When it comes to dragons on the rift, which bring the most oomph?
The great beasts of League of Legends have undergone many transformations. From the clunky worm Baron Nashor to the long gone Vilemaw, it’s common to see monsters come and go. One of the more significant re-works the game has ever seen is the dragon, also commonly known as drag or drake. Ever since the elemental rift and the rotating cast of corresponding elemental dragons landed, the game has become a much more competitive place.
That’s all fine and good, but we’re here to understand how the dragons make League more competitive. To figure it out, we dove into the stats. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers from just shy of 10,000 games across regions and tournaments from May 2020 to May 2021.
Golden dragon? Electric dragon? Asking for a friend.
The shining elemental symbol on the stone wall of the ring lets players know which dragon will be landing. It can be a confusing system for those veterans of the game returning to the meta, or for newcomers.
As a primer, the four varieties of dragon one finds on the rift are Ocean, Mountain, Infernal, and Cloud. The Internet and commentators have debated the efficacy of the buffs, but the consensus is often about the same. Ocean and Infernal are considered strongest, Infernal edging a bit higher than Ocean lately it seems, with Mountain then Cloud bringing up third and fourth.
Cloud drags spawned 25 percent of the time and were killed 96 percent of the time they spawned. Infernal drags showed up 26 percent of the time and taken 96 percent of the time. Mountain dragons were around 24 percent of the time and killed 95 percent of the time. Unsurprisingly, Ocean dragons showed up 25 percent of the time and were killed 95 percent of the time. What does this indicate? If a dragon is killable, it is killed – buff be damned.
It’s a little more nuanced which buffs are prioritized by which teams. Commentators in any given game, from LCK to LCS, will let the audience know which they find to be most significant for specific team comps. The bottom line is that drag prioritization is crucial.
The age of dragons
The data is in, and it’s plain as day that having more dragons than your enemy increases a team’s odds at winning.
In our review of games played from May 2020 to May 2021, teams who took dragon first proceeded to win their games 58 percent of the time. To make this point even clearer, of teams who were down one or two dragons by 15 minutes into the game only 35 percent still managed to win the game.
As far as Elder Drake goes, it only showed up 4.7 percent of the time. As will be discussed in our upcoming Galio retrospective, this is due to a general speediness of the game in comparison to how arduous early League could be. The elder drake can only spawn after a team has claimed their fourth drag and soul point, or at 35 minutes into the match.
That said, once spawned the elder drake was claimed 63 percent of the time. That execute buff is just overwhelming for most teams to fight against. It’s also a huge indicator of whether the team would win or not. Of the 196 teams that claimed five or six dragons, only nine were not able to secure the win. That’s just four percent, and none of them were of those teams that notched that rare sixth drag.
One such instance is 100 Thieves against TSM in their Mid Season Showdown of April, 2021. This is a team that Phreak has said is the best team in the LCS, but in this game having a fifth drag and the elder buff didn’t make the difference. TSM had secured the Hand of Baron, were ahead in kills all game, and the Thieves had come to the final minute of the buff. As they forced a baron at 37 minutes into the game, Spica leapt in as Nidalee and nabbed the buff at the final hour, ruining the team’s last ditch strategy. They inevitably lost the game, and went 3 - 1 in their playoffs against TSM. Perhaps that four percent represents the moments when the mechanics of play just aren’t strong enough against the likes of legends like POE.
Far over the misty mountains cold
Regardless of the ancient times of League seasons past, the dragon is a tremendous part of the game in the current gamestate. As demonstrated here, taking drake early and often is a key tactic in winning any game against any opponent.