Friday, January 31, 2020

February 1st: LEC (Europe), LCS (North America)

January 31st Recap

EU LEC: 2 - 1 (+2.75 units)
OPL: 0-3 (-0.75 units)
Parlays: 0-1 (-0.1 units)
NET: 2 - 5 (+1.9 units)

Tried our hand at a few gigantic underdogs in the OPL last night via Twitter for a few units but whiffed on all three. Small investment for some +400 range dogs on day one I don't mind the shot. Europe we nearly hit our triple dog parlay but Hylissang went full beast mode and helped Fnatic absolutely run away with the early game. Still a nice day considering the 2-5 record and we hit our GCP Pick of the Week! #DogDays

The Gold Card Podcast can be found on iTunesStitcherSpotify, and PodBean!


LEC Spring 2020
Week 2 - Day 2
(all lines from Nitrogen but obviously shop around for the best you can find)

Saturday February 1st - W2D2

Excel -181 vs Misfits +123
MAD Lions -207 vs Schalke04 +147
Rogue -207 vs Vitality +147
SK Gaming +345 vs Fnatic -654
Origen +246 vs G2 eSports -369

I was on Misfits today for their first win of the season but we're going right back to fading them here. Febiven looked excellent today but even still, Misfits had a surprisingly difficult time closing this game out even with a huge lead and a snowballed Qiyana against a mediocre at best SK team that looks like they're destined for the bottom of the table. Excel had a blazing fast start in this one and, as mentioned on the broadcast, actually looked a little G2-esque for the first ten minutes of this game. It was impressive. I'll admit that I thought this Excel lineup would be decent but I perhaps slept on the fact that it's a number of veterans with a great coach in YoungBuck which should have lead me to believe in a strong start. This will lead us to have had a wager on all of Excel's first four games but we're 2-1 so far and I feel like I have a pretty good read on this team. They may even be the best of the non-elite teams and deserve to be moved up a tad in my rankings. 

Moneyline: Excel ML -181 (1.8 units)

I know what you're thinking, "Gelati, you can't quit this S04 team." Perhaps you're correct but let's take a look at who they've played so far. A slugfest against Excel, who look better than most anticipated, a loss against Origen, who look pretty damn good as well, and a stomping at the hands of Fnatic this morning in a game that somewhat got away from them early. That's arguably the #2, #3, and #4 if you asked most people right now. I absolutely love taking teams coming off of rough starts against tough schedules! Schalke are not nearly as bad as they appear. Perhaps they aren't on the level of the elite teams yet but that shouldn't really surprise us. 

AT WORST this matchup should be even money even considering the records and we're getting a +147 on Schalke? I'll take it. This is, yet again, price memory from last year/pre-season for MAD Lions. We can see that this team isn't remotely close to the bookies expectation of them and that, in my opinion, they're still being graded as Splyce from last year when they aren't the same team at all.

Moneyline: Schalke ML +147 (2 units)

Vitality are really struggling and without Milica those troubles have been exasperated. Even with him in the lineup I think this team is going to struggle for a little while much like the other rookie-laden rosters. I'm completely ignoring today's result against G2 with this handicap. G2 decided to show up today and completely dumpstered one of the weaker teams in the league. It should come as no surprise to anyone that that happened. This is more of an endorsement of Rogue who I think may be slightly underrated especially coming off of a schellacking by Origen. I still think Rogue are probably #4 or #5 and this is the #9 or #10 we're looking at with Vitality in their current form.

Moneyline: Rogue -207 (2.07 units)

G2 showed up with one of their classic menacing performances today but let's not forget it was against one of the bottom two teams in the league. G2 have showed some early game issues and the pre-game analyst desk did a really great job walking through some of them (go EU broadcast team!). Origen have historically struggled with outside of the box type teams, preferring to play "by the book" League of Legends but they've been rock solid this season with impressive performances by Xerxe and Nukeduck. I know G2 are a terrifying team but quite honestly Origen look quite good right now and I think they have a better chance of taking this game than these odds by a lot. I liked this pick on the podcast this week and that hasn't changed.

If your book has kill totals G2 was set at 29.5 vs Vitality today and it is again in this match. LOVE the under there. With competitive teams that are actually good the under tends to be a stronger play especially when it's such an inflated number. Would it surprise me to see it go over? Nah, this is G2 we're talking about, but when the rest of the slate is 23.5 or 24.5 and you see a 29.5 it's hard not to take the under especially if it should be a competitive game.

Moneyline: Origen +246 (1 unit)


LCS Spring 2020
Week 2 - Day 1

100 Thieves -102 vs CLG -141
Liquid -234 vs Dignitas +160
Immortals +329 vs Cloud 9 -535
Evil Geniuses -260 vs Golden Guardians +172
FlyQuest +246 vs Liquid -369

I'm leaning toward CLG and Golden Guardians here but I'm going to shop for better numbers. I'll update this post then. I'm only on one selection for tomorrow so far.

