Welcome to the second week of the North American Challenger League, where we have two undefeated division leaders, Ahri with an 83% win rate, and Orianna ending the week with a dismal 2 wins and 9 losses. My name is Jera and I will be looking into this week’s pick/ban tendencies and analyzing two games from the NACL Week 2 to discover the logic behind picks and bans, and to see where the games are won and lost.
The 6 Most Banned Champions of Week 2:
|Kassadin, Zed, Jax, Vi, Elise, Renekton|
Last Weeks Top 6 Banned:
|Zed, Elise, Kassadin, Vi, Gragas, Lee Sin|
Who is picking WHEN?
Blue side has the advantage of picking first champion, but then allows the opponent two champions. The mapping of probable outcomes is seemingly limitless, and changes over time and in different area make this equation even more complex. The importance of examining when a champion is picked allows teams to develop strategies around.
For example, this week, Blue Side selects their top lane in the 4th/5th pick 64% of the time, and takes mid 71% of the time. Having this information will allow Purple Side the option to counter pick either Top or Mid, or have first pick of those categories (and conveniently ban around them). Purple Side tends to 1st/2nd pick Jungle (65%) and Support (53%). It is worthwhile to note that NACL teams prefer to pick up solo lane champions later in the draft, favoring reactionary counter picking rather than cementing a desired line up earlier. This is very different from other regions, where taking a higher priority pick is more important than having the counter pick, indicating a proactive approach.
Now that we have looked at some of the trends for this week, lets jump into some game analysis between two fallen LCS teams, and two fresh teams trying to get themselves on the map.
Battle of the Old Guard
Team Coast vs. Team Curse : Week 2 Day 1
Team Coast and Team Curse have remained in competition since the inauguration of the North American League Championship Series, from early 2013. Coast, formerly known as Good Game University, have a losing competitive record versus Curse (4wins 7losses), yet managed to defeat Curse in the Spring Split semifinals to face Team Solo Mid in the finals. These teams are no strangers to each other; but will Curse’s roster shuffle lead them to victory, or frustrating defeat?
To preface this section, Coast has a unique situation regarding the pick/ban phase in the recent weeks. Coast has been drawing out seemingly target bans, notably to Riven (6 bans) and LeBlanc (3 bans). These target bans allow Coast another opportunity to pick up an early Elise or Zyra. This is a massive advantage for Coast because the other team is pressured to give up a ban (or 2) while Coast has more control over what compositions they would like to play or not play against.
|Coast Bans||Coast Picks|
|Curse Bans||Curse Picks|
Coast: Kassadin, Renekton, Vi
Curse: Elise, Jax, Zed
These bans are standard for this week of play, with all 6 bans being the 6 most banned champion of NACL Week 2.
Picks (In order of selection)
Caitlyn : The first pick Caitlyn is not a major surprise; Cop is a notable Caitlyn player, plus Caitlyn is difficult to deal with if she gets slightly ahead in lane.
Aatrox + Orianna: Aatrox is one of the best divers and early game ganking junglers. He has incredible pressure, fast clear times, but has virtually 0 presence if the team is not ahead by mid game. Orianna is a safe mid lane champion that can farm easily and becomes a terror as the game continues on. The “Ball Delivery System” from Aatrox and Orianna makes for a potent engage for turret diving.
Jarvan IV + Zyra: Jarvan IV is a top tier jungler that fits well into any comp. J4 + Caitlyn is the best combo for pushing down towers quickly. Zyra is one, if not the best, support at this time. Zyra+Cait works well against a 2v1 lane, which is what they will plan for.
Annie + Corki: This is a bully lane with huge kill potential. This combo HAS to win lane through ganks and early objective fights otherwise it falls off incredibly hard (especially if Annie cannot gain the vision advantage if behind). Corki is very strong due to Trinity Force and his a diverse damage output that is difficult to itemize against.
