LPL 2021 Summer Playoffs Recap

LPL 2021 Summer Playoffs Recap

Representing China, EDward Gaming, FunPlus Phoenix, Royal Never Give Up, and LNG Esports have made it through the LPL to Worlds. We're going to analyze the Summer Playoffs and Regional Finals, and measure them up against our initial predictions.

The LPL 2021 Summer Playoffs

The Summer Playoffs were a double king-of-the-hill bracket, seeded by the top ten teams from the summer season.

The Result

The final bracket looked like this:


And resulted in these placements:

Team Name Actual Place
EDward Gaming 1st
FunPlus Phoenix 2nd
Team WE 3rd
LNG Esports 4th
Royal Never Give Up 5th-6th
Rare Atom 5th-6th
Bilibili Gaming 7th-8th
Top Esports 7th-8th
Oh My God 9th-10th
Suning 9th-10th

Expectations / Predictions

At the end of the summer season, we had generated matchup predictions and simulated this tournament. In particular, we were looking at how likely each team was to qualify to Worlds, either by winning overall or by ending the season with the most Championship Points:

Team Name % 1st Place Median Place % Qualify Actual Place
EDward Gaming 29.94% 2nd 61.08% 1st
FunPlus Phoenix 33.28% 2nd 72.96% 2nd
Team WE 0.80% 7th-8th 0.80% 3rd
LNG Esports 0.02% 9th-10th 0.02% 4th
Rare Atom 2.43% 4th 2.43% 5th-6th
Royal Never Give Up 21.19% 3rd 51.66% 5th-6th
Bilibili Gaming 0.61% 5th-6th 0.61% 7th-8th
Top Esports 10.09% 5th-6th 15.14% 7th-8th
Oh My God - 9th-10th - 9th-10th
Suning 1.64% 7th-8th 3.02% 9th-10th

And oh boy were there some huge upsets!

The ultimate top two, EDward Gaming and FunPlux Phoenix, did exactly what two teams that get to start in the double elimination section of a king of the hill bracket are expected to do, and met each other in the finals. EDG actually got knocked down to the lower bracket in their first match, but pushed their way back through.

The two big stories of this bracket were LNG Esports and Team WE. Both teams started at the very bottom in round one, and managed to win three matches in a row to bulldoze through the single elimination portion. LNG's run faltered there, but they still took a very respectable fourth place against all odds. WE decided they weren't quite done yet, and beat eventual winner EDG 3-2! They eventually got knocked out by the same team for a third place finish.

Similarly to Fnatic's amazing run in the LEC Playoffs, a lot of the improbability for LNG and WE's performances lies not in their individual matchups, but in the fact that they kept winning while just one match away from elimination. As we talked about in that article, even if every single one of Team WE's matches were 50/50, winning four in a row is only a 6.25% chance.

Championship Points

Placement in this tournament awarded Championship Points, which combined with spring season totals to determine the second team to go to Worlds, and the four teams that would go on to the Regional Finals (We're showing only teams with points or involved in the playoffs):

Team Name Place Prior Points Earned Points Total Points
EDward Gaming 1st 50 AQ AQ
FunPlus Phoenix 2nd 70 110 180
Royal Never Give Up 5th-6th 90 40 130
Team WE 3rd 10 80 90
LNG Esports 4th 0 60 60
Rare Atom 5th-6th 10 40 50
Top Esports 7th-8th 30 10 40
JD Gaming NA 20 0 20
Suning 9th-10th 20 0 20
Bilibili Gaming 7th-8th 0 10 10
Oh My God 9th-10th 0 0 0

With a second place finish, FPX had a huge point margin over any other team, for a safe No. 2 seed going into Worlds.

RNG, with their first place spring finish, would made the Regional Finals even without any new points, and moved on as the top seed for the next round.

Our two breakout contestants, WE and LNG, secured enough points with their third and fourth place finishes to completely overcome their 10 and 0, respectively, prior point totals and take the next two spots in the Regional Finals.

Finally, RA had a strong enough summer season to give them a guaranteed 5th-6th place finish in the playoffs, so even though they lost their one and only match, enough other teams did as well to secure RA's final spot in the Regional Finals.


Next up, we've got our placement distributions:

Team WE and LNG performed near the very top of their projected ranges. All six teams below them did exactly as poorly as they possibly could, though those were the most likely outcomes for most of them anyway.

Due to their initial bracket positions, RNG and RA both had relatively high chances of going out immediately (just equal to their first matchup, since the bracket was still single elimination), and then reasonable shots at any of the four places above that. So in total, RNG were more likely to take first through fourth than 5th-6th, but each individual placement was relatively even.

The performance of each team can also be viewed as their percentile performance within their distribution:

Team Name Actual Place Percentile
EDward Gaming 1st 100.00%
FunPlus Phoenix 2nd 69.96%
Team WE 3rd 93.28%
LNG Esports 4th 98.48%
Royal Never Give Up 5th-6th 42.69%
Rare Atom 5th-6th 45.99%
Bilibili Gaming 7th-8th 55.50%
Top Esports 7th-8th 32.58%
Oh My God 9th-10th 84.85%
Suning 9th-10th 36.64%

As expected, WE and LNG blew their distributions out of the water, with incredibly low chances of performing better than they did. TES and SN were expected to do, on average, about one win better than they did.


