Analysts, casters and players alike are obsessed with the Pick/Ban phase (also known as the drafting phase) of games, convinced that teams can stomp just by outpicking their opponents– or lose wildly as a result of bad drafting. This week, I’d like to dissect how Cloud 9’s early dominance composition was entirely overcome by CLG’s late-game stampede.
Counter Logic Gaming vs. Cloud 9
C9 is actually semi-famous for their incredible pick/ban phase. Each player (besides LemonNation, apparently) has a such a deep champion pool that bans are less about removing trouble champions and more about forcing C9 to beat you with something else. But the real power in C9’s picks and bans isn’t that they have magic champion pools or perfectly planned comps, but rather that they have a great understanding of champion synergies. By pairing champions together and combining those pairs into teams, they create incredibly volatile, dangerous compositions that often seem impossible to counter. However, in their match against CLG, C9 was uncharacteristically disassembled, creating a one-dimensional team of early game champions that do not scale well past the laning phase.
Counter Logic Gaming, on the other hand, hasn’t quite shown their colors this split, as they’ve been playing without their main roster for most of their games. But now that they’re back in form with Link in the Mid Lane and Dexter in Jungle, the general strategy of banning out Doublelift and forcing him on to a manageable marksman has returned. Link, however, did come up strong for CLG on Leblanc – though when a champion is as strong as Leblanc is in the LCS (she hasn’t dropped a game in North America, for reference), perhaps it is less about Link’s ability and more about Leblanc’s strengths.
Counter Logic Gaming Bans:
A Kassadin ban is nothing new, but a blue side Kassaban is a little odd. This likely signals that Link doesn’t have Kassadin in his champion pool, and we all know from his performance against Fnatic’s Xpeke that Hai certainly does. Lee Sin is a predictable ban for Meteos, as those strong early game junglers have really worked well for him, but the Annie ban is something we haven’t yet seen. LemonNation seems to swear by Thresh and Leona, preferring to take one or the other with a few rare deviations, as these champions’ ability to initiate fights has given the team wins in the past. More so, Cloud 9 tends not to fear Annie, as they routinely let other teams take the the champion, and then purchase as many Banshee’s Veils in the late game as they can. In this way, they completely neutralize the initiation of Flash-Tibbers, which is more or less the most important reason Annie is picked. Still, there is always the chance that Lemon has begun to add Annie’s power to his somewhat shallow champion pool, and CLG didn’t want him to debut it against them.
Cloud 9 Bans:
As Leblanc enters the Kassadin realm of permanent red side bans, her appearance on this list isn’t all that new or noteworthy. Link specifically did extremely well on the champion, pulling off some impressive jukes against Evil Geniuses in Week 4. The Vayne and Caitlyn bans, of course, are targeted directly at Doublelift. As CLG’s headlining player, it’s not strange to see bans directed towards him, but Caitlyn is a bit out of left field. Doublelift has shown a preference for his old favorite Vayne throughout the split, choosing her in four of CLG’s eight games, and his ability to perform on the champion is hard to question. Caitlyn, on the other hand, was only played once by CLG’s ringer in their loss against XDG. What’s more likely is that Caitlyn was a direct counter to Sneaky’s impending Sivir pickup. Doublelift/Aphromoo have shown themselves just as capable a bot lane as LemonNation/Sneaky, and if the intent was to lock an early Sivir to set up a strong stampede composition, leaving the counter for Doublelift wouldn’t be very prudent.
CLG 1st Pick:
This is CLG calling Cloud 9’s bluff and reading their picks accurately. Rather than take the favored jungler Elise, who typically gets snatched first when she dodges a ban, CLG locks in Sivir. The Battle Mistress has exploded onto the North American scene, taking the place of Jinx in many teams’ compositions. The power she brings to frontline bruisers is spectacularly dangerous for a late game team-fighting Jinx, who typically has a tough time escaping from the likes of Vi, Olaf and Shyvana. Locking Sivir keeps Jinx off the table, hopefully forcing him onto a less dangerous Lucian, who is primarily picked for laning strength and siege potential, as well as reliable mobility.
