Low Economy, First Class: Jin Air's TrAce

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13.5.

That is the current highest KDA in Korea’s OGN Champions Spring 2016 after two weeks of play. Fresh off of his 15.8 overall KDA performances, the best of all regular starters at the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, SK Telecom T1 AD carry Bae “Bang” Junsik is an obvious candidate, yet he currently sits in second place to Mister 13.5, with an 11.0 showing across six games.

One would further assume a KDA this high is that of an AD carry or mid laner, as they are typically afforded the lion’s share of team gold, yet it belongs to a top laner. With former SK Telecom T1’s Jang “MaRin” Gyeonghwan left Korea, natural guesses fall to KT Rolster’s Kim “Ssumday” Chanho, ROX Tigers’ Song “Smeb” Kyungho, or even MaRin’s replacement, former NaJin e-mFire top Lee “Duke” Hoseong. All of these aforementioned tops had breakout years in 2015, particularly Smeb and Ssumday; however, Mister 13.5 is none of the above.

The owner of the aforementioned statistic, on the precipice of his own breakout year, is none other than the Jin Air Green Wings’ generally apathetic-looking top laner, Yeon “TrAce” Changdong.

Naturally, KDA isn’t everything – in fact, many League statisticians would argue that it means next to nothing beyond a flashy number – and more remarkable are TrAce’s other Spring 2016 statistics. His average creep score differential at 10 minutes is 10.8, third best in Champions Spring to AD carry Bang (14.2) and Longzhu top laner Koo “Expession” Bontaek (15.2). In eight games, he’s only died four times and has an impressive 71.1 percent kill participation, second-best of all top laners outdone only by SBENU Sonicboom’s Lee “SoaR” Gangpyo with 71.4 percent.

What’s more interesting is how TrAce is achieving these numbers, eschewing the monikers of “low economy” and the more derogatory “washed up,” that were ascribed to him throughout the majority of both Champions 2015 seasons.

Last year’s Jin Air Green Wings roster was centered around mid laner Lee “GBM” Changseok. A shoo-in for Korea’s most-improved player had Smeb not existed, GBM showed up to 2015 Champions with a more diversified champion pool than in years past. This was coupled with a newfound ability to not only hold his own in lane, but steadily accrue advantages on his opponents until late where he boasted monstrous performances on the likes of Xerath, Ahri, and Viktor. GBM was complemented by the Green Wings’ bot lanes, where the team swapped between their two AD carries, veteran Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyungwoo and up-and-comer Na “Pilot” Woohyung, and two supports, Lee “Sweet” Eunteak and Choi “Chei” Sunho. The entire team was brought together under the constant guidance of jungler Lee “Chaser” Sanghyun, who controlled the map and orchestrated the Green Wings’ early game. While Chaser, and the entire 2015 Jin Air team, often faltered in the mid game, they showed cool heads under pressure, often winning due to their resiliency come late game.

TrAce was a crucial part of this game plan, but an oft-forgotten component of the Jin Air Green Wings. He rarely stood out, living up to his low economy label by receiving the least amount of relative gold of any starting top laner in the regular season at 20.2 percent. For reference, SK Telecom T1’s MaRin received 23.8 percent – the highest of all Korean top laners in Summer – while KT Rolster’s Ssumday was given 23.4 percent of his team’s gold. Jin Air hardly needed another carry, with GBM in mid, the Pilot or Cpt Jack rotation at AD carry, and Chaser receiving more relative gold than any other jungler in Champions Summer 2015. What they needed was someone who would not be a detriment to the team with a minimal amount of resources. TrAce fit himself into this role perfectly.

Of his 42 games in Champions Summer 2015, TrAce spent 17 of them on Rumble and 13 on Maokai for a combined 71 percent of his games on those two champions. While his top lane compatriots MaRin and Smeb also played these two for the majority of their Summer, their performances were supplemented by a larger quantity of resources – be that the previously-noted gold discrepancy or more jungle attention top – and a few more carry performances on the likes of Fizz, Riven, and Hecarim. TrAce stuck to those champions that Jin Air required him to play and still managed respectable numbers, finishing with a fifth-best KDA of Summer 2015 tops, and a strong 68.5 percent kill participation for his team, fourth-best for Korean top laners in Summer.

