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Using gold distribution to understand team dynamic: Global, NA LCS, and LPL

by theScore Staff Jun 26 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / theScore eSports

When many fans think of a "super team" for the LCS, LPL, Champions, or LMS, their immediate thought is to take the best carry player from each role and place them on a single team. To do so would mean neglecting the effect gold distribution has on team dynamic.

The position the team funnels gold into the most dictates a team's playstyle. Players in other roles, as a result of limited resources, need to develop a level of comfort playing from behind in many instances. Often, players who receive more ganks will get more kills and more gold to carry.

In order to investigate exactly where teams around the world distribute their gold resources, I've compiled the gold distribution per role for all 50 teams in the five major League of Legends leagues. The first step is to notice regional meta differences based on the average gold distribution per role and then take a deeper look at the diversity within each league to compile a list of gold "winners" in each role and gold "losers" then re-evaluate our expectations for their performance.

A note on methodology

As a small note on methodology, there's a difference in calculation of gold distribution. Data taken from OraclesElixir.com for LCK, LMS, NA and EU LCS are based on an average of the gold distribution per game. Since OraclesElixir publishes the average per game gold distribution, role gold distribution is calculated by multiplying the number of games a single player in a role has played for his team by his gold distribution, adding them together, and finding the total average for the role on the team.

LPL data are weekly average gold distribution data. Because I only am able to pull data each week from the LPL website, gold distribution for LPL players are based on weekly averages. If a player plays six games that week, six is multiplied by their total gold distribution for the week and the weekly average gold distribution is found in this way.

I suspect there will be some slight differences in values based on the difference in calculations, but they won't be significant enough to impede meaningful comparisons.

Also note that all data exclude per game starting gold and latent gold earnings every 1.9 seconds after the first 90 seconds.

Reading radar charts

This investigation includes a lot of radar charts. In order to read the radar charts, remember that the orange lines always represent the average percentage of team gold granted to a team's role. The blue lines represent that of the region or team.

In the LPL example below, the orange represents the global average, and the fact that jungle, top, and ADC values are outside the orange suggests that those roles in LPL on average receive more of their team's gold than the global average. The fact that support and mid are inside the orange line suggests that those roles receive less of their team's gold than the global average.

Impact roles in LCS, LPL, LCK, and LMS

To draw comparisons across regions, the gold distributions, that is percentage of team gold received for each role, is averaged. This is conducted across 50 teams. The resulting average for each region and internationally is listed here:

Role NA LCS LPL EU LCS LCK LMS Global Average
Top 21.18% 21.47% 21.07% 21.93% 20.92% 21.33%
Jungle 17.36% 17.75% 17.35% 17.46% 17.58% 17.50%
Mid 24.63% 24.51% 25.15% 25.31% 25.51% 24.98%
ADC 26.34% 26.29% 26.07% 25.96% 25.42% 26.04%
Support 10.33% 9.99% 10.26% 9.39% 10.18% 10.02%

Expressed visually in a bar chart, we can easily see which regions tend to focus more of their teams' gold resources into which roles.

%Gold distribution difference from global role average

Immediately, we observe certain trends. Top lane receives above the global average in team gold for LPL and LCK teams, and top laners receive the highest proportion of team gold in the LCK. By contrast, supports in LCK receive very little of team resources compared to the global average.

North American teams tend to give their supports the largest proportion of team gold relative to the role average, but solo lane gold is below average. North American teams also tend to contribute a larger proportion of their team gold to AD carries than any other region.

The European LCS allocates most of the team gold to the bottom lane and and the mid lane, but top laners and junglers receive below the global average of team resources.

LMS teams focus much more on the mid lane and the jungle than any other role. Though their AD carries receive well below the average in global gold, their supports enjoy a proportion of team gold above the global average.

In the LPL, junglers are the biggest winners, receiving a large percentage of team gold above the average. Top laners and AD carries are also a large focus. Despite the vast mid lane talent in LPL, however, mid laners tend to receive below the global average in proportion of team gold.

In general, LPL and LCK are the most well-rounded gold distribution regions in that one role takes a hit so that the remaining four roles receive close to the global average. In the case of the LCK, supports sacrifice more resources for carry threats and itemizers to get an advantage.

In LPL, where a large quantity of well-known carry junglers and supports tend to roam to get kills, so the mid lane role tends to receive a lower proportion of team gold. The LPL meta has long been based around using a front line to help an AD carry position in team fights, so top laners and AD carries will receive gold distribution above the global average.

LMS teams are often focused on mid and jungle synergy with supports roaming mid to set mid laners ahead. This is reflected in the data with all three roles receiving above average gold distribution in those roles.