Cloud 9 2nd Picks:
Cloud 9 takes two of their core wheelhouse champions. Meteos is the LCS’s most dangerous jungler and Elise is reportedly his most dangerous champion. Picking Elise guarantees early game power that should hopefully transition into a quick win for Cloud 9. Elise also lends flexibility to other picks, as teams love to use her as a source of magic damage in a primarily attack damage composition. This would allow both Balls and Hai to lock in AD champions without the threat of an all-Randuin’s, all-the-time hard counter.
Thresh is an easy and obvious pick up for LemonNation, who has seen plenty of success on the champion over the weeks. It gives away relatively little about the rest of the Cloud 9 composition, and is a powerful pick for plenty of different bot lane duos, which is just the kind of flexibility that Cloud 9 loves to play with.
CLG 3rd Picks:
This is where CLG’s composition really gives itself away. Vi and Leona are some of the hardest engagers and powerful divers in the game. Getting to a back-line priority target is a cakewalk for either champion, and doing so while empowered by Sivir’s ‘On the Hunt’ is even easier. Leona/Sivir is a bot lane that was run by Cloud 9 versus Coast in week 4 with amazing results. Coast’s Annie/Lucian combination couldn’t out-push Sivir’s wave clear, but a ready-and-waiting Leona kept Wizfujin and Daydreamin from ever successfully engaging on the pair. Vi, however, is decidedly weaker than Elise in terms of early game pressure, but no jungler outdoes her ganks at level six. And while Elise might have the tools in her kit to make her a Jack-of-all-trades, Vi’s power bruiser kit is incredibly specialized at doing one thing (diving enemy carries) very well.
Cloud 9 4th Picks:
While these two picks aren’t flawed in and of themselves, they do paint Cloud 9 into a corner. Renekton and Draven are two early game monsters, built to dominate lanes and bully weaker match-ups. Draven in particular has a great match-up against Sivir. He aggressively out-ranges her, wins trades at all points in the laning phase, and isn’t as susceptible to her Spell Shield as some of her more common opponents (Jinx, Lucian, and Caitlyn.) In theory, the match-up between them heavily favors Draven. But outside of the lane, on a compositional level, Draven is a poorer teamfighter. Leona is phenomenal against Draven in the laning phase, due to the predictability of his position with his Spinning Axes (and the sustained DPS drop when an axe is missed). On top of that, she is good at sticking to relatively immobile marksmen such as Draven. While his ability to kite with Blood Rush and Stand Aside must be respected, Sivir’s On the Hunt nullifies any movement speed advantage he might gain. On top of that, Vi has also been locked, functionally guaranteeing that Draven, who is, again, a short ranged carry in teamfights with low mobility, will be a prime Assault and Battery target.
But the icing on the cake should really have come from LemonNation’s notebook. If the enemy team has locked Vi, Leona and Sivir, there’s no way that Nien is NOT considering Shyvana for his next round of picks. She has a favorable match-up against Renekton, though it takes a few levels for the lane to swing in her favor, and she loves the instant movement speed from Sivir to guarantee she remains a threat against backlines of ranged mages and orb-walking marksmen. She scales spectacularly into the late game as a power tank, soaking up damage with little trouble or consequence. At this point, Cloud 9 have locked three early game monsters (Elise, Draven, Renekton) and only have one avenue to victory: snowball early advantages gained from those favorable few levels. Of course, they are not without hope, as Hai has yet to lock his mid lane champion and could easily add a dangerous roaming assassin to the mix.
CLG 5th Picks:
Shyvana is fairly unsurprising as far as picks goes in this CLG composition. The signs of Montecristo’s coaching are all over the pick ban phase, as Sivir driven Shyvana/Vi compositions were a terror throughout most of the recent OGN Winter tournament. In this comp, Shyvana just needs to scale. Even if Nien loses the lane against Balls, as long as the margin isn’t incredibly severe, he will easily outscale Renekton come the mid and late game. If Balls decides to sink gold into the Ravenous Hydra Renekton build that has come to dominate North America recently, Shyvana can either match his offensive purchase with her own Blade of the Ruined King, which allows Shyvana to split push and reliably duel Renekton in the top lane, or rush as many tank stats as she can, becoming virtually unkillable in teamfights. If Renekton doesn’t opt for the Ravenous Hydra, then he’s giving up his midgame power in favor of a better team-fighting role as tank (Ravenous Hydra is strongest in the mid game, where Renekton’s full combo can annihilate the enemy Marksman.) All Shyvana has to do is farm and wait, and she will beat Renekton in all aspects of the top lane role.
