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Articles:Snowballing in Competitive Play: A look at the data

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Snowballing in Competitive Play: A look at the data

One of the most controversial elements of League of Legends has been its heavy “snowballing” effect. In many post game interviews, professional players mention that their team won or lost due to snowballing. I wanted to look at the numbers of many different objectives and criteria, and see if these leads truly develop into having an effect on the outcome of the game.

First, we have to establish the criteria in which we are examining the effect of snowballing. We will look at the win rates of these criteria based on data from the NA LCS. There are 3 categories with 7 criteria:

  • Early Game Objectives
    • First Blood
    • First Dragon
    • First Tower
  • Late Game Objectives
    • First Baron
    • First Inhibitor
  • Gold Advantages
    • Gold advantage at 15 minutes
    • Gold advantage at 25 minutes

Analyzing NA

BargraphNAObjectives.png

Out of the early game objectives, from looking at the chart on the left, First Blood seems to be the most telling objective: 61% of teams who got First Blood won the game. This is interesting because First Blood gives the least total gold out of these three objectives, a few hundred compared to the thousand or more gold from dragon or towers. However, what I think makes FB so much more telling than the others is that it is rarely traded. Often times people will trade first Dragon for a Top tower, or a Top tower for a Bot tower in 2v1 meta. However, First Blood is often the sign of an outplay. One successful team, Team Vulcun, really pushes for First Blood, as they scored it in 20 out of their 28 games.

In the late game objective category, inhibitors always hold more weight than Barons: The victor takes the first inhibitor in 89% of matches compared to only 81% of first Baron. This is somewhat expected because Inhibitors hold much more strength and are a more prized objective. In NA there have even been 16 games without a Baron takedown by either team. Also, these objectives have surprisingly similar average times, with the First Baron being averaged at 28:32 and the first inhibitor being averaged at 31:05.

The last thing to discuss is the gold advantages: Teams with a gold lead 15 minutes into the game win 66% of their games, whereas teams that have a gold lead at 25 minutes win in 80.4% of games. The fact that 66% of the teams that have a lead at 15 min proceed to win is very interesting: Early game definitely has a significant impact on the game; however, it is not insurmountable, as it has about the same win rate as a First Blood. On the other side, a gold advantage at 25 minutes is extremely significant, about the same win rate as getting first Baron.

Extremely Early Objectives

BargraphEarlyObjectives.png

The next thing we are going to look at is not just if a team got the first objective or not but WHEN they got these objectives, in order to see if there is a correlation between getting extra early objectives and winning. As we can see on the chart, getting early objectives gives a huge increase in win percentage. For example: If you get first blood before the minions touch (2:30 game time), you have a 79% win rate, whereas if teams just get first blood at any time they have a 61 % win rate. The impact of securing objectives very early clearly affects the amount of snowballing that occurs: These objectives are worth more the earlier the game is, as you are able to invest that money into an item advantage to press on your opponent.

The second thing I wanted to look at in this section is the degree of gold advantage. We went over before that if you have a gold advantage at 15 min you have a 66% win rate; however, if you have a gold advantage of 5,000 or more, the win rate is bumped up to 85% of the games. Similarly, we mentioned before that if you have a gold lead at 25 min, you have a 80% win rate; yet, if you have a gold lead of 7,000 or more, you end up with a win % of 97.3%! Even though a 7k gold lead at 25 min seems rare, it was an occurrence in 1/3rd of the games in NA LCS (37 games). This means that even though an NA LCS game lasts around 37 minutes, the outcome of almost 1/3rd of the games is essentially decided by the 25th minute mark.

Regional Comparison

BargraphRegionalObjectives.png

The last section to look at is a comparison between NA, EU, and Korea. Looking at different regions gives a very interesting perspective. Many people say that Korea is better, and that Korea snowballs harder on leads because they are most efficient with their play. We can now see the evidence of that here: These Korean values are based on OGN Summer, and we can notice that the degree of snowballing in that league is extremely high in comparison to NA. An observation that can be made is that a First Blood in Korea leads to almost the same win rate as the first Baron takedown in NA. Another interesting fact is that in all of NA and EU LCS (224+ games), there has never been a surrender vote before an inhibitor has died. However, in the just 36 games of Korea OGN summer there have been four surrenders before inhibitors were destroyed. Koreans are not just confident in their ability to snowball a lead, but they count on it!



