Working with Alliance as a Remote Analyst

Last month, I had the opportunity to perform some remote analysis for Alliance as well as offer a second opinion on a lot of topics surrounding scrims, tournament, mindset, approach etc. I wanted to thank Jordan for involving me in the process and allowing me to share portions of my brief journey.  It was invaluable experience and gave a great insight into the professional scene. 

 

Introduction

Someone had posted on Leviathan's ask.fm account where Jordan mentions that he would like to help any analysts trying to break into the scene. While my end goal isn't to simply do analysis, I thought it would be an interesting experience, so I sent him a detailed email with my resume and a reference that my project manager at Boeing wrote for me along with links to my website and writing asking to be introduced to a team in NA. With his busy schedule, I wasn't actually intending an email back before Worlds was over so I was pleasantly surprised when a few days later he replied saying that he was impressed with my qualifications and thought my perspective would be valuable. Additionally, he asked if I would be interested in helping him and Alliance at Worlds. I was pretty excited to just be involved in the process and I added him on Skype immediately.

The next day, we spoke on Skype for the first time and he mentioned that he'd read some of my articles and thought I would be a positive influence to the team. We delved into some core topics in that first conversation and towards the end, my first assignment was to review their scrims and take notes. They were BaronReplay files, a software I had never used until now, but it was pretty intuitive and easy to set up. A few days later, I was also tasked with recording and uploading the video versions of scrims onto youtube privately so that the players could watch them on other devices. He also mentioned the idea of creating a video library of games for players, which I think has a lot of merit especially during the regular season. 

 

Analysis

After receiving scrim data, I was also invited to several chat groups labelled NJWS and C9, each with 7-8 people. While it was interesting to participate in the discussions, I personally didn't feel that I was adding much, and I stopped engaging in the conversations. Instead when Jordan asked someone to put together a summary presentation on Cloud 9 and Shield, I realized that it would be pretty interesting to rewatch games from an analyst's perspective. Since I already knew the general dispositions of both teams, I decided to narrow the focus to vision strategy because it was something both teams did well, and what Alliance somewhat lacked at the time. I rewatched and took detailed notes on Cloud 9's playoffs matches [8 games] and Shield's gauntlet run [10 games]. Then I converted these notes into summaries of each player and their inclinations as well as how the teams approached visions with respect to their compositions. I'm not sure how Jordan or players of Alliance used this work, but the presentations would've easily been three times as long depending on the perspective. I decided to focus on vision control, but objective-based movement and teamfight/skirmish strategies are similarly important. Separately studying these elements before synthesizing them into a cohesive team strategy is the next step for analysis in western League of Legends.

Pre-Group Stage research on Cloud 9 focusing on their vision strategy and projected picks

 

Scrims revealed to me that Alliance's biggest flaw was vision control, causing them to lose control of early dragons and allowing opposing teams to freely roam around the map. After I pointed this out, Jordan expressed that they had resolved the issue in the early game, but still struggled with mid and late game decision-making. I had been thinking about this topic a lot during my brief involvement with helping a team in the Challenger scene. I helped break down the mid-late game into objective control, vision, and map movement for the shotcaller, and offered recommendations on how to improve each. Some of these included reviewing replays with partial team vision and replaying team movement before major objectives or fights. Next I advised on pausing replays at various points in the game and having the shotcaller discuss each team composition, their strengths, and end goals, before watching the remaining replay to measure the differences between expected and actual outcomes. Other suggestions included practicing certain elements like overdoing vision control to appreciate the value of information and then scaling back the amount to increase efficiency in order to complement compositional strengths.

Pre-Group Stage research on Najin White Shield focusing on their vision strategy and map movement

 

Next, I was told that the pick/bans for each team were done the day before the games. I wasn't asked for it, but I decided to consider several pick/ban scenarios with the help from a few friends. Assuming certain bans like Zed and Rumble from Alliance's side and opposing teams to certainly ban away Irelia and possibly Zilean, I made the following presentation focusing on team compositions, their synergy, and how to approach each with vision. I didn't have the opportunity to speak with players about pick/bans or priorities, but I was hoping this would be enough based on my knowledge of their champion pools and resource allocation. Overall, I spent approximately 60 hours reviewing videos, discussing ideas, and creating the presentations. 

