g2out
Photo courtesy of lolesports

After a disappointing second week, it’s clear that G2 could not live up to their expectations. A relevant question is: “were those expectations fair?” Certainly from the European perspective, a team that looked dominant in their league should go into Worlds and have a strong showing. I don’t think there’s really any arguing that European fans should lower their expectations for their #1 team, and that’s not what I am trying to argue here.

Instead, I want to look at the expectations set for G2 by some of the fan-favorite experts. The analysis I’m going to reference is from the 6-hour marathon Summoner’s Insight released just before Worlds. I chose that video because of its popularity and because the analysts had basically no time limit. Due to Thorin’s style and reputation, they can feel free to say whatever they want, and here’s what they said:

MonteCristo 

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Photo courtesy of gamespot

@12:45 Monte thinks G2 is going to do well, but Monte thinks they got unlucky getting matched with ROX, since “G2’s best player is their Jungler and Peanut is better than him…Also Pray and Gorilla are one of the best botlanes in the world, so Zven and Mithy will not abuse them…Smeb is way better than Expect…Stixxay and Aphro aren’t up to the task of Zven and Mithy…CLG will not upset G2”

@2:27:00 “It is so hard to see any matchup that CLG has an advantage in against G2 or ROX. That’s the problem with this group. It’s very difficult to even remotely theorycraft a situation where CLG gets out”

@2:27:30 Thorin: “So this group is pretty clear cut.”

There’s something in this analysis that should immediately set off warning bells for viewers that are interested in hearing meaningful analysis. Monte is essentially breaking down teams into individual matchups, and while he may be basing his prediction off more than that, he isn’t citing many other factors besides relative individual competition. I think the second quote gives an indication that Monte is basing his analysis almost exclusively on the individual matchup analysis, but he may just be maintaining his arrogant and dismissive persona.

Emily Rand

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Photo courtesy of @leagueofemily

@52:30 “G2 2nd in Group A, G2 is the only team in the group that might beat ROX and only if Trick greatly overperforms and the bot lane goes off.”
@59:15 “I think the meta is based around strong lanes and CLG won’t do well [against G2], they would have to find a new way of creating pressure with Huhi and Xmithie or maybe Darshan.”

Not much here. More individual matchup talk. She does qualify her prediction by saying that the meta skews games towards strong individual players, which is a valid theory, it just did not end up being an accurate one, which by the way isn’t something to hold against her.

Funny note here: at 1:01:00, Thorin makes a point about how “moron” fans want to see Stixxay in 2v2s because they think the game has nothing to do with strategy and is all individual match-ups (implying Stixxay will get “dumpstered” in a 2v2). He’s correct in pointing out that people over-emphasize individual skill, just wrong in the details, and wrong not to recognize that it’s happening on his program.

LS

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Photo courtesy of gosugamers

@2:23:40 “CLG and G2’s macro play is just abysmal… I think G2 wins [against CLG] because CLG’s macro is lackluster, Huhi is a big problem, and mid is going to require mechanical skill and a large champ pool, and Aphro won’t be able to save Stixxay, and Xmithie doesn’t impress me…he doesn’t hold a candle to Trick. Everyone on CLG is B tier except Aphro. I think CLG’s team-fighting is not impressive, and G2’s is okay…I think Expect is really bad, but I don’t think Darshan will get an edge”

We’ll ignore the bit about ROX as we’re probably all aware of how LS feels about Korean vs Western teams. So LS says that CLG and G2 both have abysmal macro. He’s the first person to actually talk about G2’s “macro,” although the term is thrown around a lot so it’s hard to know what his definition is. Eventually his analysis moves towards the individuals as well. It’s unfortunate that someone didn’t prompt him to explain why he thinks CLG and G2 both have abysmal macro, although my fear would be that he doesn’t have much of an explanation. He also mentions G2’s team-fighting being better than CLG’s, which he apparently isn’t including in macro, but no one digs deeper into his opinion there.

Krepo and Deficio

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Photo courtesy of lolesports

@3:26:48 Krepo: “Trick and Perks have to be tilted/forget how to play for CLG to snowball on them.
Deficio: “CLG prepares very well and I think the biggest chance for an upset in this group is CLG vs. G2, they could win through the draft in the first game and surprise G2.”
Krepo: “…Darshan could snowball against Expect…The botlane will probably hold up. CLG has way better infrastructure and preparation, so they could surprise them…In this meta, it’s hard for a botlane to really snowball and Aphro and Stixxay won’t get smashed by Zven and Mithy. Also, Zven and Mithy don’t really go for kills as much as a CS lead.
Deficio: The other players in the game impact the matchup so much, it’s never a 2v2. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if G2 gets upset due to nerves in the very first game of Worlds with all of Europe expecting them to win.
@3:32:00 Deficio: I think G2 is one of the stronger teams in the tournament…I think Expect is a liability and could hold G2 back…

So here’s the first time we see anyone talking in-depth about anything other than individual skill. Unfortunately, they only talk about G2’s macro in the context of CLG’s. They talk about the draft, nerves, infrastructure and preparation all having a potentially very large influence on the outcome of the game (without mentioning G2’s prep, infrastructure, or draft habits) before going back to saying that G2 has the most skilled players and so they should win against CLG. Deficio especially qualified this statement by saying that he thinks CLG has a very real chance to upset G2, but in the end they both pick G2 as second in the group.

