With a proper lens, the 2019 LCS Summer Split and Summer Playoffs statistics can be used to provide insight on the North American teams at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. Let's take a look at what a look back at LCS Summer can tell us about the chances of Team Liquid, Cloud9, and Clutch Gaming escaping their respective groups at Worlds 2019.
Not All Stats Are Created Equal
Looking at statistics can provide insights about a player's performance in a game or a set of games, but it cannot provide valuable inferences in a vacuum. Statistics must be given context so as to not overvalue an individual player's strength within context of their team.
For example, fans of the LCS might be surprised to find out that 100 Thieves AD Carry Bae "Bang" Jun-sik led the 2019 LCS Summer Split in Damage Share — the percentage of damage one is responsible for in their team's total damage dealt —at 31.3%, or that FlyQuest Jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen possessed the league-leading First Blood Percentage (67%) and Kill Participation (82.2%).
At first glance, these statistics look incredible, especially when factoring in that 100 Thieves and FlyQuest finished 8th and 10th place in the Summer Split, respectively. However, Santorin's Kill Participation and Bang's Damage Share are both so high because their respective teams were so reliant on them to succeed. Anything FlyQuest was able to do in the Summer Split was off the back of Santorin, and 100 Thieves found late season success playing through Bang as a 5-man unit.
This context doesn't take away from Santorin and Bang's performances as individuals, but it does provide explanation for statistical leaders that may raise an eyebrow upon first look. Still, for most fans, these stats are silver linings at best. FlyQuest fans aren't jumping for joy over Santorin's early game if it's not getting the team past the first round of the 2019 LCS Regional Final. A single league-leading statistic for Bang does not eclipse the massive disappointment of 100 Thieves 2019 season.
And TSM fans certainly aren't celebrating Bot Laner Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen's LCS best Damage Per Minute of 576 when the attempts to secure that damage occasionally end in a series-ending — or season-ending — death.
However, for Team Liquid, Cloud9, and Clutch Gaming these stats can give valuable insight on each team's strengths, weaknesses, adjustments, and how those factors will affect chances at the 2019 World Championship.
The greatest team in NA history debuts on the Worlds 2019 Group Stage as the Group D's Pool 1 team after its fourth consecutive LCS championship. Team Liquid will battle it out in Group D against LPL #3 seed Invictus Gaming, LMS #2 seed ahq e-Sports Club, and LCK #3 seed DAMWON Gaming.
Over the past few seasons, synergy between a team's Mid Laner and Jungler has become increasingly important. Its current significance is arguably comparable to that of the synergy between a team's Bot Lane duo. Team Liquid finished 1st in the 2019 LCS Summer Split, but two of its four losses came at the hands of Cloud9, who exposed TL's Mid/Jungle synergy as its weak point.
TL acknowledged that weakness before Summer Playoffs, and adjusted accordingly. Jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero, who led the LCS with a 6.4 KDA, put a lot more focus towards the Mid Lane, showing up for timely counterganks and benefitting heavily off of Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen's enormous lane pressure.
Xmithie and Jensen tied for the highest First Blood Percentage in the Summer Playoffs, securing the first kill in 50% of Team Liquid's games. The pair's synergy was instrumental in TL's triumph over Cloud9 in the 2019 LCS Summer Finals, the latter of whom was not able to repeat its Summer Split success by playing through Mid at full throttle. Jensen led the LCS Summer Playoffs in XPD10, averaging 482 more experience points than his lane opponents at the ten minute mark.
Jensen is a world class talent, but against the likes of international Mid Laners like Invictus Gaming's Song "Rookie" Eui-jin or DAMWON Gaming's Heo "Showmaker" Su, Jensen and Xmithie's ability to continue to develop their synergy will be integral for TL in Group D.
The good news for TL is that it matches up well into all its opponents. While ahq Top Laner Chen "Ziv" Yi will hold his own against Jeong "Impact" Eon-young, the rest of the LMS #2 seed's players will pale in comparison to Team Liquid's on and individual level. IG is weaker than when it lost to TL in the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational Semifinals, and Impact should be able to withstand the mechanical onslaughts of IG's Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok and DWG's Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon.
