Before we get into the breakdown, I wanted to point out this resource from James McCool for anyone who may be new to betting on LoL. James provides deeper insight into how the game is played, bet types, and strategy that I’ll be using in this article to break down this specific series.
The LCS will kick off its summer split playoffs on August 13th with a matchup of the league’s defining franchise–TSM– and one of its perpetual underdogs, Golden Guardians. If you’re unfamiliar with the LCS’ playoff format check it out here. The odds and a quick look at the LCS standings would suggest that Golden Guardians are a massive underdog again. I’m not so sure about that. Let’s look at each lane matchup and then some key team stats to see if there might be value in fading the Yankees of the LCS, TSM.
Top Lane- TSM BrokenBlade vs. Golden Guardians Hauntzer
This lane matchup really comes down to what you prefer your top lane to do. Do you prefer a top laner who wants to play carry champions and get ahead of the enemy laner, but could lose the game entirely by himself as well? BrokenBlade’s your guy. If you prefer a traditional go even in lane and effectively tank team fights top laner, then you want Hauntzer. Their stats bare this out too. Hauntzer gets advantages in gold, CS, and experience at 10 minutes against his opponents. BrokenBlade only averages a positive number in gold for those metrics. However, when it comes to getting the first kill on their opponents, BrokenBlade stands alone in the LCS. His first blood percentage of 44% is the highest in the league. Although a lot of the attention in TSM games goes to what stars Doublelift and Bjergsen are doing, TSM games are often determined by what BrokenBlade does. If he’s comfortable and playing well, TSM is tough to beat. Hauntzer, on the other hand, is the steady hand of Golden Guardians. He’s never going to put the team on his back, but he’s also never going to drag them all the way down. This will be a key matchup to watch, if BrokenBlade is consistently getting kills in the laning phase, Golden Guardians will be in trouble, but if Hauntzer is comfortably farming and playing weak side, they have to like their chances.
The Edge: Even
Jungle- TSM Spica vs. Golden Guardians Closer
If Golden Guardians are going to pull off the upset, it’s going to be through the play of Jungler, Closer. Closer is the kind of resource-heavy, dominant jungler usually associated with the LPL or the LEC. He is averaging an experience differential of 317 and a CS differential of 7.8 at 10 minutes over his rival junglers. Those numbers are only topped by the LCS’ other dominant jungler and spring split MVP– Cloud 9’s Blaber. That’s rarified air for Closer. His opponent, Spica, could not be more opposite. Spica is easily TSM’s weakest link and averages the worst experience and CS differentials of any jungler in the LCS. To be fair to him, those numbers are partially due to the way TSM uses him as more like a second support player to their carry laners, but still the chasm between the junglers in those key statistics will be worrisome to TSM fans. If they win, Golden Guardians will find themselves typing “jungle difference” in /all chat at the end of this series.
The Edge: Golden Guardians
Mid Lane- TSM Bjergsen vs. Golden Guardians Damonte
In some ways, the statistics of this matchup are irrelevant. If you ask even the most casual LCS fan: Who is the one player you want on your side in a must-win, backs against the wall 5 game playoff series? They will almost always answer Bjergsen. Since joining the league, he has easily been its most dominant and important mid laner and has shown no signs of slowing down this split. He is still consistently getting ahead of the enemy mid laner, despite having arguably the worst jungler in the league to back him up. His KDA (Kills-Deaths-Assists ratio) of 6.5 is particularly impressive for a player on a team with multiple other carries like Doublelift and BrokenBlade. His opponent, Damonte, is a similar coin-flip type of player to BrokenBlade. In the games where he’s on, Damonte is really on. In the games where he’s off, Damonte is really off. Damonte struggles to consistently get ahead of his opponents in the key categories of gold, experience, and cs where he averages deficits at 10 minutes. This lane matchup is very similar to the top in that one side has their solid, steady hand and the other has their wild card. I trust the steady hand of Bjergsen here.
