Equipped with deeper pockets, a dragon mascot, and some of the offseason's most desirable talent, long-time LCK punching bag Incredible Miracle was reborn as Longzhu Gaming. With a 10-man roster that featured the likes of Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyung-woo and Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, the new-look squad entered the 2016 spring season with the LCK's most anticipated lineup.
Korea is in the midst of its second year without sister teams, which previously offered stability and structure to the world’s most talented players. Last year, Korea saw SK Telecom T1 make the most of this by swapping between mid laners Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, but on the whole, rotating rosters were not well-received as the constant swapping shattered the five-man team dynamic necessary to playing the game at the highest level. By LCK Summer 2015, most teams had settled on set rosters of five.
Longzhu Gaming took a different approach this past offseason, and thus far have only an eighth place finish to show for it. While other teams have coordinated lesser players into strong units with more definitive identities, Longzhu Gaming has struggled to find a five-man lineup that works for them, seemingly torn between their many available options. Looking deeper into the team's statistics reveals why they have such trouble choosing.
The whole of Longzhu Gaming
As a team, Longzhu Gaming lacks an identity. At first, the team rotated top laners, junglers, and mid laners, pairing them with AD carry Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyung-woo and support Kim “Pure” Jin-sun. Their alternate AD carry, Lee “Fury” Jin-yong, was banned until the waning games of the first round robin while alternate support Jang “Zzus” Joon-soo was presumably given a bit more time to acclimate himself to professional play.
Top laner Koo “Expession” Bon-taek, jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and mid laner Shin “CoCo” Jin-yeong played on the first line while Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, Lee “Crash” Dong-woo, and Kim “Frozen” Tae-il made up the team's second line.
Beginning with their Week 4 series against CJ Entus, Longzhu committed to swapping back and forth between these two sets of players. The team looked all the better for it, improving each line’s respective synergy against lesser opponents like the Kongdoo Monster and SBENU Sonicboom before taking out SK Telecom T1 in Week 6. Each line slowly grew together, and while teamfighting was never Longzhu's forte, the lines began to gel into more coordinated units. It was almost as if Longzhu was in the process of forming two sister teams.
Following a 2-1 loss to KT Rolster in their final series of the first round robin, Longzhu changed their strategy from two lines and scrambled their roster further by adding Fury to the mix (which resulted in an 0-2 loss to first-place ROX Tigers). Since then, the team's performances have been been nothing short of uninspiring, with a glaring lack of cohesion regardless of who they decide to field.
This lack of synergy has led to mediocre statistics that are only impressive in regards to how average they are. Their gold difference at 10 minutes is 390, which is slightly above average since Longzhu’s players are all strong laners. This number is further inflated by Crash, who is Korea’s top farming jungler with an average of seven CS and 324 gold ahead of his opponent at 10 minutes. They have the third-highest average game time of any team in Korea at 39.4, with only CJ Entus and the Jin Air Green Wings ahead of them. CJ’s bread and butter is scaling into the late game for 5v5 fights, while Jin Air plays more cautiously than any other team, often to a fault. Unlike either of these teams, Longzhu’s long games come from their inability to coordinate with one another, even when they have a lead. Longzhu’s objective control is slightly worse than average – again, indicating how they don’t effectively communicate with one another – with a 48 percent dragon control rate (seventh in Korea), 53 percent first Baron rate (fifth), 45 percent first turret rate (eighth), and a 45 percent first dragon rate (eighth).
Individuals by the numbers
Looking at individual statistics reveals a bit more about Longzhu as a team, but gives little in the way of which five-man permutation is optimal. Based on winrate alone, Crash takes top honors for Longzhu at 64 percent across 11 games played. With previous experience in the LSPL last year, 2016 marks Crash’s first full professional season and he’s performed admirably to say the least. The young jungler is a good fit for Longzhu as his jungle style is fairly separate from his team as a whole, acting as a fifth laner at times (particularly on Nidalee). He has the lowest first blood participation (18 percent) of any jungler in Korea but has one of the highest damage percentages relative to his team at 19 percent. Only Samsung Galaxy’s Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong does a higher percentage of his respective team’s damage and the two are similar in their heavy farming style. Crash has a middling kill participation at 72.6 percent (seventh of all junglers in Korea), and will still try to exert early pressure on his opponent, even if he’s not paying as much attention to Longzhu’s lanes.