The key lies in Xmithie's ability to perform on the international stage. Outside of his performance at MSI 2016 with Counter Logic Gaming, Xmithie's international performances have left much to be desired. Xmithie has recently stepped up his international performances in recent seasons, but has yet to reach the level of performance that domestically has earned him almost inarguable honors for best Jungler in North American history.
If Xmithie can continue to be the smooth operator he was this summer on the Worlds stage against the likes of Junglers like DAMWON's Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu, Team Liquid should have no issue exiting the Group Stage and would also have a good chance at securing the 1st seed in Group D.
Cloud9 qualified for Worlds 2019 by qualifying for the Summer Finals opposing Team Liquid. After losing 3-2 to the LCS champion, C9 would have to settle for the LCS #2 seed. Cloud9 finds itself in Group A with LEC champion G2 Esports, LCK #2 seed Griffin, and LMS #3 seed Hong Kong Attitude.
Cloud9's largest point of strength is its Jungler Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen. Despite splitting the starting spot with Robert "Blaber" Huang for four of C9's 19 Summer Split games, Svenskeren secured 1st LCS All-Pro Team honors and was named the 2019 LCS Summer Split MVP. Svenskeren possessed the highest GD10 in the Summer Playoffs, averaging 328 gold ahead of the opposing Jungler at 10 minutes into the game.
Svenskeren has been reborn through Cloud9's weird and wonderful system, reaching a new peak nearly eight years in his career with hardware to prove it. Svenskeren has also defined the style for Cloud9 for the majority of the summer, outpacing his peers in the Jungle and snowballing his advantage through the Mid Lane to get Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer an early advantage.
Nisqy plays almost exclusively melee champions for optimal skirmish potential for Svenskeren and himself, which puts him in the perfect position to shadow Svenskeren as the duo tears around the map through aggressive side lane tower dives. Cloud9 is the most aggressive team in the LCS, which is reinforced by Nisqy's possession of the most kills in the LCS Summer Split at 81, and Support Tristan "Zeyzal" Stidham's highest Assist total in the LCS at 185.
Group A will be a total bloodbath as all four teams love to fight right from the one minute mark (and sometimes sooner). Cloud9 shouldn't have much trouble on an individual level alone against HKA, but its performance against 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champion G2 Esports at Rift Rivals 2019: NA vs. EU was subpar at best. It's worth nothing Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi was unable to start due to illness, and the rest of the team played poorly due to illness as well.
Still, G2 comes into the group as the favorite. Thus, the most interesting matchup for Cloud9 lies in the form of Griffin. Despite being one of the youngest rosters at the tournament, Griffin can boast as much talent as any other Worlds 2019 favorite. However, the team's youth has been an issue in best-of-five series, and while the Worlds Group Stage is a best-of-one format, the new environment of the major international stage may play a factor in Griffin's likelihood of escaping from Group A.
Cloud9 matches well into Griffin stylistically, though Nisqy will have his hands full withstanding the utter onslaught Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon. However, if the two teams were to meet for the 2nd seed in some type of tie-breaker situation for Group A, a Jungle showdown between Svenskeren and generational talent Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong would be a sight to behold.
After being acquired mid-Summer Split by the Dignitas organization, Clutch Gaming transformed. The 9th place Spring Split team caught fire, qualifying for Summer Playoffs and finishing in the top 4 to qualify for the LCS Regional Final.
CG ran the entire gauntlet of the Regional Final, defeating FlyQuest, Counter Logic Gaming, and TSM to qualify for the 2019 World Championship as the LCS #3 seed.
Clutch Gaming hacked its way through Play-In Group A and defeated TCL champion Royal Youth 3-0 in the Play-In Knockout Stage. In eliminating Turkey from Worlds 2019, Clutch Gaming punched its ticket to the main event Group Stage. Seeded into Group C with LCK champion SK Telecom T1, LEC #2 seed Fnatic, and LPL #2 seed Royal Never Give Up, CG has its hands full if Dignitas plans to be represented in the Worlds 2019 Knockout Stage.