The Edge: TSM
Bot Lane Duo- TSM Doublelift and Treatz vs. Golden Guardians FBI and Huhi
This matchup is a lot closer than a lot of folks think. FBI and Huhi have become a legitimate win condition for Golden Guardians this split. In fact, just going from raw statistics, you would give the edge to the GGS bot lane who are getting a +207 Gold differential at 10 minutes, a +52 XP differential, and a +7.7 CS differential onto FBI compared to TSM’s -67, +113, and +4.3 respectively on Doublelift. Games are not just played in the numbers though, as badly as sports bettors may want them to be. Doublelift’s history as a player who turns it up in the playoffs can not be ignored. When he wants to be, he is the greatest laner the LCS has ever seen. He used to routinely get the kind of advantages in lane that could snowball a game out of control. The meta-game has shifted his way just in time for playoffs as well. Two of his best champions, Caitlyn and Lucian, will be making their returns to pro play after long hiatuses in these playoffs. If Doublelift still has that player in him, you have to believe TSM has the slight edge here.
The Edge: Slight TSM
When I’m handicapping a LoL match after thinking through the lane-to-lane matchups, I want to know about three key statistics for a team: their gold spent percentage differential (GSPD), early game rating (EGR), and their Baron Percentage.
The first and most important statistic here is the GSPD. GSPD measures how much team’s are beating or losing to their opponents by, think of it as the real plus minus or DVOA of LoL. GGS has a GSPD of 1.8% and TSM has a GSPD of 1.5%. That’s essentially a wash and could be heavily affected by one game. I think it’s worth noting that Golden Guardians have the better number there, but we’ll have to look elsewhere to see some real edges.
The next statistic–EGR– measures how much a team gets ahead on the early objectives of the game such as first kill, first drake, first tower, etc. Here we have a real mismatch with Golden Guardians on a 64.2 EGR compared to TSM’s 50.9. This difference largely comes to the aforementioned talent gap with the junglers. Closer and Golden Guardians like to go for early ganks and jungle invades with team compositions that are heavily favored in the early game. Spica and TSM see early game as a “survive and advance” stage of the game, often trying to go even in the early game and win in teamfights with late game focused team compositions. Golden Guardians will need to get meaningful leads in the early game to pull an upset here.
Finally and– for this matchup– most importantly, is the Baron percentage. If one thing has been consistent through the history of LoL, it’s that winning teams control the Baron buff. Forcing your opponent to fight at the Baron when you know you can win the fight remains one of the best ways to win a LoL match. Golden Guardians, despite getting out to the early game leads, only manages to get 48% of the Baron buffs in their games. This points to a clear disconnect for the team when it comes to transitioning early leads into wins. A quick study of the film on their games confirms this point. Their inexperience often shows in late game situations where you have to out-think, not just outplay your opponents. TSM controls 61% of the barons in their games. While not a particularly impressive number, it is where I think this series will be won for TSM. They just have significantly more experience at winning in late game situations. I like Golden Guardians to get far enough ahead in the early game to win at least one game in this Best of 5, but TSM’s control of the Baron will help them avoid the upset.
The Edge: TSM
Over 3.5 Maps (-215) 2u
Like previously mentioned, I like Golden Guardians to get at least one game here. The biggest positional mismatch in this game is actually on their side. Closer is miles ahead of Spica. When he gets on to one of his favored champions and gets an early kill, I think he can carry GGS to a win or two. To get onto favored champions, Golden Guardians will want to be on the blue side of the map where they are 6-1 this split. They are actually the team with the biggest difference in record from when they are the blue side compared to when they are on the red side, which brings us to the next pick.
Golden Guardians Money Line on Map 2 (+150) 1u
TSM is the higher seed here which means they will have side selection in the first game of the series. I expect them to pick blue side where they are 7-3 this split. If they win game 1–which they will be heavily favored to do on blue side– then side selection for game 2 will go to Golden Guardians. With their blue side record, I think this is where Golden Guardians steals a game. It is also historically the most likely game for the underdog to win in a 5 game series.
Exact Result: TSM 3-1 (+260) 1u, TSM 3-2 (+370) 1u
I like two small plays on the exact results here knowing you’re guaranteed to lose one. These are the two most likely results to me and we have nice plus odds for both. There’s a world where Golden Guardians come out with their late game issues solved and pull off the full upset, but I think the more likely outcome is that they stick to what they do best by getting early game leads and steal a game or two while TSM out executes them late in the others to win the series.