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The Core of Competitive League of Legends Part 1 – Composition


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League of Legends is an extremely complex game, with many of its important aspects often being overlooked. In this four part article series, I, BonkCushy, will be breaking down the “core” of competitive League of Legends, specifically looking at Composition, Objectives, Rotations, and Execution, in hopes to give new players a different way to look at the game. Each part of this article series will be dedicated to their alignment within the acronym, so today’s article will be about composition.

Although I am honing in on one of these topics at a time, remember these are all interconnected, so as you read the articles, try and make connections between them. For example, trying to understand rotations can be difficult if you don’t have clear priorities for objectives, nor the knowledge of how to optimise your composition efficiently at taking objectives. This is my first article with Cloth 5, and I am extremely excited to start writing for them!

Picks and Bans

A game of League of Legends starts outside of champion select, and pros argue that many games end there too. There is no such thing as a “throw-away” pick or ban in any game; you should plan out several possible compositions (comps) and scenarios prior to entering champion selection (Gambit Gaming probably disagrees with me as shown in their game against Millenium in Week 9 of the EU LCS, but that’s a different story we won’t get into).

This picture is from OGN Masters between SK Telecom T1 S and Najin Black Sword.Good champion select.png

SKT knew that the Najin teams, Black Sword and White Shield, have been practicing the use of Twitch, an unconventional champion in the current meta, in team comps, so Bang jokingly hovered over Twitch during their last pick rotation. This showed SKT’s intention throughout the entire pick/ban phase was to bait the Twitch pick, which was successful. Although Najin Sword called out SKT’s bait, picked Twitch, and won the game, this is a clear demonstration of the thought process that goes on within and outside of champion select. This scenario was familiar for SK Telecom because they observed Najin Sword’s tendencies in champion select to pick Twitch in the composition that they were making and against the one SKT T1 S was forming.

The following is a list of what to focus your bans on:

  • Inability to answer a champion if it’s first picked (the reign of Kassadin after worlds, Twisted Fate during his prime).

  • A “respect” ban if a player has shown exemplary play on that particular champion (Froggen’s Anvia, Poohmandu’s Thresh/Nami).

  • Banning champions that fit a composition your team doesn’t want to, or can’t, deal with, or counter your preferred composition (Nidalee/Caitlyn bans for poke/siege comps).

  • Banning a specific person out if your team feels their champion pool is limited (Scarra and Reginald were accused in Season 3 of having a small, but effective champion pools. When specifically banned, though, these players struggled).

  • Removing options for the enemy to bait them into doing something you want them to do (In the example above, SKT could have easily banned Twitch, but decided not to, so they could play against the comp with a comp they had planned prior to deal with it).

It’s also important not to show your strategy too early when picking your champions. In OGN, Montecristo always says this as most teams pick an aggressive early game jungler first as a ‘power pick’. There are no real answers to early game junglers, nor does picking them show your desired team composition because of their versatility. If you compare this to first picking a champion that telegraphs your team composition, like Kog’Maw or Nidalee, then you’re allowing the enemy team to easily out-comp you.

An important thing to note, though, are power picks that show your strategy. These can be picked in two scenarios: to deny the power pick from your opponent (banning 3 mid laners than first picking another to severely limit the enemy mid laner’s options) or if your team is confident it will work regardless of telegraphing it to your opponent (which is risky and doesn’t respect the skill level of your opponents).

Below, I will take a closer look at pick compositions. While this is by no means the only team composition to play, I decided to highlight this one due to it’s frequency and simplicity to explain. For all team comps, you evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, and whether or not you’re taking use of all the tools in your team comp’s arsenal. If you haven’t already, take a look at Jera’s analysis of the fast-push composition that has been emerging this season. After I explain the pick comp, I will elaborate on how a team should create and evaluate team comps.

Pick Comp

Your team is grouped in mid lane, and you see very appealing AD Carry passing through the enemy’s jungle as she tries to join her team. To satisfy your quench, you leap onto your unprotected prey, kill her, and hop back to your team to take the enemy’s first mid turret. Congratulations Kha’Zix, you have successfully made a pick.