When it was announced this past offseason that teammates Cpt Jack and Chaser along with TrAce were simultaneously leaving the Jin Air Green Wings, most Jin Air fans mourned the loss of Chaser – one of the best junglers in the region alongside SK Telecom T1’s Bae “bengi” Seongwoong. There was also additional melancholy at Cpt Jack’s departure. Having built a longstanding fanbase since his Maximum Impact Gaming days, it was thought that he would likely retire from competitive gaming and attend university.

TrAce was all but forgotten, and attention quickly turned to the new Jin Air top, Kim “SoHwan” Junyeong. Formerly of Korean Challenger team Pathos, SoHwan was known as an aggressive Riven main, the perceived opposite of the low-economy and boring TrAce. Unfortunately, SoHwan’s recklessness and champion pool issues became immediately apparent during his appearances in both the KeSPA Cup and IEM San Jose. Much of his struggle was attributed to the lack of jungle presence, as Chaser’s prior substitute and now starter, Park “Winged” Taejin, also failed to make much of an impact on the map for SoHwan or the Green Wings.

About two-and-a-half weeks after his departure, TrAce re-signed with the Green Wings on Dec. 18, 2015, and it was thought that he would split top lane duties with SoHwan, presumably mentoring the rookie. In their first series of Champions Spring 2016, Jin Air still appeared undecided as to who they wanted to start top, swapping from SoHwan in Game 1 to TrAce in Game 2, both resulting in losses to Longzhu. However, against SK Telecom T1, the Jin Air Green Wings pulled out a two compositions that revolved around TrAce’s top lane Graves, a pocket pick for the versatile top. In a surprising 2-0 sweep of the reigning world champions

While many may point to the fact that Game 1 saw SK Telecom T1 start mid lane substitute Lee “Scout” Yechan and jungle substitute Kang “Blank” Sungu, this hardly takes away from TrAce’s monstrous 18 KDA across the two games, along with a 69.2 percent kill participation. Teams have subsequently banned or picked Graves away from TrAce in all but one of their following matches. These Graves performances were only the beginning of TrAce’s renaissance as a carry top, as he more recently boasted a 3/0/3 Quinn demolishing of e-mFire top laner Suk “Hipo” Hyunjun. TrAce also returned to top lane Morgana – another pocket pick – for a 1/1/13 showing against the Afreeca Freecs, in which his all-important Dark Bindings precipitated Jin Air teamfight wins and successful turret sieges.

TrAce’s recent carry performances mark a bit of a return to form for TrAce, whose initial 2013 Champions debut was accompanied by a reputation for odd, somewhat off-meta picks on which he could carry his team like Cho’gath or Rengar. On his first Champions team, AHQ Korea, in 2013 Spring, TrAce drew consistent top lane Rengar bans that carried over into Champions Summer 2013 and his ensuing time on the Jin Air Green Wings Stealths.

The 2014 Stealths are where TrAce first began to mold into a more utility top for his team, particularly when the resource-hungry Cpt Jack joined in late Jan. 2014, and Chaser was swapped over from the Falcons that May. In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the Stealths eked into the Champions Summer 2014 playoffs where they were promptly dispatched by Samsung Galaxy Blue in three games.

Even in the waning moments of the Summer 2014 group stages, the more talked-about Jin Air top was the talented Falcons’ Kim “Rock” Huichan, who retired shortly after the season to the disappointment of many. TrAce stuck with Jin Air when the Stealths and Falcons merged, fading into the aforementioned background with the rise of GBM and Chaser.

Now, in 2016, TrAce looks to reinvent his career once more, bursting back onto the scene as the quirky top he was previously for ahq Korea in 2013, before adapting to what his successive Jin Air squads required of him. Now, Jin Air has room for a more of a hard carry top laner, and while most looked him over for the Riven-main in SoHwan, TrAce has thus far proved that he can carry with the best in his region. TrAce may have been low economy for the past few seasons, but he’s always been world class.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Afreeca Freecs reverse-sweep Jin Air, advance in regional gauntlet

by 7h ago

The Afreeca Freecs reverse-swept the Jin Air Green Wings 3-2 in the LoL Champions Korea Regional Finals, keeping their World Championship dreams alive.

After a crushing defeat at the hands of Jin Air in the LCK Spring 2016 playoff gauntlet, Afreeca finally shed their playoff nerves, improving as the series wore on.