I typically have a limit set on best of one matches because the variance is simply too high but there are a couple exceptions every year that I'll stick my neck out for. We talked about this on the podcast but while Dignitas have looked good in their opening games, you're never going to get Liquid at this low of a number against a bottom half team the rest of the year. I was going to lay the -234 to win one unit but found a -185 at 5Dimes that I'll be slamming and including in parlays. Not only is that number way WAY off but this is in a matchup I like enough to go heavy on for my first big play in the West this season. I'll also be including it in a parlay with Cloud 9.

Moneyline: Liquid -185 (3.7 units)

I've found a -128 on CLG and I'm going to fire on it. I had a feeling this line would drop and was just waiting for it to do so. CLG haven't played a game with favorable solo lane matchups and draft is something that's an easier fix than in game problems. They've been decisive in their plays and it just hasn't panned out for them. Another week with Crown working with the team and they'll be another week better. Ryoma struggled with Jiizuke, I can't see that not being the case against Crown. 100 Thieves do have an edge on the top side of the map but I'm not sure it'll be enough here. Give me CLG in the "get right" spot. This team hasn't looked as bad as their 0-2 start.

Moneyline: CLG -128 (2.56 units)



Parlay (2): Liquid ML + Cloud 9 ML @ -112 (1.25 units)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January 31st: LEC (Europe)

LEC and LCS Week One Recap

NA LCS: 3 - 3 (+0.04 units)

EU LEC: 2 - 7 (-3.6 units)

One of the bad things about our Pick of the Week segment on the podcast is that, given this is time sensitive material, the line isn't always what it was when we record. This was the case with SK vs Vitality. On the show we had +150 at multiple books, by the time I did my writeup for last weekends matches it was down to +100 and turned into a no wager for me. As always I remind you to keep the context and reasoning in question when looking at a significantly different number. Part of the reason I liked it was because of the line value. When that's gone it's a lot less appetizing. As always you can reach out to me on Twitter (@GelatiLOL) for my thoughts if you see something different but know that my blog writeups are the closest thing to the real time of my actual wagers.

Anyway, our week one dogs approach wasn't necessarily bad although our results say otherwise.  A lot of these games could have gone either way. In Europe and, in the case of SK coincidentally, we got lucky! Vitality should've had that for sure. It took three steals and a botched close for SK to get there. North America treated us quite a bit better although it would have been nice to see EG take care of business in their first match. You can see why I wanted to avoid all the heavy favorites now right? A team like TSM is a good example. I'm fairly confident that they'll get it together and be one of the stronger teams by season's end but a rough start is never out of the question even for a crew of experienced veterans.

We did a 15-20 minute recap of our week one takeaways to open the show this week so I'll direct you there for those as well as mention a few while going over this weeks slate.

The Gold Card Podcast can be found on iTunesStitcherSpotify, and PodBean!


LEC Spring 2020
Week 2 - Day 1
(all lines from Nitrogen but obviously shop around for the best you can find)

Friday January 31st - W2D1

Origen -207 vs Rogue +147
SK Gaming -167 vs Misfits +118
Vitality +444 vs G2 eSports -885
Excel +160 vs MAD Lions -234
Fnatic -422 vs Schalke 04 +271

As I talked about extensively last week, early in the season I like to fade favorites. The other thing I've had success with is fading week one overreactions. A number of games on both the LEC and LCS slates this weekend are gross overreactions to week one results. Part of the reason we do pre-season power rankings is to give us a compass to guide us through variance early in the season. Early on I lean heavily on my pre-season evaluation of teams more than results. Unless I see something absolutely horrendous I don't want to overreact to the first week, particularly in best of one regions like Europe and North America.

With that said there were a few assumptions that I used that were potentially incorrect. While the game is tremendously snowbally it can have this weird affect of impacting the game in the opposite way. When metagames are extremely punishing to mistakes the first level of thinking is to assume that teams will attempt to punish mistakes but what we often forget is the next level; that teams play to avoid mistakes. We saw a lot of this in North America this weekend but not so much in Europe. I think with many of the players' first week on stage under their belts I think we're going to get much more comfortable, relaxed, and loose play especially in Europe. 

So how can we use this? With deflated kill totals and more comfort across the board I think there is an opportunity for some value here. It's a bit theoretical for a lot of people but when you have kill totals that went from 27.5 and 28.5 down to 23.5 and 24.5 I'd be inclined to look into it on line movement alone. In 2019 Spring in the LEC we saw and average of 20.8 kills per game in week one. Week two was an average of 23.3 and that number includes two "outlier" games that were 7 kills and 9 kills. If we take those out it'd be 27.1 kills per game on average across the other 8 games. Every metagame is obviously different but with a week of film, some teams that feel desperate after a rough start, comfort on stage and releasing of some nerves, and numbers being deflated due to week one results I'm going to be absolutely enamored with over kill totals in Europe this week once they're posted on my books. CHECK BACK FOR AN UPDATE TO THIS POST LATER TONIGHT!

In terms of sides there's a few underdogs I like tomorrow. Misfits looked like the worst team after week one but SK weren't exactly impressive either and should have been completely routed by an inexperienced Vitality team if not for a few lucky objective steals. Consider this more of a fade of SK than an endorsement of Misfits but I think these two teams are similar and likely end up toward the bottom of the table. 

