Words by Chris 'Studio' Grant.
The League of Legends 2015 World Championship starts October 1st, and last week the final pre-tournament patch dropped. This set of changes avoided major remakes and restructures to prevent too much of a shakeup (which happened at Worlds in 2012). With only a week left, professional players are under pressure to optimize their practice with the most competitive champions possible. To glean what may be coming in Worlds, I’ve looked at the top champion solo queue picks from the following European and American Worlds teams: Fnatic, H2k-Gaming, Team Solo Mid, Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9, and Origen. This data reflects the last-minute bootcamping that these teams traveled to Korea for, as they train in the most competitive League of Legends region.
The recent 5.18 patch laid down some tweaks on some of the champions high on the top lane totem pole. Not much has changed, though, as recent pro picks still reveal a pirate-dominated lane, with Gangplank being the most-picked champion by the grand majority of top laners. Fiora takes up the second most popular slot, leaving top lane a land of bursty melee heroes, a long call from the bulky brawlers of old. However, when players aren’t picking sword-wielders, there’s an incredible amount of variety on show in this isolated lane. TSM’s Dyrus frequently picks Lulu, CLG’s ZionSpartan is eyeing Darius, and Fnatic’s Huni is even experimenting with the turret-loving Heimerdinger. These picks can do well against the more common top laners, providing either heavy ranged pressure or a beefy body that can stand toe-to-toe with them.
No monster remains unseen as Lee Sin dominates the jungle, continuing a trend that has existed for as long as Lee Sin has. However, the Blind Monk’s control of the jungle isn’t as steadfast as Gangplank in the top lane, and there’s a varied mix of champions being chosen for the role. As her title implies, Nidalee, The Bestial Huntress, is seeing quite a bit of jungle play, and League’s favorite creepy-crawly Elise continues to skitter in most pros’ jungle log. The jungle is primarily restricted to these three highly mobile and aggressive picks, with leftover picks remaining as personal favorites. These tertiary options have unique game-altering abilities and include TSM Santorin’s Rek’Sai, Fnatic Reginover’s Skarner, and Origen Amazing’s Ekko. The heavy mobility, introduction of watchtower-like spires, and Ekko’s crazy utility may not be commonly picked, but shouldn’t be underestimated.
The marksman and support combo has always been difficult to predict from solo queue. Carries and supports can’t practice synergy if they’re queued with random players. Vayne is the champion of choice for most AD carries so far, but she’s often used to develop individual mechanical skills due to her incredibly high skill ceiling. Kalista, Sivir, and Tristana fortify the other marksman picks, providing a diverse choice between utility, pushing, and late-game power. In an odd twist, Mordekaiser is seeing some play from Fanatic’s Rekkles and Origen’s Niels, taking full advantage of Harvester of Sorrow’s passive—he always receives full experience for minions he kills, even with an ally nearby. A natural experience lead for the carry is a unique momentum-focused twist on the traditional duo-lane.
Like AD carries, supports aren’t able to practice as much due to the required teamwork in the bottom lane. Thresh has the highest pickrate among the support players, but there’s no unifying hierarchy in professional picks. CLG’s Aphromoo is representing Bard and Blitzcrank, H2k’s kaSing has brought forth Kennen and Janna, and C9’s LemonNation is bringing back Nami. Overall the supports seem to be experimenting rather than trying to focus on strict meta-picks, which could come in handy for an ace-in-the-hole surprise.
Middle lane follows the trend set by supports, where there isn’t really a consistent pick. However, most middle laners are farming Elo with LeBlanc, a powerful assassin that can do extensive work in solo queue. Ekko follows as a secondary pick, but most other picks fall under experimentation or favored picks. C9’s Incarnation is experimenting primarily with Syndra and Anivia, CLG’s Pobelter with Lissandra and Twisted Fate, and TSM’s Bjergsen with Viktor. Middle lane has become the home for team-defining comfort picks, rather than following a strict meta. The central position of the middle lane allows these flexible picks to become the focus of a team composition, interchanging various farming, roaming, and killing options.
What this could mean for Worlds is a picking style focused around the middle lane, carry, and support roles. These roles are able to engage with multiple enemy players, and can coordinate with other teammates without the use of the long teleport cooldown. Top lane is heavily focused on melee assassins, and the need for a jungler to rotate quickly while controlling his own jungle has led to champion picks that excel in that regard. With top picks in mind, a team composed entirely of the most popular picks would be a glass ball of death, lacking a true frontline. Pro players will need to balance the newfound damage potential of the top lane with the need for an initiator that can take a punch. These teams are also practicing behind closed doors, and the true Worlds’ meta might only show when long-practiced secrets strategies are finally revealed on the championship stage.
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