The value of first blood is incredibly hard to pinpoint. Because of its dependence on team composition, skill difference and resources invested on it, how much getting first blood contributes to a victory is something that ultimately can’t be measured.
Traditionally, we’ve been fed correlations between first blood and win rates, an oversimplification that clarifies nothing. Better teams can get first blood against weaker opponents simply by skill difference and, since better teams win more often by definition, we can see how quickly the correlation becomes irrelevant.
Here at LolKing, we’ve taken a look at the rate first bloods among the semifinalists of the NA LCS, and the team’s capacity from capitalizing on this gold lead.
Restricting ourselves to the best teams, we greatly diminish the skill slant and, looking only at the next seven minutes of the game, we analyze a much simpler problem.
In this manner, we are provided with a more reliable understanding of the influence of first blood for top teams.
FlyQuest are the North American Jankos. They are the Kings of First Blood, and they get nothing from it. Even when taking two out of every three first kills when facing any of the other semi-finalists, they average absolutely no gold gain from them. Furthermore, aside from a few crazy snowballs, they actually lose money on most games. Only in two out of ten do they actually gain any kind of gold from their lead.
This is why statistics have to be backed up by the eye test. Looking at the numbers, it would seem like FlyQuest are terrible at snowballing, and this is hardly true. The data shows them gaining advantages in kills, dragons and, specially, towers.
While the possibility of them using too many resources for their picks has to be considered, a more relevant factor seems to be at play. Their disadvantage comes mainly from their weak laners.
Despite gaining every kind of possible advantage for a team, the strength of their solo laners suffers when facing other top 4 teams. By getting kills and turrets, they simply manage to undo the natural disadvantage resulting from facing superior farmers.
Seeing how P1 lags behind in gold, whether they start the killing or not, it seems pretty apparent that snowballing this advantage is not their strongest suit. The most dragon focused out of the four teams, late game seems to be what the squad aims for, more so than concerning themselves with early snowball.
Not only does Arrow have more impact in the game once he has farmed a few items, but Ryu’s strength lies more on intelligent play than it does on raw mechanics. Stylistically, it makes more sense for the phoenixes to play a more mid to late game focused style.
This desire is also suggested by their heavy focus on taking dragons, by far the highest out of any team, suggesting they are trading them for other objectives in order to avoid conflict and reach for a smoother late game.
It would, however, be dishonest not to talk about their two junglers. Because of the jungle swap, these stats might be the least significative, as one would imagine that first bloods change greatly from jungler to jungler.
The games played by Meteos unavoidably taint our data, but this does not mean we can’t draw conclusions from it. Seeing how it makes sense for them stylistically, and based on the numbers being very similar across the whole split, I expect P1 to still showcase poor management of first blood leads.
TSM bashes or gets bashed, there is no alternative. They are the undoubted champions of snowballing a kill, averaging a seven hundred gold lead on top of the gold from the pick. Even if this is a result of them drafting for the early game more heavily, it is still a very impressive result, as they are getting 32% extra gold over the second highest earner in this category.
However, the same goes for their opponents. When losing first blood, TSM gets only one out of three kills in the next seven minutes (out of a sample of thirty), even fewer turrets and only one out of five dragons. They lead objective losses when behind by a big margin over their contenders, and they only stay slightly ahead of P1 in deaths.
Taking into account the fact that TSM has the lowest first blood rate when facing a top 4 team, and looking at how they manage the bleeding, one can’t help but to admire their laning.
Despite the above exposed, they see barely any gold loss from this massacre. Their laning prowess, combined with the low priority they place on early dragons when behind, allows them to catch up in gold, something they seem to prioritize in order to be able to come back into the game.
Cloud9 gets more average gold after being first blooded than FlyQuest and Phoenix1 do from getting the first blood. Their ability for playing from behind and keeping a solid frame of mind has to be praised. Lagging ever so slightly behind in turrets after getting first blooded, they manage to stay even or ahead in every other category.
No matter the result, C9 always ends up on the advantage seven minutes later. They do so consistently, as it can be seen by the fact that out of every time they were first blooded, they only managed to lose more gold from the fact in one of the games.
When ahead, Cloud9 snowball their lead into a consistent bigger advantage. They gain on kills, gold and every early game objective. Even when their gold lead is not as big as TSM’s, it’s still a respectable size. Tied to the consistent performance they have from behind, the picture becomes clear. They have the best first blood management of the league. By far.
It has to be taken into account that C9 win or lose first blood much later than any other team. Because of this, more objectives are open from them to take, and flat gold gain is easier to obtain. Even if this is far from enough to even suggest any other team can reign supreme, it’s still something to take into account.
Nevertheless, the reader has to keep in mind that this analysis refers just to a tiny fraction of the game. We now know what to expect from each team after they get first blood but, as always, the true winner can only be decided on the Rift.
Article Written by Manuel 'Cabramaravilla' Martínez
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