Albus NoX Luna & the Secret to Success

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Shhhh. I am about to tell you the secret to the success of Albus NoX Luna (ANX) so far at Worlds. It was always there. Hidden in plain sight under the data we gathered from them throughout the International Wildcard Qualifier (IWCQ) and at the 2016 League of Legends Worlds Championship.

To do this I will, discuss their play at the IWCQ, highlight their key performances as well as other teams/players in Pool A at Worlds, and provide insight into the team chemistry of ANX. Normally when I write one of these articles I use various statistics and I solicit the opinions of experts who know League of Legends better than myself. I will do the same in this article but I will also introduce the concept of The Secret.

 

Qualifying for Worlds

 

First, I will start with their statistics from the IWCQ and what conclusions analysts derived from those statistics. It is important to start with what we know about them coming into Worlds and then build from there. Table 1 shows the overall team statistics while Table 2 shows the objective control from ANX at the 2016 IWCQ, color formatting is based on teams at the 2016 IWCQ.

Table 1: Overall team statistics – IWCQ
TWL% TWD% EGR MLR GPM GDM GD@15
22.6 15 57.6 9.0 1,882 203 654

TWL%: percentage of time with 52% or more total gold
TWD%: percentage of time with 48% or less total gold
EGR: early game rating
MLR: mid to late game rating
GPM: gold per minute
GDM: gold differential per minute
GD@15: gold differential at 15 minutes

Table 2: Objective Control – IWCQ
DRG F3T% BN% Towers Killed Towers Lost WPM WCP WC%
0.55 0.67 0.64 7.80 4.60 3.10 1.14 32.8

DRG%: percentage of dragons secured
F3T%: percentage of games with the first 3 towers destroyed
BAR%: percentage of barons secured
Towers Killed: towers destroyed per game
Towers Lost: towers lost per game
WPM: wards per minute
WCPM: wards cleared per minute
WC%: percentage of wards cleared

Coming into Worlds, ANX had the statistical profile of a good-to-great team by International Wildcard standards. They generated the highest amount of gold, had consistent leads and rarely played from behind, had a strong early game and a stronger mid to late game, and controlled major objectives all over the map. Their only weakness was their lack of vision control. Moreover, the general consensus amongst gameplay analysts was that ANX was a good international wildcard team that lacked the vision control to survive the early game against better competition.

Not only do we know that statistical profile from a team perspective at the International Wildcard Qualifier, we also have information on their individual statistics. Table 3 shows these individual statistics, color formatting is based on individuals by position at the 2016 IWCQ.

Table 3: Individual Statistics – IWCQ
Player POS Kill% Death% CSD@10 GD@10 D% G% D%/G% WPM WCPM
Smurf TOP 56.3 17.7 -1.9 21 21.0 24.5 0.86 0.48 0.13
PvPStej JUN 67.8 20.2 -0.8 -26 14.1 18.2 0.78 0.67 0.43
Kira MID 65.5 21.0 -0.7 45 28.4 21.4 1.33 0.57 0.14
aMiracle ADC 73.0 12.9 -1.1 2 24.0 22.2 1.08 0.25 0.11
Likkrit SUP 81.0 28.2 0.4 305 12.5 13.7 0.91 1.12 0.33

Kill%: kill participation
Death%: death participation
CSD@10: creep score differential at 10 minutes
GD@10: gold differential at 10 minutes
D%: average percentage of team damage
G%: average percentage of team gold
WPM: wards placed per minute
WCPM: wards cleared per minute

What stands out right away is just how bad aMiracle’s stats are. He basically does no damage and generates no gold from the ADC position, he is consistently behind in CS during the first 10 minutes of the game and he rarely places wards to contribute to their overall vision control. This is what the stats say anyway. So to confirm these stats, I went back and watched ANXs IWCQ games so I could form an opinion of my own about their play and not just their stats. In this case, the stats are fairly accurate to the VODs. aMiracle struggles to generate CS in the early game, which causes him to fall behind in gold and items, and therefore he does less damage than an average AD Carry. Going into Worlds, it would have been a valid concern that aMiracle’s bad early game is going to be an even bigger problem against PraY, Zven, and Stixxay during group play. But as you will see, even though the stats say something about a player they certainly do not capture his entire contribution to the team: aMiracle is a major reason why ANX has performed so well at Worlds.

 

On the World Stage

 

Next, I will present a few notable team statistics from ANX and the rest of Group A at Worlds. All of the stats from Table 4 and Table 5 are relevant in their own way but pay attention to their Gold Difference at 15 minutes (GD@15), Early Game Rating (EGR), Mid to Late Game Rating (MLR), and Damage Gold Share between ADC and MID (DGR A/M). These statistics in particular are of primary importance when discussing the strengths/weakness of ANX as well as how/why they made it out of groups. First the stats, discussion of these stats is below, color formatting is based on all teams at Worlds.

