Quite a bit has changed for LCS North America and Europe coming into the 2017 League of Legends Championship Spring Split. Not only has there been significant roster changes, teams being bought, and a list of Korean talent imports, but there’s also been huge structure changes to the professional game that may change expected results more than we know. For those who keep up-to-date with LoL news they might already be aware of the following drastic changes but what we plan on looking at is how these changes affect winning and betting on LoL.
The Bo3 Format changes a lot
Arguably the most significant change to LCS in 2017 is both regions adopting the ‘Best of 3’ format for their season’s matches. It’s the foundation of my article ‘Betting Strategy for LCS Spring Split 2017’ and I believe will have the greatest impact on results for this Split. Riot moved away from the Bo1 format in Summer Split 2016 because they believed that while it was fast-paced, entertaining and important for developing League esports as a commonly watched sport, it meant that teams and players missed out on the benefits of having a longer series. For players; amassing professional tournament level experience where you learn from playing with and against the best. For teams; having the play time to develop team cohesion and prove yourself as the best in the region as well as being more prepared for MSI and Worlds.
2016 trialled Bo2 and Bo3 formats and the latter won the race for Riots vision of the future of LCS. Importantly for us, past experiences tell us a lot about the future and taking into account the Bo3 trial in NA we can get an idea of what the series will look like this Spring Split. The idea is that stronger teams are more likely to win their match in a Bo3 series than in a Bo1. If we assume that the betting favourite is the stronger team (not always true but typically accurate) then in NA Summer Split 2016 we see 78% of stronger teams winning across the season compared to 64% in the NA Split that preceded it.
Consider it anecdotally. When you’ve played against a team that you knew was stronger than yours would you rather have play them once or three times? While a head-to-head is 50/50 in terms of its outcomes, there is always weighted chance on one side or the other and your chance of winning grows smaller every time you have to beat a better team more than once. So expect to see less upsets and more team dominance with those familiar names that often sit on their respective regional thrones.
Beyond just short-term wins, a much longer series means steeper learning curves for new players in the competitive scene but we may see their full potential come to fruition much sooner than in the past. Players like Contractz, for example, with the comprehensive support of the C9 organisation around him and almost twice as many games to compete in the highest tournament level of competition may prove to be more valuable as the season progresses than they have been in other splits. For Challenger teams or teams with many younger players, their road will be a tough one.
The Buff to Banning will help stronger teams
Moving on to the changes to Picks and Bans we’ll be seeing the introduction of a 10 champion ban stage during the tournament draft in LCS this year. The structure will be as follows; the usual 6 champion banning stage followed by the first three picks from each team in the usual tournament draft order, then each team has a chance to ban 2 more champions starting with the team that banned second originally, then the pick phase continues from where it left off with the last two picks for each team.
How will it affect winning and betting? My prediction is that the distinguished organisations with more backing are going to lay down the full weight of their analysts and coaches. Organisation and strategy in P&B is now twice as important as teams don’t only have more to play with, they also get to use their bans at more strategic times to counter particular team compositions and picks that might have an advantage over their own. This is where players with shallow champion pools can really suffer – especially if their team’s picking phase is weak and their opponent doesn’t need to react to a strong team composition.
The power of flex picking has been buffed dramatically this Split! As we saw over the introduction Week of LCS, bans 4 and 5 will be used to target roles that have not yet been selected. We saw WildTurtle in Game 1 of TSM v C9 resorting to a lower tier ADC pick in Kalista after C9 banned two top tier AD carries in the second phase of banning. This resulted in WildTurtle finishing the game with the least damage dealt between the two teams. Players and teams who can effectively use their picks to flex two or more different roles will take away the chance for their opponent to use bans 4 and 5 effectively.
In summary, changes to the format and to P&B appear to make strong teams stronger. We’re going to see less upsets and surprises in match wins with a Bo3 format. Organisations with proven coaches and analysts, usually the organisations with the money from a history of success in LCS, are going to benefit the most and suffer the least. And don’t forget to keep your eyes on those Challenger players who are stepping up for the first time!
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About The Author:
Theories and formulas by Jordan Mackenzie, Business graduate and lolesports fanatic. Oceanic League player who belongs in ELO Hell. Follow Jordan on Twitter to get the latest updates on his strategy.