Winning Numbers: Gold Allocation and Popular Picks in the Meta (pt. 1 of 2)
The life of an ADC revolves around farm.
Reinforced by examples ranging from the infamous "send Doublelift to farm bot as Vayne for 30 minutes" option on the "CLG spinner" to the more recent case of the EU LCS 2015 Spring Split MVP Forg1ven, who has made himself notorious for routinely putting up massive CS scores, AD carries have made themselves synonymous with farming to the point that the first image search result for the phrase "AD carry" will return an image bearing the words "don't take my farm".
The association, of course, has been justified for years by the meta-game— since Fnatic's victory at the Season 1 World Championship, the meta of League of Legends has included an AD carry and a support together in the bottom lane for the sole purpose of ensuring that the ADC is able to safely acquire as much farm as possible.
The high damage output of ADCs means that not only are marksman-type champions typically given highest gold priority, they are also mandatory in every single team composition since the S1WC, regardless of how the meta has shifted since then. On the other hand, the mid lane, typically regarded as the second "carry position" in League of Legends, has seen greater diversity— ranging from poke and sustained damage mages to bursty assassins to even tanks and fighters in rarer cases.
Although the ADC's role as "position 1" of gold priority has remained largely stable throughout the history of competitive LoL, certain champions falling in or out of favor of the meta can result in (while not necessarily completely usurping ADCs) more pronounced shifts in gold priority. In this installment of Winning Numbers, we'll take a look at how the evolving metagame of League of Legends affected gold priority in the NA and EU LCS regular season.
Average Percentage of Team Gold by Role - NA LCS
Average Percentage of Team Gold by Role - EU LCS
These graphs were generated from every single game of the round robin segment of the NA and EU LCS 2015 spring splits, and represents the average share of the team's gold that each role earned for each week.
The most strikingly obvious things that can be seen from these graphs are twofold: first, that supports, due to the nature of their role being less item-dependent and more picked for utility, consistently receive a far lower amount of gold than the rest of the team. The second, is that ADCs consistently receive the most gold on average, meaning that even the introduction of Azir and Cassiopeia-based comps and the resurgence of Urgot (a more tanky/utility pick for the ADC role) was —despite a slight downward shift for ADC and upward shift for mid by the end of the split— unable to usurp ADC as the cash cow of the team until later on.
Week 2 saw no particularly dramatic shifts in NA, but in EU, we saw a noticeable drop in top's average share of the team gold —from 21.2% down to 19.7%— met by a rise the jungler's share. While this may, to an extent, boil down to playstyle choices by teams, the gold drop can also be accounted for Lulu and Maokai —two strong supportive top lane picks known for the tankiness and utility they bring to team comps— making their first top lane appearances in the EU LCS. The previous week featured many more carries seeing play in the top lane, primarily Lissandra, but also including Cassiopeia and Azir.
Most of the interesting shifts from Week 3 onward occurred in NA— in week 3, the gold for ADC dropped, met by a rise in mid's share so dramatic that these positions' gold shares were brought within half a percent of each other. This comes as no surprise considering week 3 saw more Xerath, Azir, Ezreal, and Corki in the mid lane than usual; Xerath and Azir being waveclearing mages able to amass large farm numbers, while Corki and Ezreal belong to the gold-hungry Marksman champion archetype. This shift gradually reverted back to normal over the following 2 weeks as the double AD comps dwindled and mid lane went back to lower-farming, roaming picks such as Zed, LeBlanc, and Lissandra. By the end of Week 6 however, ADC and Mid were back to roughly an equal share, on average, while Top laners saw a drop in gold share due to a combination of frequent Ezreal play demanding resources in the mid lane and frequent Morgana/Maokai play in the top lane allowing for more resources to be funneled to mid than usual.
In the last two weeks of the split, every role had the same gold priority that they did in the beginning, but the tank meta ushered in by Cinderhulk would later result in the rise of mid-lane Azir and Cassiopeia —two of the best sustained AP damage sources in the game— and the return of Urgot in the ADC role, a previously neglected pick that could now shine in the tank meta due to his defensive stats and utility as well as a kit that could counter-act notorious tank-busters such as Vayne and Kog'maw. While Urgot as an ADC was definitely seen much more in China and Korea before being adopted by Western teams, the rise of the tank meta gradually caused mid to gain slightly more gold priority, a shift that would be seen more clearly in the weeks following the end of the regular season.
In the next installment of Winning Numbers, we'll continue on the same train of thought by analyzing the numbers behind the EU and NA spring playoffs, MSI, and the opening week of the Summer Split, as well as go into the deeper implications of gold allocation and how it affects a team's success.