Lulu, on the other hand, is the single most important pick of this entire pick/ban phase. While Sivir completely defines the CLG composition in the first pick, Lulu completely negates the Cloud 9 composition in their last. If players were picking Kayle as a favored match-up against high damage assassins such as Zed and Kha’zix, then they will overwhelmingly be throwing their support behind the AP Lulu build that has come out of South East Asia and Korean Solo Queue. Lulu not only has one of the most powerful defensive ults in the game, an ult that keeps her alive at the inevitable level six all-in, but she also packs the game’s only polymorph, which both silences the enemy player and removes their ability to auto attack. This single pick forces Hai off of any AD Assassin that he was hoping to run in the mid lane, an AD Assassin such as Zed or Kha’zix, where he can reliably scale into the late game and provide some much needed carrying power once his teammates has fallen off. And to make matters worse, Lulu fits in perfectly with CLG’s expertly crafted stampede composition that so heavily relies on movement speed. Her AP scaling on Whimsy gives Nien’s Shyvana or Dexter’s Vi an additional tool to close the gap, absorb damage, and function as a front-and-center tank for the team.
Cloud 9 Last Pick:
This is a desperation pick from Cloud 9. Realizing Lulu hard counters most of the lanes he was looking to run, Hai ended up defaulting to his own defensive utility mage, Orianna. And though he’d played the champion to some success against EG, that game was won off of Sneaky’s 10-1 Jinx. (Hai was 1/3/15 with the most deaths on the team.) In fact, in almost every other game this split, Hai has played an assassin of one form or another. But with Leblanc banned, every other assassin he might have looked to run finds their combos countered, and no options left, Hai was forced to go with the safest choice possible in Orianna. With neither the late game scaling they needed, nor the comfort that enables Hai to carry, this final pick left Cloud 9 in a dangerous position.
Cloud 9 Final Composition:
Cloud 9 tends to favor champion synergies over tight knit comps, probably best exemplified by their Ashe/Zyra botlane or Zac/Zed dive duo. But the danger they face in creating such flexible compositions is they lack a single unified vision for winning the game, generally relying on superior map movement in the mid and late game to carry them to victory. By picking a comp full of early game power, a phase of the game they have been known to be weak during, and putting their fate in their ability to snowball an early advantage, Cloud 9 set themselves up for an incredibly difficult game from minute one. Perhaps if they had locked in a stronger top to compliment Meteos’ jungle (such as Trundle), they may have taken an advantage from there. Or if they had gone with a more mobile champ like Ezreal or Lucian for Sneaky, they wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to Assault and Battery dives. But, unfortunately, they chose what they chose and took a loss on the scoreboard as their punishment.
Counter Logic Gaming Final Composition:
With an ability to pressure all lanes early and engage harder than the enemy late, Counter Logic Gaming built a well-balanced, well-focussed team composition. These are the comps that CLG typically shines on, with a singular goal and purpose well-defined enough for all their members to execute successfully. Doublelift’s Sivir and Link’s Lulu enabling Leona, Vi and Shyvana to tear through the enemy back line is key for the composition, though the fall back of Lulu/Sivir wave clear and Shyvana split push was also present. In the game itself, CLG executed their strategy relatively flawlessly, focusing their pressure in the bot lane to make sure Sneaky and LemonNation didn’t snowball off of Adoration stacks and carry the game from there. Without much jungle pressure to speak of, Balls and Hai easily split their lanes, but were soon out-scaled by their opponents as they formed an unstoppable force in the mid lane.
In the end, Cloud 9 didn’t come away with the worst loss, but they did lose nonetheless, giving CLG fans something to cheer about and LemonNation a bit of a black eye. You can catch the match below to see how these two compositions play out.
This article was edited by ShiraShira.