Moneyline: Misfits ML @ +135 vs SK (1 unit)(5Dimes)

MAD Lions are still being priced as if they're Splyce from last year and while they showed pretty well to open against G2 it's alarming to me that they still couldn't close that game. I know it's G2 and all but a team like Origen is going to cleanly close. There is a chance that because they're so young MAD Lions improve by a lot and very quickly but Excel looked pretty sharp and in midseason form to me last week. This line is mispriced pretty badly and should probably be even money.

Moneyline: Excel ML @ +160 vs MAD (1.5 units)

I had Fnatic as the #2 team but we did see this team start off slow last Spring AND Summer. After a dude on day one, albeit against the good looking Origen, they did get it together and stomp their second game, albeit against the bad looking Misfits. Fnatic are a tough team to read. I'm going to trust my pre-season power rankings and assume they'll be fine but I had Schalke in that next tier down and not that much different. Schalke wasn't particularly good or bad to me but their solo lanes were great in their first set of games while Forg1ven is catching back up to professional speed (hopefully). Fnatic probably win this but this line is WAY out of whack. An A tier vs B Tier team shouldn't have a gap this large especially in best of ones and especially this early in the season.

Moneyline: Schalke ML @ +300 vs Fnatic (1 unit)




"Barking Dogs" Parlay (3): MSF ML + XL ML + S04 ML @ +2100 (0.1 unit)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January 24th-26th (LEC and LCS Week 1)

We've finally arrived to the beginning of professional League of Legends in the West for 2020! LET'S GOOOOOOO! I'm writing this on Thursday afternoon since I'll actually be traveling this weekend so if I'm a bit quiet on social media for a few days that's why. I'll be watching the games for sure but maybe not in real time. Next weekend I'll be around and active as usual. 

I'll be putting all of NA and EU into one post this weekend and updating it as I go along as to not spam your feeds.

If you haven't checked out the Pre-Season Tier List preview posts (and The Gold Card Podcast Episodes!) then I'd highly encourage you to do so as they're going to give a lot more context on these selections than this post will. For the sake of brevity I won't be diving into each and every game as this is a full weekend worth of writing in a single day but I will give you the selections and reasoning from a big picture perspective and for some of the more unique choices in this post.

The Gold Card Podcast can be found on iTunesStitcherSpotify, and PodBean!


LEC Spring 2020
Week 1 - Day 1 and 2
(all lines from Nitrogen but obviously shop around for the best you can find)

Friday January 24th - W1D1
MAD Lions +345 vs G2 eSports -654
SK Gaming -102 vs Team Vitality -141
Rogue -234 vs Misfits +160
Excel +118 vs Schalke 04 -167
Origen +172 vs Fnatic -260

Saturday January 24th - W1D2
MAD Lions -234 vs Team Vitality +160
Excel +160 vs Rogue -234
Origen -286 vs Schalke +197
Fnatic -422 vs Misfits +271
SK Gaming +593 vs G2 eSports -1408

Generally early in the season, especially on the first weekend, I like to fade favorites. There are a number of reasons for this. 

First, assuming most rosters were assembled at a reasonable time, this is a significantly longer preparation time than teams will have for the rest of the season meaning that they are about as prepared as they can possibly be for the first few games. This creates a scenario where these initial games are almost always closer to a coin flip than people want to think. On one hand you could argue that this helps the better teams but typically it ends up being more the opposite. Good teams are already closer to as good as they can be, although there's plenty of room for growth this early. A similar phenomenon happens at the end of the season. Weaker teams that have more things to improve upon or new members getting caught up to speed have a lot more ground to cover and often will. Typically we see the cream rise to the top over the course of a season and a big reason for that is that talent, depth of ability, and superior coaching staffs will make the proper adjustments and utilize game film more effectively than inferior ones but that takes time, game film, and a sample size to take effect.

Second, even great teams and more specifically great players have to figure a lot of things out early in the season. Sometimes that manifests are "rust" for players that have been out for extended time. For those that didn't make it to the World Championships, their last games were in August or September and for many players, especially the ones on bad teams, their last truly meaningful games were long before that. Sometimes it manifests as a "hangover." Players that had extended seasons, such as those at the World Championships which run for over a month into the offseason, will often take time off after that while a lot of players start preparing for Spring in that time which can create a bit of a gap in practice regime. 

Third, motivation can play a factor. For a team coming off of a successful season you'll sometimes see them resting on their laurels a bit while a player that's in the last year of his contract or a team that was embarrassed last year will often have extra motivation to start off on the right foot.

Fourth, the game of League of Legends itself tends to be as unbalanced as it will be all year long. Without relevant data from the professional scene upon which a lot of patch changes are made, it's really hard for the balance and design team to identify as quickly what the "broken" things are while teams are very efficient at this out of necessity. This can create extremely high variance metagames where there are a handful of utterly broken champions or strategies which can level the playing field for inferior teams against superior ones allowing these bad teams to "steal" games.

Fifth, if that's even a word, is rather simple and that's the the Western regions are still best of one in the regular season. Over the course of a three or five game series a better team can often lose a game and then make the necessary adjustments needed and come back to win the series. Good teams tend to have a deeper strategic pool and can adapt better. In a best of one you don't get that opportunity. It's one of the reasons the West can be frustrating but that's a topic for another time. 