Things initially looked dire for the Freecs. Jin Air jumped out to a two-game lead, thanks to superior map play, stronger vision control, and — one Game 2 Baron call aside — better objective focus. Afreeca were caught out several times due to their poor vision, and ill-timed backs.

In Game 3, the Freecs pulled out AD carry Gwon "Sangyoon" Sang-yun's pocket on-hit Kog'Maw, improved their vision, and staved off what had previously looked like a certain Jin Air victory with a quick, 31-minute win. Afreeca used this momentum to storm back and reverse-sweep Jin Air.

After a pause due to breathing issues prior to Game 3, mid laner Son "Mickey" Young-min was a large part of the Freecs' later victories, bringing out Taliyah and Karma in Games 4 and 5. Top laner Jeon "ikssu" Ik-soo also impressed on Gnar in Game 5, ending with a 4/0/3 scoreline.

Afreeca will play Samsung Galaxy on Thursday. The winner of that match will go on to face KT Rolster on Saturday in the regional gauntlet finals.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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HTC eSports: 'It is becoming difficult to justify our investments into the [LoL] scene'

by 4d ago

HTC eSports is the latest organization to comment on controversial statements made by Riot Games President Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and other Riot officials earlier this week about the long-term sustainability of League of Legends esports and its attractiveness to outside sponsors. In a statement on Facebook, HTC said that largely because of Riot's policies, it is becoming more difficult for mainstream sponsors to justify sponsoring teams in the LCS.

The post specifically addresses a Reddit comment made Wednesday by director of esports Whalen "Magus" Rozelle, which said Riot was opposed to a sponsor YouTube video made by Team SoloMid and HTC. The video shows TSM's LCS team playing the HTC Vive game Raw Data.

Magus said in his comment that the video was "a [tacit] advertisement for another game." "This is against LCS rules because LCS isn't a platform for other game companies to advertise on," he wrote. "Yes, this means there's a category that teams don't have access to but for any sport, letting quasi competitors advertise on the league doesn't make sense."

Rule 3.7 of Riot's official LCS rulebook states that teams are completely unrestricted in terms of what sponsors they are allowed to secure. Rule 3.7.6 lists "products or services from direct competitors" as one of the sponsors that are restricted in terms of being displayed by players at certain times, however the rule lists those times as: "the use or play of LoL, adjacent to LoL related material, the LCS, or any Riot-affiliated events."

While the rule does not explicitly ban players from participating in a video affiliated with what could be construed as a competitor, it does state that "LCS officials have the ability to update the category list at any time."

HTC said in its post that Riot threatened TSM with a fine if the video was not removed. The sponsor wrote that it was not "strategically trying to circumvent" Riot's policies, and that the video was part of a series which featured TSM's players playing various Vive games, which they claim the team chose themselves.

"Survios, the creators of Raw Data, did not make any financial investment into the production of the video, nor did they approach us to get it made," HTC wrote. "TSM selected Raw Data themselves after reviewing a list of Vive games as they felt it would resonate most with their fans."

HTC did admit that it is logical that Riot does not want LCS pros to bring attention to their competitors. However, they asked for a clarification of what Riot's policies explicitly prohibit. As an example, they asked what the difference is between an LCS player streaming Deus Ex and an LCS player making a YouTube video of them playing a Vive game. According to HTC, those kinds of questions are making it more difficult to justify their sponsorships in the League of Legends space.

"If Riot does not want us making videos that feature our sponsored players playing other games, we do not have many options for showcasing our products," HTC stated.

"Sponsors are now very limited in what we can do to market our brand and products while still supporting the League of Legends scene."

HTC also noted that the r/leagueoflegends subreddit does not allow HTC to post their LoL-themed ads, though Riot has no official affiliation with the subreddit, and their policies are outside of Riot's control.

"As one of the first major non-endemic sponsors in the West, we believe we have helped pioneer marketing in esports, and we’ve loved every second of it," HTC stated. "But with less avenues for advertisement in League of Legends, stemming from the restrictions on the teams and players, restrictions on the subreddit, and the lack of available marketing opportunities at competitions, it is becoming difficult to justify our investments into the scene."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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MonteCristo on the LCS revenue debate: Riot's 'like some sort of f***ed-up tyrant Santa Claus'

by 6d ago

In a lengthy video posted Tuesday morning, OGN LoL caster and Renegades co-owner Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles weighed in on the debate that has broken out between LCS team owners and Riot Games about how teams and players earn revenue in LoL esports.