Table 4: Overall Team Stats – Worlds
Tean W L GPM GDM TWL% TWD% GD@15 EGR MLR DGR A/M
ROX 5 2 1,902 250 26.4 28.6 -80 45.8 25.6 1.02
ANX 4 3 1,709 -121 19.9 20.2 -285 53.2 4.0 0.60
CLG 3 3 1,741 -65 37.7 15.1 752 60.2 -10.2 1.02
G2 1 5 1,651 -190 15.6 33.9 -326 40.9 -24.3 1.14

DGR A/M: damage gold rating, D%/G% of ADC/MID

Table 5: Objective Control – Worlds
Team JUN% DRA% BAR% 1st MID% WPM WCPM
ROX 51.7 48.2 43.0 57.1 3.9 1.2
ANX 46.3 57.7 54.0 42.9 3.1 1.3
CLG 54.1 59.1 43.0 66.7 3.3 1.4
G2 48.3 34.8 11.0 33.3 3.6 1.2

1st Mid %: percentage of games with the 1st mid tower destroyed

As I said previously, Albus NoX Luna has a relatively weaker early game, which is largely because aMiracle has a hard time generating CS at the level of the other top AD Carries. As noted by the team’s DGR A/M, aMiracle also does way less damage in comparison to his mid laner than any other ADC at Worlds. In fact, that 0.60 rating is about as low as it gets for an ADC regardless of competition or region.

If you look at the Regular Season & Playoff gold, damage, and CS statistics of the other AD Carries in Group A, you will notice that aMiracle had some incredibly tough laning matchups. Moreover, if you look at the Regular Season & Playoff Early Game Rating and team gold statistics of the other teams in Group A, you will notice that ANXs early game metrics are not at the same level as the rest of the teams, despite them playing vs. less challenging competition. But this can sometimes be a drawback to only using stats for analysis, until teams actually play each other we do not know how it will all play out. But since the group stages are over and Albus NoX Luna are moving on, we do in fact know how it all played out.

As written by Emily Rand here and here as well as Blog of Legends and Gamurs, a general sentiment about the ANXs early game was: either ANX played better than expected or their competition played worse than expected. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle. Go ahead and look at those GD@15 and EGR stats, ANX is actually playing about average in the early game but some of their opponents who are notable for having a strong early game did not show their prowess in this small sample size during group play.

This either/or explanation got me curious, so I looked into the gold and CS differences of ANX throughout the early and mid-game to see what was going on. See Table 6, color formatting is done by role.

Table 6: Table 6: Individual Gold & CS Differentials – Worlds
Player Role GD@10 GD@15 GD@20 CSD@10 CSD@15 CSD@20
Smurf TOP -78 -71 -322 -5.0 -1.4 -4.0
PvPStejos JUN 250 287 74 0.9 4.9 1.9
Kira MID 166 220 2 4.7 0.4 -1.1
aMiracle ADC -2878 -757 -1,183 -13.0 -19.7 -27.6
Likkrit SUP 128 37 -15 4.9 6.3 8.0

Again, just look at how far behind aMiracle is in both gold and CS throughout the game. I do not want to dig into exactly why aMiracle looks so bad statistically, I just do not think it is a fruitful argument to make. Rather, I will look at how Kira creates such a good early lead.

If you watch the upcoming ANX vs H2K games watch for two things: 1) how Albus NoX Luna drafts for Kira, and 2) how PvPStejos changes up where he applies pressure. First, ANX have almost always drafted Kira’s champion second so that they can give him a favorable matchup in the mid lane. Sometimes this matchup works well and Kira can get ahead on his own but usually Kira trades about evenly with the opposing mid laner and neither of them have a significant gold or CS lead. Second, PvPStejos will consistently change up his jungle pathing. Where PvPStejos chooses to apply pressure is nuanced and determined by laning or jungling matchups. However, if he does roam mid lane for a gank, that has almost always ended up in Kira getting a large CS and gold lead from that point throughout the rest of the early game. Additionally, Likkrit will likely go Boots of Mobility at some point before 15 minutes and then roam the map with PvPStejos to help create plays.

 

The Secret

 

When Brad Stevens was a rookie head coach for the Boston Celtics, something caught his attention during the first time they played the Dallas Mavericks. Stevens was struck by how often Nowitzki “touches and hugs” his teammates. Regardless of sport, “touches and hugs” do not show up in a stat sheet, so how am I, a self-diagnosed stat-head supposed to analyze that sort of thing? Well, “touches and hugs” are way more important to team success than you may realize. Actually, they are part of The Secret to a team reaching its maximum potential.

