Vulcun: The Dark Horse of NA – Team Analysis and Playoff Prediction

Vulcun’s arrival into the LCS began in the spring quarter where they managed to place 5th in the regular season, which qualified Vulcun entry into playoffs, but still the looming threat of the relegation match (a change that has been implemented in the current Summer season of LCS).  Vulcun defeated long time veterans CLG in a close 2-1 series, ensuring a seed in the Summer Split.  Vulcun lost against season winners TSM, and defeated a newly rostered Curse Gaming to take 3rd place in the Spring Split.

Fast forward to today, Vulcun is ranked 2nd place in the Summer split, with 20 wins and 8 losses.  Vulcun is heading into the playoffs on an 8-game win streak to face off against the winner of TSM vs CLG for a spot in the grand finals and a guaranteed seed at Worlds.

Getting to brass tacks:  What makes Vulcun special is their diversity to form team compositions along with aggressive play.  In the recent win streak, Vulcun has been favoring the heavy push, split push, flanking, and siege compositions.  Due to the deep champion pool of Vulcun, they have the ability to steal away favored champions or specific picks to certain compositions, making Vulcun a formidable team to plan against in champion select.

Vulcun’s play-style is most similar to the Korean team, SK Telecom Team1.  Both SKTT1 and Vulcun favor a hyper aggressive mid-lane with a deep champion pool along with a wide variety of viable team compositions.  Both teams have a momentum-based tempo, where team morale plays a huge factor (both positive and negative) in effective decision-making and team cohesion both during the game and in the upcoming series.  Both teams tend to make high-risk high-reward judgments, resulting in exciting matches and fast victories.

In general, Vulcun does not like to reveal the team composition until the 3rd or 4th pick, leaving limitations on counter-picks.  This allows a high-priority first pick (usually top or jungle) along with a very quick support pick up (2nd or 3rd pick).

Let’s get to know more about the players of Team Vulcun!

Benny “Sycho Sid” Hung

Sycho Sid (Benny Hung) is the top lane for Team Vulcun.  In most cases, Sycho Sid is often paired against a duo lane and selects champions that handle the early 2v1 as well as scale well into the mid/game.   He also has played a wide diversity of champions this split, totaling 9 different top lane picks, indicating that it is difficult to ban out Sycho Sid.  Lately, Sycho Sid has been playing the heavy engage champions, selecting Zac (twice in Super Week) and Malphite (twice in Super week). As far as gold per minute is concerned, Sycho Sid takes 3rd place on the GPM meters, earning an average of 323 gold per minute (344 during Super Week).  Sycho Sid tends to shove waves then return for team fights; leaving the heavy split pushing to the AD carry or the mid lane.

Sycho Sid’s Most Played:
Jayce: 4wins, 0loss, 5bans
Zac: 4wins, 1loss, 2bans
Shen: 4wins, 2losses, 7bans
9 Unique Champions Played During Summer Split
(Leaguepedia entry for Sycho Sid)

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

Xmithie (Jake Puchero) is the highly aggressive jungler on Vulcun.  Xmithie has a high gank/low farm playstyle and often works to set up most of the ganks, leading to leads in the early game.  Xmithie prefers the aggressive junglers, favoring Jarvan IV, Lee Sin (drawing 5 bans), and Evelynn (drawing 4 bans).  These champions prey on penetrating the back line of teams and act as the primary engager for Vulcun. Also, Xmithie’s Lee Sin (3 wins, 1 loss, 5 bans) is quite entertaining to watch.  Xmithie earns an average of 279 gold per minute (310 in Super Week), which reflects his gank-oriented playstyle; forfeiting creep score for kill score and objective control.

Xmithie’s Most Played:
Jarvan IV: 5wins, 0loss, 0bans
Evelynn: 3wins, 1loss, 4bans
Lee Sin: 3wins, 1 loss, 5bans
8 Unique Champions Played During Summer Split
(Leaguepedia entry for Xmithie)

Zachary “MandatoryCloud” Hoschar

MandatoryCloud (Zachary Hoschar) is the bloodthirsty middle laner for Team Vulcun.  ManCloud holds the title for the most kills in an LCS split with 167 kills (an average of 5.96 kills per game).  Not only that, these kills were accumulated over 12 different champions, having the one of the deepest mid lane champion pools in the NA LCS.  It is difficult to pin down what exactly ManCloud chooses to play, but in the past 3 weeks of LCS, he has favored Zed, as well as Ezreal (a prime component for the Double AD fast push strategy).  ManCloud also has the highest GPM in the LCS, earning an average of 397 gold per minute (435 in Super Week).  The deep champion pool and highly aggressive nature of MandatoryCloud makes him a difficult target to ban out and play against.