Khazix_Splash_0

A pick composition is a team that consists of strong assassins (LeBlanc, Zed, Kha’Zix), champions with long range displacement or crowd control (Thresh, Blitzcrank, Vi), and/or champions with Move-Speed buffs (Sivir, Lulu), who are very good at catching isolated targets in rotations. After creating a pick, the pick comp would look to force objectives, just like in the example above. By eliminating the enemy’s AD Carry at little to no cost, it forced the opposing team to either give up the middle turret, or be dove in a 4v5 situation, which, in both scenarios, the pick comp has the advantage.

There’s no better team to look at to understand pick comps than SK Telecom T1 K.

In this clip, Faker and Bengi collapse onto KaKao after being spotted by a pink ward (this was played on patch 3.10, when pink wards were still invisible), and are easily able to obtain a dragon following the pick. Another big thing to note is the disengage from Poohmandu’s Zyra, which allowed SKT to leave that scenario without having to teamfight. If you haven’t already watched this set, I highly recommend you do, and it’s free on Youtube.

The downfall of this composition is it’s dependence on the manipulation of vision. If the pick comp cannot maintain superior vision control, it allows the enemy team to out-position them. When this happens, it creates an opening for the opposing team to either take objectives or force teamfights, without the fear of being collapsed on nor being picked off by the pick comp. The current state of the game has certain assassins strong in lane and they have an easier time dictating the pace of the game because they have a tendency to leave laning phase ahead of their opponents.

The Process of Making and Evaluating a Comp

League of Legends is a game of options. Despite common misconception, imitation of top teams is not the key to creating good compositions, even if those top teams had success in games they played. Understanding the process as to why a team picks and bans the way they do is much more important. Compositional advantages are only advantages if you take advantage of them. Although this is a very redundant statement, the redundancy is used for emphasis on how important knowing you compositional strengths are. You can only evaluate the strengths of a composition if you have used them to their fullest potential.

A perfect example is the use of Shen’s global ultimate, and how teams can be trapped into thinking binarily (offense vs defense thinking). “Our team likes to use Shen to engage through invisibility”, or, “Our team likes to use global ultimates defensively, so we save Shen’s ultimate so he can consistently split-push until the enemy team engages on the rest of us”, are both fundamentally right, but, although you may have preferences, this doesn’t mean this is the way you should always be using the tools in your arsenal.

Now, my article isn’t about holding your hand in the process of theorycrafting, because if I told you my ideas, I’d be selling myself short. Instead, I want to emphasis that compositions can have advantages against other compositions in certain situations, and there are more options of play available to your team outside your preference. For example, a composition that specializes in sieging has the enemy cowering behind their turret is beneficial to the sieging team. But if the enemy team knows the sieging team isn’t warding their flanks, they can surprise them with an engage instead of being helpless behind their towers.

Once compositional advantage is clear, you can substitute champions within your composition that can either be more effective than the other champion in their niche, or more versatile with other compositions for an easier champion selection phase. Look at Sivir: an ultimate for creating picks in rotations, making hard engage, and an easy disengage. She has strong versatility in her ultimate, and if you look at other champion abilities, I’m sure you can find other strongly versatile uses for their abilities as well.

Conclusion

Often neglected in lower levels, composition is an extremely important part of the game. Never underestimate the amount of preparation work that can be done prior to a game outside of champion select. If your team wants to become serious competition, you need to do research on the opposing team, research on what compositions you believe will be strong on the current patch, and be innovative in attempts to discover another powerful composition. Take LemonNation as your mentor for champion select: he’s able to fill an entire notebook’s worth of champion selection scenarios for Cloud 9. If I had a suggestion, similar to how there are “one trick ponies” in Soloqueue, I’d suggest your team to start with one composition, then work on expanding your team’s ability to play other compositions once your team starts to play teams at a higher level.

If there’s anything I’d want you to walk away with if you didn’t read the whole article, it would be that:

  • Games can be decided at champion select; treat it as importantly as the game.

    • Make a clear focus on your bans and understand the situations where you ban certain champions.

    • Try to bait the enemy team into certain picks so you can out-comp them.

Thanks for reading! Don’t miss the next part of this article series, where I take a critical eye on Objectives.


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BonkCushy

I am currently a color caster for NESL, and write blog posts for Cloth 5, with a focus on analysis and strategy. I also play Super Smash Bros. Melee competitively, going to weekly tournaments in the greater Boston area. Currently, I am enrolled at Boston College, with a Communications major. To get in contact with me, follow me on Twitter @BonkCushy.

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