Did you know that out of the last ten first-team All-Pro marksmen, only two were not a part of the team with the best record for that split?
- 2022 Spring – Steven “Hans sama” Liv (Team Liquid).
- 2021 Summer – Victor “FBI” Huang (100 Thieves). Evil Geniuses and TSM also held 18-9 records for the split — Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki would receive second-team honors, Lawrence “Lost” Hui would receive community criticism and a trade.
- 2021 Spring – Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen (Cloud 9)
- 2020 Summer – Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen on the second place Cloud 9
- 2020 Spring – Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen (Cloud 9)
- 2019 Summer – Peter “Doublelift” Peng (Team Liquid)
- 2019 Spring – Peter “Doublelift” Peng (Team Liquid)
- 2018 Summer – Peter “Doublelift” Peng (Team Liquid)
- 2018 Spring – Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (100 Thieves). I also did not know Cody Sun used his name. This was a nice little treat in the research process.
- 2017 Summer – Peter “Doublelift” Peng (TSM)
- 2017 Spring – Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon on the third place Phoenix1
The perception of the marksman role is complicated. It is a role that times does not feel like the most “important” role to the game of League of Legends. But, it is a role that has often been targeted as a reason for a team’s highs or a team’s lows.
In the early years of competitive League of Legends, it was common practice to criticize the European region for their lack of development in the marksman region and to become cautiously optimistic about North America and China for their excess of talent in the position.
The good old days.
Slowly, the world evolved from this state of thinking. Instead, focus was made onto other roles. The jungler is an important role. Maybe having a ton of good mid laners is actually a good thing for a region.
But there was still this underlying focus on how valuable the marksmen was. Especially in the LCS.
With old names exiting the picture, the community has struggled to connect with some of the newer talent. And it has led to this general confusion of who is actually good. More importantly, there has been a shift in marksman usage. How a team elects to use their carry now varies away from the traditional usage. And as a result, the strengths of players can vary from team to team.
It also makes it very easy to pick on Danny.
When Evil Geniuses announced the departure of Matthew “Deftly” Chen at the 2021 mid-season break, it wasn’t a surprise. Evil Geniuses were relatively uninspiring as a team — fifth place in the regular season and missing out on top-four during the Mid-Season Showdown.
Statistically, he was fine — going even in laning phase, producing the second-highest damage per minute among marksmen and dying the least amount among marksmen.
But Deftly appeared to be a cap on the team’s potential. More specifically, he couldn’t keep up with Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro’s tempo. It was sort of like having a quarterback that could do an excellent job at quick, short passes that was paired with a wide receiver that was a deep threat. It worked in a lot of ways — Evil Geniuses had a record above .500. It simply wasn’t getting the maximum potential of the lineup.
By bringing in the young gun, Evil Geniuses looked to take advantage of what was working with their system. Danny’s high mechanical skill ceiling would force teams to have to account for both carries in teamfights. It would set the stage for the “protect the two presidents” line-up that would feature a new mid-laner in 2022 — Joseph Joon “jojopyun” Pyun.
But the system requires a ton of things to go right.
Early in the year, Evil Geniuses saw struggles. Things simply were not going right. One of the big issues: the positioning of their two carries. A lot of it was the team getting used to each other, communicating better and there can be the general “simply getting out-played” by better teams. While Evil Geniuses made improvements, so did others.
Focusing on the man of the hour, in the first half of the season, Danny would rank second among marksmen in gold difference at ten minutes (+389), take on the largest percentage of creeps post fifteen minutes (34.4%) and output the most damage per minute (661) but the team would have 4-5 record.
The system was being executed, just not getting the results expected. There are two ways to view it: his team should have been better or, he had to live up to the expectations with the resources he was given.
In the second half of the season, we got our answer. Sort of. In the final ten games of their regular season, Evil Geniuses would go 6-4. Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme did become a Nautilius one-trick and the new players to the LCS stage did look more comfortable.
But one champion seemingly changed things for the better. Because in five of those wins, he would be on Zeri. The other champions produced more scattered results.
In the month of March, Danny saw a fairly significant regression in his statistical performance. He would fall back to averaging laning deficits, would still have a large percentage of his team’s overall economy but wasn’t out-putting as much damage. To his credit, he and his team were taking advantage of the late-game value Zeri offers while understanding of the early-game limitations.
In the spring split playoffs, Evil Geniuses would continue to follow their hot hand. And seemingly, the meta played right into Danny and company’s strengths — ten total games on Zeri and Jinx, 8-2 in said matches. If he was to be targeted on the bans list, he had the powerful Xayah pick ready to go.
It was a late-season run that turned around the narrative for Evil Geniuses and more importantly, their young talent. As a fan of the idea of investing into North America’s future, it was a tremendous sigh of relief.