 

Notes on some sample team compositions for Alliance assuming particular bans like Zed, Rumble, Zilean, and Irelia

 

Issues

Outside of analysis, Jordan and I spoke a lot about how to approach the game and tournament. The first discussion revolved around expectations and mentality. At the time he was concerned about the players' doubts about their own condition and ability to beat the top Korean teams as well as the community's reaction to his confidence on social media. Drawing from my experience and my conversation with Evan McCauley, we talked about the difference between having confidence in your abilities and the issues with displaying that confidence. Also, it was my contention that the benefit of humility is that it lowers community expectation and therefore reduces the pressure from players to perform, allowing them to concentrate on the task at hand. Next, as Evan and I had discussed earlier, I pointed out methods to build confidence from reaffirming faith in their fellow teammates' skills to offering constructive criticisms in a 1v1 conversations instead of group setting. Again, these were merely discussions and I was simply offering my perspective, but it was encouraging to see support staff actively consider and attempt to solve these issues. 

You can find the discussion with Evan McCauley here: Link

 

Final Thoughts

I wanted to thank Jordan (@LeviathanLoL) for giving me this opportunity to work alongside the team and for allowing me to share my experiences. Even though Alliance still has a lot to learn, I believe that the top western teams are at least equal with Chinese teams and rapidly closing the gap onto the Korean scene. However, an influx of efficient support staff and increased professionalism are the next hurdles to furthering the western scene. I would encourage anyone with the interest or passion to reach out to members in the industry. In my experience, I have found that everyone in the scene is very receptive of new members and are willing to help and encourage growth.

Alliance's Road to Worlds: Translating the Numbers


The members of Team Alliance after their victory over Fnatic at Gamescom 2014. source

In a world where most teams are shifting power from friends and players to coaches and organizations, Alliance is an anomaly in the League of Legends competitive scene, centered on the work and dedication of its founder, Froggen, and the teammates he gathered. And yet, Alliance is going into Worlds with a dominating performance in the Summer Split and playoffs. The only question now is whether Alliance will be able to perform as well at Worlds, against a diverse group of talented opponents. Let’s take a look, by analyzing Alliance’s performance thus far, the current meta, and their group.


Journey to Worlds

Alliance was formed after Froggen’s previous team, Evil Geniuses, failed to qualify for the 2013 World Championships. Froggen created the team with the idea that a team based on the concept that the players should not reach a mechanical ceiling in their quest towards being the best in the world. His team was hailed from the start as the “Super Team,” but they did not live up to that name until the Summer Split of 2014, when they stormed through their competition to claim the top European seed at the World Championships. 

Mechanical Ability

Let's first consider the Alliance’s mechanical ability, which is the sum total of each member’s individual ability and is ultimately a measure of the team’s raw potential. Teams with high mechanical ability can consistently beat teams with low synergy, because they have the ability to outplay their opposition. In Alliance’s case, Froggen sought to gather players with great mechanics, suffering short-term losses in the Spring Split until the players’ synergy could catch up to their individual skill.

We can measure mechanical ability by comparing the team’s KDAs to the LCS average.

All data provided by LoLStats.GG


Alliance’s high KDA with respect to the LCS average is a result of their ability to consistently outplay their opponents in skirmishes and teamfights, helping them recover from early deficits and make decisive calls around objectives. Every member of Alliance has a KDA that is higher than their respective role’s average. Of particular note is Froggen’s KDA of 7.28, almost double the mid average. 

The high KDAs suggest that Alliance is a team with high mechanical ability. However, each member’s above-average KDA may be a side-effect of Alliance’s high winrate (27-9 in the Summer Split and playoffs). To find out whether that is the case, we can split their games according to wins and losses, and then compare their KDAs to the LCS average.


All data provided by LoLStats.GG


We can also use CS scores to measure skill in laning, which is a component of mechanical ability. It measures how efficiently players can move and kill minions while preventing their lane opponents from doing the same. Each creep score is measured as the average difference between the player and their lane opponent at various points in the game in wins and losses.

 

 

All data provided by LoLStats.GG

The graphs also reveal some interesting differences in behavior when Alliance is ahead or behind. In the early game, Shook generally has a larger CS lead on his opponent in losses than in wins, perhaps implying that Alliance may have had a stronger early game if Shook spent more time ganking or establishing vision control in the games instead of farming. Wickd tends to fall behind during losses, while Tabzz is even by the 20 minute mark, but their relative CS leads at the end of losses may mean that Alliance reallocates their resources from Tabzz to Wickd in an attempt to make him relevant, but he is unable to have enough of an impact on teamfights to lead to a win, when the gold may have been more effective on Tabzz.

