, Counter Logic Gaming has played against every team in the round robin which looks "strong" in standings, and retains the first place position despite not scoring their "free" win off of Team Dragon Knights.  The team has the same strength of schedule as Cloud9, but with stronger team momentum and individual performances, and if they can persevere through the last-minute roster swap, the team should end at the top of the table by mid-week five.

Prediction for the round robin: 8-1

Enemy eSports: 2-4

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 4-8 (4-6)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 12-12 (8-12)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 9-9

Enemy eSports, at first glance, is a tough nut to crack.  The team currently sits at two wins of six--itself not an amazing record, but not awful for three weeks in--and has looked respectable in their losses.  However, they are also a team which has thrown away a game from a bottom-tier team against Team 8, and when you take away their "free" win against Team Dragon Knights and note that their only other win came off the back of a 40-minute team fight, they become a relegation-tier team almost on these merits alone.  They close out the round robin against three teams equal or better in the standings, with no more "free" wins to acquire, but they also do so against two teams commensurately inflated by wins against the other bottom-tier teams--meaning if Enemy wants to show they are worth a playoff spot, they will need to do so now.  I personally believe NME will show up and normalize the standings somewhat, but it's hard to tell for sure.

Prediction for the round robin: 4-5

Gravity Gaming: 4-2

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 11-13 (11-9)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 7-5 (5-5)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 8-10

Gravity Gaming surprised viewers with their strength when they came into their premiere split of the NA LCS in spring, earning a 5th place spot in the playoffs before unfortunately falling to Team Impulse in the quarterfinals.  Now that they have proven that they are, in fact, here to stay, they are out to establish themselves as a legitimate contender for the regional finals, and by and large, they are doing a good job of it this split.  The team currently sits at a three-way tie for third alongside Team Dignitas and Team SoloMid--two unlikely contenders for the middle of the pack for equal and opposite reasons--but Gravity looks to be the strongest of the three both in how they have handled the strength of their schedule and the decisiveness of the victories they have earned.  Combined with the fact that Gravity has the easiest end of the round robin, with their third-place peers Team SoloMid looking to be the only "challenging" team left to face despite their struggles, Gravity may yet shock viewers further with a top 2 finish after the round robin.

Projection for the round robin: 7-2

Team 8: 1-5

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 2-4 (2-3)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 19-11 (14-11)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 8-10

Things do not look too great for Team 8.  After a strictly average 9-9 split that saw them miss playoffs by a tiebreaker against Team Liquid, the team decided to swap out long-time Team 8 ADC Ainslie "maplestreet8" Wyllie for displaced Fusion ADC Zach "Nien" Malhas, a substitution made possible only from week 2 onward.  The team currently sits second to last, ahead only of the 0-6 Team Dragon Knights, and continues to struggle with roster inconsistency as Andrew "slooshi8" Pham departs over family issues, making way for former Dignitas mid laner Greyson "goldenglue" Gilmer.  The team has one "easy" game left on their round robin against Team Dragon Knights, but if they want to avoid relegations and keep playoff aspirations realistic, they will need to pull off an upset against either Gravity Gaming or Team SoloMid in the coming weeks.

Prediction for the round robin: 2-7

Team Dignitas: 4-2

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 7-17 (7-13)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 9-3 (7-3)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 10-8

Team Dignitas' strong showing thus far this split is the pleasant surprise Team Dignitas fans have been waiting for all year.  After the departure of everyone from their 2014 roster save for Alan "KiWiKiD" Nguyen by week 2 of Spring Split, Dignitas suffered their first split without a playoff appearance, plagued by a lack of consistent jungler and coaching staff.  Now that both of these problems appear to be resolved, Team Dignitas is surging through the standings in the first two weeks.  Unfortunately, Dignitas had a "6th man" on the field in their strength of schedule--which appears to have run out.  Dignitas carry momentum from their remarkably weak early schedule, where by the end of week 2, they were 3-1, but against three teams with a combined win/loss record of 1-11.  (These same three teams are currently 3-15: not that much better off.)  While their win against Team SoloMid was a legitimate surprise, it is not yet established whether it was the strength of Team Dignitas or the weakness of Team SoloMid that earned it for them.  Team Dignitas will have to take wins off some slightly stronger contenders in Team Liquid (5-1) and Team Impulse (3-3) if they want to prove they are here to stay, but I believe it's more likely they will shoot for the middle this round robin.

Prediction for the round robin: 4-5

Team Dragon Knights: 0-6

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: N/A

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 22-14 (16-14)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 8-10

Team Dragon Knights may rival Team Fusion's failure to realize their LCS hopes as the biggest tragedy to befall the LCS this year.  The team was Shin "Seraph" Woo-Yeong and Kevin "Kez" Jeon's chance at redemption, following the disappointing performances and organizational turmoil that saw them both ejected from the 2014 Summer Split by different means.  Unfortunately, the team tripped coming out of the starting gate, suffering visa issues for three of their players and requiring them to field substitutes at the last minute, stacking the deck against them further by costing them their bans for the opening week.  The team has since served as a "free win" for everyone that has played them, padding stats for NA's remaining 9 teams by way of the "Coast effect", and, unless they turn something around in a big way, are slated for auto-relegation in the same way.  Unfortunately, with Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming still on the table for them, they might get swept for their first round robin unless they can take a win from the bottom against Team 8--ironically, the most important match for them to win, as it could mean the difference between a two-game gap for auto-relegation and a tie for last place which they cannot lose in head-to-head standings.

