PICKING YOUR CHAMP IS A BIG DEAL. A champ can motivate you to play, it can carry you to challenjour, it can say something about you (for better or worse) even before you load into a game. More often than not, the other players in the game don’t even call you by the name you’ve given yourself, but by the name of the champ you’ve picked—hopefully preceded by adjectives like “amazing,” “godlike,” or “super fed.”
For us (hi, we’re Jeopardy & Bilby), a champion can reflect how you connect with the game: Jeopardy came from a fighting game background (WHEN’S MARVEL), so he instantly clicked with Riven's combo-heavy playstyle. Bilby, meanwhile, started playing Fizz because he’s a Moby-Dick nerd, and Tundra Fizz had a whale ult.
There are plenty of perfectly valid ways to pick a champ, but what do those choices say about you? And, once you've found one that clicks, which other champs are you also likely to play, and what ties those champs together? Do they split into cliques, like kids in a cafeteria? If so, who would sit together? Thanks to data that we gather during every game, we've found some answers.
JEOPARDY'S DATA CORNER: We sampled from the population of all players who played at least 25 games during the first half of March this year. The key stat we looked at was "number of games played on each champion" for each individual player.
In the data we gathered, two champions are correlated if players tend to play those two champions together—if many players play Riven and Azir, then Riven and Azir would have a higher correlation. If many players play Riven but proactively avoid playing Malphite for whatever reason (perhaps because you perceive him as too easy and binary and rewarding for being passive in lane, for example), then Riven and Malphite would have a much lower correlation.
To help us better understand these champion correlations, we created a network visualization of the champions, which you can explore below. We call this handy tool the CHAMP FRIENDSHIP COMPATIBILITY DEVICE (CFCD). The CFCD network graph consists of nodes and edges: a node represents a single champion, and an edge is a line that links two champions together. The edges of this graph are undirected—a line from Annie to Olaf is treated the same as the line from Olaf to Annie. For the network graph, we filtered out all correlations that were below a certain threshold, so only stronger relationships would appear in the visualization.
CHAMP FRIENDSHIP COMPATIBILITY DEVICE
For your research and entertainment, here is the tool we used. You can explore the champ groupings (sorted by color), or look at individual champs and their strongest correlations to other champs (shown at the bottom, in order). Maybe you'll find a new champ to try out!
We analyzed the modularity of the network to sort champs into communities based on playrate correlations. Modularity measures the strength of a community within a larger network—high modularity means that communities are well-defined, such that nodes within a community correlate stronger with each other than with nodes from other communities. We also factored in edge weights: stronger correlations were weighted heavier toward defining tighter communities, and weaker correlations were weighted less.
Okay class, are you still awake? If you wanna stretch and walk around for a little bit, that’s cool. Here we go: Segmenting a larger population into groups like this is useful when you’re trying to identify similarities and differences between data points—in this case, we can look at the clusters to find relationships between champions based on play rate. Long story short: if you play a champ in one cluster, you’re more likely to play other champs in that cluster than ones that aren’t. Here’s where they fell:
“I FORGOT SMITE/TP” (Top/Jungle). This group consists of top lane fighters (Shen, Renekton) combined with champs that usually play both top and jungle (Hecarim, Trundle, Pantheon). Some jungle-exclusive champs get caught in here (like Amumu).
“LAST HITTING IS HARD” (Supports). There are two subgroups: Supports are split into a Soraka-Nami-Sona-Janna quadrant on one side, with Thresh, Tahm Kench, and Brand on the other. Unlike his self-proclaimed title of “Best Bard Riot,” Riot Blaustoise’s research into Banana-Burn Index and Rovals actually holds up here, with support players preferring to play either Babysitters/Caretakers or Playmakers.
“YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US” (Unpopular Champs). This is an interesting group because it seems to be directly shaped by the meta. We’ve got Urgot, Mordekaiser, Galio, and Yorick in here. (Are you all still beautiful and unique snowflakes when you’re in a group together?)
ADCs. These stick together; it’s a tightly correlated group.
AP MAGES. Like ADCs—another expected cluster. Ryze, Kassadin, Viktor, Azir, LeBlanc, etc.
“/all OUTPLAYED” (Assassins and Mechanically Difficult Champs). This group spans multiple roles (mid, top, jungle) and consists of champs that are generally considered very difficult to master or have high skill ceilings. Riven, Fizz, Lee Sin, Ekko, Rengar, Yasuo, and Zed sit here. These highlight montages ain’t gonna record themselves.
“I SAW IT IN LCS” Here we’ve got mostly team-oriented top laners and junglers that seem to do better in pro play than in our own ranked games: Gragas, Kindred, Rek’Sai, Gnar, etc. Teamwork sold separately; batteries not included.
“GAME SENSE IS MY MECHANICS” (Starters and Mechanically Straightforward Champs). So you've got no jungling experience, but you have a working R key? Try Warwick. First time toplane? Pick Nasus and attack-move through your lane while mashing Q for the next 45 minutes.
While poking around the CFCD, we found some other interesting groups that we wanted to share.
THE RIGHT CLICK CLIQUE: For the majority of champions, you have to play around and respect their ultimates. But for these champions, the button to respect is their right click—and sadly the cooldown on that is only 0.3 seconds late in the game. Prepare to get outplayed by Tryndamere, Jax, Master Yi, and Xin Zhao. (Maybe they don’t have keyboards?)
JUST THE WORST: We expected Heimerdinger to be buddies with other minion/turret masters (hi Zyra), but his closest pals are Teemo and Blitzcrank. We guess these players just enjoy seeing people suffer?
TANK COMMANDERS: If you’re playing Nautilus, you’re probably also playing Braum, Malphite, Alistar, and Tahm Kench. These champs put the “skill” in “you don’t even have to dodge skillshots.”
I WAITED IN LINE ALL NIGHT: Illaoi is highly correlated with Jhin, Ekko, and Tahm Kench. Our best guess is that these players prefer shiny new champs.
ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS: There are a couple champs appearing in unexpected clusters. What’s Irelia doing with the AP Mages? Is she the go-to top laner for mid mains?
DUO TO GOLD V 0LP STARTER PACK: Sona correlates with Soraka, Janna, and Nami. We’re just kidding about the starter pack thing! Please keep healing us.
Unsurprisingly, it does seem that a champion’s role has a high impact on which group they fall into, which makes sense as players get better in specific positions and start to specialize. But it’s also clear that a champ’s kit isn’t the only thing that matters. There are clusters that span roles like the high-skill-ceiling club, or ones that seem to be based on a champ's (un)popularity. Looking at this data gives a great window into what different types of players are out there, but the reasons that a specific champion resonates with a player seem to be as diverse as players themselves.
What did you find when playing with the CHAMP FRIENDSHIP COMPATIBILITY DEVICE? Let us know in the comments below.