Yet, it did distort what actually was going on — what made Evil Geniuses great, what allowed for Danny to reach this point. The attention was on the individual performance of the players rather than the system itself.
Individual performances would be targeted at MSI as a result. Specifically, Jeong “Impact” Eon-young would be in the crosshairs of fans for poor performances.
Danny would once again be a top performer in damage-related statistics but was not producing as much compared to his performance in the play-offs.
But with a player receiving as much investment as he does in so many different ways, it does beg the question of when does the investment no longer pay off. Despite there being a clear correlation of more resources leading to more damage, there is a limit to resource allocation. Do we ever really ask marksmen to work with less?
Because there are so many factors that can go into a marksmen performance, it truly is difficult to determine who is doing the “best” or what is the “best strategy.” Weak-side versus strongside. Low economy carries versus larger economy carries. One of my favorite statistics to put things on a level playing field is “gold-usage.” For every one gold, how much damage are you able to output.
Here’s 2022 Spring breakdown, compared against the player’s percentage of their team’s economy:
And here it is from a split prior just for further color:
In 2021 summer, Johnson “Johnsun” Nguyen would come under fire from the community. After performing well on Dignitas, questions were raised about whether it was just another beneficiary of the Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black’s charity work. Yet he would be one of the best marksmen when it came to usage of resource allocation after joining FlyQuest.
He would also be one of the best performing laning marksmen in the region, +148 gold at ten minutes, + 14 creeps at ten minutes. Unfortunately, a lot of issues with the other side of the map and a general identity crisis with the team negated any positives with FlyQuest.
This split, Fatih “Luger” Güven was widely recognized as the most hard-stuck individual player in North America. The prospect shined on 100 Thieves Academy, saving the team in 2021. And he was joining a Counter Logic Gaming line-up with a ton of promise, centered around young, academy talent.
It didn’t work out that way.
Luger would never really have the time to breathe. Despite being paired with his former 100 Thieves Academy support, the duo would struggle to get things going in the laning phase. A chaotic system featuring top laner looking to split push and a jungler struggling to reel it in negated any chance of team fighting comfort. The one game where they looked the most composed was the Week 3 match-up against Cloud 9 — the first game for Cloud 9 after the firing of their head coach.
Fortunately for him, he is still on the receiving end of a massive amount of praise and hype for his future. It is just hoped that it stays that way.
Edward “Tactical” Ra quietly had another impressive split — this time on the crumbling TSM. He would average laning leads at ten minutes but once again would be plagued with disappointing positioning issues in team fights. He would have the most deaths among marksman and it wasn’t even close — 56. However, he would have the fourth highest damage per minute with a middle class economy.
And it cannot be stated enough: TSM was a cluster.
Another interesting one is Steven “Hans sama” Liv. The recipient of first team all-pro honors was able to turn a large early game lead into an economy that didn’t require as much. He ranked first among marksmen in gold difference at ten minutes (+295) but sixth in percentage of team’s creeps post fifteen minutes (29.2%). His percentage of his team’s overall economy was only 25.9%. And while he only produced the sixth highest damage per minute figure, he was able to hand over resources to his laners for them to thrive — specifically Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau — who can thrive with more resources.
And then there are the ones you want to forget. Toàn “Neo” Trần is struggling to find his footing in his sophomore year as a professional player. The previously mentioned Johnsun is making the haters look really good — although it could be argued it was the meta. He went 0-4 on Zeri, 3-4 on Jinx. He would be 7-2 on all other champions in the regular season.
And then there are the marksmen that are just playing really freaking well. Victor “FBI” Huang continues to be a beast for 100 Thieves. And despite clear issues with the laning phase — likely associated with roster turmoil — Kim “Berserker” Min-cheo continues to impress.
The recent beauty to the marksman position in North America is that any one player could make a name for themselves. Especially with prospects waiting in academy that continue to impress, there’s hope. But there also needs to be understanding of who marksmen truly are and why things happen.
Maybe Calvin “k1ng” Truong won’t be statistically as impressive in a weak-side situation. Maybe Tactical is one of the more flexible young marksmen in North America that really was struggling due to a bad team fit. Or maybe we stop giving Lawrence “Lost” Hui a paycheck because he is a good dude.
Prospects continue to play on relatively short leashes unless they are involved with a less-than-popular organization. We continue to look at record performance rather than the statistic performance.
The general hope is that more understanding can be had with the marksmen role and the new era of talent. Narratives continue to play a massive role in terms of conversation around players and their value but at times, individual performances can float under the radar. Or, at times, they can give players too much credit.
There will never be this balance.
That’s what adds to the fun and the mystery of evaluating talent. But from a story-telling perspective, it truly does feel as if some incredible performances from talented players gets lost. Whether it be from the wrong system, the story or just not the right timing. And for a region looking to figure out its talent scouting issue, that’s a problem.