Written by Spellsy - @SpellsyLoL
Graphics provided by Eric “Vesca Violette” Womack - @VescaViolette
Edited by Adel “Hype Algerian” Chouadria - @hypealgerian
Gold Stats by @3leven



Anonymous user #1

318 days ago
Score 3+-
So basically NA is the best region at "throwing" :D

Anonymous user #2

318 days ago
Score 0+-
so basicly na is the worst region in pro competion

Anonymous user #3

318 days ago
Score 0+-
CLG fan here, I can confirm it

Anonymous user #4

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Basically NA is the best at taking a losing situation, then winning the game. See WW1, WW2.

Anonymous user #5

318 days ago
Score 0+-
so basically EU>NA? Nothing new then i guess..

Anonymous user #6

317 days ago
Score 0+-
Anonymous user #4 remember pearl harbour maybe

Anonymous user #7

317 days ago
Score 0+-
or NA is the worst region concerning snowballing

Zafton

310 days ago
Score 0+-
or u can also say, na players dont tend do give up easily until the 1st baron or 1st inhib :P

Anonymous user #8

318 days ago
Score 1+-

These data clearly (at least for me) shows that Korean teams are the best at using early advantage and snowballing from it, like they should.

The 2 biggest things to me are the differences of win% between NA and Korea after First Blood and first Inhibitor. It shows how much NA teams need to learn to play CONSISTENTLY and not throw games. Asian players, once they get in position where they can take down inhibitor, basically every time close the game, while in US it's still over 10% chance that this huge advantage will be thrown away. It's huge.

EU placing between those 2 (closer to Korea than NA) is not a surprise - it's widely known and EU team are better than NA and while (probably) not as good as Koreans, they are very close to them.

Anonymous user #9

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Or it could be a sign of giving up early, instead of trying to win despite the loss of objectives. While you theory is very likely, I'd heard that the Koreans are prone to surrender more often then others when they lose lane or other objectives.

Anonymous user #10

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Koreans surrender 'early' in a similar way to how Grandmaster chess players surrender early. It's not because they are 'giving up' but because they respect their (professional) opponents not to make humongous mistakes. Koreans actually do tend to play much less 'respectfully' and hang around even in losing games when they're playing opponents of less skill than them (amateurs, foreigners, etc.) There's just an atmosphere of professionalism about gaming that most players in the west lack.

Anonymous user #11

318 days ago
Score 0+-
It's not so much consistency, imo, but knowing what to do with that first objective. Koreans will snowball it by taking MORE objectives, THAT is efficiency; think C9. It's knowing how to keep kicking the enemy while they're down instead of taking a kill and then not being able to know how to mobilize and take more objectives

Anonymous user #12

318 days ago
Score 1+-

"Koreans surrender 'early' in a similar way to how Grandmaster chess players surrender early. It's not because they are 'giving up' but because they respect their (professional) opponents not to make humongous mistakes. Koreans actually do tend to play much less 'respectfully' and hang around even in losing games when they're playing opponents of less skill than them (amateurs, foreigners, etc.) There's just an atmosphere of professionalism about gaming that most players in the west lack."

Or could it be that non-Koreans tend to just play the game at full effort until it's finished out of respect for their opponent? I wouldn't call an early surrender to an early advantage "respect". Remember, first and foremost you're here to play the game (a FULL game)- quitting early is generally considered disrespectful. If you respect your opponent, you keep playing with your best effort until the game is finished.

More important is the respect toward the fans. In any sport, if you're down going into the final period and 'surrender', your fans will HATE you because they came to see you play, not to see you give up.

Anonymous user #13

318 days ago
Score 0+-

Yea there is no comparison to board games and league games. In board games there are a finite amount of moves you can make. Similar to go. Most Go matchs end with a surrender, near 90%+. Because before you even count up moku its obvious you cant come back. Where as in league you can ALWAYS come back. If i remember correctly there was a pretty famous Azubu game where they lost all 3 inhibs and still came back to win the game. So you cant say that surrendering early is ever a good idea.

