Infographic: Are Korean imports actually better than domestic LCS players?

As much as people love to talk about the gap between Western and Korean teams closing, the smart money is still on SK Telecom T1 taking home gold at the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational.

While there’s little doubt that top-tier LCK stars are a cut above their Western counterparts, Team SoloMid top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell stirred up some controversy at the post-playoff press conference by claiming the strength of the new generation of Korean import players has been greatly exaggerated.

“Everyone in the community was saying that it was going to be a really rough split for native NA tops and they’re going to have to prove themselves,” Hauntzer said of the hype around new imports like Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok and Lee “Flame” Ho-jong.

“But I think that’s maybe just because of how the community overrates Korean players, and getting to play against them during the split, they’re not as good as the fans say they are, and it was just kind of playing against mediocre opponents.”

But do the stats back-up Hauntzer’s bluster? To find out, theScore esports compared the 2017 spring season stat averages of Korean imports in the EU LCS and NA LCS against domestic players and non-Korean imports. Our research only counts Korean players who take up an import slot, so ethnic Korean players who have been naturalized into a region were counted as “domestic” for the purposes of this infographic.

Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that, with such a small sample size, results should be taken with a considerable grain of salt.

In the NA LCS, the big takeaway from the four top lane averages we compiled are that Koreans are able to get a stronger start on domestic players, as seen by their higher average gold difference at 10 minutes (-0.83 to -40.8) and Creep Score per minute (8.03 to 7.84). However, that gold lead doesn’t necessarily translate into easy domination, considering the fact that both domestic and import damage per minute is almost identical at 393.20 to 393.66.

As it turns out, Hauntzer's bark is not worse than his bite. With 66% kill participation, 27.4 CS%P15 (average share of team's post-15 minute minion and monster kills) and 427 DPM, his spring split stats trounce the averages for Korean imports.

By contrast, Korean junglers show a distinct advantage over their domestic counterparts, with an average experience differential at 10 minutes of 165.33 against -59.00, 0.68 wards placed per minute against 0.58 and a 3% higher First Blood Rate.

However, domestic mid laners show stronger late-game stats than Koreans with 66.35% kill participation against 63.04% and 544 damage per minute versus 513. We can see by their higher CS%P15 and Creep Score differential at 10 that they receive greater support from their team to enable farming while Koreans are left more on their own.

Judging by AD Carry stats, Korean imports are considerably more likely to go for the jugular, with 70.55% kill participation against 63.48% and 27.45% damage percentage against 24.92%. However, that greater aggression has somewhat of a drawback, with Koreans showing a slightly higher death percentage at 18.60% against 17.72%.

For supports, it's Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung versus the world, and he stands out from the competition with aggressively high warding numbers. His low 17.10% death percentage, 3% lower than the domestic average, helps show his prowess on ranged supports. His lower kill participation shows a desire to ward for information over fighting.

Similar to NA, EU’s Korean junglers show themselves to be stronger farmers than domestics with an XP differential at 10 minutes of 124.00 against -35.00. They trade early aggression, as seen by a lower FB%, for late-game slug-fests as seen through their higher kill participation.

But the big story may be further proof that EU's mid laners are among the best in the game, with high stats across the board including 506.25 DPM against the Koreans' 417.50. That they have this difference despite less mid-late game gold going their way is a testament to their ability.

Korean supports show themselves additionally to be more aggressive than domestics with an average kill participation of 64.13% against 61.89%. While they have a higher death percentage average at 23.30% against 22.39%, that might because of Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan, who took up more than quarter of his team’s deaths in the spring season.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

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