Worlds 2021 kicked off today with the first games of the Play-In stage, giving fans their first look at some of the best teams from the minor regions (and the lowest seeds from the major ones).
With so many unknown players and teams to be featured, at least for fans who focus on the most prominent leagues, a quick primer on those teams and players is helpful to know who and what to watch out for during the Play-In stage. Here are 15 key numbers to know about the Play-In teams, players, and the Play-In Stage itself. Note that all stats provided are for the 2021 Summer regular season unless noted otherwise.
That’s the number of times a team from a major region — i.e. the LCK, LCS, LPL, and LEC — has not made it out of the group stage. That were the 2020 MAD Lions, who went 1-3 in the Play-In group stage, had to win a tiebreaker to avoid being automatically eliminated before the Play-In knockout stage, and then lost a 3-2 series to Turkish team SuperMassive Esports to be eliminated from the tournament. MAD Lions then retooled their top and jungle positions and this year enter the tournament as EU’s top seed.
Eight times has a Wildcard team (meaning any region that is not one of the big four or the PCS or VCS representatives) beaten a team from the major four in the group stage of Play-Ins. If you add the knockout stage of Play-Ins (where those Wildcard regions are often matched up against major region teams in best-of-5 series), that doubles the number of wins to 16. Since Worlds shifted to this Play-In format in 2017, that means Wildcard teams average about two upset wins over major region teams per year in the Play-In stage.
The best record for a Wildcard team in the Play-In stage, groups, and knockouts combined. Back in 2017, 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports went 3-1 in groups, beat Hong Kong Attitude to secure the top seed for their group, and then Brazil’s Team oNe to advance to the Main Event. They went 0-6 in the group stage there, matched up against RNG, eventual tournament winners Samsung Galaxy, and G2 Esports.
That is the combined win percentage of all teams from the LJL, Japan’s league, in the four years since the Play-Ins began. LJL’s representatives have won only four games total during their appearances in the Play-In stage and only advanced out of groups once. That happened in 2018, when DetonatioN FocusMe finished their group 1-3, tied with KaBuM! e-Sports for second out of their three-team group. DFM managed to win the tiebreaker game over KaBuM! and then were promptly swept away in the knockouts by EDG, 3-0.
The difference in overall winning percentage between the LCS and LEC in the Play-In stage... in the LCS' favor. That’s right, despite the region’s overall underperformance at groups, NA has actually out-performed EU when it comes to the Play-In stage.
LCS teams have a combined record of 24-5 (82.7%) during Play-Ins while LEC teams are a combined 23-12 (65.7%). And even if you want to remove that disastrous MAD Lions run from last year from EU’s record, they’d still be 19-6 in all other Play-Ins, a winning percentage of 76%, which is still 6.76% lower than NA’s in Play-Ins. Ignore the memes, if you want to pick a major region to get upset in Play-Ins, historical data says that EU is the best bet.
This is Unicorns of Love’s average game time, the fastest among all teams in the Play-Ins by a full two minutes. No other team in the Play-Ins has an average game time under 30 minutes and only one has an average game time under 32 minutes (Beyond Gaming). Lest you think this means that UoL are getting blown out of games, know that they also have the highest winning percentage (85.7%) and gold difference at 15 minutes (+2629) of all Play-In teams as well. UoL wins a lot of games by jumping out to massive advantages. Speaking of which...
That’s the number of teams that averaged a gold lead of over 2,000 at 15 minutes: those are UoL, BYG, and DFM. Now, the DFM gold advantage is very likely a result of them playing in one of the worst leagues in the world, but for Beyond to have over a 2K gold lead at 15 playing in the PCS is quite impressive. Only PCS champion PSG Talon averaged bigger gold leads, though it should also be noted that Beyond’s gold leads dipped significantly during the playoffs.
The percentage of games in which Cloud9 gets the first tower, the second-lowest in Play-Ins behind only LNG Esports (and LPL stats are largely incomplete). Combine that with C9’s -0.6 tower differential at 15 minutes and average gold lead of 314 at 15 and you get a pretty clear picture of a C9 team that does not get off to quick starts. And if you’re hoping that C9’s numbers got better in the playoffs, unfortunately their first tower percentage dropped to 21.1% (worst of all LCS playoff teams), their tower differential at 15 dropped to -0.7 (ditto), and they averaged a 999 gold deficit at 15 (second worst). Bottom line, C9 is going to struggle in the early game.
