League of Legends LCS: Why NA mids just can’t measure up

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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League of Legends
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But why mid lane?

This is a difficult question to answer, as to why mid lane is so bad in North America. One explanation could be the ping, as mid lane is one of the most mechanically-intensive roles in League of Legends and the high ping could be stunting the growth of native mid laners playing on this server. However, this explanation seems thin given that the other mechanically-intensive role, ADC, has arguably been one of North America’s strongest roles for native players.

Those other tried-and-true excuses for the lack of NA talent, like the lack of infastructure or small server, also seem to carry far less weight when you see how NA has been able to produce some high-quality of player in other roles.

Another explanation could be a lack of competition, maybe there just aren’t a lot of high-quality
mid laners at the top of the ranked ladder. Looking at the top ten players on the NA ranked ladder, we have four top laners, four junglers, nine ADCs, one support, and seven mid laners. How is it that NA is managing to produce so many decent LCS junglers and supports when there are so few at the top of the ranked ladder, yet there are tons of mid laners that can’t survive in the LCS? And it’s not as though these players haven’t been getting their opportunities in the LCS.

In 2019 alone we saw not only Damonte get his first real shot as an LCS starter, but we also saw young players like David “Yusui” Bloomquist and Max “Soligo” Soong get their shots as LCS players. And they all struggled mightily.

Among all NA mids in the 2019 Summer Split, the only one to average a positive gold differential and CS differential at 10 minutes was Pobelter (+5g, +0.9 CS). Yusui and Soligo were the two worst mids in terms of CS differential at 10 minutes (-9.3 CS for Yusui and -10.0 for Soligo) and Soligo was the worst among all NA mid laners in gold differential at 10 minutes (-448g). These guys were not only awful in lane, they were also awful in terms of KDA (Soligo’s 1.6 KDA was second-worst for mids, Yusui’s 1.3 was the worst), kill participation (Yusui had a 50% KP which was worst in the role, Soligo’s was at least better at 65%), and neither participated in a first blood all split. Worse yet, those horrid numbers were an improvement for Soligo, who posted even worse CS differential (-14.5 CSD at 10) and KDA (1.4) in the spring.

But, if you want to know what is a real swift kick in the groin for NA fans, it’s the fact that when both of those players got sent down to the Academy league, they immediately looked better. Yusui posted the best KDA, gold and experience differentials at 10, and had the highest first-blood percentage among Academy mids. Soligo didn’t have the same massive jump, but he was in the top half of the Academy mids for most of those stats as well. In short, these guys were clearly among the best options available in the Academy system, but they weren’t able to stand up to LCS mids (most of whom were non-natives).

What does it mean?

Right now, a lot of players are angry at LCS teams for overlooking NA talent. In truth, that anger is misdirected. LCS teams have simply figured out where the NA talent can measure up to what is available on the international stage, and correctly identified the areas it cannot.

For all of those fans outraged that players like Pobelter or Damonte are not getting an LCS spot, answer this question truthfully: do you think they’re better than Bjergsen or Jensen? Crown or PowerOfEvil? Nisqy or Froggen?

Next. TSM Dardoch is doomed to fail. dark

Right now, Goldenglue is the only native NA player slated to play in the LCS in 2020. In the Academy league, he ranked behind Yusui in KDA and behind both Yusui and Soligo in gold differential and CS differential at 10.

He is, by many measures, worse than two of the worst mid laners in the LCS last year. Right now, he would be (and should be) the lowest-ranked mid laner entering the 2020 LCS Spring Split. Golden Guardians could (and probably should) find an import mid laner from a mid-tier LEC or LPL team and be far better for it.

The NA talent pool in mid lane is just not to the level that it can produce good players. It’s not a function of the server or the LCS or any external factors. There just aren’t enough mid laners who have come up through ranked and Academy and proved that they can measure up in one of the most high-impact roles in League of Legends.