Pick Comp: The Rise of the Skirmish
The state of the Meta is constantly shifting (in this case Meta will refer to popular strategies and compositions employed by professional and amateur teams alike) with new strategies and compositions present from tournament to tournament and month to month. Most recently the widely popular and extremely powerful pick comp has overtaken the league of legends community. A response to the fast push strategy and a strong strategy in season 3 pick comp (as it’s widely known) is becoming the go to strategy of many pro teams. Pick Comp emphasizes strong versatility, extremely deadly rotations, pressure through vision control and snowball potential to dominate the opposition.
In order to fully understand the pick comp, one must understand the Meta shift that spawned its existence. Fast push (also known as the 2v1 Meta) is a PVE reliant strategy that focuses on objective control (most notably towers) and strong split push potential to force the enemy into submission through pressure, control and global gold. One of the most popular fast push teams, KT Rolster Bullets, relied on this strategy even using it recently in the OGN Summer finals to great effect in their best of 5 against SK Telecom T1. Fast push is reliant on rotational pressure (in this case rotations are the movements of a team on Summoner’s rift) often forcing enemy teams to constantly play reactionary in an attempt to stem the bleeding and alleviate turret pressure. Constantly pushing to the enemy turret fast push teams would trade a member of their team for a turret at any point in the game. Specific compositions employed by popular teams include KT Rolster Bullets fiddlesticks composition. Emphasizing mid game power sieges, KT Rolster employed this strategy to great effect in game one and two against SK Telecom in the OGN finals. KT focused on the poke from Gragas, powerful siege from ezreal and Crowd Control from Fiddlesticks to force SKT into relinquishing map pressure, turrets and ultimately their nexus.
SKT formed a composition in game 3 that had been gathering strength throughout the summer split known as the Pick Comp. Pick comp revolutionized OGN and it would change the dynamic of the World Championships and every game after.
Similar to Fast push the pick comp relies on pressure and rotations to force the enemy into submission. But contrary to the Fast Push PVE rotations, pick comp counters PVE rotations with constant turret pressure followed by rotational kills in the enemy jungle. A pick comp team will most notably hit a certain item threshold or level threshold, most notably DFG Ahri or Kassadin level 6, then apply pressure on the map and pick off the rotating enemy champions and follow it up with an objective. The most famous team to employ the strategy is SKT who relied heavily on Faker’s Ahri, Zed and Gragas to create pick offs on lone enemy supports or Marksmen who would rotate in an attempt to relieve pressure across the map. Several times throughout OGN SKT would apply pressure to the map and leave Faker waiting in the enemy jungle for a roaming enemy champion. Throughout the OGN Semi-finals vs. Samsung Galaxy Ozone and again against KT Rolster Bullets Faker and Piglet were able to destroy the enemy support or marksmen nearly every time they attempted to move around their jungle. These deadly rotations allowed for near constant number advantages when taking key objectives. Pick comp is thus able to alleviate PVE fast push rotations with kill potential and powerful skirmish control.
Versatility within a strategy is paramount for success. Few strategies within League of Legends allow for such diversity within champion picks. Unlike Fast push strategy which relies on powerful split pushers (such as Shen, Vladimir, Jax or Tryndamere) pick comp can be versatile in whatever champion pick it chooses. The earliest documented iteration of popular pick comps was Malphite top lane. Often seen as a team fight Champion, the Chinese devised a pick style Malphite which allowed the Malphite to pick lone farming targets and obliterate them from the map allowing for his team to take objectives and put massive pressure on the enemy team. With the ability to use team fight ultimates as single target skills, Pick comp relies more on the usage of each ultimate rather than what the ultimate actually entails. However despite its versatility the pick comp relies on three important variables. First, high damage output, second crowd control and third mobility or disengage. The most common iterations of pick comps today involve highly mobile assassins, such as Ahri, Zed and Kassadin, who can single handedly remove an enemy champion from the map. Thus it is important for anyone hoping to utilize a Pick Comp to organize their pick/ban phase to acquire a high damage/high burst mid laner and a CC heavy fighter for their jungler (such as Nocturne, Vi or Jarvan IV).Versatility is the name of the game and pick comp has it all.
Snowball potential is extremely straight forward in its definition. Pick comps create kill opportunities and follow every kill with objective control resulting in an extremely large gold and experience advantage to any team that can properly perform a pick. The snowball potential results in early game dominance which translates into game ending pushes.
The final and most important goal of a pick comp is pressure through vision. League of legends is a game of pressure and one of the most optimal ways to apply pressure is to remove vision and create uncertainty for the enemy team. Nearly every player has witnessed the constant fear of lack of vision on important objectives throughout their league career. The fear that the missing Blitzcrank is waiting in that brush just over the wall is constant and agonizing. Pick comp relies on vision control more than most comps which makes the vision game, or ward wars, a necessary and integral part of correctly pulling off a pick composition. That death bush Fnatic is patiently waiting in, well they forgot to clear it of wards and the enemy team is now collapsing on them with powerful team fight champions and a strong front line diver. However, remove the vision and that Fnatic death bush has picked off the roaming Caitlyn resulting in a mid tier 2 turret. Thus constant and proper vision control is necessary to properly perform a pick comp. No member of a pick comp team wants to be caught in a disadvantageous situation because of lack of vision superiority.
Note all of the red wards across the map. They cover every major area and avenue of attack that KT Rolster can take. SKT has complete visionary control of every corner of important map space and KT is left to sit and wonder where SKT is.
In order to fully understand the strength of the Pick comp one must embrace and remove its weaknesses. Pick comp relies on powerful skirmishes and vision control, however an opposing team attempting to counter the pick comp would rely on heavy team fight champions or poke/siege compositions in order to exploit the weaknesses that Pick Comp has. More importantly the enemy team must adopt a strategy that focuses on applying pressure as a team rather than as individuals. Anyone hoping to counter a pick comp should embrace a 5 man strategy in order to counter the skirmish strength of Pick Compositions. Throughout LCS many teams adopted the team fight heavy compositions in order to counter the burst assassin and any strengths they have. In week 3 of the LCS Counter Logic Gaming countered the Vulcun Zed pick comp through powerful poke champions and constantly forcing major 5 man team fights where zed’s effectiveness is weakened through peel and crowd control. Similar to composition and strategy a powerful way to counter pick compositions is itemization. Zed a popular mid lane assassin is countered by itemizing Zhonya’s hourglass or quicksilver sash. Itemization allows the player more time to survive the fight as well as giving your team a higher chance of cancelling out the powerful burst pick compositions are so well known for. Thus if you are hoping to counter a pick composition team fight heavy champions, poke compositions, full team strategies and proper itemization is key.
Ultimately the Pick comp Meta spawned through its versatility, vision superiority, snowball potential and finally deadly rotations. Pick comp will continue to be an integral strategy of popular professional and amateur esports teams. However, the current nerfs that accompanied the most recent patch has prevented pick compositions from completely dominating the meta. Current champion nerfs, team analysis and the currently popular Nidalee poke composition are several of the causes for the decline in the pick composition. However all League players and enthusiasts need to understand the Pick Composition will continue to be an integral strategy of all League players at every level of play. Thus understanding how it works and how to counter it is paramount to any teams success in League.