MonteCristo, whose LCS team was forced to disband earlier this year after Riot ruled it had inappropriate connections with Chris Badawi and Team Dragon Knights, was not shy about his frustration with how Riot's current policies have affected organizations' ability to generate revenue and pay their players.

"There has been no sponsorship revenue sharing for the league," he said. "The sponsors are tapped out. The endemic sponsors, they're not going to give any more money for League of Legends. Most teams are losing money, maybe one or two teams are making a razor-thin profit from LCS."

He claimed that Riot's policies about how and where an organization's sponsors can be featured has not only limited investments made by current sponsors, but has also made the LCS an unattractive option for potential new entrants.

The debate over how Riot's esports policies have affected team owners and outside investors broke into the public spotlight yesterday when Riot co-owner Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill replied to an interview with Team SoloMid co-owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh.

RELATED: TSM's Reginald responds to Riot's Tryndamere: 'It’s irrational to invest even more money into LCS, given how restrictive LCS is'

Reginald argued in the interview that Riot's decision to release a major patch after the LCS regular season, but ahead of playoffs and the World Championship, has hurt the high-level competitive environment. He said the constant reinvention of the game makes it hard for players to find consistent, healthy employment with a competitive organization.

Tryndamere countered in a written response on Reddit that Reginald had the power to decide how his players were reimbursed, and accused him of shifting profits to investments in other esports rather than paying more for LoL players.

MonteCristo rebuked Tryndamere in his video, saying that the money team owners use to pay players is ultimately controlled by Riot and that, in situations where Riot already provides money to players, they've chosen not to increase that amount.

"Maybe if you're concerned with the financial health of the players, Tryndamere, you should pay them more money," he said. "Maybe you should raise a stipend. You haven't raised a stipend for the players since 2013."

The Renegades owner argued that the rules surrounding sponsorships need to change to enable more outside investment, and that Riot should consider a revenue-sharing proposal that would see teams and players benefit from Riot's sponsorships. His video doesn't go into detail about what a solution might look like.

MonteCristo also claimed that the threat of relegation already forces teams to offer as much as they can to acquire the best players, so that they do not lose their LCS spot and forfeit their investment. "In a system where relegations exist, teams will always be trying to pay the players the maximum amount that makes sense, because otherwise you lose everything," he said.

He called Riot and Tryndamere hypocrites, claiming that they were telling teams to spend more on players while underpaying their own broadcast talent. MonteCristo and his fellow OGN casters have raised the issue of unfair treatment by Riot in the past, for example when they boycotted the Mid-Season Invitational for allegedly offering substandard wages. In a Tweet Monday morning, he said the current debate gave him more reason to believe a caster's union is needed.

In Tryndamere's original Reddit post, which he later edited, he suggested that Reginald and TSM were "losing money" by investing in other esports. MonteCristo attacked this statement in his video, saying there was no way for Riot to know whether teams were turning a profit from titles like Counter-Strike or Overwatch. (Renegades has an active roster in CS:GO.)

"I don't know how Riot got this idea," he said. "They never asked me, as a team owner, how I was doing, where my sponsorship money was coming from. And I would have told them that — for me personally and I think this is true for a lot of teams — that sponsorship in CS:GO and the potential of Overwatch was much more exciting for sponsors. And it was getting increasingly difficult to field good sponsorships and make good money off of an LCS team."

MonteCristo took special issue with a section of Tryndamere's response in which he separated teams into those with "good guy" owners like Reginald, and others at the "bottom end of the ecosystem."

"I hate this about Riot," he said. "They’re like some sort of f***ed-up, tyrant Santa Claus, where you get put on the naughty or nice list for all-time, and they decide ‘he is good, he is bad. I guess Regi’s one of the good guys. I don’t really know what that means in this context."

MonteCristo is unlikely to be the last to weigh in on the debate. Reginald posted a full response to Tryndamere's comments Tuesday, and commentator Duncan "Thorin" Shields has promised a video response in the near future.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury kindly asks you not to feed the Volibear. You can find him on Twitter.

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CJ Entus eliminate SBENU Korea from LCK Promotion Tournament

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After a disappointing loss to Kongdoo Monster, CJ Entus kept their LCK hopes alive with a 2-0 sweep over SBENU Korea in the LoL Champions Korea Spring 2017 Promotion Tournament Monday.