MandatoryCloud’s Most Played:
Zed: 3wins, 1loss, 1ban
Ryze: 3wins, 0loss, 6bans
Jayce/Ezreal/Ahri: 2wins, 0loss (Jayce-5ban, Ezreal-0bans, Ahri-2bans)
12 Unique Champions Played During Summer Split
(Leaguepedia entry for MandatoryCloud)

Christopher “Zuna” Buechter

Zuna (Christopher Buechter) is the AD Carry for Vulcun, and is viewed as the face of Team Vulcun.  Zuna is known for his jovial nature and war cries during matches (some LCS players claim this gives Vulcun psychological edge with Zuna’s loud shouting that can be heard by all players).  In game, Zuna plays a dominant Tristana (7wins, 2loss) and Caitlyn (6wins, 1loss), both which excel at sieging down turrets.  Zuna tends to be one of Vulcun’s primary split pushers, engaging in high-risk, high-reward scenarios.  Zuna takes second place in the GPM for team Vulcun, earning 362 gold per minute (402 in Super Week).  Zuna has an all-in mentality, along with a strong emotional element.  If Zuna gets a kill in lane, Zuna’s passion will inspire confidence within Vulcun, and has known to put opposing teams on tilt.

Zuna’s Most Played:
Tristana: 7wins, 2loss, 3bans
Caitlyn: 6wins, 1loss, 5bans
Kog’Maw: 2wins, 2loss, 0bans
7 Unique Champions Played During Summer Split
(Leaguepedia entry for Zuna)

Lyubomir “Bloodwater” Spasov

Bloodwater (Lyubomir Spasov), aka GODwater, is Vulcun’s support and think tank.  Bloodwater is known for his phenominal support skills, predominately with Sona (10wins, 2loss, 7bans).  Bloodwater receives the most Sona bans in the NA LCS, a sign of respect (or terror) that any support player would be proud of.  Bloodwater is known for his excellent warding skills and game changing Flash Crescendos.  He also tends to roam very early in the game, typically after the 1st tower falls.  Bloodwater favors champions with great disengage and also ultimates that are devastating when grouped.  Bloodwater fills the support role and has the lowest GPM on Vulcun, earning 238 gold per minute (265 in Super Week), which is the second highest support GPM in the NA LCS (1st place is C9 Lemonation with 252 GPM).

Bloodwater’s Most Played:
Sona: 10wins, 2loss, 7bans
Zyra: 6wins, 1loss, 0bans
Thresh: 3wins, 3losses, 5bans
5 Unique Champions Played During Summer Split
(Leaguepedia entry for Bloodwater)

The Team Vulcun Gameplan:
I would like to preface this section by stating that the strategies that I am basing my analysis are from Week 9 Summer LCS, the first and only week played on patch 3.10 up to the point of this article being written.  3.10 changed the speed in which objectives could safely be taken, and an analysis of the implications from 3.10 and LCS can be found here.

Vulcun plays a high-paced, objective focused game in League of Legends, with the average game lasting under 38 minutes.  While Vulcun may not be the quickest team to end a game, their Week 9 performance shows that Vulcun favors killing towers quickly and transferring that into objective control.

Tower Heatmaps

The Tower Heatmap when Vulcun defeated Cloud 9 without losing a single tower, showing the route in which Vulcun focuses their push (the bottom lane).
The Tower Heatmap when Vulcun defeated Cloud 9 without losing a single tower, showing the route in which Vulcun focuses their push (the bottom lane).

Dragons:  Vulcun places a first priority on taking the early top outer turret (around the 8-9 minute mark) and then the second on the dragon objective (between 10-12 minute mark).   Vulcun has secured the first dragon 2 out of the 5 games, and has secured 11 of 18 (61%) of all dragons available.  TSM secured 4 of 4 dragons against Vulcun, yet Vulcun had build enough advantage and map control to render the dragons irrelevant.

Baron: Traditionally, Baron is a major point of contention after the 20-minute mark.  The team with the most map control has the advantage to sit and wait, split push, and pressure while the team that is behind is forced to take an action.  Yet, if a team is far ahead and can take the Baron uncontested, it is a worthwhile objective that can give the edge to help pressure down the inhibitor turrets.  A Baron’s true value can be observed by the number of objectives secured during the 4-minute window with the Baron buff advantage.  Vulcun secured 6 of 7 Barons (with the first Baron around the 30 minute mark), with the final Baron of the game giving Vulcun the confidence to close out the game.

