Team Liquid deploys SAP AI tool to optimize League of Legends drafts

Team Liquid and strategic partner SAP are leveraging new AI tools to further supercharge the esports team’s competitive analytics. Just in time for Team Liquid’s appearance at MSI 2024, the pair debuted their AI-based tool to guide the team’s draft strategy for League of Legends.


Additionally, the two companies have announced plans to extend their partnership for another three years. SAP and Team Liquid last renewed in 2021 after forming the partnership in 2018.

‘Solving’ League of Legends drafts

Since 2021, Team Liquid and SAP have worked closely to develop esports analytics tools. At first, the partnership focused on Team Liquid’s Dota 2 program.

“Looking back to the tool from the early days, you wouldn’t recognize the tool. Every functionality has been updated over time,” said Thomas Esser, Director Global Sponsorships at SAP. “Teams change. New players have new requirements, so we constantly adapt the tool and tailor it towards the needs of Team Liquid.”

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Through out the years, Team Liquid and SAP worked closely to improve the tool and refine its use cases. In the second half of 2023, SAP took its learnings from one MOBA and applied it to the other. Naturally, this informed how the companies deployed AI technology to drive competitive success.

“AI is super interesting as a technology, but you can’t tell it to figure out a game like League of Legends and have it tell you how to win. The scope is just too big,” said Jesse “Plexa” Hart, Sr. director of sports science & analytics at Team Liquid. Instead of trying to solve the whole game, SAP and Team Liquid narrowed their focus and built a tool for the phase of the game with the most constraints.  

The drafting phase presents an ideal scenario to for the two companies to leverage SAP’s AI technology. This pregame phase, where each team takes turns picking and banning the game’s 168 playable champions, sets the stage for the match to come. Especially at a pro level, teams can lose in this phase before gameplay even begins.

“AI is really good at solving sorting problems and classifying things profiles. In League, profiling and understanding the tendencies of teams is highly relevant during the draft stage where teams pick and ban the champions they’re going to play in the match… So not only is [the drafting phase] hugely important to the outcome of the game, but it’s also very well suited to AI because it’s a profiling problem, not a solutions problem,” said Hart.

The team has further refined the tool through out the first half of the League of Legends competitive season. SAP’s tool helped propel Team Liquid to win the LCS 2024 Spring Playoffs.  

Hello AI Draft Bot

Using SAP AI Core, the developers trained a generative AI model that helped teams identify the champions to pick and ban to maximize Team Liquid’s odds to win. SAP uses data from 1.6 million amateur matches as a foundation of the model. Then, SAP layers this with data from over 6,000 professional League of Legends matches to identify the tendencies of pro players and teams.

Simplified architecture of SAP’s AI draft bot.

The result is SAP’s user-friendly AI draft bot that can access years of historic match data in seconds with no code or queries required. Of course, this is a major improvement over the days where competitive analysis was done by hand.

“Previously, coaches of Team Liquid prepared draft scenarios based on manual analysis of the opponent team’s draft behaviors and champion preferences. However, the challenge is that manual analysis is done before the draft, and the best potential pick or ban changes based on the decisions of the other team. Additionally, the sheer number of potential matches to choose from and the different strategies employed by opponent teams make manual draft prediction very difficult,” said Philipp Herzig, Chief AI Officer at SAP in a blog post.  

Rather than offering a single best pick, the AI draft bot surfaces several options to choose from. This gives Team Liquid’s players and coaches more flexibility while surfacing niche insights from years of historic data.

“One of the big improvements that AI affords us is saving time and manpower. If you’re preparing against a team by hand, there are a lot of examples where historical things are lost. AI doesn’t have that problem,” said Hart.

Moreover, the tool makes and refines these calculations in seconds after each pick and ban. Coaches and players only have 30 seconds to make decisions on stage. As a result, Team Liquid has more access to more data during drafts than teams without the tool.

AI buffs Team Liquid

While the AI draft bot delivers obvious in-game benefits, the tool boosting Team Liquid in more subtle ways.

In addition to automating data collection and synthesizing insights, SAP’s tool is helping the esports organization operate more efficiently. From a raw manpower perspective, Team Liquid is saving approximately 10,000 hours per year with the solutions from SAP. 

This also translates to more effective practice sessions for the League of Legends squad. The tool allows Team Liquid to simulate drafts against specific opponents. In turn, its pro players can practice against realistic team compositions.

Overall, the tool gives Team Liquid’s coaches more visibility into possible scenarios and craft counterstrategies ahead of time. With this added awareness, coaches can guide Team Liquid’s players more effectively. 

Team Liquid Honda League of Legends 2024 Spring Championship win
Team Liquid celebrates its Spring 2024 championship.

“As a coach, you want to fill players with as much confidence as possible on stage… Being confident in your approach can mean the difference,” said Hart. “With [SAP’s solutions], we’re less likely to be surprised when we go out on stage.”

Team Liquid also draws confidence from their unique visibility into the available League of Legends data.

“Thanks to SAP, we’re one of the few teams that is actually using the Riot Esports API feed. We’re one of the few teams that goes in and directly queries that data for whatever we need. A lot of other teams go through a third-party vendor that doesn’t deliver the same level of access as SAP,” said Hart. “The data access SAP gives us is unreal. We’re lucky to have the partnership and lucky to be able to use these tools.”

Fans can watch Team Liquid compete using SAP’s AI draft tool at MSI 2024, which runs from May 1-19, 2024.

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