The Deep Dive: Is Damonte better than Goldenglue?

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Is Damonte a better player than Goldenglue right now? That’s a question the Golden Guardians management must have mulled over pretty thoroughly during the past few weeks, as they made the somewhat surprising decision to buy Damonte from Dignitas, where he had been the star of their Academy team, and promote him back into the LCS.

Goldenglue seemed understandably discouraged by being replaced, tweeting: “I know that I’m an LCS caliber Mid, so I won’t stop fighting.”

Was it wise of the Golden Guardians to make this change? Will Damonte make their team better? And is Goldenglue really an LCS-caliber mid laner?

Who is better, Damonte or Goldenglue?

The core question here is whether Damonte or Goldenglue give Golden Guardians a better chance to win and climb the LCS standings. To answer that, we need to ask a) which player is better, and b) which player’s style might bring the most benefits for the GG roster?

First things first: comparing individual performance levels. Split by split statistics aren’t the cleanest way to compare Damonte’s and Goldenglue’s level of play, since Damonte was playing for DIG Academy while Goldenglue manned the mid lane for Golden Guardians in the LCS. But by looking a bit further back to 2019 Summer, when Goldenglue was in Academy and Damonte was in the LCS, we can at least get an interesting perspective to start the discussion.

Performance Over Last Two Splits

LCS, 2019 Summer
3.7 61.3% -324 8.3 368
LCS, 2020 Spring
2.4 65.9% -62 8.0 456
Academy Performance KDA KP GXD10 CSPM DPM
Academy, 2020 Spring
5.3 67.6% -18 8.1 537
Academy, 2019 Summer
4.9 62.2% +73 8.0 593

Statistically, Goldenglue’s laning and damage output tend to be better than Damonte’s at both the LCS and Academy levels, while Damonte posted stronger KDAs. From this perspective, Goldenglue looks like the superior choice. But if we went by numbers alone, what about Yusui’s Academy performance in 2019 Summer, with 5.2 KDA, +563 GXD10, and 623 DPM? There’s more to the story. (There’s also a strong argument for a team to pick up Yusui and let him legitimately compete for a starter spot, but I digress.)

Damonte’s play style makes him especially difficult to judge statistically. He is a heavy roamer, frequently sacrificing minion waves to control the river and make plays into the side lanes, with or without his jungler. He is also a primary playmaker, best known for fight-starting assassins like Qiyana with less time spent on control mages or heavy carries. That profile suppresses both his laning stats and his damage output numbers. All of that being said, his laning numbers could certainly be stronger, even given his style of play.

Goldenglue is a straight-up mid laner; he doesn’t come with a unique, distinctive play style like Damonte. He typically focuses on classic control mages (Zoe, Syndra, Orianna), with some assassin play mixed in on champions like Leblanc. A standard play style isn’t something to criticize, necessarily, but it does partly explain the gap between his and Damonte’s laning and damage numbers.

Beyond statistics, Goldenglue’s in-game impact tends to come more as follow-up rather than primary playmaking. This is the primary difference between him and Damonte. When Goldenglue is able to play behind Closer and provide supporting damage and CC, he can be a mid-tier LCS mid laner. When he’s asked to put himself forward, as a roamer or an engager, more mistakes tend to arise.

Damonte can make Golden Guardians better than they were with Goldenglue

Based on the numbers we’ve just looked at, and my own analysis of watching both players, Damonte and Goldenglue are quite close in general “performance level”. As noted, though, they have different play styles, and I believe Damonte’s play style is more valuable, given the state of pro LoL today.

Damonte was a crucial piece of Clutch Gaming’s surprising run to the World Championships in Summer 2019, precisely because of his play style. Team-oriented, self-sacrificial play is the hallmark of today’s mid lane. Look at players like the reigning World Champion, Doinb, or the LCS’s current best mid laner, Nisqy. Both are highly active on the map and play much more for team efficiency rather than personal efficiency, with creative champion picks and often relatively low farm numbers.

It would be a mistake to equate Damonte’s skill or execution level with either of those players, but he fits a similar profile and mindset. Goldenglue, by comparison, comes in a more standard mold.

The Golden Guardians are already receiving strong jungling from Closer. If they can harness Damonte’s unique strengths, there is good potential for them to get more value out of their underrated side laners, FBI and Hauntzer. That could definitely push the team further ahead in the standings.

Goldenglue still deserves an LCS spot

It remains to be seen where Goldenglue will end up for the Summer split, whether he competes on Golden Guardians Academy, works as a positional coach, or finds another LCS spot, like Pobelter eventually did. For my part, I still believe he is good enough to warrant a place as a starting LCS mid laner, at least given the current set of mids in the league.

This year, we have seen multiple LCS teams import relatively low quality mid laners from other regions, which reduces their roster flexibility and adds a lot of extra logistical burden. I would rather see these teams work with Goldenglue, or with a younger domestic mid laner for that matter.

This isn’t just some plea for “NA mids”, either. I genuinely believe that Goldenglue could give Immortals or 100 Thieves at least an equal chance to win, for example, while providing those benefits of roster flexibility and simplified logistics.

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Credit: Photo’s used in cover image have been provided by Riot Games