Along with Western teams, LMS teams have more lopsided gold distributions, focusing on two or three roles in particular. Strong European teams are made strong by powerful top laners, but those players are the exceptions rather than the norms. Most European teams focus heavily on getting their mid laners ahead, and most kills go to AD carries in cleanup after burst damage is dealt.

North American gold distribution is extremely bottom lane heavy. Bottom lane 2v2s snowball games, and the damage from AD carries become the most important assets in North American LCS teams.

North American LCS "Winners" and "Losers"

In looking at gold distribution of individual teams, we compare the percentage of team gold to the regional averages. As such, we learn that Gravity's Altec receives about 2.5% more of his teams' gold than the North American LCS average for an AD carry of 26.34%. This makes him the AD carry that earns the highest proportion of team gold in the region.

Role Lowest Value Highest Value
Top Cloud9 19.10% Gravity 23.5%
Jungle Gravity 15.5% Team Dragon Knights 18.6%
Mid Gravity 22.1% Team SoloMid 26.7%
ADC Team SoloMid 24.4% Gravity 28.8%
Support Team Dragon Knights 8.3% Team Impulse 11.6%

Gravity is very top and AD carry-heavy to the expense of both their jungler and mid lane gold income. Both Hauntzer and Altec have gained a lot of praise lately for their performances, but within the context of their gold income, this is to be expected. They're able to be efficient with their gold resources.

Keane and Move, by contrast, receive the lowest percentage of team gold for their roles, and yet don't seem like liabilities. If a team is able to allocate gold to members who can carry with it and have other roles that play well with fewer resources, that makes for an effective dynamic, and that's part of why we see Gravity climbing the standings.

Cloud9's top laner, Balls, receives the lowest percentage of team gold of any top laner in the North American LCS and he's received a fair amount of criticism for it lately. In the past, Cloud9 has had a much heavier top lane carry focus. Meteos was known to apply a lot of pressure in the top lane during a period when Cloud9 was at their most successful.

With the introduction of Incarnati0n and Sneaky's improved performances, Balls receives less of his team's gold. Sneaky receives the second highest percentage of team gold of any AD carry in the league at 28.2% and Incarnati0n is tied for second highest percentage of team gold for mid laners with XiaoWeiXiao at 25.7%. Since Balls has only had powerful performances lately on Rumble, it's possible some of Cloud9's problems derive from this resource allocation.

Balls is a player used to higher gold income values, and he began to struggle with lower gold income in the lane swap meta last year. It's possible Balls is a player who struggles to impact the game from behind, making him a bad fit for a team with a mid or bottom lane focus.

Team Dragon Knights has struggled with a lot of roster instability, but Seraph and Kez remain staples of the team, so it's unsurprising that most of the resources would go to the team's reliable members. Seraph is just behind Hauntzer in earning 23.2% of team gold, and Kez receives the highest proportion of team gold of any jungler at 18.6%. So far the team has not been able to win any games, as there's very little consistency as to how the mid and bottom lane subs fit into this dynamic.

It comes as no surprise that Team SoloMid's Bjergsen receives the majority of his team's resources. In a region that allocates the least amount of resources to mid laners globally, Bjergsen has the highest proportion of mid lane team gold at 26.7%.

This lends some credibility to the idea that TSM struggles internationally because they don't face a lot of mid lane competition. Bjergsen receives more gold in the mid lane in a region where mid laners in general receive less jungler attention and team resources, making his carry job easy against weak competition.

By comparison, WildTurtle has received fewer team resources than any other AD carry in the league. A recent analysis of AD carry damage pits Turtle as responsible for the lowest proportion of his team's damage, but this is in line with the fact that he is also the AD carry who receives the lowest proportion of gold resources. WildTurtle's positional flaws are obvious, but that doesn't encompass the full picture. With less itemization, it should be expected that WildTurtle serves as only a damage footnote in Bjergsen's shadow.

TSM's decision to try out Keith makes sense in this context, as Keith was seen as a self-sufficient AD carry for Liquid who allowed other roles to soak up resources. While WildTurtle sometimes over-extends to try to carry with fewer resources and fails, Keith might excel, but only watching him play on the team will give us an answer. I don't expect his damage output contribution to be much of an improvement over Turtle's within TSM's team dynamic.

The support that receives the highest percentage of team gold is Team Impulse's Adrian. TiP has a reputation for low bottom lane synergy, and Adrian is often known to leave lane and roam the map. He's involved in a lot of kills in the mid lane, and he has the second highest kill participation of supports in the League.

I don't particularly think much needs to be said about the low gold income value of Team Dragon Knights' support. Of the fifty teams covered, the support role on TDK receives the lowest percentage of team gold.

As the team currently ranked first in the North American LCS, CLG is worthy of special treatment. It's unsurprising that Aphromoo and Doublelift receive above average gold distribution for their role, but Xmithie is the real surprise. This seems to be a byproduct of frequent bottom lane ganks leading to assist bonuses.