Prediction for the round robin: 0-9

Team Impulse: 3-3

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 3-15 (3-12)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 14-4 (11-4)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 10-8

It's hard to argue that Team Impulse is still as much of a contender for a Worlds spot as they were in 2014 as LMQ, or even in their debut split as TIP.  The team has been criticized for their apparent "inconsistency" this split both by Riot and by the viewership, with a series of 1-1 weeks that have seen crisp play one day and sloppy play the next.  Unfortunately, the real story is perhaps much more boring: Team Impulse has won three games against the absolute bottom of the pack (Cloud9, Team 8, and Team Dragon Knights) in convincing fashion, and gotten rolled by the absolute top of the pack (Counter Logic Gaming, Team SoloMid, and Team Liquid) in equally convincing fasion--the mark of a consistent, yet underwhelming middle-of-the-pack team.  Where they sit in the middle, however, is going to hinge entirely on their success against standings rivals Gravity, Team Dignitas, and Enemy eSports--but things don't look too stellar for this supposed wild card, unless they truly do have something hidden up their sleeve.

Prediction for the round robin: 4-5

Team Liquid: 5-1

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 8-22 (8-17)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 4-2 (3-2)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 13-5

Currently sitting atop the standings alongside Counter Logic Gaming (5-1), Team Liquid has looked like a domineering team all split.  Unfortunately, looked demands emphasis in the current context of their position: the team has won five games out of six, and done so in convincing fashion, with former world champion AD Carry Gwang-jin "Piglet" Chae finally showing his true form in a series of stomps--but all five of their wins have come against the bottom 5 teams in the standings today.  To date, Team Liquid has only faced one top 5 team in the standings thus far, and they lost that game in convincing fashion.  Whether Team Liquid is truly a top team or not remains to be seen, but one thing that is certain is that they have yet to cut their teeth against the top of the table, and unless they can defeat standings rivals in just as convincing a fashion, it is difficult to call them top-tier.  If they can win against the old guard of Counter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid, neither of which look to be in top form going into the coming weeks, they will show their dominance on the table; however, I think it far more likely that the team eats at least one more loss before they make the necessary adjustments.

Prediction for the round robin: 6-3

Team SoloMid: 4-2

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Win/Loss of Teams Beaten: 10-14 (10-10)

Win/Loss of Teams Lost To: 6-6 (4-6)

Win/Loss of Teams Unplayed: 10-8

Team SoloMid has had quite the roller coaster ride this split.  Following their domineering performance on the tail end of the Spring Split and their win at IEM Katowice, TSM had an equally and oppositely depressing fall at the Mid-Season Invitational, and have since looked remarkably shaky, with two losses to lower-tier teams (Team Dignitas and Cloud9), and difficulty closing against even bottom teams like Team Dragon Knights, casting a shadow of doubt on their Worlds aspirations.  Fortunately for Team SoloMid, the split is far from over, and their schedule will, by and large, normalize at the end of the round robin with perhaps more or less the same: two steps forward, one step back.  Fortunately, that is still enough to make progress under any circumstances.

Predictions for the round robin: 6-3

Conclusion

As I mentioned in my EU edition of this pair of articles, the only thing that is truly certain is that nothing is truly certain (and this certainly bore out today, as four reversals completely upended my set of predictions).  We will see in the next few weeks what happens, as the upcoming matches complete the round robin and make normal a set of statistics that have been anything but.

When the standings are normalized and the full round robin has completed, I am expecting them to change from something like this:

 

1. alt Counter Logic Gaming (5-1)
1. alt Team Liquid (5-1)
3. alt Gravity Gaming (4-2)
3. alt Team Dignitas (4-2)
3. alt Team SoloMid (4-2)
6. alt Team Impulse (3-3)
7. alt Cloud9 (2-4)
7. alt Enemy eSports (2-4)
9. alt Team 8 (1-5)
10. alt Team Dragon Knights (0-6)

 

To this:

1.  alt Counter Logic Gaming (8-1)
2. (+1) alt Gravity Gaming (7-2)
3. alt Team SoloMid (6-3)
3. (-2) alt Team Liquid (6-3)
5. (+2) altEnemy eSports (4-5)
5. (+1) alt Team Impulse (4-5)
5. (-2) alt Team Dignitas (4-5)
5. (+2) alt Cloud9 (4-5)
9.  alt Team 8 (2-7)
10. alt Team Dragon Knights (0-9)

 

 

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