A Worrying Trend: The Blue Side Advantage
In the current patch there are a few standout power picks that are essentially must bans on red side. Lulu, Gangplank, and Mordekaiser are the three main bans. Lulu and Gangplank can be flexed in the top and mid lane. Both these champions provide their own unique strengths to a team. Morde is just an overall strong pick that can snowball quickly, which creates the fear for many teams to risk facing him.
On the first day of worlds nine different champions were banned on red side. Morde had an 83.33% ban rate on red side, Gangplank had a 50%, and Lulu had a 66.67% ban rate on red side. On blue side 14 different champions were banned. Gangplank, Lulu, and Morde were only banned once each for a 16.67% ban rate. What we are witnessing here is red side being forced to ban one or more of these champions or else blue side will first pick whatever is left. If all three champions are banned by red side then blue side can be target banning or banning out champions they don’t prefer. A good indicator is the higher variety of champions banned since we are seeing support bans, jungle bans, and some bans like Yasuo which is more of a targeted ban. In the end, blue side is accumulating an advantage in the pick and ban phase. They can dictate what they don’t want to face for a specific composition while red side is just worried about letting blue side obtain one of these picks.
What also occurs when all three bans are used on red side for Gangplank, Lulu, and Morde is blue side gets any high tier picks left. Both Fnatic and SKT took Elise in this case. Elise and Lee Sin are known as the two S-tier picks for jungle and if one of them is banned on blue side this lets the other one get picked. Red side is now denied both of the strongest jungle picks. Just as a note though, Lee Sin and Elise aren’t mandatory picks if they are available, but they are the most versatile junglers currently and don’t reveal about the composition your team is building.
When only two of these champions are banned then blue side will first pick whoever is left. This occurred in C9 vs AHQ where Lulu and Morde were banned so C9 first picked Gangplank. In EDG vs BKT the same thing happened where EDG banned Lulu and BKT banned Morde which left Gangplank up for first pick. In CLG vs FW Lulu was first picked. Looking at all 6 games the red sided team banned at least 2 of these champions 83.33% of the time with the only exception being BKT. That is a very large percentage. If you are on red side and your team bans two of these champions first, and the blue team doesn’t ban any you have to make the decision to either trade the last over powered pick or just get rid of it. So the choices are putting your team in a disadvantageous or taking a risk.
In the end, the way worlds will evolve is when we start seeing the red side team creating counter measures to these over powered picks and possibly forcing the blue team’s hand. For instance, let’s say on red side they ban Lulu and Morde while blue side chooses three different champions. For your final ban you can target ban someone on the other team. If blue side opts into taking Gangplank which would be a very high probability then what you can do on red side is create a problem for Gangplank. The first step would be drafting Azir who can out range Gangplank and is also a relatively good blind pick in case it isn’t Gangplank mid. The next step is to save your top lane pick for last and if the blue side team decides to make it Gangplank top then you can choose a champion like Fiora who is difficult to deal with for Gangplank while also avoiding a counter to Fiora.
Another option is to ban one of the over powered picks for your first ban and then second ban choose something else. If the blue team opts into banning none of the three main champions then red side can choose to leave up two. Now blue side has to decide which one they prefer or which one they might think red side would prefer. A simple decision now leads to a red side draft advantage. Now, the likelihood of this scenario going through isn’t high because the blue side team will ban a second over powered pick for their last ban to force red side’s hand. This comes back to red side having to figure out a counter champion or strategy that can help negate one of the over powered champions.
There are answers out there to defeat teams running any of these champions. Lulu has been defeated in the past and is by no means some pick that translates to you automatically losing. It just means your team has to work harder to defeat it. Every day of group stages will give us a better indication on how favored blue side is along with how teams on red side develop to combat the already disadvantage position. If teams on red side can’t figure out a way then getting 1st seed in groups will be even more important.
Credits towards lolesports for the champion pictures and VODS which I took the two champion select images from.