Sixth, pricing is the least accurate early in the year and is almost entirely based on last years pricing at most sportsbooks. Once the sample size increases, markets become more efficient and tougher to beat so early is the best time to attack if you have good reasoning and research to go on.

The last point is more to do with the current state of the game which I may take some time to discuss on next weeks show or in a separate post. Right now League of Legends is very VERY snowbally game. What I mean by that is that the team that gets ahead stays ahead. Comebacks are very difficult. Between the dragon souls, being unable to cancel teleport, two heralds, elimination of comeback experience in the jungle, tower plating, some other experience changes along with the current stronger items the game just gives so many powerful tools to the team in the lead that it's nearly impossible to make comebacks unless the leading team severely botches their lead. It's very close to a one fight game where there's almost always a four or five man fight at the first dragon or in bottom lane that leads to the first dragon and the team that's ahead almost always wins the game. Already in the LPL I've seen far superior teams just lose the game at the 8 minute mark. It's possible that eventually good teams will figure out ways to not take this coinflip or that the game gets rebalanced in a way to get away from this but for the time being, especially in best of ones, I'm absolutely in love with underdogs because of this if the skill level is even remotely close.

There's also historical evidence of early season being a big wild. Fnatic was an outstanding team last year that took awhile to kick into gear but once they did they smashed everyone except G2 for the rest of the calendar year. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time for the superior squads to separate themselves from the pack.

A few examples of "upsets" and big underdogs winning from opening weekend in Spring 2019:

  • SK Gaming as +265 underdogs against eventual LEC Worlds representative Fnatic
  • Schalke 04 as +121 underdogs against Vitality (maybe shouldn't have been dogs)
  • Excel as +100 underdogs vs Rogue
  • Origen as +131 underdogs vs Fnatic
There were more in Week Two including Vitality as short dogs against Fnatic, Misfits as big dogs against Origen, and SK Gamings vs Excel. I think you see the point I'm getting at here. If you know what you're doing, early is absolutely the best time to attack before the lines can be adjusted.

Most of these bets are simply line value plays. It's a bit unexciting and while I don't have any real "hot takes" about individual games in this spot, when you consider all of the factors discussed above AND the lack of sample size you see some pretty weird lines by the books and they almost always favor the favorites from last year. This is a prime time to strike. 

(Note: These are from Nitrogen. There are some MASSIVE discrepencies between their match moneylines and game one moneylines. The game 1 ML is who has the most kills on that map. The win with fewer kills happens so few and far between that you should just take these if the discrepency is big enough. Those indicated as "Map 1" you can find it on that tab)

Kill Total: SK/Vitality OVER 27.5 kills @ +100 (0.5 units)

Moneyline: Excel ML +118 vs Schalke 04 (1 unit)

Moneyline: Origen ML +172 vs Fnatic (1 unit)

Moneyline: Map 1 Misfits ML +183 vs Rogue (1 unit)

Kill Total: Misfits/Rogue OVER 26.5 kills @ +101 (0.5 units)

Moneyline: Vitality ML +160 vs MAD Lions (1 unit)

Moneyline: Schalke 04 ML +197 vs Origen (1 unit)

Moneyline: Map 1 Excel ML +216 vs Rogue (1 unit)

Moneyline: Map 1 Misfits ML +327 vs Fnatic (1 unit)

I'm more or less playing every single underdog except for SK Gaming vs Vitality because its at minus odds (bummer because it was +150 when we recorded the podcast and it was my pick of the week then...) and those facing G2 eSports who I think are going to come out in full on New England Patriots style "FU" Mode and smash after being embarrassed in the World Finals. If you want to go a little wild you can add half a unit to Schalke ML vs Origen and Vitality ML vs MAD, and Origen ML vs Fnatic because those are my most likely to "upset" on this slate.

I'll be updating this post as kill totals are posted so check back closer to game time, only a few are up right now and only a few that I like so far. I think with a juiced 25.5 set on most of these matches, particularly against the bottom half teams, I think the number is way too low. Europe tends to be pretty close to the LPL in terms of kill totals in games and if the LPL is any indication these lines should probably be in the 27.5 or 28.5 range as there have been a lot of high kill games between lower table teams. Under when good teams are battling, over when bad teams are battling. The current state of the game encourages tons of fighting. The biggest point in the game is the first fight and the ONLY way to come back is to FORCE FIGHTS. It's a match made in heaven. 


LCS Spring 2020
Week 1 - Days 1,2, and 3

Saturday January 25th - W1D1
Cloud 9 vs Team Liquid (OTB)
Dignitas +197 vs Counter Logic Gaming -287
Golden Guardians +147 vs 100 Thieves -207
FlyQuest -128 vs Immortals -113

Sunday January 26th - W1D2
Evil Geniuses -167 vs Dignitas +118
Immortals +222 vs Team Solo Mid -313
Cloud 9 -422 vs Golden Guardians +271
Counter Logic Gaming -207 vs FlyQuest +147

Monday January 26th - W1D3
Evil Geniuses -167 vs 100 Thieves +118
Team Solo Mid vs Team Liquid (OTB)

(UPDATE: via Inven - Crown is having visa issues so Tuesday will start for CLG this weekend. Tuesday is quite good so I won't add on to my wagers against CLG but I will feel a bit better about them.)