Honestly the way i see it is that Korea's defensive play is just way stronger then other regions. It isnt that they are better players on a player by player basis. But that it is much harder to find holes in there game while they are playing. So if one team gets a advantage, its much harder to come back from that deficit because its so hard to break through their defense.

Thats the big difference between Korean teams and other regions. But to be fair NA(while i am still a massive NA fan) is also pretty good at throwing leads( clg/curse/dig/TSM woot xD!).

Anonymous user #12

318 days ago
Score -1+-

"Yea there is no comparison to board games and league games. In board games there are a finite amount of moves you can make. Similar to go. Most Go matchs end with a surrender, near 90%+. Because before you even count up moku its obvious you cant come back. Where as in league you can ALWAYS come back. If i remember correctly there was a pretty famous Azubu game where they lost all 3 inhibs and still came back to win the game. So you cant say that surrendering early is ever a good idea."

This is especially true! In Chess, you can literally see every possible move your opponent can make since you know exactly where all the pieces are on the table. This is why vision is so important in games like LoL and SC2.

Also, there is no skill requirement to make moves in Chess. Not everyone has the skills required to land flash hooks, blind skillshots, and dodge skillshots. However, even a toddler can move pieces around the chessboard (whether or not they make the right decisions is another thing, though).

Anonymous user #14

317 days ago
Score 0+-
Whoever was talking about how Koreans quitting a game early wasn't a sign of respect is just dead wrong and has never watched a single day of BW. Koreans quitting games "early" is nothing new at all and shouldn't surprise anyone unless they've only been exposed to Koreans in League of Legends.

Anonymous user #15

314 days ago
Score 0+-
Koreans normally surrender when they are in a Bo3 or Bo5 as they feel that if they dwell on the losing game, it would affect their performance next game.

Meristematic

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Really interesting again, I love these stats. I think it would be really interesting if these stats were available for solo queue games, just to see how often Bronze leaguers "throw"

Anonymous user #16

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Omg this, please

Anonymous user #17

318 days ago
Score 0+-
Bunch of anti us comments here you jealous bastards.

Anonymous user #18

318 days ago
Score 0+-
last pic has a little inaccurate graph - first tower and first dragon green columns should be below 70% mark

Anonymous user #19

318 days ago
Score 0+-
i am gay

Anonymous user #19

318 days ago
Score 0+-
i am gay

Anonymous user #20

318 days ago
Score 0+-

If you really wish to see snowballing, you should get dependancy not only between major events and win, but between major events themselves. I.e. relation between : first blood and first gragon, first dragon and first inhib, first dragon and first baron,

etc

Anonymous user #21

318 days ago
Score 0+-
I'm sure the graph for LAS is completely chaotic cause we all blow monkey dicks

Anonymous user #22

318 days ago
Score 0+-
all i know is europe sucks mad dicks

SugiStlye

318 days ago
Score 0+-
I think people should stop picking on regions (EU better, NA better, korea OP crap). Each region has their good players and good teams. No need to make everything so stereotypical.

Anonymous user #23

317 days ago
Score 0+-
kr>eu>na>others

Theelkspeaks

317 days ago
Score 0+-
I would also argue that the difference in early surrenders in Korea rather than NA or EU is in part due to the greater number of teams (16 rather than 8) leading to more significant mismatches, and due to the fact that the teams truly known for their late game are EG, CLG, and Vulcun, whereas most Korean teams specialize in winning quickly. Teams with amazing late games are less likely to surrender. Finally, with the increased emphasis on the Mid laners in EU and ADCs in NA, as opposed to the Support and Jungle in Korea, the focus is on late game roles and late game teamfights even more so than on early objectives.

Darkfinale

317 days ago
Score 0+-

We'll see who's the best region in one week's time. No need to compare because different gameplay orientation works differently against different matchups. The playstyles are different and we'll see which one eventually truimphs.

In the meantime go ahead and support the teams :D

Anonymous user #24

317 days ago
Score 0+-

'Also, there is no skill requirement to make moves in Chess. Not everyone has the skills required to land flash hooks, blind skillshots, and dodge skillshots. However, even a toddler can move pieces around the chessboard (whether or not they make the right decisions is another thing, though).'

What an idiot, comparing apples and oranges? Yes anyone can move a chess piece, but only skilled players can make that move count...similar to how anyone can play league and move champions only the skilled can make those movements count.