This  table shows when objectives were taken and what effects it has upon the game
This table shows when objectives were taken and what effects it has upon the game

Summer Playoff Predictions:

Vulcun will be facing off with TSM at Pax Prime, on Saturday, August 30th.  The next day Vulcun will play either Cloud 9 or Dignitas, depending on if Vulcun wins or loses, and who wins/loses between Dig and C9.

Vulcun vs. TSM

TSM is a unique team that shows incredible focus in teamfights.  TSM has a hyper-aggressive mid lane with Reginald, and a risk-taking AD carry with WildTurtle; which is almost identical to Vulcun’s lineup.  Vulcun has the edge on early objective towers, but will likely forfeit dragon control to take the tower. 

TSM has incredible team synergy and is quite possibly the best 5v5 teamfighting team in North America.  Because TSM has the advantage with teamfight focus (even when behind in gold), I would expect Vulcun to run a composition that picks off stray or single targets, one that flanks around to the AD carry, or a composition that split pushes and focuses on skirmishes; never wanting to engage in a direct 5v5 teamfight.  TSM does not engage in heavy split push, and this can be exploited in champion selection and playstyle. 

From a psychological perspective, Dyrus tends to be the TSM player to go on tilt the fastest and most often.  This could cause turmoil for TSM with communication, leaving a tension filled TSM for games 2 or 3.  I would say that TSM is going to be a difficult match-up against Vulcun because of TSM’s teamfight experience and ability to react well against early pressure.

High Priority Picks/Bans: Shen, Karthus, Zed, Ahri, Sona, Jarvan IV, Caitlyn, Twitch

Vulcun vs. Cloud 9

This hypothetical match would be the most difficult of all of the playoff matches.  Cloud 9 had a very systematic playstyle leading up to NA LCS Week 9, and then C9 decided to experiment.  The old C9 composition was a jungler (Zac/Nasus) that farmed and only ganked when needed, an AD burst champion (Zed) that split pushed, an AP bruiser top (Rumble/Elise), and a support (Zyra/Thresh) that offered area of effect (AoE) disengage/CC.  In Week 9, Meteos, jungler for C9, brought out a variety of heavy carry jungle champions (Evelynn, the Hyrda Nocturne), as well as Jarvan IV (Meteos had played Jarvan IV twice prior to Week 9).  An interesting note is that this new adaptation of playstyle is familiar to Korean Team, KT Rolster Bullets; which have been known to play carry junglers.

Now comes the big question: will Cloud 9 proceed with this new, jungle hard carry or revert to the passive style of farming?  This swing is very dangerous for whoever faces Cloud 9.  I suspect that Cloud 9 will still aim for early dragon and objectives, along with the ability to split push past the 20-minute mark.  Vulcun is 2-2 against C9, which is a better record than any of the other LCS teams.

High Priority Picks/Bans: Zed, Rumble, Shen, Evelynn, Kennen, Zac, Zyra, Sona

Vulcun vs. Dignitas

This match would happen in two situations: Vulcun loses to TSM and Cloud 9 defeats Curse, or if Vulcun defeats TSM and Curse defeats Cloud 9.

Dignitas is a team that thrives on unpredictability.  Dignitas has been favoring compositions that involve high-mobility and displacement; favoring champions such as Ezreal, Lee Sin, Gragas, Zed, and Zac.  These compositions favor picks, duels, and skirmishes to pressure turrets.  Additionally, Dignitas’ mid lane, Scarra, has an incredibly unique champion pool, ranging from popular mids (Ahri, Orianna, Zed) to obscure champions (Pantheon, Diana, Gragas).   Dignitas has trouble committing to contesting major objectives, which is an area that Vulcun does well controlling.  The jungle of Dignitas (Crumbz) favors aggressive play, and tends to gank a 2v1 lane around the 3 to 4 minute mark.

What this spells is heavy early aggression, along with split pushing.  Split pushing is most effective when a team is ahead; therefore the team that wins the early game will have the best chance of winning the game.

High Priority Picks/Bans: Zac, Zed, Elise, Ahri, Orianna, Ezreal, Lee Sin

Stay tuned in to na.lolesports.com this weekend for all of the playoff action!

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by Jeremiah Nyman, on August 31, 2013

Jeremiah is a League of Legends analyst with a background in Video Game Research. His focus is primarily analyzing the professional League of Legends scene in Korea and North America through statistical analysis.