In much the same way that I'm approaching Europe, I'll be on a lot of, but not all of the dogs in North America for many of the same reasons so I'll spare you the details. I'm avoiding Immortals vs TSM and Cloud 9 vs Golden Guardians because I do think the talent edge is big enough that I'll pass on those. I also think Golden Guardians might be ok by the end of the season but might start slow as they develope chemistry with the young, new lineup.

The only really intriguing thing is that the Liquid matches are currently off the board because of questions regarding who will be starting in the jungle. With Broxah having publically disclosed visa issues (as per Liquid owner Steve's Twitter) Liquid's options become Pobelter who was practicing with the team after the original announcement or Oceanic import Shernfire who arrived on January 21st and was practicing with the team (source). I expect Liquid to be a great team but jungle is a tough position to step into and I could see some early struggles, especially if this disrupted their offseason practice. That said, they're still good enough that it wouldn't surprise me to see them succeed anyway. I will, however, bet against that if we get plus odds, especially because both Cloud 9 and TSM are looking to be worthy adversaries at the top of the table. I absolutely love TSM on Monday if they post a line before Liquid's Saturday match at ANY plus odds. TSM are my #2 going into the season and should be able to compete with Liquid even at full strength.

The only favorite on my ENTIRE WEEKEND SLATE is Evil Geniuses who I think should be able to handle Dignitas quite well despite all the week one trends working against them. To me this is more of a stylistic mismatch. EG have big advantages in 4 out of 5 positions and their best player Huni is up against a budding star in Kumo in the top lane so he's going to have a hard time solo carrying Dignitas. Is Huni capable of it? Yes but it's going to be challenging to say the last. Similarly I like EG against 100 Thieves because 100 Thieves are also structured in a similar manner. That one is a tad riskier because I do think CodySun and Stunt could provide a closer bottom lane matchup and Ry0ma is an unknown but I'll lay EG anyway.

I just wanted to mention the FlyQuest pick against CLG. I think CLG are a vastly superior team with a ton of continuity and an edge more or less across the rest of the map but I think V1per is on the verge of being a truly elite talent and gets to square off against CLG's weakest member in Ruin. I'm not saying Ruin is bad, just that he's the weak link here and I could see V1per solo carrying this game.

Moneyline: Cloud 9 + ??? vs Liquid (??? units)

Moneyline: Dignitas ML +197 vs CLG (1 unit)

Moneyline: Golden Guardians ML +147 vs 100T (1 unit)

Moneyline: Evil Geniuses ML -167 vs Dig (1.67 units)

Moneyline: FlyQuest ML +147 vs CLG (0.5 units)

Moneyline: Evil Geniuses ML -167 vs 100T (1.67 units)

Moneyline: TSM ML + 150 vs Liquid (1 units)(5Dimes)



Will update this post later if I'm on any.

NA LCS Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

League of Legends Championship Series (North America)
Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

So I simply don't have the time to do a fully detailed writeup like I did for Europe but I will put my tier list here for reference so you can have some context on my NA wagers. If I get a chance I'll come back to this at a later date, maybe next week.

Tier Definitions:

F Tier
 - I'm not sure I'll give any of these out but it's mostly reserved for uniquely bad situations like an expansion team or team from a smaller, weaker region at a large tournament.

D Tier - Non-playoff teams that have next to no shot without a miracle developing to have a chance at playoffs. Not all regions will have these. Often rebuilding teams, teams with large rosters and constant swaps of subpar players, or generally weak teams.

C Tier - Non-playoff teams that need a lot of things to go well to have a shot at competing domestically. Often these teams are competing but lack the players and skill to really compete with the stronger teams. Sometimes will beat middle of the table teams but will also drop some games to worse teams.

B Tier - Teams that might make the playoffs or might just miss. Most of the "middle of the table" teams fall into this category. Often they either do one thing well but have weaknesses or they're a pretty solid team that just doesn't have the skill and ability to be much better than they are.

A Tier - Likely playoff teams that could contend for a title if a few things go their way. Usually solid teams with a single weakness or high upside teams with a few question marks.

S Tier - World Championship caliber teams and/or teams that are substantially ahead of their region. S+ rating indicates teams that I feel have a strong chance at winning the World Championship.

