You hear a lot of talk about team compositions, but accurate and useful definitions on what they are, how they work, and their interactions with each other, are hard to come by. For a concept that is fundamental to operating successfully in League, this is unacceptable.
When creating a team comp, the goal is to pick champions that all work together in some way, every player working together on a specific ‘concept.’ That doesn’t mean everyone has to be designed to do the same thing (In fact, you will need some diversity in your skill sets), but there is a specific plan which everyone can find their part in, based on the way their kits synergize with each other. There are five basic types of team compositions you can build – Today, we will take a look at the Poke Composition.
Poke Comp Characteristics
The primary characteristic of a poke composition is long range. Using this range, poke-centric champions harass opponents down from a safe distance. Zone control abilities, like traps, are nice to have on a poke comp, since they can ‘herd’ opponents into a smaller area where they have less room to dodge – This will increase the rate at which skill shots can be landed, as well as speed up siege, thus minimizing the window for getting caught out of position. To compensate for their ability to win at long distances over extended periods of time, poke champions are typically weakest at all-in, 100-to-0 engages that happen quickly. Because of this, poke comps don’t want to fight in the sense that they engage, rather, they dominate non-engages, wearing down opponents and then taking their objectives from them when they can’t do anything about it.
In order to react to strong engage tools of the enemy team, poke comps need ample disengage abilities so that they can indefinitely put off fights, and continue poking from superior range. Every high-level, well-designed poke comp will have ample disengage built into it, and most early team-fighting will be based on how well the poke comp uses their disengage and how well the team facing the poke comp works around it. As you might guess, this ‘bull and matador’ routine often leaves bumps and scratches on the poke comp, which make heals and shields highly relevant to a poke composition. Wave clear is also an essential component, because it clears obstacles for skillshots, which will be most of your long range poking abilities. Preventing minion waves from building up helps postpone an engagement and also allows pokers to produce light damage on a structure each wave, slowly whittling down objectives wave-by-wave.
Because bullying from afar is the defining characteristic of a poke comp and disengage is so essential to doing that, with wave clear, sustain, and zoning abilities worked in to support those characteristics, sieging is naturally the best option available to poke comps. Pressuring towers continually, leaving both the health bars and the morale of their enemies harassed, without getting in so much of a rush that they get engaged on, is the optimal scenario for a fully committed poke comp. That usually means breaking from the laning phase as soon as they can, moving together as much as possible for the rest of the game, and living at the front door of the opposing team. It also means that reading other players’ movements and understanding area of influence (which is essentially how strong champions are at any given range – Where you are safe from a Leona ult and where you aren’t) are key skills to be focusing on when poking.
Since poke comps want to group around objectives and siege them down, warding for them is as simple as throwing down a few wards on the flanks to spot any engage attempts from the sides/rear. For example, if pokers are sieging the mid Tier I tower, they’ll want to ward to river bushes on either side, and if possible, the enemy jungle entrances. Wards collect information, and all the information a poke comp wants is where to set up the catapults and when to move them.
Nidalee, Ziggs, and Morgana are quintessential poke champions, possessing powerful long range abilities that let them win long, drawn out non-engages. Nidalee lacks wave clear, but has sustain from her heal and disengage with her cougar form – And of course, her spears are probably the best poking ability in the game. Ziggs has disengage with his minefield and satchel knock aside, fantastic wave clear, and plenty of range on his spammable Qs – But he lacks sustain. Morgana has the sustain that Ziggs wants, the wave clear that Nidalee wants, and disengage from her shield and CC’s, but her wave clear isn’t as strong as Ziggs, and her sustain isn’t as strong as Nidalee’s – She’s a jack-of all-trades, master of none. Don’t forget, all of these champions have abilities that control a zone, which help them control the movements of their opponents.
Here are some other strong poke comp champions:
Poke comps deal well with AOE comps, because AOE comps typically want to put all of their members in the same place, fighting 5v5’s or at least 4v4’s. That means AOE’ers need to live at objectives – Be it a tower or Dragon/Baron. Regardless of which type of objective they choose, a poke comp will take advantage of them being clumped in the same area – This makes it easy to land skillshots on someone, even if it’s not the someone you intended. On the other hand, poke comps can work as a functional unit at the same objective without being clumped up enough to get wombo-comboed, and they can use their range to disperse/disengage when they see an engage coming.
You would intuitively think that a split-push comp beats a poke-comp, but in practice, this is rarely the case. There’s a lot of variety in split-push comps relative to their counterparts, but generally speaking, the ability to control waves to make pushes is something that poke comps do better, and they will win a forty minute base race. What’s more, disengage abilities, heals, and shields make tower dives impractical. This combination leaves a split pusher with few options, while a poke comp isn’t particularly hindered by splitters. The problem split push comps have against poke comps is that split pushing rarely has enough engage power to deal with a poke comp’s disengage, and poke comps reign supreme in non-engages.
Poke comps are great at securing objectives and slowly but surely securing wins, if you play with the necessary caution. While they seem to strangle out games when they are ahead, one misstep can turn the tide and leave them trying to clear waves off their own turrets. If such an opportunity does arise however, it’s usually not best to play the siege game – that’s theirs. Closing out the comeback against pokers means finding ways to force action when they don’t want to fight. At the same time, pokers have tools to draw things out, and using them properly can help them overcome those who would try to force their hand.
Special Thanks To: shuyan, for her epic Splash Art talents, and Sam for his amazing in-art graphics