Power at the top, lane swaps and flex picks: The LCS after two weeks

After two weeks of the League of Legends Championship Series, multiple trends can be seen in the meta game. Top laners still hold almost all the power, and being able to conceal a team’s picks are highly valued.

Unless Riot Games makes drastic changes, the games will still be heavily influenced by the top laners. The summoner spell teleport has been nerfed from last season, but solo laners are still of utmost importance. The ability to put map pressure by themselves serves as a great asset to their respective teams. The whole point of lane swapping is trying to swing the solo lane into your team’s favor. If the solo lane wasn’t this important, then lane swapping wouldn’t happen.

A team’s objective in a lane swap is to create an advantageous position for the outer laners, with more focus on the top laner. Teams do this because of how vulnerable the laners are in the early stages of the game to get tower dove in a three- or four-on-one situation.

Each team sends the top laner with the duo lane to kill an early turret, and bounce the minion wave back towards their side of the map. Then the solo laner will stay in that lane to farm, while the duo lane goes back into the lane where the other remaining tier one outer turret is. By bouncing the lane back towards their side of the map, the top laner now freezes the lane so the enemy top laner cannot farm safely without a steady amount of wards and/or jungle assistance. The other option is to hard push the lane into the second-tier tower. That forces the other top laner to farm under tower, while the initiating team’s top laner can make a teleport play on the other side of the map. This forces the other top laner to respond to the teleport, lose farm to the tower, and let the minion wave bounce back to the other side of the map.

The lane swap gets very complicated, and many things can go wrong. There are many variables that go into a lane swap, and even pros that practice it every day still get it wrong sometimes. But when it works, it’s a winning formula.

The Power of the Flex Pick

Flex picking is all the rage right now in the pick and ban phase. The changes to Graves this season have added another marksman to the jungle. This rise of the jungle marksmen have made way for comps that include two or three AD carries. Because of that, Graves, Corki, Ezreal, and even Kindred have become important during the draft phase. This season is unprecedented with the amount of flex picks there can be. The first few picks of each team of the draft usually gives almost no information on which lanes these champions are going in. Lissandra, Lulu, Ryze, and Gangplank can also be flexed as top or mid laners, and even Poppy, Tahm Kench, and Trundle are added to the mix, being able to go top, support or jungle.

What I would like to see going forward

Certain champions are being prioritized in the draft that, going forward, needs to be changed. Gangplank has a 100 percent pick and ban rate in all regions, and teams need to reevaluate his power. Gangplank takes a while to get going, and is also not the safest laner due to the absence of hard crowd control or dash ability. His reliance on his barrels can be abused in ganks. His ultimate is extremely strong and his late-game power is as well, but considering his win rate is only 33 percent, moving away from Gangplank might be something to take into consideration.

In a few games, certain champions have gotten through the ban phase that should not have. If a team is able to grab one of the powerful picks such as Lissandra, Tahm Kench, Fiora, Lulu, or Gangplank, then there needs to be a fair trade. Too many times one of these champions get through, and the other team isn’t able to pick another. For example, Team Liquid gave Echo Fox Tahm Kench on Sunday but didn’t pick Lissandra when she was available. Lissandra is especially powerful because of her ability to destroy squishies, forcing them to buy a Quicksilver Sash, along with providing a hard engage. If a team doesn’t have a plan versus these top tier champions, then these top picks need to be either picked or banned no matter the game plan going in.

So far, 52 champions haven’t been picked or banned once in all of the professional games this season, meaning 42 percent of champions aren’t being used. While the top-tier champions are very strong, more unique picks going into Week 3 would be refreshing. The bottom lane is filled with the same carries, but there is room for more, such as Vayne or Tristana. Quinn is already a popular pick in Asia that should be utilized more in the West.

The best players are the best teammates

Dunan “Thorin” Shields tweeted a few days ago “FNATIC without YellOwStaR, C9 without Hai, KT without Piccaboo, Really good shot-callers are the most scarce commodity in LoL.” I want to elaborate on this, and say, good teammates are just as scarce. Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin and Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo were on the very successful Fnatic last year. Eugene “Pobelter” Justice Park won the NA championship with Counter Logic Gaming. Hai “Hai” Du Lam came out of (semi) retirement in a new role and helped Cloud 9 run through the gauntlet and win games during worlds. It’s not a coincidence that those players are now seeing success yet again this season. Besides being mechanically good, these types of players bring something else to their team that can easily be overlooked. Those attributes cannot be measured in statistics. You cannot understand why Hai’s team looks like an entirely different team when he is playing by just looking at the a stat book. These intangible attributes are very common in traditional sports. The Tim Duncans or Derek Jeters: they also exist in esports. League of Legends requires so much teamwork, that it becomes difficult to sometimes evaluate a individual player. That is why a good shot caller is priceless, and why good teammates make great teams.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games.