Riven + Ahri: Riven has been banned against Coast 6 of out 8 games (teams have probably faced it in scrims and don’t want to deal with it). Riven has a tough early game in a 2v1 (which they are preparing for), but once she is against her lane opponent, she wins most 1v1 duels. Looking at the Annie pick, its apparent that Curse wants to teamfight, whereas Riven wants to have smaller battles and split push. Ahri is one of the scary mid lane roaming assassin divers, and Shiphtur is an adept Ahri player.
Shen: The final pick of Shen is somewhat strange. Shen will have a hard time dealing with Riven, plus Curse’s comp heavily favors an early game snowball. Shen handles the 2v1 lane better than Riven, so Shen will have to keep the pressure on with Aatrox otherwise Riven will get out of control.
Coast: Coast is a highly mobile composition whose strengths allow for some strategical diversity unlike wombo-combo or split-push teams. They ideally want Riven split push and handle mid game 2v1 attempts while Jarvan and Caitlyn burn down towers. Ahri and Zyra will be used to create picks to create favorable 4v5 engagements to take easy objectives.
Curse: Curse is running a “wombo–combo” dive composition that is meant to smash early game and snowball from small advantages. Aatrox or Annie will engage with a dive into the enemy, then chain crowd control while Corki cleans up. This team wants to fight as 5, but still has the split push option from Shen.
The early game
Both teams opt for the 2v1 lane set up which is preferable for both of their duo lanes. The game starts out passively, with first blood going to a roaming Ahri after a failed gank bottom lane from the Aatrox/Shen combo. Aatrox returns and dives mid for a quick 2 kills for Curse, but end up staying too long and Coast picks up a double kill. At the same time, Coast takes bottom tower and converge to take an uncontested dragon.
The mid game
The laning phase ends close to 14 minutes, with Coast taking all 3 outer towers and exerting pressure into Curse’s jungle (stealing a red buff at 13:50). At this point, the game is still even, with kills being traded between teams. Curse wins a decisive teamfight in the top lane (3 Kills to 1) and take an uncontested dragon while Coast takes the bottom inner turret.
Riven begins to start heavy pushing against the top lane while the other Coast members pressure mid. This siege continues for some time, and Curse does not have the opportunity to ward deep into their own jungle (between the Top and Mid Inner turrets).
The turning point
Around the 19 minute mark, Curse has to rotate from Mid to Top to deal with the Riven. Aatrox does not have the proper warding and is picked off in the Curse jungle by Zyra, Jarvan, and Ahri. This marks the time when Curse lost control of their own jungle and could no longer create those picks and dive opportunities they were seeking.
How the game plays out:
Curse is unable to regain map control over their jungle and continue to lose objectives, die from picks in the jungle, and continuously dove behind their own turrets. Coast breech the Curse base at 25:15, then return four minutes later with the Baron buff to close out the game, 24 kills to 11.
Advice for Coast:
Coast is doing phenomenally at this time, but there is a large skill difference between the newly restructured Curse and a veteran team, like TSM or Cloud 9. Forcing extra bans from lesser experienced teams allows huge advantages, ultimately taking something from the other team, or forcing them to play in an uncomfortable/unfamiliar match up. Teams will slowly adapt to unusual picks, and Coast will be forced back into the meta of having an incredibly proficient 4-5 champion pool.
Advice for Curse:
I understand that Curse has switched the roster a few times in the past week, and still may in the next couple of weeks. Curse wants to get the best talent that money can buy. But raw talent must be cultivated in an enriching environment, and ripen these solo queue heroes into veteran professionals. Curse needs that time to learn each others’ play styles, their strengths and weaknesses, and bonding to form a cohesive unit.
Battle of the New Blood
COGnitive Gaming vs. Napkins in Disguise : Week 2 Day 2
Both COGnitive Gaming and Napkins in Disguise are new faces to the competitive scene, with only a matter of months experience as professionals. Very little is known of these teams, and only scrimmage partners have intimate knowledge of favored picks. So what we have are two new teams that are trying to gain recognition within the community and become a contender for a coveted position in the NA LCS. COGnitive is still looking for their first win at a while Napkins in Disguise looks to secure the second place spot in the Ancient Golem Conference.
|COG Bans||COG Picks|
|NiD Bans||NiD Picks|
COG: Kassadin, Gragas, Renekton
NiD: Lulu, Zyra, Jax
One again, there seems to be a target ban going towards a team based on scrimmage experience. The Gragas ban allows a safe Orianna pick.