Final Tier List:
C: 10) Golden Guardians, 9) Dignitas, 8) FlyQuest, 7) 100 Thieves, 6) Immortals
B: 5) Counter Logic Gaming
A: 4) Evil Geniuses, 3) Cloud 9
S: 2) Team Solo Mid, 1) Team Liquid
NA is fairly clear cut to me in terms of who the definite playoff teams are, it's just a matter of who gets that last spot but unlike Europe, NA has opted, as usual, to go with more veteran and import players to fill in the holes on a lot of these bottom tier rosters instead of young talent so while the upside may not necessarily be there, they should be a bit stronger right away. A lot of the C Tier in Europe have B or higher upside while most of the C Tier in NA are more or less that with less upside.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

LEC Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

League of Legends European Championship
Spring 2020 Pre-Season Tier List

Some people find the exercise of doing power rankings before a season starts a bit cliché but as a handicapper I've found it to be one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for an upcoming season. As we gear up for the 2020 competitive League of Legends season it's crucial to have perspective on the competing teams. By putting the work in now we can find a lot of value on teams that are inaccurately priced by the books. Over the years I've had much more success at the beginning of the season before the lines can adjust to sample size.
On this list I attempt to organize the teams in the North American LCS by relative strength. This is done using a tier grading system rather than individual ranks which I'll also provide for more granularity. Before the season it's less about exact finishes than it is comparing the teams to each other to potentially find value.

Tier Definitions:

F Tier
 - I'm not sure I'll give any of these out but it's mostly reserved for uniquely bad situations like an expansion team or team from a smaller, weaker region at a large tournament.

D Tier - Non-playoff teams that have next to no shot without a miracle developing to have a chance at playoffs. Not all regions will have these. Often rebuilding teams, teams with large rosters and constant swaps of subpar players, or generally weak teams.

C Tier - Non-playoff teams that need a lot of things to go well to have a shot at competing domestically. Often these teams are competing but lack the players and skill to really compete with the stronger teams. Sometimes will beat middle of the table teams but will also drop some games to worse teams.

B Tier - Teams that might make the playoffs or might just miss. Most of the "middle of the table" teams fall into this category. Often they either do one thing well but have weaknesses or they're a pretty solid team that just doesn't have the skill and ability to be much better than they are.

A Tier - Likely playoff teams that could contend for a title if a few things go their way. Usually solid teams with a single weakness or high upside teams with a few question marks.

S Tier - World Championship caliber teams and/or teams that are substantially ahead of their region. S+ rating indicates teams that I feel have a strong chance at winning the World Championship.
D Tier:
10) SK Gaming
Projected Starters: Sacre, Trick, Jenax, Crownshot, Limit
Substitutes: none listed
Coaches: Unlimited (head coach), Kanani (assistant coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +5200
SK Gaming bring back Crownshot, Sacre, Jenax, and head coach Unlimited and added Trick and Limit to replace Selfmade and Dreams. While they did finish with a 4-3 record with Jenax in the lineup over Pirean for the last seven games of the Summer Split, one can't help but feel that SK Gaming lost their most promising player in Selfmade only to replace him with journeyman jungler Trick. Jenax and Crownshot provide some level of upside with each showing well at times during last season but the rest of this lineup is unexciting. The primary complaint I have with this team is that they didn't retain their strongest player and didn't really do anything to bolster their future potential with prospects either. SK Gaming will be competitive with the other bottom half teams but will most likely end up with the worst record in the LEC this split and with very limited upside I think the best possible finish they could have is 7th or 8th, just outside of the playoffs.

C Tier:

9) Team Vitality
Projected Starters: Cabochard, Skeanz, Milica, Comp, Jactroll
Substitutes: Mowgli (jungle), Boris (support/ADC, formerly Krepo)
Coaches: Duke (head coach), Mephisto (assistant coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +2100
Our next team up is another that lost their best player to free agency with Jiizuke heading across the pond to North America's Evil Geniuses. Vitality did retain star top laner Cabochard who remains one of the stronger players at his position in the league but they also kept the player that I'd consider their biggest liability in Jactroll. The new additions are head coach Duke from Splyce, Skeanz from Vitality's European Masters affiliate Vitality.Bee, Milica from European Masters powerhouse squad Vodafone Giants, and Comp from another European Masters powerhouse in LDLC. The new players provide a lot of questions but a lot of potential given their dominant performances in the developmental leagues while the veterans are very much known quantities here. I appreciate having two veteran presences to guide the new players but it's just baffling to me that Vitality would bring back Jactroll. Cabochard is one of the best players in Europe so that makes sense to bring back your clear cut weakest player is suspect.
Vitality have a shot to over perform expectations if Cabochard continues to play at an elite level and the three new players can realize some of their potential while quickly adapting to the professional stage. Duke has proven to be a good coach often making more of his rosters than I ever expect of them so this team has that going for them as well. I'm expecting this team to have some growing pains but Vitality could eventually be a playoff contender.

8) MAD Lions
Projected Starters: Orome, Shadow, Humanoid, Carzzy, Kaiser
Substitutes: none listed
Coaches: Mac (head coach), Peter Dun (coach), Kaas (coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +1800

MAD Lions take over Splyce's spot in the LEC and retain their experienced and successful coaching staff to guide sophomore Humanoid, fresh off of an outstanding debut season, and four challenger scene standouts in Orome, Shadow, Carzzy, and Kaiser. I absolutely love this team conceptually, but much like similar teams that are going with a "go young" approach to roster construction, I question how successful they'll be in their first split. MAD Lions are a team, along with my next listed, that will almost certainly outperform this ranking by season's end but until they show me have too many question marks to justify a higher ranking. MAD Lions will be good for sure but will they be great? I think, with time, they will be but not at first.