That’s the number of teams who had over 2.00 K/D ratio (note: not KDA) in their domestic leagues during the Summer 2021 splits. Those two teams were Infinity Esports of the LLA and DFM in the LJL. What’s particularly interesting is how differently each team got that high K/D ratio. Whereas DFM was one of the bloodiest teams, averaging 17.5 kills per game, Infinity was towards the bottom in terms of kills per game with only 15.8. However, they also averaged the fewest deaths per game, with only 7.8. In short, expect DFM to play more aggressively while Infinity plays more cautiously.
The number of teams entering playoffs that had a losing record during the Summer Split. Those two teams are PEACE of the Oceanic league LCO... and Korea’s representative Hanwha Life Esports. HLE actually has the lower win rate of those two and the lowest win rate of any team entering the Play-Ins at just 39.5%. Of course, they did much better during the Spring Split and playoffs, but if you took their overall record of both splits and both playoffs, they went a combined 54-53 in 2021, a winning percentage of 50.5%.
Note that individual numbers are for all games played during the 2021 season
That’s the earned gold per minute (a stat courtesy of Oracle’s Elixir) for Unicorns of Love’s mid laner Lev "Nomanz" Yakshin. That is the highest EGPM of any player at Worlds 2021 who is not an AD Carry. Nomanz actually led all LCL players, including ADCs, in gold per minute (GPM) during the Summer Split, as well as having the highest KDA of all LCL players during the Summer. A high earned gold per minute means that Nomanz is generating these advantages, not relying on ambient gold from his team taking objectives. Interestingly, his jungler Kirill "AHaHaCiK" Skvortsov actually has the lowest EGPM of any non-support player in the Play-In stage, which shows how much priority his team puts into getting him gold.
That’s the combined KDA of DFM’s Lee "Aria" Ga-eul and Yuta "Yutapon" Sugiura, the highest of any bot/mid duo in Play-Ins. Again, it has to be qualified that they played against some of the weakest competition of any league in the world, but the fact that DFM’s two primary carries are consistently strong must be comforting for Japanese League of Legends fans hoping for their team to get its first significant Worlds run.
That represents the ratio of unique champions played to total games for Adriano "Avenger" Perassoli, the mid laner for RED Canids of the CBLOL. In just 44 games during all of 2021, Avenger played 16 unique champions. He only played three champions more than five times (Ryze, Orianna, and Lucian), but has played everything from Nocturne and Yone to mid lane staples like Leblanc and Orianna. HLE’s Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon has the most total unique champions played in 2021 (29) but in fairness, he had 117 games to try them out. And speaking of Chovy...
That is the difference between the KDA of HLE mid laner Chovy and the rest of his team. His KDA over the 2021 season was a strong 4.85, while the rest of his team combined for a KDA of only 3.2. Good evidence for the theme of “Chovy 1v9”, right? Not exactly. There were actually three Play-In teams who had a bigger gap between their carry player with the best KDA and the rest of the team. Two of them (DFM and Galatasaray) were above a 3.00 KDA difference, but the other was a 1.65 difference between the KDA of the team’s best player and the rest of the team. Who was it? Cloud9 and their AD Carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen. Where are the “Zven 1v9” memes?
Now, where Chovy does shine is in his earned gold per minute, where he ranks third of all mid laners at Worlds 2021 (behind Nomanz and Emil "Larssen" Larsson and just ahead of Kin "Doinb" Tae-sang). So clearly, Chovy is creating his own advantages, which is why his KDA is so high compared to his teams. Those high deaths and low assists are likely the result of just having a weak team around him to not helping him out. However, his relatively low kills per game (3.54) are slightly below the average for mids at Worlds, indicating that he was still somewhat part of the problem for that team.
It’s the number of deaths per game for Infinity Esports support Gabriel "Ackerman" Aparicio, the lowest for any support in the tournament. And it’s not as though Ackerman completely shied away from teamfights either, he still had a 70.1% kill participation which, while not high, is still fairly respectable. As mentioned above, Ackerman goes along with that Infinity Esports style of less aggression, having the highest kill participation on his team.
Diamond TFT Player & esports watcher.