Pajozi

317 days ago
Score 0+-

How 2 "Win": - Get FB - Get First Drake - Get more than 5k gold advantage @15min

Simple ;)

Anonymous user #25

317 days ago
Score 1+-

The main problem with this analysis is it doesn't separate the act of taking an objective from its context. For instance, I'll bet the first team that manages to get an auto-attack on the nexus probably wins 99% of games. But is that because auto-ing the nexus just once is itself just so OP, or because you have to be in a commanding lead before you even can auto the nexus?

The really interesting question would be to look at baron and dragon steals. When a team with a lead initiates baron, and a trailing team steals it, who generally goes on to win, the team with baron or the team that was in position to start baron in the first place? Would really help to answer the "snowball" question.

Jxion

315 days ago
Score 0+-
Very interesting data! NA likes to throw

Osu6551

314 days ago
Score 0+-

Depending on how you define snowballing and view its effects, what I have to say may have nothing to do with this page, or it may have everything to do with it. Think about that first.

I would like to see deeper analysis into how the outcomes of the games were actually decided. For example, a team could get first blood and end the game up by 400 gold. I wouldn't call that a snowball, but it would be included in these statistics.

I look at these statistics more so as indicative of how well leads are held to the end of the game. I think of snowballing and holding leads as similar but very different. When I hear people complain about snowballing it sounds like a single, relatively small occurrence, like a kill in lane, gives a small lead in items or gold that keeps growing until it's almost useless to continue playing, because the gap is so insurmountable.

That's how I think of it, too; something that starts out small but rolls down the hill and keeps growing until there's nothing you can do to stop it. It doesn't take much skill to pull it off, but if it's allowed to grow too much, no one can stop it. That's what I think is bad for a game, not holding a lead.

Holding a lead, on the other hand, would be more like what I mentioned in my first paragraph. You outplay your opponent to gain an advantage, which is necessary in a game with no option to draw, and you hold that lead. It's a very little bit like other sports; get the first goal in a soccer game and play even the rest of the way. It's not unfair by any means; it's how the game has to happen, because the game needs a winner.

I think these statistics can be great for showing how well leads are held, but I don't know if I see them as showing a snowball effect. For instance, I wouldn't really consider something as relatively late, hard fought, and monumental as an inhibitor destruction to mean the game snowballed after that. Losing an inhib isn't something you should absentmindedly forget about or something that is lost as the result of a single misjudgment, like pushing too far in lane and getting ganked. There are countless factors that go into how a team got it, so I think they're usually pretty deserved at that point and not small happenings.

To summarize, I see snowballing as a relatively small occurrence, like pushing a lane too hard and getting ganked, growing out of control with no chance of stopping it. Holding a lead, on the other hand, is gaining an advantage, however small or large, and using it to ensure victory.

They're very similar, but I consider snowballing less player skill dependent and more a result of the design of the game, while I see lead holding to be very dependent on the abilities and experience of the player. Holding a lead requires effort throughout the whole game, while snowballing requires the initial push and then little effort after. Otherwise, if they're the same idea, then there's no problem, because that's how sports work.

I don't think these statistics are enough to say that snowballing happens, because they only look at a single event and the outcome of the game. I would like to see, for example, how many first bloods led to first dragons, leading to first towers, to first Barons or inhibitors, etc.

Good work showing how much of an advantage is gained from each objective and how well regions are at holding leads/how poor they are at getting back into games. I look forward to the next article.

Zafton

310 days ago
Score 0+-
u should go watch some froggen plays :)

Zafton

310 days ago
Score 0+-
i suggest u go watch some froggen plays

Anonymous user #26

308 days ago
Score 0+-

They should count the number of nexuses taken during the game, Number: 1

Win rate: 100%

Anonymous user #27

248 days ago
Score 0+-
Uhm i thought TSM surrendered once before an inhib was destroyed, in the first weak of summer split against C9 if my mind isnt farting :P

Anonymous user #28

218 days ago
Score 0+-

This game has gold and items from killing monsters and heroes. It will snowball. The only way to remove it would be to generically give everyone gold only based on time, not on pushes, first bloods, etc.

Then all the gank would be helpful for was poking that tower more so you could get it down faster... and so on../
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