LCK mid laner power index: is Faker washed up?

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Statistical breakdown of LCK mid laners as of 1/31/2019.
Statistical breakdown of LCK mid laners as of 1/31/2019. /

Looking at the numbers here, what should be completely unsurprising to anyone who’s watched any amount of LCK – particularly Griffin – is that Chovy is the best mid in Korea by a mile. However, according to holistic stats, the next best mid laners after him are, in order, Sandbox Gaming’s Kim “Dove” Jae-yeon, KT Rolster’s Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, and Kingzone’s Heo “PawN” Won-seok, with Faker rounding out the top five. Yes, the number say that Faker is still a good mid laner, but he’s much closer to the middle of the pack than he is to the top.

Among those top five players Faker has the second-worst KDA (ahead of only PawN); lowest kills, kill participation, and kill share; the fewest assists; and he is the only one of them to have a negative average gold differential at the 15-minute mark. According to the numbers, right now Faker is closer to performing like ShowMaker or Fly than he is even to Dove, let alone Chovy.

To put both Faker and Chovy’s numbers into perspective, let’s compare them to an even greater mid laner: 2016 Faker.

Statistical breakdown of LCK mid laners (compared to stats from Faker in 2016) as of 1/31/2019.
Statistical breakdown of LCK mid laners (compared to stats from Faker in 2016) as of 1/31/2019. /

For those who just started following League of Legends in the last few years, that is what Faker was at the apex of his career. In the 2016 Summer Split, Faker had some absurd numbers like a 31.1% kill share, 29.4% damage share, and a ridiculous 667 damage dealt per minute. That is 200 damage more per minute than the current best damage-dealing mid in the LCK, BDD at 466 DPM (we don’t count Naehyun’s 502 DPM because it only came in one game).

In 2016, Faker was hard-carrying his team to a level that Chovy has shown he could be capable of, but he still needs to be able to sustain it over a full split. More strikingly, however, is the difference in Faker’s 2016 stats compared to those in 2019. A lower KDA, lower kill participation, lower kill share, and paltry damage, by comparison, there is no denying that Faker’s numbers are not what they were at his peak.

The Unkillable Daemon King, unfortunately, looks mortal. The question then must be asked: why is Faker washed up now?

Partly, this can be explained by small sample size – after all, we’re only at the first quarter pole of the spring split. Another factor is Faker’s champion pool.

This season, Faker has played Urgot in half of his games, with Galio being the second-most played. Both of these champions rank towards the bottom of the LCK in gold per minute and CS differential at 15, which could explain his lackluster gold share and early game performances. Compare that with Chovy, who has played probably the strongest mid lane pick – Akali – in half of his games.

“But maybe he can’t play those power picks, Josh,” you might counter, “if he can’t play champs like Akali, doesn’t that mean Faker is washed up?” And there is an argument to be made for that since SKT has banned Akali in the first ban phase seven times and neglected to pick the champion when available in another three series. But it’s much more likely that Faker is playing these tankier picks to offset his teammate’s playstyles.

Faker was joined in the offseason by Kim “Khan” Dong-ha in the top lane and Kim “Clid” Tae-min in the jungle, both players who do not have a reputation for playing tanks very effectively. Khan’s most-played champions this season are Viktor and Jayce, with only one game on Urgot and none on a pure tank. Similarly, Clid has played a ton of Olaf, Lee Sin, and Xin Zhao, but only one game apiece on Sejuani and Gragas.

Therein lies the explanation, though: Faker has better teammates now than he ever has before. Compare this SKT line-up to that of 2016, when Faker was dragging along a team with Duke, Blank, and Bengi on the top-side of the map, none of whom had a kill share, gold per minute, or gold share close to him. It was largely on his shoulders – as well as ADC Bang – to get all that gold and all those kills while his teammates enabled them, and they ended the season as World Champions. Now the tables have turned, as Faker doesn’t need to carry a weak top and jungle, but has the freedom to enable them when the meta suits it.

So is Faker washed up? Statistically, yes, he’s nowhere near the player he used to be. No matter how you slice it, Chovy also has a team of star players around him and he’s been putting up spectacular numbers.

But before we anoint Chovy as the wunderkind who knocked Faker off his throne, don’t forget that one of these players has the team largely built around them, while the other is more willing to take a step back to enable his stars. Faker’s already proven that he can hard-carry a team to titles with incredible performances. Now it’s Chovy’s turn to do the same.

Next. LCK week 2 results and recap. dark

What do you guys think? Is Faker washed up, or are his stats just less eye-popping because he’s playing for his team?