Picks (In order of selection)
Zed: I want to believe that this pick was forced onto COG. While Zed is a very powerful laner (in the hands of a high skilled player), laners across the world have had time to dissect Zed to find his weaknesses. The Gragas ban, to me, indicated that COG was hoping that NiD would ban Zed and they could take the Orianna.
Corki + Lee Sin: These are solid picks that do not reveal anything about what type of composition NiD is planning to execute. The Corki could be a denial pick, but the alternative (at this time within the meta) is Caitlyn, so NiD has the advantage of picking what they would like to play as and against. Lee Sin is a monster in the jungle (but COG will be in for a surprise!).
Annie + Caitlyn: This is a kill lane set up. Ideally, this would work best in a 2v1 lane set up, but can abuse Corki’s short range. Zyra would be the most ideal support against the Caitlyn/Annie duo, but Zyra is banned. How will NiD react?
Vi + Thresh: Is this a lane Vi or a lane Lee Sin? There seems to be a bit of trickery by NiD, and bravo to you. The jungle Vi almost 100% ensures a kill at level 6 on any lane that is not attended by the opposing jungler. She can snowball lanes very easily, becomes innately tanky with levels, and has excellent neutral mob objective control from her Denting Blows. NiD chose Thresh, who brings the utility to create picks, save friendlies from picks, disengage, and displace.
Aatrox + Vladimir: Aatrox is an early snowball jungler that has a rough time if he falls behind. Aatrox is going to look to snowball a lane, most likely bot due to Lee Sin’s mobility combined with Vlad’s low burst and Zed’s somewhat weak state pre-6. Vladimir will have a rough time against Lee Sin, especially if Vi comes to gank and/or dive.
Orianna: Orianna is one of the few champs that can handle a Zed in lane with ease. She is incredibly defensive and has exceptional scaling with farm. If Orianna can alert the other lanes of an inevitable roaming Zed, she can either follow or punish by taking a tower/getting ahead in farm.
COGnitive Gaming: COG looks to be caught off guard from this pick/ban selection, specifically from the Lee Sin. The Zed seems to be forced, but the team is not based around the assassin into split push Zed. Aatrox has good engage/escape, but isn’t the front line defense you want while sieging form Caitlyn. It looks like this comp is meant to win lanes and have either Zed or Vladimir split push. Annie is going to have a difficult time reaching the high priority targets, and will likely be used to create picks in the Fog of War.
Napkins in Disguise: NiD has a dive-focused composition that excels with creating picks on players out of position. The Lee Sin will either become an unstoppable duelist or a Safeguard Bot, so ganks will probably be focused to create advantages in the top lane. Thresh will look combat Annie for vision control, with the winner creating better picks.
The early game
Lanes assignments were to face their lane opponent rather than a 2v1, or mid/top swap. Within the first 5 minutes, Napkins in Disguise took first blood from Annie due to a lantern gank from Vi and some stellar Thresh play. This small advantage put Annie far behind, and forced Caitlyn to lose CS and become behind.
Between the 8 to 10 minute mark, Zed tries to start roaming to get those kills, but is unable to find a kill. Lee Sin managed to solo Vladimir without a gank, which creates a large enough power disparity that Vladimir has to play extremely cautiously. In the bottom lane, 3 members of COG shove out the lane to NiD (who had just returned to base), but failed to attempt dragon or ward. COG then decides to return to base, which allows NiD to take a free dragon.