In the context of the rest of Korea, Longzhu’s average kill participation across all starting members is a low 67.7 percent, with the highest team in the league at 74.9 percent (CJ Entus). Chaser and CoCo participating the most in fights and skirmishes with 74.8 percent and 73 percent participation respectively. A Chaser team is dramatically different from a Crash team, as Chaser is involved in nearly everything his team does while he’s on the Rift, a trademark of his since last year with the Jin Air Green Wings. While Crash has the lowest first blood percentage of all starting junglers, Chaser has the third-highest at 41 percent.
Chaser also has one of the lowest winrates on his own team (41 percent across 22 games played), second only to AD carry Fury (14 percent). Longzhu’s teamfighting is not strong, so the team excels in smaller skirmishes, or in poke battles where they can whittle away turrets rather than opponents. A high kill participation on this team means very little since this advantage is not translated into wins.
Considering their affinity for poke and inability to coordinate fights, Longzhu should be shoo-ins for split-pushing with their top or mid laners continuously pressuring side waves. However, their Teleport usage as a team is suspect, and they often lose pressure off of indecisive calls — particularly in the mid-to-late game. Split-pushing, much like teamfighting, requires some semblance of a team dynamic which Longzhu woefully lacks. Both Expession and Flame accrue early advantages through laning with the second and third highest CS differentials at 10 minutes on their team at 6.6 and 4.8 respectively. Expession leads all top laners in LCK Spring 2016 with this statistic, and Flame isn’t too far behind him in fourth place. Similar to Longzhu’s other individual statistics, these early advantages rarely result in any sort of team advantage due to Longzhu’s inability to coordinate well enough to close out a game.
One of the primary concerns when studying this roster on paper is how a team with so many stars who need gold will manage to satisfy all of them in an efficient manner. However, Longzhu’s gold is allocated similarly regardless of who is starting that day, organized like most teams with their two AD carries at the top of the in-game payscale and their supports at the bottom. Having Crash in game takes a bit more from Longzhu's carries, since he acts as another laner and is given a large amount of farm.
|Name||Position||Percentage of Team Gold|
|Cpt Jack||AD carry||23.8%|
Cross-referencing this with damage output and percentage, Fury tops the charts in both percentage of damage for his team (32.6 percent) and damage per minute (599). Fury’s mistakes have been glaringly obvious in game – mispositioning in fights, summoner spell misuse – and he’s struggled to acclimate to professional play once more. In spite of contributing the least to Longzhu’s overall deaths at 14 percent, these deaths often come at crucial times, giving immediate advantages to Longzhu’s opponents. CoCo does the next largest amount of damage per minute at 561 and the third-highest percentage of Longzhu’s total damage at 28.9 percent. Combined with his high kill participation for the team, CoCo is an incredibly important piece of the team when he starts, but has also mispositioned in teamfights as of late, even on his signature champions like Azir. Cpt Jack is close to CoCo in both damage per minute (553) and deals more of his team’s damage at 29.4 percent, but has a significantly lower kill participation at 62.6. Fellow Longzhu AD carry Fury sits at 67.9 percent, showcasing the differences between the two. While Fury is more involved but makes fight-changing errors, the team doesn’t get Jack involved enough, so his resources often go to waste.
None of Longzhu’s players are known for being particularly economical, and resource allocation was a concern for this roster, even on paper. More importantly is the fact that resources on Longzhu are all too often resulting in losses rather than wins.
Sadly for Longzhu, none of their individual successes mean much without team coordination. They still boast some of the best talent in the league, but if that doesn’t translate into victory it’s all for naught. Their more recent, continuous shuffling of players suggests that the team is still scrambling to find the perfect permutation that works for them, even this late in the season.
Currently, the team sits in eighth place, as they were recently taken over by the Afreeca Freecs (thanks to Longzhu’s 0-2 loss to SK Telecom T1 and the Freecs' win against SBENU Sonicboom). The postseason is not statistically impossible for Longzhu, but their inconsistency and lack of identity combined with their current record would make such a feat a miracle. When compared to their closest counterparts in CJ Entus, Samsung Galaxy, and even the Afreeca Freecs, all of these teams have more cohesive team identities than Longzhu, even if their individual talent is weaker in comparison. Longzhu’s offseason acquisitions are impressive, but their inability to form even one definitive five-man lineup of their 10 available players continues to bode poorly for teams trying to hoard talent without the sister team structure to back them up.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore eSports. She's still waiting for Longzhu get it together. You can follow her on Twitter.