Pobelter and ZionSpartan are on the lower end of the regional spectrum for gold distribution. Pobelter's 23.3% of team gold pits him just behind Keane as the mid laner with the second lowest percentage of team gold. ZionSpartan's 20.2% ties him with Dyrus as the second lowest gold earner proportionally in the top lane.

In this context, ZionSpartan and Pobelter have both performed exceptionally well. As always, CLG places most of their emphasis on Doublelift and setting him ahead. CLG will crumble if he doesn't have the agency to carry and Zion and Pobelter have to work doubletime to do so.

As for Xmithie, it seems he could afford to take more agency after a successful gank than he has in the past, and an invade strategy on the bottom side of the map might be something worth exploring for CLG.

LPL's "Winners" and "Losers"

Ah, the League of Legends Pro League, now under the reign of Edward Gaming for nearly a year and a half. It's time to see whether their facade will crack.

Role Lowest Value Highest Value
Top LGD 19.97% Unlimited Potential 24.69%
Jungle Unlimited Potential 15.97% WE 19.87%
Mid Snake 23.40% LGD 25.81%
ADC Unlimited Potential 24.90% OMG 28.28%
Support WE 8.37% Royal Never Give Up 10.77%

The most widely varying roles are top lane, junlge, and AD carry, typically at the expense of the other in all cases except Snake, where U, the mid laner, has recently taken a back seat to the carry potential of Flandre.

At the start of the split, U was given a lot of resources to pick assassins like Leblanc, but lately Snake has given Flandre more carry freedom as they did when the team was in LSPL last year. The results have been very mixed, and they've experimented a lot more. Perhaps adjusting the formula in the long run away from Flandre will help them find some moderation.

The highest percentage of team gold values in the top lane and second highest in support (10.64%) are earned by Unlimited Potential. Loong and Heart have been functioning has the primary carries. Heart's tendency to roam a lot and put down opposing junglers gets him a lot of gold.

Since UP has transitioned to LPL, Loong has been the primary focus on champions like Fizz and Hecarim. Skatch has defaulted to more utility-based champions, including the Genja trademark blue Ashe, and he receives the lowest proportion of team gold of any AD carry in the league.

The highest percentage of team gold for supports in the league is held by Royal Never Give Up's LeY. Despite few taking notice, LeY has the highest kill participation of any player in LPL at 84%. High assist streaks allow him to rack up the gold in team fights.

Surprisingly, LGD's top lane rotating duo of Acorn and Flame receive the lowest percentage of gold resource of any top laners in the league. More and more focus has shifted to GODV this split, and his highlight reels often occupy Reddit's front page and PTL's Penta Plays. It's important to note that both Acorn and Flame have had solid carry performances with low gold resources.

The jungle with the highest percentage of team gold in LPL is also the jungler with the highest percentage of team gold in all 50 teams. WE's Spirit is pegged as the strongest jungler in the world, and lately WE has won six games in a row in LPL and Demacia Cup simply because opposing teams have stopped banning jungle champions against WE. It's unclear why exactly.

By contrast, Unlimited Potential's Eimy has struggled to have a game impact in the new meta. He's been known in the past as a carry jungle player, but he's been out of his element on tanks. The low gold percentage reflects a low impact, but Ekko has been good to him and things can yet turn around.

Uzi as the biggest AD carry gold winner in the league is also unsurprising. Every other role on OMG receives a lower percentage of team gold than the average, but Uzi's 28.28% reflects the team's tendency to camp his lane. OMG has done very well with Sivir compositions, and Uzi is often the only player in the lane when turrets fall. The junglers also gank bottom lane almost exclusively, telegraphing pathing for a countergank, resulting in a low first blood rate for OMG overall.

Things aren't all bad with Uzi. His tendency to get a lot of farm also boosts his gold values. WE's Conan, on the other hand, completely fails to have a positive impact as a support and has the lowest percentage of team gold of supports in LPL.

As for Edward Gaming, Meiko's and Clearlove's percentage of team gold have always been high. Last split, Koro1, pawN, and Deft had the lowest percentage of team gold of any players in their positions, and Clearlove's income put other junglers to shame at over 22% for the split.

His lower percentage of team gold this split reflects the fact that his early plays have been less effective, and opposing teams have begun to target him. Roaming supports make it difficult for Clearlove to conduct his business, and a lot of his moves have gone awry in the early game, forcing EDG to play from behind. EDG's all-or-nothing approach for Clearlove and Deft hasn't taken off this split, and the question is whether developing new talent will keep them on top.

Continued in Part 2

Special thanks to OraclesElixir.com for non-LPL statistics used in this article. All LPL data are manually collected form VODs or taken weekly form lol.tga.plu.cn.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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