When watching the LCS we often see the casters, posters on reddit, and even friends characterize team’s playstyles. And while I don’t doubt the validity of their analysis, I wanted to dig deeper into the stats to analyze just what kind of playstyles these teams have and to what degree it affects how they play. In order to do this, I looked at three teams: Cloud 9, Counter Logic Gaming, and Curse and looked into a bunch of different stat categories such as gold distribution, jungler patterns, farm distribution, objective control and picks.The first in this three part series is Cloud 9!
This analysis will be broken into 3 different sections. First the “History” section, where we look at previous playstyles and experiences which form their current playstyle. The “Early Game Strategies” section, where we look at what types of strategies the team performs in the laning phase, what they prioritize and what leads to their overall goals. And lastly we will look at the teams Mid-Late game along with their picks and teamfighting. This article isn’t really a critique of teams or how viable their strategies are or what they should change, but rather defining the strategies which can later be compared and contrasted in order to look at questions such as viability.
History / General Playstyle
Cloud 9 is currently the shining star of the North American LCS. While they are new to the LCS this split Cloud 9 is built from veterans of the scene, with most of their players having competed in several Season 2 events. This breeds a really interesting dynamic in their play – they are newcomers, which brings a new spark to the scene, but they also have the experience to back it up which makes them a very poised team. This can be seen in how they are often able to make comeback victories (C9 vs CRS in week 1, C9 vs VUL in week 5) and are also very good at closing out games due to their experience. This combination of knowledge and new team spirit creates a unique and effective – a’new age’ high pressure strat modeled on Korean play, which takes both discipline to not get caught, and mechanical skill to calculate teamfights effectively.
Early Game Strategy
The next important thing to note about Cloud 9’s playstyle is their early game strategy, which is focused heavily on taking objectives. Of their 15 LCS matches, they have taken first dragon 73% of the time and first tower 66% of the time. This shows their dedication to objective control and where their priorities lie. However, since the jungler is the keystone to early game success, analyzing Meteos’s play is very important to figuring out Cloud 9’s playstyle. Meteos’s early game priorities are highlighted in two categories; farming and taking towers. He spends 55% of his time farming compared to the league average of 46%, and he spends 16% of his time pushing a lane compared to the league average of 9%. His dedication to getting himself ahead helps a ton later in the game, but also pays dividends early on as well, as he averages 35% more creeps by the 12 minute mark, and whilst the median level at 12 min is 7, Meteos’s median is 8. Even though he is spending a good amount of time getting gold, he is also aggressively tearing down objectives. Meteos’s push to anti-push ratio is 2.5:1, while the ratio for the average jungler is .56:1. Cloud 9 does not look to extend the early game by defending 2v1 pushes, instead they stack their jungler with the 2 to get the towers down as soon as possible in order to launch themselves into their strong mid game. This aggressive early game pushing is a signature of Cloud 9 as they often look to trade towers and get dragons rather than get kills.
Now it is time to look at the meat of Cloud 9’s playstyle: the mid-late game that they emphasize so much. To analyze this we have to look at the team compositions they pick and how they are executed. Cloud 9’s poised mid game and lack of mistakes, while still punishing their opponents for any they make, is where they really shine. Their main strategy is to send Hai off to a side lane to split push with TF or Zed, while Balls, Sneaky, Lemon, and Meteos group up to push waves and even fight. This two pronged attack is the signature pressure move of Cloud 9 and it is what allows them to force opponents into making mistakes while avoiding mistakes themselves. We can see this set-up in the graph to the right, as the Jungle, Support and Top participate in more kills while the mid participates in less. This is not because Hai is not doing his job or is bad, but because they typically split him off and thus he participates in fewer fights. They are able to pull off this move through careful champion selections. Balls picks high teamfight potential champions like Rumble, Ryze, and Kennen. They also usually have great initiation from something like Meteos’ Zac, Sneaky’s Ashe, or Lemon’s Thresh. This combination of high pressure situations and high initiation potential creates this great pick off potential and allows them to choose their fights very wisely, another signature aspect of Cloud 9.
When it comes to Cloud 9’s teamfight strategy, they go with a balanced kiting style. Cloud 9’s picks bring a balanced teamfight roster, they usually bring about 3 and a half threats and since they spread their farm out, especially to their Jungle. They end up having a very solid tank line and multiple threats. As we can see on the left, they give more farm to Meteos and less farm to the ADC, Mid, and Top. This leads to the teamfights being long and all over the place as Zac jumps in and out with major farm and Sneaky kites with Draven, Ezreal or Ashe, in conjunction with with Hai’s Jayce or TF’s poke/disengage. Cloud 9 excels at these style fights because of their synergy as a team, they constantly know not only what their teammates are going to do but how to play off of it and it creates the effect of a well oiled machine. Their team fight competence, extreme talent at picking strong fights, balanced farm distribution, strong initiation abilities, and cohesive picks make them an extreme threat in the mid game and is a contributing factor to their high degree of comebacks as well as their below average game duration.
Cloud 9’s brilliance is that of many moving pieces. They have smart picks, they have a fresh early game strategy which they execute well, but the main gem of their playstyle is how they distribute resources and approach the mid game. Their high pressure, high initiation strategies with a farmed hard tank in Meteos has led to extreme success. Rather than brutally fighting every teamfight they create space and play a kite strategy that works perfectly with their strategic choices to go with a lower farmed ADC. This delicate iteration on the Korean meta game is the genius in Cloud 9’s play which shows they know more than just solo queue play, but are extremely thoughtful on the game and how to build the meta.
Notes on stats:
I first wanted to thank all those that helped me gather these stats. Vesca (and the team at www.leaguepedia.com), bfar2, oberyn, and a few others! Also to 2×2 for the art.
The gold distribution charts, KDA, GPM, etc. were all calculated using all stats this split. The CS stats were adjusted to be CS per minute, then scaled to the average game time. This is to stop people like Doublelift from getting super inflated CS stats due to CLG’s long game time. The Jungle Time distribution pie chart is for the first 10 minutes (1:45/55 – 12:00) for 7 games or 70 minutes of footage. The averages were made up of about 30 or so games. For more info on how the times are calculated specifically look <here>