It's that time of year again — time to draft a fantasy LCS team.
And so, to help you on your quest for fantasy domination over your friends and family, here is a statistical analysis of fantasy LCS drafting.
Keep in mind that this is primarily a thought experiment designed to help you make informed decisions come draft day, and relies heavily on statistical trends that may not reappear this year. Drafter's digression is advised.
Note: All fantasy numbers referenced in this article are from the 2015 Summer Split Round Robin and exclude, unless otherwise stated, all players with less than 10 games played.
Know Your Priorities
When drafting a team, it's important to understand who provides the most value as a pick and how highly to prioritize certain roles. This will help you make the most out of every round and every player.
A look at the numbers proves that the most valuable position is a no-brainer: the top four scorers in terms of points per game were all AD carries. However, this fact also comes with a catch, as the AD carry role also has one of the largest point gaps between its top scorers and its middle-of-the-pack point getters.
For example, the difference between the top scoring ADC (Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng) and the number eight ranked player (Zach "Nien" Malhas) is nearly 6.91 points per game, among the largest gap for a similar comparison at any position.
It boils down to this: not only are the best AD carries statistically more valuable than any other player, but the gap between a top tier AD carry and a mid tier AD carry is the most significant of any role. Numerically, your first priority should be to identify the top four or five ADCs and pick them as early as possible. In terms of raw numbers, this strategy makes the most sense.
Based on this theory, the next priority is not mid laners, as you might expect, but supports. Not only is the gap between the most valuable support and the eighth-ranked support slightly larger to the one already discussed for AD carries at 6.93 average points per game, but the overall value of the better support is statistically much better than a comparable mid laner.
In terms of total points scored during the split, the difference between the top scoring support and the top scoring mid laner is only 5.56 percent, whereas the difference between the eighth-ranked support and the eighth-ranked mid laner is a massive 18.85 percent.
Furthermore, the gap between the highly ranked mid and the average mids is pretty low, at 4.29 points per game. Both of these numbers combine to indicate that it is mathematically superior to invest in a better support and settle for a "weaker" mid laner since the amount of points earned overall by the top two or three supports is more valuable than a top two or three mid laner.
That being said, mid laners still represented three of the top ten scorers overall, and as such are still valuable enough to be considered early on in the draft.
We now arrive at the final two roles, top lane and jungle. When speaking of junglers, the discussion is much the same as with mid laners, with one major exception: Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae. Rush is one of fantasy LCS' most significant statistical outliers. Not only is he the only jungler in the Top 10 in terms of average points per game, sitting at fifth overall, the next closest, Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera, is twentieth. In fact, Rush scored higher than any mid laner in the league and nearly as high as the top AD carries, which is extremely unusual for the jungle role.
As such, Rush (and any other players who might exceed their role) becomes overwhelmingly valuable, but those unable to select such a player should otherwise leave jungler to the later rounds. Leaving Rush aside and comparing the rest of the junglers, we can see the similarity to the mid lane in the sense that IWillDominate and the number eight ranked jungler, Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski, are only 4.09 average points per game apart. Generally speaking jungle is low-scoring role, so either seeking out the exceptional players or waiting until late are the two statistically sound courses of action.
Top lane isn't particularly thrilling, scoring slightly more points overall than junglers, but with still a manageable gap between the top and eighth-ranked players (5.64 points per game). In fact, in many ways the total points scored between mid laners and top laners is very similar, and given the current top lane-focused meta they become nearly even in priorities.
To summarize, based on the numbers the ideal order of priorities, in terms of position, goes AD carry, support, mid laner/top laner and finally jungler. This of course does not take into account outliers such as Rush, or any others who might over-perform, and whom can be given more priority based on instinct or preference. However, this list is a solid place to start from when considering potential fantasy selections. It's certainly not the be all and end all, but a though experiment that will help you wrap your mind around which role to take first and which to leave until later.
On the Subject of Teams
The question of when to takes teams is an interesting one, and largely based on personal preference. Statistically, teams are at best a middle to late round choice at best, with only Fnatic approaching an average of 20 points per game. The rest are scattered around between 16 and 12 points per game, significantly less valuable than a player overall. Furthermore, the gap between a top fantasy team and an average one is pretty minimal, about 5 points per game. This is comparable to the mid lane or top lane role, but teams have a much lower potential upside.
In my opinion, it's a much safer option to pick up a few of your bench players and settle for an average team. This is doubly so considering it's extremely unlikely more than 8 teams will ever be chosen, leaving more than 50 percent of the teams in the pool at the end of the draft for trades if needed. On the other hand, it's likely, assuming every person in the draft takes two mid laners, that only 20 percent of the talent pool for that role is left over (which will be the bottom of the barrel).
So, while teams can be a consistent source of points, generally speaking they aren't worth sacrificing a potentially useful bench player or jungler for. Keep an open mind when approaching teams, but picking one too early could come back to bite you.
Some Brief Advice
And finally, here are a few quick thoughts to keep in mind when approaching your fantasy draft. Some of them are common sense, but they might be helpful to you.
- Always Have a Plan B: Don't get caught up with your favorite players; it's a long draft and chances are a few of your "planned" picks will be taken out from under you. Be flexible and be prepared to pick a backup.
- Don't Shy Away from the Unknown: This year more than ever uncertainty is a fact of life surrounding the plethora of new players and teams. Instead of shying away from the new blood, consider taking a risk others might not be willing to. Teams such as Splyce, G2 eSports and Echo Fox might be hidden from view by the big names on the major teams. Take advantage of this confusion to potentially snag an All-Star in the late rounds.
- Balance Risk and Stability: Given the uncertainty of this season, consider creating a bench which compliments your starting roster's weaknesses. Gambling Rush will go huge again? Maybe take a more stable jungler in case he struggles. Don't know if Fnatic will live up to their 2015 performance? Look to a more known quantity. Risk has its rewards, but you have the slots to build in stability as well.