 

Team Synergy

How well players focus or disengage from teamfights and the amount of cohesion they display in high-pressure situations is a result of how well the players understand and communicate with each other in game. This team synergy is slowly developed through experience, as the players learn each other’s responses to specific situations, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding each player’s tendencies also allows teams to identify the strategies and compositions that are best-suited to their style of play.

A team’s synergy can be measured by their the team’s participation in kills and how well they control objectives. Kill participation also demonstrates how well the team coordinates teleports and sets up ganks for their opponents.

 

All data provided by LoLStats.GG


Despite their dominant win percentage, the data suggests that Alliance may have further to go in terms of objective control, although they have improved significantly since their formation, when they were unable to work as a team to defeat their opponents. Alliance currently only controls 57% of dragons, most of them due to lack of early vision or prioritizing other objectives

They do however control 68.42% of Barons, which somewhat reflects their win percentage, and they have the second highest GPM in the league, showing that they have the ability to optimize resource collection around the map. Alliance’s high kill participation also shows that they are highly coordinated and approach team fights and skirmishes as a cohesive unit. 

 

All data provided by LoLStats.GG


If we divulge kill participation for each player, we can see that, in wins, Alliance’s players participate in more kills than the LCS average. In contrast, their losses show a dramatic decrease in Wickd’s and Shook’s kill participation, who fall below the LCS average, as Alliance are unable to leverage their primary strengths to secure the win. Froggen, however, participates in ~9% more kills than his fellow LCS midlaners in both wins and losses, demonstrating his consistent impact in all of Alliance’s games.


Strategic Depth

Teams with strategic depth adapt well to changes in the meta and the changes between the games in a series. They can successfully play multiple types of team compositions and understand where to allocate their resources during a game to ensure victory against a variety of opponents. 

Strategic depth comes from applying thoughtful analysis and introspection to the team’s playstyle, and is supported by individual ability and synergy. In the same way that a skilled team with great synergy can lose due to poor strategic direction, a team that displays a deep understanding of the game may be unable to translate their analysis into victory if the players lack skill or synergy.

 

 

All data provided by LoLStats.GG

Most teams in the LCS are limited strategically by either the skill of their players or lack of analysis and understanding of team compositions. Alliance’s players leveraged their innate mechanical strength to experiment and find success with more champions than the rest of the LCS, the only exceptions being Cyanide in the jungle and nRated as support.



Overall, the Alliance members individually have shown a great deal of adaptability in their picks. This adaptability means that the team could utilize a range of strategies during the summer to bolster their unique strengths in each meta. The result is that Alliance demonstrated a fairly even distribution of playstyles, though they prioritized teamfight compositions most often. This makes sense because it allows Alliance to use their finesse in fights to make aggressive plays and create opportunities. 

At the same time, Alliance chose to use intelligent map movements in order to win with siege and split-push competitions in 16.7% and 9.7% of the games each.

 


Looking Forward

Alliance’s group, Group D, is the most interesting of the four groups at Worlds with Alliance, Cloud 9, and Najin White Shield forming an exciting triumvirate of talent that will create some of the best games in the tournament. Members of Cloud 9 have recently demonstrated their mechanical skill in the Korean ladder by achieving Challenger and Master tiers in a short period of time, and have always been hailed as a strategically apt team after the mid game. Najin White Shield are famous for their perfect execution in the late game, and demolished a much-hyped gauntlet of teams, such as KT Arrows and SK Telecom T1, to reach Worlds. Despite their dominance in the EU LCS, Alliance will need to focus on refining certain aspects of their game to compete against these teams.

Early in the game, Alliance focuses on either farming or creating picks, but not necessarily controlling dragons. Many teams take advantage of this to establish early leads or roam freely in Alliance’s jungle. In their loss against Copenhagen Wolves, CW exposed this weakness and were able to completely take control of the game using those early advantages, despite being a weaker team both mechanically and strategically. Ordinarily, Alliance can recover from these early losses through superior teamfights and skirmishes, but since Cloud 9 and NJWS excel at converting their leads into victories, it is paramount for Alliance address to their early game plan. 

In the face of adversity, Alliance has to maintain composure and play to the unique strengths of their team members in order to find success against much stronger opponents than were present during Season 3. This involves looking at past data to identify areas of weakness, developing a plan to erase or mitigate those deficiencies, testing the efficacy of these strategies in scrimmages against other strong opponents, and, most importantly, having faith in the ability of their team. Alliance is one of the strongest teams in the western scene, and can beat any opponent when performing at their best. Hopefully their performance at the World Championships will reflect the confident team that finished at the top of the EU gauntlet rather than the inexperienced team that entered the Spring Split earlier this year.