The mid game:
We enter the middle game around 12 minutes and both teams are content with an extended laning phase. The gold difference is a mere 2K, which is accounted for by the dragon and two kills. At this time, the game looks to be close, however COG has missed two crucial timings: Zed 6, Annie 6. Zed 6-8 is when Zed needs to get a kill from Death Mark. Annie 6 is when Flash/Tibbers is potent, due to a laning phase and the high base damage with low magic resistance mitigation. Both of these timings were missed, which gives an even greater advantage to NiD.
At 15 minutes, Vi ganked bottom and dove the Annie/Caitlyn combo, giving a 2 for 1 to NiD. COG sent Zed and Aatrox to help protect the tower or kill the Corki, but it backfired and COG gave a free kill from Aatrox to Corki. This triggered Corki to finish off the bottom tower, but gets greedy and tries to kill Caitlyn a second time but dies to Annie. With NiD’s inappropriate decision making 3,500 gold at the 17 minute mark.
NiD swept the remaining outer turrets by 18:50, while COG takes took first outer turret at 17:30. The gold gap is starting to increase, but Vladimir can not deal with the split pushing Lee Sin all by himself. The outer turrets have fallen, which means access to COG’s jungle. Thus these factors forced COG into a defensive position, and very susceptible to Fog of War picks.
The point of no return:
At the 21-minute mark, a 4v4 fight erupts in COG’s bottom tri-brush, sacrificing both junglers and leaving both teams at low health. Vladimir cannot leave top lane otherwise Lee Sin will take an inhibitor tower, and cannot duel Lee Sin either. Both teams posture, until the breaking point at 24:30.
All 10 players congregate mid, while Thresh and Annie work to swept the brush wards to gain a vision advantage. Thresh landed a hook onto Annie, who imploded on engagement. COG dove into the teamfight 4v5, which resulted in a 4 deaths for naught. At this time, it is 3 kills for COG, and 10 kills for NiD at the 25 minute mark.
How the game plays out:
NiD quickly secured baron after a 4 for 0 fight in the mid lane. NiD then pushes the advantage to take the middle turret at 27:40. COG decided to 5 man shove to the mid lane and made a questionable call to tower dive a baron, and then neglected to finish killing the tower (which was sitting under 150hp). The result is a disaster, with NiD picking up the ace for 2 deaths.
NiD takes the middle inhibitor and forced a baron bait at 32 minutes. COG lost 4 for nothing, and hoisted the white flag. The ending game kill total at 33:05, 5 kills for COG, 21 kills for NiD.
Advice for COGnitive:
I’m still thrown back to the picks and bans selection, and Zed was not played to his fullest extent either. The Anne and Caitlyn lane needed to play aggressive and secure a kill or make a play once Annie acquired her Tibbers ultimate. Whether this was COG wanting to try something new, or being forced into it, the safer bet is to come into the game with a solid plan of what you want to play and not play champions for the sake of their power levels in the current meta. NiD had a game plan of what they wanted to play coming into the game, and did not let champ select alter that plan. (Later in the week you do get to pick what you want and are able to stomp Infinite Odds, but don’t let the niche picks become your weakness).
Advice to Napkins in Disguise:
This was an impressive showing and understanding of how to exploit the lane match ups. The early Lee Sin pick feigned a read as a jungle, and the Vi was not taken in response. I enjoy watching these types of mind games unfold, especially when they are successful. Some of your advantages could be pushed harder, to close the game quicker. The veteran teams will time their engagements at key power levels, and force decisions that will either force a play (which they are expecting) or you will lose an objective/advantage. With experience comes a greater adaptability for quick decision making.
This week has shown an interesting mix of reactionary pick/ban selection, and admirable performances by professional teams and aspiring contestants. Coast defeated Curse with superior vision control and heavy siege pressure. Napkins in Disguise stalled a COGnitive brutal early game and snowballed the game after a Thresh pick in the mid lane.
Join us next Sunday for analysis over Week 3 of the North American Challenger League. The undefeated Coast will face off against the undefeated Complexity to become the tournament leader. Velocity has another four opportunities to pick up their first win of the season, and the 6 teams that have not placed into the LCS in the past are looking to impress new fans!