Roster Moves Analyzed: Smoothie for Xpecial
Every offseason League of Legends franchises make countless roster moves in an effort to improve their teams for the coming season. Just as free agency in any major sport carries some risk, LCS roster transactions are no different. There are numerous transactions that can be pointed to, such as TSM’s decision to swap out Reginald for Bjergsen before the 2014 Spring Split, as resounding successes. Other moves don’t have the same level of success, such as when Winterfox picked up Avalon to play in the top lane for them only to finish 7-11 the following split and be relegated by Team Dragon Knights.
In an attempt to improve on their poor finish to the 2015 Summer Split, Team Liquid swapped out veteran support Xpecial for a younger, up-and-coming support, Smoothie. Xpecial is often considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, western support in history, making this move a shock to many avid LCS followers. In a post on Reddit former Team Liquid teammate IWillDominate wrote that although Xpecial was “passed his prime” mechanically that only meant he wasn’t the best western support anymore, however he still believed he was “better than average for the LCS level.”
This roster swap poses the question: Is Smoothie really better than Xpecial?
A total of 12 players had a game on support during the 2015 LCS Summer Split. In analyzing the statistics I set a baseline that in order to be considered for ranking you must have 5 or more games at the position. This rule means Gate and Baby are excluded from the analysis as they only have 1 and 3 games played on support last split respectively.
First Blood Percentage
Wards Placed a Minute
Wards Cleared a Minute
If you believe statistics it only takes one glance to decide Xpecial is the better of the two supports, however when you break the statistics down it isn’t as cut and dry,
Smoothie played 15 games last split. 9 of those games were played with Emperor, TDK’s starting ADC, however the other 6 were played with Lattman, who subbed for TDK while they were working out Visa issues with several of their starting players.
K/D/A with Lattman
K/D/A with Emperor
These statistics share a telling story: Smoothie performed better while playing with Emperor than he did when was playing with Lattman. Emperor was a much stronger ADC than Lattman, and statistically he was on par with Smoothie’s new bot lane partner Piglet.
One thing to note is that when the games Smoothie played with Emperor where he got KDAs of 14 and 18 are excluded his average KDA with Emperor was only 3.62. Although this is significantly better than his 1.65 KDA with Lattman, it's still below Xpecial's 5.2 KDA. However, a KDA of 3.6 would place him in 6th place among qualified supports, above LCS stalwarts such as KiWiKiD and LemonNation.
When those games were included he had an astounding KDA of 5.6, tying him for first among support with Adrian.
First Blood Participation
CS Per Minute
Damage Per Minute
plus 2.7 (3rd)
minus 4.1 (11th)
plus 3.9 (2nd)
The differences between Emperor and Lattman are very obvious here. Piglet’s KDA is very inflated because of his assist total. He collected 132 assists, good for 2nd among all ADCs and 21st among all LCS players last split. This is in part due to how bloody Team Liquid’s games were. They finished 3rd in the league with 308 total kills, only 3 kills behind 2nd place Counter Logic Gaming. TDK on the other hand finished 6th in the league with 235 total kills. It is important to note Team Liquid did play one more game than TDK to accumulate these statistics as they had to play in a tiebreaker game at the end of the split.
Just as the differences between Lattman and Emperor are highlighted in these statistics, the similarities between Piglet and Emperor are too. Both ADCs have suffocating laning phases with huge CS differences at 10 minutes. Each acted as their team’s second carry with both ADCs coming in behind their respective team’s midlaner in damage per minute.
When he gets the opportunity to play with a dominant ADC, someone who can carry their own weight and put out consistent damage, Smoothie looks like a completely different player. Its debatable whether the version of Piglet that has shown up in the North American scene is better than Emperor was last split, even with the small sample size we have of Emperor’s games. IWillDominate is an improvement over Kez in the jungle, and it can be argued that FeniX is an improvement over Ninja. The one weakness in the new Team Liquid lineup is Lourlo, their new top laner. Last split Team Liquid relied heavily on Quas to be a low economy top laner, utilizing the second least gold resources of any top laner in the league, even below the championed king of low economy top laners, Dyrus. It remains to be seen whether Team Liquid remains the same stylistically with Quas gone.
This more aggressive, experienced team should provide Smoothie the opportunity to show his skills. He has potential - averaging a KDA of 5.6 while playing with Emperor as compared to a 1.65 while playing with Lattman. Playing with an aggressive, experienced ADC and a top tier jungler who focuses his priority on mid and bot should give Smoothie adequate resources to succeed.
Is he better than Xpecial? Only time can tell.