The Deep Dive: Week 5

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When’s the last time we saw a team run roughshod over the LCS the way Cloud9 has been over the first four weeks of 2020? Have we ever?

Game after game, C9 have not only been winning, they’ve been dominating. Every member of the roster has impressed, and every aspect of C9’s play has been miles ahead of the rest of the league, from their early game to their team fighting to their macro.

By the time playoffs roll around, will anyone be able to compete with Cloud9? There are a few candidates: Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, and Evil Geniuses have shown some potential to catch up in the coming month or two. Here’s what each of those teams needs to do if they want to make up ground on North America’s number one team.

Stats Definitions

Some definitions for the advanced team metrics below:

  • GPR: Gold percent rating. Measures the average percent of the game’s total gold held by the team, relative to 50%.
  • GSPD: Gold spent percentage difference. Measures the average gap in gold spent between the two teams at the end of the game.
  • EGR: Early-game rating. Measures the average probability of winning as of the 15:00 mark of the team’s games.
  • MLR: Mid/late rating. Measures the difference between a team’s actual win rate and their expected win rate based on their EGR.

Team Liquid: The biggest on-paper challenger in the LCS?

Based purely on their in-game performance so far this split, Team Liquid are multiple tiers below Cloud9. In almost every advanced statistic, TL are miles behind C9.

Team Liquid – Advanced Team Stats

TL Value 3-5 -0.41 +1.6% 41.3 -3.8
TL Rank T7 5 2 7 7
C9 Value 8-0 +2.55 +16.8% 86.7 +13.3

LCS Spring 2020 regular season, weeks 1 to 4

But these stats definitely lie. Most of Team Liquid’s games so far are analytical throwaways, because of the extenuating circumstances of Broxah’s absence. With their star offseason signing unavailable until the middle of week 4, Team Liquid have not only had to play with a substitute for three weeks, they have also lost out on valuable practice time and have had very little opportunity to build out their communication structures and synergy.

The lack of time to gel was clearly visible in Broxah’s first game with the team, where a level 3 blue buff invade was punished because Broxah seemed to expect CoreJJ to be backing him up, but CoreJJ was still busy in the lane with Doublelift for a few more seconds. If the communication between Broxah and CoreJJ had been working, Broxah would have known to back off for three to five seconds before resuming his pressure. It was a minor mistake, but it had major consequences, with Broxah giving up First Blood and losing his ability to influence the game for a long time afterwards. The Immortals’ Xmithie is the kind of Jungler who knows exactly how to play out a lead once he receives it, and that meant the game was mostly over before it really started.

On paper, Team Liquid have all the tools they need to compete with Cloud9.

If you remove that one small communication mistake, Team Liquid might end up looking a lot more like they did against Counter Logic Gaming, who they blew out of the water with a clean use of a simple scaling comp.

On paper, Team Liquid have all the tools they need to compete with Cloud9. They have an aggressive jungler to match Blaber, highly skilled mid and bot lanes to apply pressure that can support that aggression, and a low-needs top laner to round out their map balance. What TL might lack compared to C9 is a degree of flexibility, because Licorice brings a stronger carry presence than Impact, which provides the team with more drafting and jungle pathing options. At their best, Doublelift and CoreJJ more than make up for it, as the strongest duo in the league. We just haven’t seen that so far this season.

It’s going to take a few more weeks, but by the time Cloud9 and Team Liquid play again on March 22, we could have a very close contest on our hands.

TSM and EG: The next tier of the LCS

I’m not going to claim that either TSM or EG have the same ceiling or potential as Team Liquid, or the same excuses for any weaknesses they’ve shown so far, but both of these teams have shown that under the right circumstances, they might have a chance to steal a win from Cloud9 this season.

Team SoloMid

Let’s start with TSM.

Team SoloMid – Advanced Team Stats

TSM Value 4-4 +0.64 -1.0% 61.9 -11.9
TSM Rank T4 2 4 2 8
C9 Value 8-0 +2.55 +16.8% 86.7 +13.3

LCS Spring 2020 regular season, weeks 1 to 4

TSM’s brightest point has been their early game: they’re reaching the 15:00 mark with an average win probability of 61.9%, based mostly on an average +1,018 gold difference. Broken Blade and Bjergsen are doing the most to drive those gold leads, according to their individual lane phase stats. Because of those leads, TSM are staying well ahead in the gold game, as shown by their high GPR.

The other side of the story for TSM’s early game, though, is their 25% First Dragon rate and 43% elemental drake control, which tells an interesting story when paired with their 48.5% jungle control. TSM are gaining economic wins in the lanes, but they aren’t capitalizing by gaining map control and picking up neutral objectives. If they were grabbing more drakes, it would set them up much better to close out their leads and improve on their awful MLR.

TSM have shown that they have the skill they need to compete with Cloud9, but so far they haven’t shown enough from their map play or their team fighting. If they can figure out how to control the neutral parts of the map better, they might have a chance to stand up to C9 in the future.

Evil Geniuses

On the Evil Geniuses side, the statistical pros and cons weigh out pretty similarly, but the reasons for those numbers are different.

Evil Geniuses – Advanced Team Stats

EG Value 3-5 +0.13 +0.7% 57.4 -19.9
EG Rank T7 4 3 3 10
C9 Value 8-0 +2.55 +16.8% 86.7 +13.3

LCS Spring 2020 regular season, weeks 1 to 4

Like TSM, EG have been doing a very good job in the early game: they are reaching 15:00 with an average win probability of 57.4%. Unlike TSM, that probability is not being powered by gold difference: EG’s average gold difference at 15 minutes is just +3. Instead, EG have a 63% First Dragon rate (tied for 2nd-best in the LCS) and 53% overall drake control (3rd in the LCS). EG’s 51.0% jungle control (2nd in the LCS) is also far superior to TSM’s.

Bang and Zeyzal have been playing very well, and Jiizuke would look very good if you could wipe out the one or two moments each game where he overplays his hand and feeds the enemy a free kill.

EG have been failing in their lanes, with Kumo especially getting beaten up. Kumo’s GXD10 (average gold difference + experience difference at 10:00) is a very poor -321, and Svenskeren has been faring even worse at -348 GXD10. Teams have been attacking a point of weakness on EG, so even though EG are playing the bottom half of the map pretty well and gaining control of neutral areas, they are giving up too much gold to their opponents on the top side of the map.

There is definitely hope for EG, though. Bang and Zeyzal have been playing very well, and Jiizuke would look very good if you could wipe out the one or two moments each game where he overplays his hand and feeds the enemy a free kill. The weakest parts of EG’s game have come from boneheaded individual mistakes or from a lack of communication on engages, typically between Svenskeren, Zeyzal, and Jiizuke. Individual decision-making mistakes like Jiizuke’s are the simplest issues to solve, and general communication and coordination should improve over time.

While TSM have better individual pieces than EG, EG’s issues should be much easier to solve. And even with those issues, EG played C9 to a fairly close outcome last week, all things considered. C9 seemed to win every skirmish from the start to the finish, but the margins on those skirmishes were small, and the growing gold gap made it naturally more difficult for EG to claw their way back in. A little bit of extra polish could have tipped things in EG’s favour. Next time C9 and EG meet, one or two small improvements could give EG a chance to take down the kings.


Right now it’s difficult to see how anyone in the LCS can challenge Cloud9, but if any team is going to do it, it will most likely be one of Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, or Evil Geniuses. Then again, maybe Cloud9 will pull a G2 Esports move and throw away a 0-2 week seemingly at random!