Game 1 went to CJ thanks to a poor 22-minute SBENU Baron call that netted CJ top laner Park "Shy" Sang-myeon's Gangplank a Quadra Kill in a team ace. Shy ended the game with a 4/0/2 scoreline.

Gangplank went over to SBENU top laner Seo "Soul" Hyeon-seok for Game 2, but CJ persevered thanks to AD carry Ha "Kkramer" Jong-hun's aggressive Sivir play. Their victory wasn't without its hiccups — CJ went down to SBENU early and lost a baron to Sung "Flawless" Yeon-jun.

CJ will face the loser of the winner's bracket final between ESC Ever and Kongdoo Monster on Aug. 27

CJ Entus entered League of Legends in May 2012 but didn't gain popularity until they picked up the former Azubu Frost and Blaze teams in early 2013. The highest finish by either of these teams was Blaze's second-place to MVP Ozone in Champions Spring 2013. Following the sister team merger in the 2014-15 offseason, CJ finished in third and fourth place in LCK Spring and Summer 2015 respectively. They entered this tournament coming off of their worst split in the organization's history, finishing in last place in LCK Summer 2016.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Assessing the effects of Patch 6.15

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen 5d ago

When Riot announced its plans for the 6.15 patch, designed to neuter the tower-trading lane swaps that had become so commonplace in professional play, there were a range of reactions. The lane swap appreciation club, consisting mostly of analysts, writers and other professionals, expressed their discontent, but it was clear to most that something needed to change. The move to lock in standard lane matchups was always intended for the less-hardcore parts of the esports audience, anyways, so Riot pressed on and put the changes into place, after toning them down with some compromises.

Riot’s main goal was to make the early game more exciting to watch, with more champion interaction. Underlying that goal was the desire for professional play to look more similar to the 1v1/2v2 lanes that the average player finds when they queue up to play at home.

There have now been 101 games played on patch 6.15 across the five major pro leagues, and while there have been some negative consequences to the loss of lane swaps, Riot has overall seen its goals come to fruition.

Early-Game Action

LPL data is not available.

While professional viewers and the most hardcore fans may miss the strategic depth of lane swaps, patch 6.15 is paying dividends when it comes to early-game combat. Patch 6.15 has seen noticeable increases in kills during the first 10 to 15 minutes of games, especially in the LCK.

Overall, there has been a six percent increase in the number of kills before the 10-minute mark, and a nine percent increase at 15 minutes. The trends have been consistently upwards across the major regions, but with the number of games played per region still being relatively low, each league has seen some variation in the time periods in which its kills are coming in.

NA LCS EU LCS LCK LMS
Increase in kills at 10 mins 11% 24% 16% 0%
Increase in kills at 15 mins 9% 4% 37% 13%

For what it’s worth, the action is kicking off at similar times pre- and post-6.15, when it comes to First Blood. First Blood has been arriving only a few seconds later, overall, at 7:14 on 6.15 compared to 7:07 previously. That’s tied to much earlier FBs in the LCK (6:27 compared to 7:09), but later FBs in the NA LCS (7:10 compared to 6:43).

Beyond the numbers, there has been a different feel to many early games, a greater sense of impending action. Some of that is perception rather than measureable reality, but the perception itself is what Riot was looking for. The feeling of higher-paced action is probably tied to the fact that the viewer spends more time watching the top and duo lanes interact in lane, trading damage with one another. Head-to-head laning at least allows for the possibility of fights and kills, so the viewer can experience some element of anticipation that lane swaps don’t allow. In standard lanes, there is also more opportunity for the junglers to attempt ganks, which adds to the viewer’s suspense as we wait to see which jungler will pull the trigger first.

A firm increase in early-game kills is good for the average viewer, but the suspense and anticipation that come from more direct player interaction in lane has been even more important in helping patch 6.15 reach its entertainment-value goals.

The Value of the First Tower

Among some parts of the fan base, the perception seems to be that 6.15’s addition of bonus gold for killing the first tower has created an overwhelming advantage that produces imbalanced snowballs, deciding games too early on.

That perception doesn’t match reality. First tower has always been a valuable objective, even during the days of lane swaps when the “first tower” was often traded immediately back by the opposing team. Prior to patch 6.15, the team that took the first tower won the game more than 60 percent of the time. On 6.15, that win rate has increased by four percentage points, a noteworthy number but not an astounding one.