With two incredible streaks by WE and LNG, let's take a look at each match and see just how improbable these were:

match_name team_name team_name_opp pct_win pct_win_opp score score_opp winner
Round 1 match 1: LNG vs SN LNG Esports Suning 27% 73% 3 2 LNG Esports
Round 1 match 2: OMG vs WE Oh My God Team WE 37% 63% 0 3 Team WE
Round 2 match 1: LNG vs TES LNG Esports Top Esports 23% 77% 3 1 LNG Esports
Round 2 match 2: WE vs BLG Team WE Bilibili Gaming 66% 34% 3 0 Team WE
Round 3 match 1: LNG vs RNG LNG Esports Royal Never Give Up 32% 68% 3 1 LNG Esports
Round 3 match 2: WE vs RA Team WE Rare Atom 56% 44% 3 2 Team WE
Round 4 winners' bracket match 1: LNG vs FPX LNG Esports FunPlus Phoenix 41% 59% 0 3 FunPlus Phoenix
Round 4 winners' bracket match 2: WE vs EDG Team WE EDward Gaming 47% 53% 3 2 Team WE
Round 4 losers' bracket: LNG vs EDG LNG Esports EDward Gaming 35% 65% 1 3 EDward Gaming
Semifinals match 1: FPX vs WE FunPlus Phoenix Team WE 63% 37% 3 0 FunPlus Phoenix
Semifinals match 2: EDG vs WE EDward Gaming Team WE 59% 41% 3 0 EDward Gaming
Finals: FPX vs EDG FunPlus Phoenix EDward Gaming 58% 42% 1 3 EDward Gaming

According to our model, LNG were pretty massive underdogs in almost every single round. Both SN and TES had around 75% chances to eliminate them, but failed to do so. WE had a somewhat easier run, being moderately favored against OMG and BLG and slightly favored over RA. Still, these were not easy feats. The total probability for each of those teams to win all three of their first rounds? 1.99% for LNG and 23.28% for WE.

The LPL 2021 Regional Finals

With the Playoff Championship Points awarded, the highest four teams not already qualified met in the Regional Finals for the final two slots (one Main Event, one Play-In).

The Result

The top two seeds faced off for instant qualification, with the loser facing the other round one winner for the second qualification spot:

With these standings:

Team Name Actual Place
Royal Never Give Up 1st
LNG Esports 2nd
Team WE 3rd
Rare Atom 4th

RNG took a quick and easy win in round one. LNG decided to reprise their initial playoffs run and snatch up the Play-In spot.

Expectations / Predictions

As for the playoffs, we generated predictions for the Regional Finals as well:

Team Name % 1st Place Median Place % Top 2 Actual Place
Royal Never Give Up 69.35% 1st 91.60% 1st
LNG Esports - 4th 12.67% 2nd
Team WE 30.65% 2nd 75.54% 3rd
Rare Atom - 3rd 20.19% 4th

RNG were a shoe-in for qualification, as they just had to win either of their two potential matches. WE were in the same position, but slightly less favorable matchups hindered their odds a bit. Even after an incredible playoffs run, our model still found LNG to be the weakest team of these four. To their credit, though, when they're on they're on, and after petering out in the latter portions of the playoffs they found their tempo again.


We like distributions, right?

Not a whole lot to say here. LNG had to win two back-to-back matches to take second place, which was unlikely but still happened, and naturally that pushed the other two teams down in their relative distributions.


All three matches were actually fairly lopsided:

match_name team_name team_name_opp pct_win pct_win_opp score score_opp winner
Round 1 Match 1: RNG vs WE Royal Never Give Up Team WE 69% 31% 3 0 Royal Never Give Up
Round 1 Match 2: RA vs LNG Rare Atom LNG Esports 68% 32% 0 3 LNG Esports
Round 2: WE vs LNG Team WE LNG Esports 64% 36% 1 3 LNG Esports

And as before, lopsided doesn't really mean anything to LNG. In fact, none of the matches were particularly close. We had two 3-0 sweeps and a 3-1 win in the second round. Game 5 was nowhere in sight at any point.

Final Recap

Most Valuable Team of the season clearly goes to LNG Esports. They went from the No. 8 seed going into the playoffs, and starting in round one of a brutal single elimination bracket, to an almost impossible third place finish. That gave them just enough points to try again in the Regional Finals, where they overcame two more unfavored matchups to just barely squeeze into China's Play-In spot at Worlds.

Credit is due to Team WE as well, who started in a similar spot and pushed one place higher to third in the playoffs. They had a better shot at Worlds in the Regional Finals, getting to start in the direct qualification match with two chances. A tough matchup against RNG was a foreseeable loss, but facing LNG with destiny on their side was just too much to ask for.

On the other side of things, EDward Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix demonstrated exactly why they were favorites at the onset, and took the top two Worlds slots barely breaking a sweat. EDG had a moment of disarray losing to WE in their first match, but composed themselves and won three matches back to back to win the whole bracket.

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