7) Misfits
Projected Starters: DanDan, Razork, Ronaldo, Bvoy, Denyk
Substitutes: Febiven (mid)
Coaches: Jandro (head coach), Robert Yip (performance coach), Amazing (strategic coach), Valkrin (assistant coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +3500

Misfits are taking a much more all-in rebuild approach by going with younger, higher potential players in lieu of established veterans. Ronaldo looked like a budding star playing on Fnatic Rising in the EU Masters circuit. Bvoy has traveled from Korea, to Young Miracles in the LDL, to JDG in the LPL, into a short stint with Furious in the LLA, and now Europe, where he aims to finally have a consistent starting job on a good team. DanDan performed well in the 10 games that we saw him play for Misfits in the Summer Split but misfits were mostly unimpressive in that span. Razork and Denyk join from EU Masters powerhouse team Vodafone Giants where they were both outstanding.
Misfits have a boatload of potential but I question whether or not the new players can adapt to the rigors of professional play quickly. Call me old fashioned but it's rare to see brand new rosters, most of which have very limited professional level experience, succeed right away. Misfits are a team that should grow over the course of this year and will likely be competitive by the end of the Spring Split or by Summer but until then I have them just missing the playoffs.

 6) Excel
Projected Starters: Expect, Caedrel, Mickey, Patrik, Tore (formerly Norskeren)
Substitutes: Send0o (top), Taxer (jungle), Special (mid), KaSing (support), Boaster (mid)
Coaches: YoungBuck (head coach), Mapache (assistant coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +4500

Excel very much remind me of Vici from the LPL; a team that I was initially excited about and still think are quite good but might not quite measure up to the upper level of competition in the LEC. Expects has proven to be serviceable at this point in his career, Caedrel should be another year experienced and improved, and Patrik/Tore (formerly Norskeren) should prove to be one of the better bottom lanes in the league. Excel's biggest question is in the mid lane. Firstly, we don't know who the starter is going to be. Special had a combined 3 and 7 record over the course of spring and summer but Excel was also a struggling team so we don't want to hold that against him. Mickey has been all over the place in his career, from the next super prospect in Korea many years ago to the inconsistent and wild journeyman we've seen in recent years. I think both mid laners possess quite a bit of talent but ultimately provide a rather large question mark for Excel as a whole.
I have Excel at #6 to represent that this team SHOULD outperform the rest of the table and make the playoffs but I'm not entirely confident that will happen.

B Tier:

5) Rogue
Projected Starters: Finn, Inspired, Larssen, HansSama, Vander
Substitutes: none listed
Coaches: fredy122 (head coach), Blumigan (assistant and performance coach), Blueknight (analyst)
Odds to win Spring Split: +2150
Rogue are yet another European team with a unique blend of quality veterans and young players with a lot of potential. HansSama has a good case for being the best marksman in Europe, Finn, Inspired, and Larssen showed promising starts in their rookie splits, and while I have questions about Vander not reuniting with his former bottom lane partner Forg1ven, he's been a solid player for the vast majority of his long career. Coach Fredy122 also brings a ton of experience as a former player and now long-standing coach in the LEC.
While I like Rogue's upside, without some absolutely incredible performances by multiple players I don't see this team as a championship contender. They are, however, quite a bit better than the rest of Europe which is why I have them alone in the B tier. Rogue are almost definitely a playoff team it's just a matter of how much better they could possibly be.

A Tier:

4) Origen
Projected Starters: Alphari, Xerxe, Nukeduck, Upset, Destiny
Substitutes: Hiiva (support)
Coaches: Guilhoto (head coach), Arailla (analyst), Kayys (anaylst)
Odds to win Spring Split: +1250
Origen retained both veteran solo laners in Alphari and Nukeduck but have chosen to move in a different direction at the other positions. Xerxe replaces Kold in the jungler, a move that I'd consider a slight upgrade given that I think Kold is just a tad overrated by most (still good),  Upset will replace Patrik in an exchange of two young talents that could both benefit from a change of scenery, and perhaps the most interesting of all, Destiny, from Oceanic Worlds representative MAMMOTH will replace veteran Mithy who moved on to a coaching position with Fnatic.
To me, Origen kept the good parts of their lineup and strictly upgraded at the others. Mithy is considered by many to be one of the best European supports of all time but he did not perform well last year. Kold, as I mentioned, is a good jungler but tends to be a bit overrated because of a few highlight reel performances that stick out to most people who seem to forget the lowlights. Destiny is a big question mark. Can an OPL player hang in Europe? I tend to think if you're at this level it's worth a shot to find out. MAMMOTH vastly exceeded most people's expectations at Worlds this year primarily on the back of good shot calling and coaching. I'm open to the idea that a smaller region player can succeed in a major region league.
Origen were the consistent, steady, fundamentally sound team with a limited ceiling last season. I think they'll again be a consistent, steady, and fundamentally sound team but this time I think they have a much higher ceiling. This team has a balanced blend of veterans and young talent and should be challenging for the #2 spot along with my next two teams.