Dirk Terry Embracing
Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

So what is The Secret? It was first introduced in the basketball world by Bill Simmons in his book “The Book of Basketball” but I will relate it to League of Legends.

As Isaiah Thomas, legendary point guard and 2x NBA Champion for the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons, said to Bill Simmons during an interview, “The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.” Read: “The secret to League is that it’s not about League.”

Got it.

Wait. What? The secret to winning in League of Legends has nothing to do with League of Legends? This makes my brain hurt. I am a data guy and this website is named League of Analytics after all. How am I supposed to analyze The Secret if it has nothing to do with stats from the game?

Well, there are other people than myself who believe this, but The Secret has everything to do with those “touches and hugs” and many other intangibles we cannot statistically measure.

In his book, Bill Simmons discusses those intangibles. He is speaking in terms of basketball but I wholeheartedly believe it applies to other team sports, “Fans overlook The Secret completely. Nobody writes about The Secret because of a general lack of sophistication about basketball; even the latest ‘revolution’ of basketball statistics centers more around evaluating players against one another over capturing their effect on a team. Numbers help, but only to a certain degree. You still have to watch the games. The fans don’t get it. Actually, it goes deeper than that—I’m not sure who gets it. We measure players by numbers, only the playoffs roll around and teams that play together, kill themselves defensively, sacrifice personal success and ignore statistics invariably win the title. We have trouble processing the ‘teamwork over talent’ thing. But how do you keep stats for ‘best chemistry’ and ‘most unselfish’ or even ‘most tangible and consistent effect on a group of teammates’? It’s impossible. That’s why we struggle to comprehend professional basketball.”

Furthermore, here is a quote from NBA legend Bill Russell, an 11x NBA Champion for the Boston Celtics, “I always thought that the most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I made my teammates play.”

Seems simple enough. In League of Legends we are starting to come up with better and better statistics every year, it is an exciting path to be on and share with the rest of the League community. Sometimes as a data analyst I go completely overboard and assume the data is telling me more than what is truly there. But maintaining some perspective is key, even the winningest NBA player of all time only measured himself by how much better he made his teammates play.

Can we measure this sort of “effect on my teammates” thing in League? Honestly, no. And we probably never will but I think that is the beauty of it. Data analytics will always be part science and part art.

 

ANX’s Chances at Worlds

 

So here I am, trying to determine the team dynamics of Albus NoX Luna. It seems a bit folly. I may know about team dynamics better than most but given my current position I can only see so much. But what I do see certainly catches my eye. I think the most important player on ANX is PvPStejos and it has nothing to do with his skills as a jungler but everything to do with how much he “touches and hugs” his teammates.

Stejos Likkrit hug Albus Nox
Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Watch any of their games, as soon as the game is over PvPStejos goes and immediately “touches and hugs” Likkrit and then he does the same with the other guys on the team. The team seems close knit but those two in particular have a very special and strong bond.

Albus Nox embracing Worlds
Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

PvPStejos even does this after losses. A contact of mine who is working the World Championships (this contact wishes to remain anonymous) was backstage after the Game 1 loss to the ROX Tigers on Day 1 of Worlds. He says that he saw Likkrit and PvPStejos getting into it pretty good and arguing with each other, both of them were clearly unhappy. If you watch the VOD those two actually started arguing on stage so I imagine their argument continued all the way backstage as well. But also in that VOD notice how even though they are disagreeing with each other, PvPStejos has his arm on Likkrit’s shoulder. They are arguing yes, but people who do not care for each other do no put their arms around them during an argument.

And honestly, I think it is more than just PvPStejos who, through “touches and hugs”, praises the contributions of his teammates. We saw in an interview between Likkrit and Sjokz just how much support the entire ANX squad has for aMiracle. aMiracle may not be the best ADC out there, he may in fact be the statistical worst at Worlds, but as Likkrit says, “He doesn’t look like a crazy AD Carry or a guy who cares [DB carries?] but actually he’s part of the team spirit.” Likkrit continues, “Yes our team is strong, and some of our players look stronger, but we all are a team and aMiracle is a big part of it”.

Seems like Albus NoX Luna knows The Secret and I am happy they have performed so well. Stats can show a lot about individual and team performance but when it comes to maximizing success, The Secret is one of the most important lenses though which we should analyze a team.

 

If you want more Worlds coverage, check out our stats section with all the advanced team and player stats you need.

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