The huge surge in first tower win rate in the EU LCS playoffs is offset by a drop in the NA LCS, where, for example, TSM recently took down CLG 3-0 while only taking the first tower in one of three games.

In fact, across the major regions so far on patch 6.15, the first tower has only been slightly more valuable than first blood. Taking down the first dragon is by far the best predictor of success.

It’s worth noting that the first dragon is a bit harder to come by on patch 6.15, since there are no lane swaps that used to sometimes allow one team to get a tempo advantage and use that to grab a free dragon at six or seven minutes into the game. In standard lanes, the team that takes the first dragon often has an advantage already, whether they’ve just won a teamfight, or have mid and bot lane shoved, or have maybe even just taken a tower to gain map control.

Overall, the first tower is a very important objective, but its importance hasn’t grown that much compared to previous patches. The gold bonus was added as an anti-incentive to prevent lane swapping, and the stats seem to show that it is achieving that goal without creating too much early-game snowballing.

Champion Diversity

Increased champion diversity in pro play is a value Riot has strived towards in the past, and unfortunately their push to encourage standard lanes has taken its toll in this area. When laning-phase counterpicks can’t be avoided by lane swapping, some champions become very difficult to draft safely. This was one of the feared consequences of the 6.15 patch, and the fears are being realized.

There have been 64 different champions played across the 101 patch 6.15 games so far, with 52 of those champions played more than once. That feels like a big decrease from the 107 champions played at least once throughout the regular season, 94 of which saw two or more games.

It’s more accurate, of course, to draw comparisons across patches, when the number of games played is more similar.

Patch Games Champions Played Champs Played 2+ Times
6.10 178 74 60
6.11 199 79 68
6.12 148 73 62
6.13 222 83 64
6.14 193 85 70
6.15 101 64 52

Reflects 2016 summer regular season, spring promotion tournaments, and playoffs, in the NA and EU LCS, LCK, LPL and LMS.

Patch 6.15 hasn’t yet reached the game count of the previous summer patches, but even so, it’s clear that the unique champion count is lagging behind. To reach similar diversity levels to what we saw in the regular season, the remaining LCS and LPL playoff matches will need to feature 10 or more new champions that haven’t featured in the playoffs so far. That’s very unlikely to happen.

With a few small patches still to come between now and the World Championships, there will be opportunities for Riot to hopefully nudge some additional champions into the meta. We aren’t going to see the kind of diversity we might have wanted, but let’s be honest — as long as Mordekaiser isn’t around, we won’t have that much to complain about.

The Blues: Map Side Imbalance

The move towards standard lanes had some analysts declaring that the red side of the map would be heavily favored, since the last pick of the draft could be used to secure preferred lane matchups. The opposite has proven to be true, with blue side seeing its win rate in the five major leagues skyrocket from 53.1 percent pre-6.15 up to 60.4 percent on 6.15.

The biggest part of that increase has come from the LPL, where the team on the blue side has won 81.5 percent of the time on this patch. That’s a shocking number, compared to the LPL’s 56.5 percent blue side win rate on previous patches this split.

The reasons behind this imbalance, both overall and for the LPL outlier, are complex, and don’t just come down to simple draft order. I’ll leave it to others to dig in to the topic in greater depth, but it’s something Riot will need to keep an eye on in the lead up to Worlds.

Audience Appreciation

It’s unfortunate that champion diversity has been somewhat reduced, and that the blue side of the map is seeing greater advantages — for now, at least — but there have been plenty of reasons to appreciate the new balance Riot has struck. Overall the audience seems to be enjoying what they’re seeing.

Early returns suggest that patch 6.15 is achieving its goal of making the early game more exciting for the average fan to watch, with more interaction within the lanes. Meanwhile, the added first tower bonus gold has given the teams some incentive to be proactive in the early game, without resulting in the unstoppable snowballs that some people feared.

The outcome of changes like this aren’t as simple as “success” or “failure,” but the hope is that every time Riot shifts the game’s foundations, it results in progress rather than regression. That can never be fully known until we have the benefit of hindsight. The LCS and LPL finals, the regional tournaments and the World Championships will all have bearing on whether Riot stays its course with the enforcement of standard lanes, or whether they loosen their grip on the meta game heading into the offseason and the next year of competitive play.

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs OraclesElixir.com, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.

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