LCS 2021: Champion Pools and How to Look At Player Damage

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

We look at how champion picks can impact the damage a player does and see which LCS player does the most damage regardless of champion picks.

Statistics in League of Legends are complicated. Even something so simple as evaluating the damage done by a player in a game (damage per minute and damage share being the most commonly-used methods) doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why there are many in and around the LCS community who bristle at the use of these singular statistics to give an evaluation of players.

For instance, comparing two mid laners in a single game by their damage dealt is affected by a number of factors. Those include which champion snowballed and got ahead in their lane, how they itemized, and which champion they picked.

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If we’re looking at a matchup of Zilean versus Cassiopeia, seeing the player on Zilean do less damage is not an indication that they played worse than the Cassiopeia. Because Zilean is meant to itemize and play more for utility, it’s expected that they should do less damage per minute, and a lower percentage of their team’s damage, than a player on a hyper-carry mid like Cassiopeia.

But just because one player does less damage on a champion like Zilean compared to Cassiopeia does not give them a free pass to deal significantly low damage. Even though utility champions, supports, and tanks are meant to do less damage than marksmen or AP carries, they are still meant to do some damage.

High damage is an indication that a player is able to participate in and survive long enough in fights to make a meaningful impact. It indicates that a player is itemizing properly, whether to deal more damage or just survive long enough to get another rotation of spells off. And, most importantly, it can indicate that a player has performed well enough to get an advantage and properly leverage it to his and the team’s benefit.

So, if we acknowledge that it’s important for players to deal damage, because it is something of a measure of how impactful they were in a game, but also that various factors impact damage numbers, how can we use damage to evaluate a player’s impact?

We can’t quite account for a player’s in-game decisions like itemization and how early game pacing because those are often influenced by factors outside of a player’s control. For instance, the Cassiopeia mid will play the lane differently and itemize differently if the enemy team has a winning jungle matchup or a fed Mordekaiser. It’s impossible to use statistics to account for those factors.

What we can account for, however, is the factor that a player and team can control but which also influences the amount of damage dealt: champion picks. In each game, a player and team have a decision of which champion they think is most effective in a given role, based on the team composition and the player’s ability. Within this decision comes an expectation that the player will pilot the champion as or more effectively than others in a similar situation.

Therefore, if we look at a player’s damage output in a given game on a certain champion and compare it to the typical damage output of an average player on that champion, this is a way that we can evaluate their impact. To put it another way: if the player has a higher DPM in a game than an average Zilean player, we could say that indicates that they had more impact than the average Zilean. Whether that increased damage is due to playing teamfights better, proper itemization, or just a higher skill compared to average Zileans, it’s undeniable that there is a higher impact in terms of damage.