Locodoco

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Photo courtesy of The Daily Dot

@4:49:20 “Expect and Darshan will have a very hard time against Smeb…I don’t see top laners surviving against Smeb and Peanut…I think CLG can definitely upset G2, they always get slept on…I think very highly of their coach and they have a culture where they fend off negative criticism and I don’t think you can ever count them out.”

Again, we have some talk that isn’t purely individual matchup focused. And also again it’s focused on CLG, not G2. Here we’re hearing a little about coaches and culture, but again, nothing about G2’s coaches and culture. He doesn’t actually predict who will come out of the group after ROX.

Kelsey Moser

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Photo courtesy of Gamespot

@5:33:20 “G2 second…I think G2’s success depends on their ability to learn from the Korean bootcamp, but if they show up looking like they did the last time we saw them, they’ll probably lose immediately after the group stage.”

I actually think this is a pretty insightful statement, but again, it isn’t followed up on. Kelsey is talking about a broad-scope idea here, the phenomenon of meta developing in Korea before Worlds and some teams learning it/anticipating it and some teams failing to. She picks G2 second in the group, but doesn’t really explain why, not much to analyze there.

In Summary

Only Locodoco did not pick G2 as second in the group (did not make a pick). Deficio and Locodoco argued strongly that CLG could upset G2. Monte, Emily, LS, Deficio and Krepo all primarily based their supporting analysis for G2’s success on individual matchups. Kelsey and Soaz didn’t provide details to support their G2 pick. Soaz, Deficio, Locodoco, and Krepo (kind of) all seemed to have major reservations about declaring G2 a clear favorite in the group.

So what’s the problem?

problem

Part of the problem is that at least one and possibly both of the hosts really didn’t give importance about having a complex discussion regarding G2 or maybe even League of Legends. Several guests said some interesting things about G2 in the context of Group A, but the hosts never followed up on any of it, even when it contradicted the near universal prediction that G2 was going to be second. The other part of the problem is that this individual match-up talk isn’t that relevant to predicting the winner of a game at the pro level, and here are a few reasons:

1. Champion Select – The first 5 minutes of a League Match decide more than the first 5 minutes of any other spectator sport in the world. This is doubly true on the individual level. If your team chooses to put you in a losing lane, due to composition needs or to deny an opposing team’s strong pick or because they wanted an early flex, it rarely matters how much you outclass your opponent. Your ability to abuse your opponent is going to be massively diminished just based on the champion you have to play and play against.

2. Individual skill doesn’t always translate to lane dominance – Most of the time, professional competitive lanes go about even. You regularly see leads of 10-15 CS at 15 minutes and that’s usually considered a strong advantage. 10-15 CS comes out to about 400 gold, so one minor component of an item, which is unlikely to be the deciding factor in a game. More important than the CS is a team’s ability to capitalize on the map control that a laner’s dominance grants. There’s a lot of factors that go into that capitalization, from Champ Select to team macro play/strategy, to warding… It’s more complex than the individual match-up itself and all three of those elements are usually larger factors in the outcome than individual performance relative to opposing position.

3. Sometimes players dominate other players and it still doesn’t translate to anything in the game. A great example of this was C9 Impact’s Week 1 performance against IM’s AmazingJ. Impact had about a 30 CS lead around the 10-minute mark, along with trading 2 for 1 on a gank attempt by IM Avoidless. It was one of the most dominant individual performances we’ve seen at Worlds this year. And what did C9 get out of it? Well, not much. At 21 minutes, 4 IM members took C9’s top tower with theirs still standing and AmazingJ had a 4 CS lead on Impact, primarily due to mid-game map roaming from both players. That probably says something about C9, but it’s also another reason that it’s very hard to break this game down to individual match-ups.

The reality here is that this is lazy analysis, and it’s become the standard in “educated” League Talk. The reason it’s the standard is that A) it’s easy. It’s an easy narrative to create. You don’t even have to do much research. Just say who you think is better. It’s almost impossible to find immutable arguments for or against someone being better than someone else on the international stage since international League competition is very rare. B) It’s relatable. Fans often favor certain players and like to believe that those players are definitively better than other players.

When you hear or read an expert opinion that predicts the outcome of a match primarily based on the skill of individual players, warning bells should go off. Either the person doesn’t know much about the teams they’re talking about or they’re choosing not to tell you much. What you’re getting is a prediction that’s worth the amount of thought and effort that went into it. And that was the case for all of the predictions stating that G2 would do well in this “insightful” video.

So what should they talk about instead? That will be the subject of the next “Elevating the Conversation”, where I’ll reference some other videos from experts that do a much better job of justifying predictions and quantifying statements about player skill, as well as speculate about possible advanced metrics and break down the difficulty of creating advanced metrics for League of Legends relative to other spectator sports.

Special thanks to u/Zealust for time stamps that saved me a ton of time.