With groups drawn for the League of Legends 2021 World Championship, we've simulated probable outcomes for Group A of the Play-In. In this group, Hanwha Life Esports, Infinity Esports, LNG Esports, PEACE, and RED Canids will face off for a chance at the Main Stage.
We had posted a previous version of this article, but have since updated our model to more robustly and systematically incorporate regional differences. As always, we strive to present you with the most accurate predictions we can!
First, we should define how the Play-In stage operates. Ten teams qualified from around the world, and were split into two groups of five.
In the group stage, each group will play a single, best-of-one round robin - that is, each team will play each other team in their group exactly once. The top team from each group advances to the Main Event, while the bottom team is eliminated. The second, third, and fourth place teams move on to the knockout stage of the Play-In.
There are some fairly complicated tie-breaker rules, since placement is incredibly important and teams only play a total of four games. You can read all about them here, but here's the overall gist:
- two-way ties for third vs fourth place are determined by head-to-head result
- other two-way ties involve a tiebreaker match
- three-way ties are determined by record within that three-team set; if all three teams are equal (1-1 against each other), game length of wins determines will seed a mini tiebreaker bracket
- five-way ties (every single team goes 2-2 in the group) are similarly determined by game length of wins.
If and when these tiebreakers happen, we'll post about them, but all of the group stage games have to be played before then anyway.
In the knockout stage, the third and fourth place teams from each group face each other. The winner then faces the second place team from the other group. The winner of this final match advances to the Main Event. These matches are all best-of-five.
Here are the five contenders in Group A:
- Hanwha Life Esports: a solid spring season made up for a disappointing summer season in the LCK, securing HLE the No. 3 seed in the Regional Finals. From there, they knocked out both Liiv SANDBOX and Nongshim RedForce before ultimately losing 2-3 to T1. This secured them Korea's fourth Worlds slot.
- Infinity Esports: a first place finish in the LLA closing season gave INF the No. 1 Seed in the Closing Playoffs, where a single 3-1 victory over Estral Esports gave them a Play-In spot representing Latin America.
- LNG Esports: after a lackluster spring season, LNG fought their way from the first round of a brutal, single-elimination king of the hill LPL summer playoffs bracket to finish in fourth. This gave them enough Championship Points to enter the Regional Finals, where they knocked out Rare Atom and Team WE for China's fourth Worlds slot.
- PEACE: a fifth-place finish in LCO's second split just barely squeaked PCE into the Split 2 Playoffs. Starting in round one of the lower bracket, they won four consecutive matches (winning three of those 3-0) to win Oceania's Play-In spot.
- RED Canids: another redemption story here: RED took sixth place in the CBLOL Split 2 Season, which was the cutoff for the Split 2 Playoffs. Three straight match wins in a row later they were crowned Brazil's representative at Worlds.
We generated predictions for every single matchup in this group, with a few caveats:
- Without knowing which team would have side selection advantage before the matches are fully scheduled, we ran our prediction for either possibility and took the average.
- Tiebreaker rules were implemented to determine actual placement outcomes. However, game length is practically impossible to predict (and largely depends on drafts), so if outcomes came down to game length matchups we randomized the outcomes (only within the tiebreaker set, of course).
This group has a fairly linear spread in team strength:
LNG are the strongest team, with favorable matchups (even when on red side) against every other team in the Group. HLE are fairly close in strength, but lag behind in each respective matchup. INF are slightly weaker, and PCE and RED are noticeably on the bottom end of the spread. Each team's matchups follow the same pattern as well, so there's no indication of a rock-paper-scissors situation where teams have circular advantages.
RED will have a particularly rough time in this group, as they don't have a single favorable matchup even on blue side.
Each team's expected record follows the same general pattern, predictably. Across 10000 simulations, the average win-loss record of each team is:
|Hanwha Life Esports||2.2179||1.7821|
Even with a full slate of unfavored matchups, RED are still expected to win, on average, one and a half games. None of the matchups are unwinnable, and a 30-40% chance of an upset adds up. They're unlikely to lose all four of their games, but at the same time are still the team most likely to do so.
Here is the probability distribution of each team's possible record:
Even with a wide divergence of team strength, each team is still pretty unlikely to go 4-0 or 0-4. Even LNG, the obvious favorite, only have a ~14% chance to win all four of their games. They are, however, more likely to go 3-1 than 2-2, which is the most likely outcome for every other team except RED, who are slightly more likely to 1-3 than anything else.
However, with only ten games played in total, there's quite a bit of variance in the outcomes. A single upset can change the whole group.
In each iteration of the simulation, records dictated placement, which often involved tiebreakers. Taking all of that into account and simulating tiebreakers as necessary, we can then track, within each simulation, each team's final standing:
|Team Name||% 1st Place||Median Place|
|Hanwha Life Esports||24.98%||3rd|
LNG have the highest chance to take first place and get an outright advancement to the Main Event, and do so more than one in three times. RED have the lowest chance, and would need quite the string of upsets to get there.
However, second through fourth places still offer a shot at redemption, and each team has a high probability of at least not taking last in the group, which would give them a shot in the Knockout stage:
|Team Name||% Top 4|
|Hanwha Life Esports||86.43%|
We see the same relative order here, which makes sense since there's no path dependence or matchup nuance in a round robin the way there would be in a tournament. In spite of RED's unfavored matchups and overall lower team strength, they still have a reasonable chance at not being last. After all, one good upset, and another team slightly underperforming, and suddenly the whole order changes up.
For good measure, here are the probability distributions for each team's final placement:
Group A of the Play-In has a fairly linear spread of team strengths. LNG are the clear favorite, followed (in order) by Hanwha Life Esports, Infinity Esports, PEACE, and finally RED Canids. The odds market believes PCE to be stronger than RED, largely (in our opinion) based on regional strength. With relatively little cross-regional interaction, such models can be spurious at best, and we believe PCE are stronger than they're given credit for.
As always, keep up with our suggested bets to see how our predictions stack up against the market, and where we would suggest staking your money.
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