Mid Laner Tanner "Damonte" Damonte is the heart and soul of Clutch Gaming, giving many a spirited speech to teammates and fans alike. Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon is the sharpest spear the team has in its arsenal, and with his recent level of play, a world class performance would not be out of left field.
However, the nucleus of Clutch Gaming resides in the Bot Lane. AD Carry Sun "Cody Sun" Li-Yu. Even before Clutch caught fire, Cody Sun was quietly having an excellent season. Fortunately, as Clutch continued to improve, the young marksman's performance did not go unnoticed, and Cody Sun earned himself 3rd All-Pro LCS ADC honors.
Cody Sun and Support Philippe "Vulcan" Laflamme serve as the balance to the wanton aggression of CG's solo laners, often playing safely in lane for Cody Sun to become the team's late game insurance policy on a hypercarry marksman. However, a common misconception is that Cody Sun is a cleanup AD carry because of his role on Clutch and his playstyle. This is simply not the case.
In the 2019 LCS Summer Split, Cody Sun led the LCS in both CS Differential at 10 (+9.7) and CS per Minute (9.6). Even when Clutch was faltering, Cody Sun continued to put up numbers. However, as CG improved, its ability to play around its AD Carry improved. Towards the end of the Summer Split Cody Sun became more than just an insurance policy; he was now a point of strength.
In the Summer Playoffs, Cody Sun led all players in Damage per Minute at 651, Kill Participation at 74.6%, and KDA at 9.6. Cody Sun's absurd consistency is exactly what Clutch Gaming was missing this spring with Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin in the Bot Lane, and is a huge part of its Worlds 2019 qualification.
If looking back at Clutch Gaming's past few months conjurs fond daydreams, then there is no ruder awakening than Group C. It doesn't matter how the group is stylistically sliced: on its best day, Clutch Gaming is still the heavy underdog. The players on Clutch Gaming admitted themselves that the team was not playing to its own standard. Jungler Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo struggled heavily in the first round robin of Play-In Group A, but managed to pick things up as the stage continued.
LirA looked the best he has on Clutch Gaming in the 2019 LCS Summer Playoffs, looking significantly better in a best-of-five format than in best-of-one. After CG defeated TSM in the LCS Summer Quarterfinals, LirA explained how he feels playing in a bo5 benefits him as a player:
"In a best-of-five, if you lose a game you can understand how your opponent is strategizing against you. After a game, I can change my playstyle and adjust to the way the opponent is playing.
It's kind of easy to catch up if you can learn a lot strategically from the first game and know when to change your own strategy or stick with the same plan. I have a lot more options in bo5s in how I can play when compared to bo1, since the latter is just a single game."
Since the start of the summer, LirA is 12-3 on Skarner, including 6-0 in the 2019 LCS Regional Final. However, LirA did not play The Crystal Vanguard a single time in the Worlds 2019 Play-In. The current Jungle meta features more carry options than the meta of the Summer Split, but a return to Skarner could provide Clutch Gaming with a stable, familiar pick for LirA in the first Worlds appearance of his eight year career.
Bring on the Group Stage
In a meta defined by individual styles and regional differences, it is vital that the North American teams at Worlds can stick to what has worked for them on a domestic level while seamlessly facelifting the team's style of play around those points of strength to be optimal for the current meta. It's a tough balance to strike, and certainly easier said than done.
However, an exit from Group D in the form of a 1st or 2nd seed is Team Liquid's to lose. DAMWON Gaming may be able to best the pride of North America, but the current form of Invictus Gaming should not be enough to send Team Liquid home early barring a massive underperformance form the LCS champion.
Cloud9 have slightly lesser chances, but seem eager to play in a group that confirms to its chaotic, bloody style of play. If Cloud9 can match the aggression of G2 and Griffin, it may be able to steal some wins away through international experience and the team's knack for a curveball or two on the Worlds stage. The odds are stacked heaviest, Clutch Gaming in Group C, but given the team's recent history, nothing is out of the realm of possibility for the LCS cowboys.
The 2019 League of Legends World Championship Group Stage kicks off on Saturday, October 12 in Berlin, Germany at 14:00 local time. The first match for North America will be the second game of the day as Clutch Gaming will face off against Royal Never Give Up.