3) FC Schalke 04
Projected Starters: Odoamne, Gilius, Abbedagge, Forg1ven, Dreams
Substitutes: none listed
Coaches: Dylan Falco (head coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +2700

Full disclosure: I want this team to be great.
Konstantinos "Forg1ven" Tzortziou is one of my favorite players and personalities in the history of professional League of Legends. After serving his mandatory military service at a very inopportune time in his career he's finally back in action. For those that weren't around for his original reign of terror, the best way to describe Forg1ven as a player is that he plays the marksmen role as a pure lane bully which is very much the opposite of how most players tend to play it. He wants to utterly smash his lane. This style has more or less gone the way of the dodo with a few notable exceptions like Uzi. It's simply not equitable for most people and teams to play this aggressively but when you're as good at it as Forg1ven is the "rules" tend to bend a little.
Schalke isn't entirely about Forg1ven but he's a huge part of the equation because teams that he's succeeded on in the past tend to have to play in a unique way. Dreams doesn't exactly seem like the kind of support I'd envision Forg1ven wanting but the team certainly knows more than I do about what they want. Odoamne has been a solid as a rock veteran his entire career, Abbedagge was an absolute stud as a rookie last season, and Gilius, while inconsistent, is exactly the kind of aggressive jungler I'd want for a lane dominant team like this one. I see Schalke as a full on priority team. They're going to dominate lanes and let Gilius attack the enemy jungler. Schalke are goign to play full court press League of Legends in much the same way SK Gaming did in 2015. It sounds simple but requires dominant lane players and Schalke have assembled that.
There's a chance this backfires. There are some fiery personalities on this team and if things have a rocky start or if some of these veterans just can't keep up anymore things could go south very quickly for Schalke but I think it's way more likely to end up the opposite. Schalke SHOULD be an excellent team and their ceiling is arguably as high as Fnatic and maybe even G2 if they can reach it.

2) Fnatic
Projected Starters: Bwipo, Selfmade, Nemesis, Rekkles, Hylissang
Substitutes: none listed
Coaches: Mithy (head coach), Aagie (assistant coach), Veigar v2 (strategic coach)
Odds to win Spring Split: +500

After a miraculous week two run in the group stage, Fnatic managed to crack the top eight at the World Championship in 2019 only to be decisively defeated 3-1 by the eventual champions FunPlus Phoenix. Personally, I think Fnatic underperformed expectations at the tournament, but they still managed to make a quarterfinals appearance. This is mostly the same roster but there have been a few departures. Star jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen, who had an excellent year, is off to North America to join Team Liquid (eventually...). Former head coach Joey "YoungBuck" Stettenpool as well as head analyst Alejandro "Mapache" Martinez joined Excel eSports. Assistant coach Louis-Victor "Mephisto" Legendre also left for Team Vitality. Former professional player Alfonso "Mithy" Rodríguez will step in as the new head coach.
Fnatic's success last season was a full organization effort. A huge part of what made them great was their coaching staff which I consider one of the best in the business in any region. With the main figures of that staff departing as well as Broxah, who was very much the glue that tied it all together on the rift, I wouldn't rule out a slow start as they figure out their new identity as a team. A new jungler with big shoes to fill and a head coach in his debut at the position could prove challenging at first however, at the end of the day, Fnatic are still filled to the brim with talent and because of that it's hard to rank them anywhere outside of the top three even if we assume they'll have a rocky start.
S+ Tier:

1) G2 eSports
Projected Starters: Wunder, Jankos, Perkz, Caps, Mikyx
Substitutes: P1noy (adc)
Coaches: GrabbZ (head coach), Duffman (head analyst), AngelArcher (analyst)
Odds to win Spring Split: -190

G2 return the same roster that took the globe by storm last year and I see absolutely no reason why they wouldn't. This team has a unique character and style, and to disrupt that chemistry would be criminal. The fact that they were embarrassed in a finals match where they were favored should add fuel to the motivational fire for this squad to make them even hungrier to prove that the West can win a World Championship again. They're versatile, ambitious, and supremely confident. Individually they are some of the best players at their positions in the world. A true five threat team is rare but they're one of them. They can do it all and likely will invent a number of new things along the way just like they did last year. Often imitated but never duplicated, G2 are one of the best teams I've ever seen and I've been following this game for a decade. I don't expect that to change this year barring some sort of catastrophe.

Final Tier List:
D: 10) SK Gaming
C: 9) Team Vitality, 8) MAD Lions, 7) Misfits, 6) Excel
B: 5) Rogue
A: 4) Origen, 3) Schalke 04, 2) Fnatic
S+: 1) G2 eSports
To me, Europe is nearly divided in half on this list. I think there are five teams that are a cut above the bottom five but I also think the bottom five are all going to be battling for that last playoff spot. I have SK rated the worst but it's mostly because I don't see a high a ceiling as some of the other bottom half teams. SK could very well compete for that last playoff spot as well. It's going to be interesting to see so many new, young players develop over the course of this year. Europe has historically been an extremely gifted region from a talent perspective and very often new players can jump right into the spotlight. If that ends up being the case in some of these younger teams outperform these rankings then Europe is going to be ridiculously competitive.